Watch Bits From Jimmy Fallon's Return to Saturday Night Live Before It Fades Away Completely
Despite mostly forgettable material, there were still a few highlights nestled in his latest SNL appearance.
I'm not here to bash Jimmy Fallon, although it's perfectly understandable if you're a Saturday Night Live die-hard who can't stand the guy. He's made himself a great career as a late-night host and, in the past, his returns to host SNL have been cause for celebration (perhaps because it usually means Justin Timberlake is not far away). These days, though, Fallon's comedic cred is on the ropes, largely over a moment with Donald Trump on The Tonight Show, and due to the general feeling that he's out of step with the current comedy brigade. This week's hosting gig, and especially a so-tepid-it-could-be-coffee-creamer-left-out-overnight cold open, won't make the case that Fallon has course-corrected in any way; in fact, I can't imagine it's going to win over anybody who's not already hugely into Fallon. If you're Jimmy Fallon and you get outclassed and outshone by your musical guest -- freakin' Harry Styles -- on SNL, something has gone terribly wrong with your career. Except for the Sean Spicer sketch and the musical performance from Harry Styles (don't like him? Fine. But he's got incredible stage presence), the whole affair felt like cotton candy; it disappeared almost as soon as you tasted it, leaving almost nothing but forgettable aftertaste. Let's take a look at the damage.
Best Sketch Of The Night
This joke should be spent by now, but Melissa McCarthy's performance as White House press secretary Sean Spicer is still scorching, uncomfortably accurate, and as bruising as it is hilarious. Even a still image is enough to elicit a giggle:
A little bit of the energy is lost from this being performed somewhere other than 30 Rock, but the image of a furious Spicer explaining Passover with the use of VeggieTales toys while trying to swallow down another comparison to Hitler works beautifully. "Fool me once, shame on me / fool me twice, shame on Jews" feels like a line only McCarthy could pull off like this.
Most In Need Of A Golf Vacation At Mar-a-Lago
Remember when Alec Baldwin appeared to be signaling that he was gonna give the whole Donald Trump thing a rest, and that he wouldn't be returning every week to do the impression? Yeah, whatever happened with that? This week's cold open basically just repeats gags that have worked better before, such as Trump sitting at a tiny desk in the Oval Office; Steve Bannon as The Grim Reaper (this week hauled off by a Grimmer Reapier Reaper, it seems); and Jimmy Fallon as a non-speaking, super-glamorous Jared Kushner. This is a mess -- a really unfunny way to start the show with an Apprentice/America's Next Top Model conceit that falls flat the moment it starts. Maybe give Alec a few weeks off to find some new angles to get at Trump? Please?
Most Corporately-Mandated Party
If I really had it in for Jimmy Fallon, this monologue-as-David Bowie tribute would have been like pouring acid on all my private areas, but as it stands, I thought it was okay, fine, and obviously took some work to make happen. But as good as the song ("Let's Dance") sounds, and as nicely as it's brought off by Fallon's "Let's all have fun!" efforts, something about it feels forced, like when your boss tells you it's time for a fun, all-day corporate retreat with team trust-building exercises you're not allowed to skip. It also doesn't help that Bruno Mars did the backstage dance number thing with much more panache back in October. The only saving grace is that the cast looks like it's having fun, and it was probably very exciting to be in the studio for it.
Best Ad for Awkward Middle-Aged Men
If you are a big, dumb, male prone to saying the wrong thing at the wrong moment, Turtle Shirts by Swag allow you to literally turtle into your clothing. It would have been nice to see a version for women, but this sketch was so skewed toward men of a certain age that the pre-roll on YouTube for it is a Viagra commercial. I wish I just made that up.
Sweatiest Double Duty
Kenan Thompson always makes "Celebrity Family Feud" palatable feel breezy despite its typical excessive length, and this week's twist is a time travel conceit allowing Jimmy Fallon to play John Travolta in his '70s heyday (though a little bloated for the time) and his more recent People vs. O.J. incarnation. They could have split-screened these and filmed some in advance, I imagine, but the joke here is that Fallon has to run back and forth and make quick changes while Steve Harvey stalls for time. You can actually see the top of Fallon's head whooshing past the bottom of the camera at one point, which is funny in and of itself. Too bad the Travolta material doesn't really justify the running around. One nitpick, though: am I the only person who finds it mean when SNL does an unflattering impression of someone who just hosted the show recently? Kate McKinnon's take on Kristen Stewart isn't inaccurate, but it sure feels unnecessary and a little snipey given that she did a perfectly good job as host.
Least Flattering Reboot
Maybe it's me, I was never a huge fan of the original Sully and Denise sketches. But boy is it nice to see Rachel Dratch on SNL, even if it's in the service of a not-that-funny sketch.
Biggest Waste of Four Minutes of "Weekend Update"
This was not good.
Least Glued-On Beard
This was silly, and not entirely terrible, but most notable for the moment that Harry Styles had half a beard coming off toward the end of the sketch. Half-Beard Styles, they call him now! Let's make that a thing.
I thought this was going to be one long cringe sketch (see below), but instead it ends with a very timely punchline that I won't ruin, and then a second good punchline. Ending sketches properly and in short order is hard, this one does it right.
Most "Fuck It, Let's Just Shoot a Bunch of Basketball Outtakes"
If you're like me, you thought, "Why didn't they throw these extras off the set after one bad take?" and then you just spent the next two and a half minutes sighing and shaking your head.
Most Cringeworthy for Drama Nerds
The SNL writers and cast must have been to some gawdawful high-school productions because they seem to have it out for the deluded, untalented stage performers many of us once were. I watched this whole thing with my jaw clenched tightly and now I have TMJ. Thanks, SNL.