With host Felicity Jones, Saturday Night Live does not begin 2017 with a bang.
After a few seasons of trying to find its footing after the loss of key cast members, the first half of season 42 has been a rousing success for Saturday Night Live. Buoyed by possibly the most absurd presidential election in US history, ratings have been up all season, and the show has never been short on material.
The first episode of 2017 followed a similar formula to last year in hopes of cashing in on the latest Star Wars movie. Last season, it was Adam Driver and this season, Jyn Erso herself, Felicity Jones, made her first appearance as host. But whether it was Jones or the studio audience, this episode had zero energy (outside of musical guest Sturgill Simpson). Jokes fell flat throughout from the monologue to the final sketch helping SNL start 2017 with a huge dud.
Cold Open: Trump Press Conference
This week, Golden Raspberry award winner Donald Trump held his first press conference in six months and SNL turned the event into a golden opportunity to unload a barrage of pee jokes on viewers. Nearly every cast member appeared to ask Trump (Alec Baldwin) a question, including Beck Bennett, who once again appeared as a shirtless Vladimir Putin.
Imagining Trump’s rage-fueled, tiny fingers writing tweets at 3 a.m. in response to this cold open would add a layer of hilarity to the jokes if those same microscopic digits weren’t about to gain control of our country’s nuclear weapons.
Best Sketch: Jokeoke
Choosing a “best sketch” is always toughest after an all-around bad episode, so please take me choosing this sketch as the “best” with a pinch of salt.
Cecily Strong has spent much of her time at SNL crafting a collection of oddball characters, most of which appear on Weekend Update. But occasionally, these characters make their way into sketches. Strong appears along with Jones and Melissa Villaseñor as three soft-spoken pharmaceutical workers who enjoy telling jokes about “looseness” to the shock of everyone.
Second Best Sketch: Susan B. Anthony’s House
This sketch seemed out of place two months after everyone was going crazy about Susan B. Anthony as we neared the election. Even odder was out of the numerous ways this sketch could have gone, the writers decided to have a group of friends conjure the ghost of Anthony (McKinnon), and then completely ignore her while she’s handing out advice to argue about cab rides and food.
Weekend Update Moment: Beck Bennett, Pop Sensation
In mid-August, Beck Bennett began an Instagram account to post his “little songs.” Since then, he has posted six songs and finally brought his musical talents to SNL via the Update desk. It’ll be sad to see Bennett leave SNL once his impending pop career takes off.
Best Musical Performance in Years: Sturgill Simpson – “Call to Arms”
My local 11 o’clock news spent time letting viewers know that they did not know who Sturgill Simpson was, so I hope they watched SNL tonight because Simpson gave two incredible performances. Easily the highlight of this episode, Simpson, who is nominated for two Grammy Awards this year, brought an energy that hasn’t been seen from a musical guest in years to the SNL stage. After watching this video, make sure you check out his performance of “Keep It Between the Lines.”
** Former SNL (and SCTV) cast member Tony Rosato died this week at the age of 62. Rosato only appeared in season seven (and the final episode of season six) before a rift with embattled producer Dick Ebersol led to his contract not being renewed.
** Pete Davidson returned this week after mysteriously being completely absent the past two episodes.
** While this episode inexplicably did not have a Star Wars sketch, it did feature Saw Gerrera (Kenan Thompson), and a holographic, dressed in all-white Tina Fey, who joked about SNL reviewers, during Jones’ monologue:
** Alec Baldwin told ABC News this week that he may be looking to take his Trump impression to “other venues” while still appearing on SNL.
** Saturday Night Live returns on Jan. 21 with host Aziz Ansari and musical guest Big Sean.