A month ago, when Ariana Grande was named as the host and musical guest for the March 12 episode of Saturday Night Live, expectations were pretty low. Before her music career took-off, Grande was mostly known as Cat Valentine on the Nickelodeon shows Victorious and its spinoff, Sam & Cat. The latter received more press for the apparent feud between Grande and co-star Jeanette McCurdy than the 35 episodes that aired.
Grande proved a lot of critics (including myself) wrong by giving one of the strongest performances by a host this season. The entire episode was fun and fluid with above-average sketches that used Grande’s talents well. In recent years, Miley Cyrus has been the music/host double-threat option for SNL, but Grande definitely earned herself a return visit in the future.
Cold Open: CNN Presidential Election
For the second week in a row, SNL started an episode with CNN host Jake Tapper (Beck Bennett) covering the current presidential election. Ben Carson (Jay Pharaoh) endorsing Donald Drumpf (Darrell Hammond) and Bernie Sanders’ (Larry David) primary win in Michigan were the topics this week. We’ll see if SNL is falling into a standard format for their presidential election coverage when the show returns in early April.
Best Sketch: Tidal
In what will easily be the most talked about sketch from this episode, SNL returned to a premise they used with Bruno Mars a few seasons ago: a music streaming site is down, but an intern can sing like other artists therefore saving the day. SNL swapped Pandora with Tidal this time around, and while the Mars sketch went more for jokes in his performances, this version went for accuracy and Grande absolutely killed while performing versions of hits by Britney Spears, Celine Dion, and others.
Second Best Sketch: This is Not A Feminist Song
After the guys in The Lonely Island left SNL for Hollywood a few years ago, many viewers were left wondering who would pick up the funny song slack. (By the way, Party Over Here, a new sketch comedy show produced by the Lonely Island guys, premiered just before Saturday’s SNL on Fox.) Thankfully, the women of SNL (along with writers Chris Kelly and Sara Schneider) have created some classic songs themselves with “(Do It On My) Twin Bed” and “Back Home Ballers” among some of their “hits.” While these songs haven’t reached the level of “Dick in a Box,” or “Lazy Sunday” in popularity, they’re a welcome addition to the musical comedy history of SNL.
Weekend Update Moment: Drunkest Contestant on The Bachelor
Cecily Strong added to her cache of self-ignorant Update guests (The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation With, One-Dimensional Female Character) with her impression of Lace Morris, who gained notoriety for being super-drunk on the current season of The Bachelor. On Sunday, Morris herself tweeted that she thought the impression was “hilarious.”
Surprisingly Great Impression From The Host Sketch: Celebrity Family Feud
Quick ranking of the impressions in this sketch (minus Kenan Thompson’s Steve Harvey, which will always be the best): 1. Jennifer Lawrence (Grande) 2. Idris Elba (Pharoah) 3. Martin Scorsese (Jon Rudnitsky) 4. Tilda Swinton (Kate McKinnon) 5. Quentin Tarantino (Taran Killam) 6. Javier Bardem (Bennett) 7. Woody Allen (Kyle Mooney) and 8. Kevin Smith (Bobby Moynihan).
An audible, “Oh shit,” from Grande could be heard after she apparently stumbled over a line during her song about needing a controversy.
In the cold open, David’s Sanders mentioned Michigan’s 10-cent bottle deposit, which was the premise of the classic two-part Seinfeld episode, “The Bottle Deposit.” Those episodes were not written by David, but by Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin.
Saturday Night Live returns on April 2 with host Peter Dinklage and musical guest Gwen Stefani.