Watch Highlights (And Tired Lowlights) From Melissa McCarthy's Fifth Time As Saturday Night Live Host
Things get a little glitchy and repeaty on the star's Spiciest SNL hosting job yet.
Is our love for Melissa McCarthy enough to save an episode of Saturday Night Live that couldn't (and didn't) ever meet our sky-high expectations after a series of McCarthy-as-Sean Spicer sketches this season? The answer is yes, but just barely. McCarthy on SNL is still a treat and she still throws herself into sketches with expert timing and wild abandon (I still contend that, like Justin Timberlake, she would have made an excellent regular cast member had her career gone that way).
But unlike past appearances, this one felt more effortful and less joyous, as if hosting SNL was only one of about 50 things she had to keep track of in her head this week as a working mom on Mother's Day weekend. It was timing that was addressed multiple times in the show, including a monologue that was supposed to play as light and charming and came off stressed. But it wasn't McCarthy's work that seemed as labored as the show's writing this week, which didn't do her a lot of favors; most of the sketches were direct retreads of ones we've seen before, and even the much-anticipated Sean Spicer sketch had the wind knocked out of its sails when the joke of Spicey podium-driving the streets of New York had already been revealed online a day earlier.
I'm here for McCarthy on SNL; there's always a few gems, but this one felt like it could have been much better if late-season exhaustion wasn't setting in throughout. I bet James Harden could sympathize. Let's look at what went down.
Best Sketch Of The Night
"Odessa!" As an evangelist for Amazon Echo ever since I got one two years ago, it's been fun watching Alexa go mainstream. On the one hand, this sketch about Amazon Echo Silver perpetuates the stereotype that old people are bad with technology, on the other, it perfectly captures the way Amazon's voice technology can be baffling to someone until they're used to it. And then the filmed sketch goes to a few other very funny places, including how the elderly are always suspicious of a group of kids playing in the street (the racial aspect of that toned down by having Leslie Jones do it) and how when an elderly person doesn't believe your facts, you're likely to get a "I don't know about that." Alexa's increasingly annoyed and louder tone and her multitude of names ("Amelia," "Alfonzo," "Excedrin") made this one a winner, particularly on a weekend when this will probably be a popular gift.
"Sean Spicer Returns," as SNL calls it, gets it right quickly with a drawling Aidy Bryant as Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Spicer hiding outside the window in the bushes. McCarthy pops in and tears into the press corps, rips down a column and throws it at them, runs through a set of Russian dolls (Jeff Sessions as Pikachu!), and goes nuts when it's suggested that Donald Trump might be lying to Sean Spicer. I love that the sketch tries to go to a grounded, emotional place as Spicey takes the podium to the streets to Paul Simon's "Only Living Boy In New York." McCarthy as Spicer meeting Alec Baldwin as Trump should be a great, cathartic joke. Instead it ends on a weak Godfather joke (can we ban those from comedy already? Please?) and a lazy gay-kiss-as-scene-ender that might rile the White House, but only frustrates anyone expecting a great conclusion to this series of sketches. Ultimately a little disappointing, but let's remember what a great run this has been for McCarthy overall as Spicer.
Least Complimentary To Anyone's Mom
"First Birthday" is another in a series of sketches about suburban moms who sublimate their own personalities for the sake of being in The Cult Of Mom (see also: Mom Hair), only this time it's the animal that each mom adopts, making it easier to identify her and for people to give her gifts. Melissa Villaseñor becomes a chicken and Leslie Jones is an angel, a joke that never really lands. If I were the mom of any of these cast members, I'd later say, "Oh, that was funny!" but be thinking, "And FUCK YOU, I'm ordering the most expensive dish on the menu and five mimosas at brunch tomorrow."
Most Exhausting For Someone's Mom
Speaking of moms, an audience member got a backstage tour from a harried Melissa McCarthy in the opening monologue, which when I watched live was plagued with audio cut-outs and was tough to understand even with captions. It looks like the online version has been cleaned up, but that still doesn't explain why Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds show up randomly to not be remotely funny or interesting. Hooray for Joan, though, who got to live out the dream of walking down the stairs as SNL host.
Most Screaming Into The Blasting Wind
If this were any other year and any other presidential administration, the cold open recreating Trump's interview with Lester Holt would be a blazing indictment, a devastating takedown. This year? It's a typical Saturday. Fact-checking the absurdities and lies of the Trump presidency feels like Mad Libs these days; list a lie and correct it, insert a joke about someone related to Trump (such as multiple Cryptkeeper jokes about Kellyanne Conway). As Michael Che-as-Holt asks into an earpiece, "Nothing matters? Absolutely nothing matters anymore?" Yup. Exactly.
We've seen this one before, the sketch where McCarthy is made into a huge mess with food to the face. This time it's pies on a game show called "Just Desserts" instead of Hidden Valley Ranch, but in this one, the character she plays has a lot less agency; she just gets hammered over and over with pies and cake ingredients to the face. Over. And over. And over again. It goes from funny to sad to a little funny again to just really, really sad. I like that this is a take-off of Press Your Luck, but some badly timed tech glitches threw the timing off. Poor Melissa McCarthy, who can't save this blast of whipped cream to the face.
Most Old Ladies Making Dong And Nazi Jokes
"Film Panel" brings back Kate McKinnon's Debette Goldry along with her pal Gaye Fontaine (McCarthy), elderly actresses who had endure sexist Old Hollywood. This one would have been a lot funnier if it wasn't another repeat. Still, though, you've gotta love McKinnon's "These are my lungs!"
Most Relationship Development
Here's the thing about building silly metafiction within the context of a show that never does that. If you're going to have an ongoing joke pretending that Leslie Jones and Kyle Mooney are a couple behind the scenes, don't do a bit the week before where the "real" Leslie Jones says she just had hot sex in Jamaica with some new dude (not Mooney). Either mention that in the new piece or don't do that "Weekend Update," but don't make me feel stupid for caring about this ongoing fake joke. Don't try to make me engaged in your ongoing lie if you can't even make the lie consistent. On the bright side, the fictional kid that Jones and Mooney have is super-adorable and Lorne Michaels staring blank-faced after the shooting of one of his cast members made me laugh pretty hard.
This is pretty typical end-of-the-show fare: bad pitches for a "Lighthouse Pictures" production company logo. I'm not gonna lie; McCarthy's misanthropic Donna made me laugh. At least it wasn't a retread.
Most Worthy Of A Jacket-Robe
But it was all worth it to see McCarthy's giddy reaction to Steve Martin showing up and awarding her a Five-Timer's jacket. Congrats, Melissa McCarthy. This wasn't the best SNL, but that doesn't change the fact that you're the best. Happy Mother's Day!