“SNL” Season 48, Episode 13 Review
It had seemed against all odds that “Saturday Night Live” was on a seven-episode hot streak during its rebuilding year, but it happened.
But what might be more surprising is the host that snapped that success streak was this episode’s Woody Harrelson, with his fifth time hosting the show.
Even while this transition-period cast is still getting its sea legs, all of the season 48 episodes have been good.
To call an episode of “SNL” bad is a lot. It’s a variety show which implies an abundance of different kinds of sketches and senses of humor. But this season, even when “SNL” was at its worst, the episodes were still fun.
This one was different.
Shockingly it started somewhat strong, or maybe hindsight just made it seem better. “SNL” deserves praise for improving its cold opens this season.
James Austin Johnson has been a cold open superstar. His Trump impression is so good that it doesn’t feel like the Trump jokes are still beating a dead horse.
Now, the monologue of “SNL” has also seen improvements in this new season, mainly attributed to COVID guidelines changing and allowing more for the hosts to do during this part of the show.
Keke Palmer announced her pregnancy, Aubrey Plaza reunited with “SNL” alumna Amy Poehler and Miles Teller aired videos of him and his sister reenacting old “SNL” sketches.
Even Dave Chapelle’s controversial and somewhat idiotic monologue was still clever and funny. Harrelson’s monologue doesn’t have that same saving grace.
Before even getting into criticism of Harrelson’s anti-vaccine rhetoric, the monologue was all over the place and extremely difficult to follow.
Additionally, there was seemingly an attempt at an ongoing joke that Harrelson hadn’t got his coveted five-timer jacket during the monologue. It was brought up once more when Harrelson first introduced the musical act Jack White, who would also be receiving a five-timer jacket.
It could've been great if they had more to the running gag, but it just didn’t land.
Speaking of didn’t land, most of the sketches didn’t either. The night started pretty slow and was tolerable due to the excellence of Ego Nwodim and Keenan Thompson.
The “Jail Scene” and “Slingshot” sketches were rough starts to the night. Again Nwodium and Thompson deserve props for taking these sketches on their backs, but there wasn’t much for them to work with.
In this recent hot streak of episodes, many of the sketches weren’t necessarily written super strongly, but the performances and energy of the night made their pieces great.
This episode exposed weak writing. Maybe the cast didn’t get along with Harrelson, or perhaps they were trying to get back into the swing of things from the hiatus, but that same fun in nearly every episode this season simply wasn’t there.
The pre-recorded sketches of the night were by far high points. Please Don’t Destroy is working its way to being a surefire hit, and in an episode like this, its quick-paced, absurdist humor was a huge energy boost for the episode.
Harrelson's best work was in the “Colonguard” pre-tape, one of the best “SNL” commercial parodies the show has had in years. This is saying a lot since the fake commercials are rarely a miss for the sketch show.
“Weekend Update” was sound, as always. It was nice to get a new Heidi Gardner character who is really having herself a stellar season.
As always, Bowen Yang was able to steal the show, even though he was barely featured in this episode. However, his 10-to-1 sketch “Beautiful Gym” was one of “SNL’s” best sketches all season.
The joke “this gym is so fancy it should be called a James” was so brilliant and perfectly delivered; it was upsetting not to see more of this performance from Harrelson all night.
All good things must come to an end, and considering how unexpected this hot streak was, “SNL” shouldn’t be too upset with this inadequate episode.
But with the next two hosts being a football player and a 20-year-old actress, “SNL” weirdly bombed the one episode of this run that should’ve been, at worst, solid.
Best Sketch of the Night: “Beautiful Gym”
Worst Sketch of the Night: “Slingshot”
MVP: Keenan Thompson
Unsung Heroes: Heidi Gardner and Bowen Yang
A note for next week: Try and look like you’re having fun.
Sophia D’Ovidio is a second-year majoring in digital and print journalism. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.