Saturday Night Live almost didn’t air at all on Saturday, starting 11 minutes late due to NHL hockey on NBC, but 11:41 p.m. Eastern still counts. So, count it!
But what counts most when we look at Jim Parsons and his first time hosting SNL, and Colin Jost’s first time onscreen as the new Weekend Update co-anchor, and Beck returning as musical guest? Well, let’s look to the recap and find out…
We open cold with Ellen DeGeneres — the night before she’s hosting the Oscars (which makes the second time this season SNL has brought Kate McKinnon center stage but not for the character you think at the time you’d most think to see her. You’d think we’d see Kate as Ellen next Saturday. But no, she’s here now, and despite a “12 Years A Slave” reference to her dancing in daytime, and a gratuitous shot of those two brat girls (played by Vanessa Bayer and Nasim Pedrad), and an Oscar pranking bit with Barkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips (played by Jay Pharoah). This is all just a showcase for host Jim Parsons to play Johnny Weir. Plenty of costume changes, but not much range. Ominous!
Speaking of range, Jim Parsons devotes his monologue to a song-and-dance to let us know “I’m not that guy!” (Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory), alongside Pharoah as Urkel, Bobby Moynihan as Jason Alexander as George Costanza, Kenan Thompson as Bill Cosby, Taran Killam as Henry Winkler, as The Fonz, and Kate McKinnon as Angela Lansbury? There’s something very Studio 60 about this sketch, if not MADtv. Bazinga!
No fake ad in the fake ad slot, although the real ad for Amex does feature comedian Abbi Crutchfield aired here on the TV, so…POINTS!
Tinker Bell had a half-sister, apparently, named Tonker Bell. Tonkerbell. With Aidy Bryant as Tonk to Jim Parsons’ Peter Pan, and Kate McKinnon as Wendy, John Milhiser and Kyle Mooney as Michael and John. This half-sister sketch is half-baked. We just got Tonked. Especially Moynihan who had to come out at the end of the sketch in a rat costume. He got Super Tonked.
Move over, Bible. For just $800, your kids will fall in love with The Bird Bible. It’s a video short fake ad spoof with Mike O’Brien and Kate McKinnon as the parents of a curious kid. Kate’s lip quiver FTW.
I so wanted to love this ID Discovery cable spoof of “The Killer Files” with Jim Parsons as “Dance Floor Killer” Marc Allen Henry, hiding in plain sight on the TV dance shows of the 1990s. I did love each and every one of the 1990s dance show clips. But why did the host (Beck Bennett) have to try to tell us that Michael Jackson got his idea for moonwalking — which he jump-started in pop culture in the 1980s! — from a dance show a decade later? Get me fact check! You can be surreal, you can be absurd, but please don’t confuse the timelines unless it’s necessary.
White guilt is on full display in this pre-taped sketch behind the scenes on casting for 12 Years A Slave, with director Steve McQueen (Kenan Thompson) providing narration. Imagine how nervous some of the white guys must have been auditioning with the racist dialogue in the screenplay!? Now see it as casting agents (Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong) ask Brooks Wheelan to read with Sasheer Zamata. Or how Jim Parsons should focus on the cameraman (Pharoah). Bobby Moynihan’s redneck character, however, had no problems with it. He’s already off book!
Ladies and gentelmen: Beck! This is “Blue Moon.”
If you paid attention during the opening credits, Colin Jost is the first cast member from the “featured player” cast to anchor or co-anchor Weekend Update! Everyone else already had attained long-term contractual status as part of the repertory cast. I haven’t felt this uneasy about the Update anchors since the first time Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon took over the desk. Perhaps that’s what imagine they hope we conjure up, since Tina and Jimmy turned out just fine, didn’t they?
We didn’t really learn much about how Jost will handle Update duties. All we really saw is that he’s polished enough on camera to deliver real news like a real anchor. But how will he handle being a fake anchor? Maybe next week or several weeks from now, we’ll know that, too.
Until then, some familiar guests to Update returned.
Charles Barkley (Kenan) and Shaq (Jay) talked up Jason Collins on the Nets, the failure of the Knicks and Shaq’s eyes dominated everything, really.
Jebidiah Atkinson is back again (three times not as charming, no matter how much Taran is willing to address the fact that this remains live TV, despite the increasing number of pre-taped segments) with Oscars movie reviews. Zingers? His best, a follow-up line about a Woody Allen zinger. “So let me get this straight: You all trust him!”
This murder mystery dinner date is fairly expensive, and not seemingly worth it for Parsons, who gets stuck with the role of Simply Dudley, an oversexed nut ball. His cohorts (Cecily, Sasheer and Beck) want him to play along, as does murder mystery butler emcee Taran (though not so much Kate the dead maid). “Simply Dudley breaks the tension like only he can.” Feels like this played much better at the table read.
Spotlightz! the acting camp for serious kids, like Laura Parsons (Vanessa), also is back, just in time for the Oscars. She salutes Wolf of Wall Street, with Jim and Noel doing Gravity, Taran and Sasheer on Captain Phillips, Taran and Aidy on Her, and Vanessa and Jim on Dallas Buyers Club. Sasheer adds a nice wink and smile to her small part, though it’s Vanessa Bayer who knows how to seriously overact more than the best of the rest of them.
Once again, Beck, with strings? This is “Wave.”
This office elevator sketch opens with Mike O’Brien and Jim Parsons. Ewwww, that smell! Parsons as Mr. Conrad the executive is holding his underwear in a plastic bag up high in front of him — which, of course, is never something he would have done in the reality of the sketch, but then you wouldn’t have seen it in the two-shot on camera, so what good is that, really? Fun facts! How do people not know what shit smells like, though? It’s a simple concept — the humor of how people react to danger, as an explosion rocks the office building — and it’s saved by a second explosion.
No five-to-one sketch, because we’re over time so it’s already past one a.m. on the East and West Coasts…but there was this campfire scene with cowboys.
Not exactly Blazing Saddles. Or even Pace: New York City?!? Instead, Brooks Wheelan, Kenan Thompson, Kyle Mooney and Jim Parsons want to plan a birthday surprise for their fellow cowpoke Dwayne (Beck Bennett), but nobody goes as far as Parsons does to surprise him. Oh, Clem.
That’s it. Goodnight, everybody! See you next Saturday with host Lena Dunham and musical guest The National. Very Brooklyn.