Saturday Night Live
Benedict Cumberbatch & Solange
November 5, 2016
I so wanted this to be a great episode. I wouldn’t describe myself as a “Cumberbitch” but I do appreciate me some Benedict Cumberbatch, think that he has a gift for comedy and believed he would be a natural as host. But UGH, this episode.
In the last episode of the election, Saturday Night Live decided to tone down the politics and instead serve a bunch of sketches that were puzzling at best, down right terrible at worst, and fill the rest with guest appearances in the hopes that no one would notice that it was just flat-out not funny.
It didn’t work.
(But I don’t blame you, Benedict Cumberbatch. An actor can only do so much with the material he is given.)
The episode started off well enough. In the cold open, Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon revisit their roles as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton one last time before election day (Lord, beer us strength). The majority of the bit is about the media’s overeagerness to talk about Clinton’s emails which, as it turns out, WAS A WHOLE LOT OF NONSENSE AFTER ALL, UGH. Anyway, the bit ends with Baldwin and McKinnon breaking character and complaining that this election cycle has made them feel “gross” before leaving the studio to dance around Times Square. It was far from the best Trump/Clinton sketch of the season, but I understand where they are coming from because we all feel so gross right now, right? Right. Tuesday just can not come soon enough.
Benedict Cumberbatch does a Shaft-esque song for his opening monologue. (I’m going to include links to NBC’s site for some of these sketches so if the videos are pulled down, you can still find them). I am tired of the song and dance monologues. SO TIRED. But if you’re a Leslie Jones fan, eat up because this is literally the only thing she is in for the entire episode.
Grade: B- Enough with the songs.
The commercial spoof of the evening is an Apple “1984”-like ad for a toilet that “makes you look cool” while you’re using it. It is potty humor. We are in literal potty humor territory, folks.
Easily the best sketch of the evening was the impromptu game show hosted by Beck Bennett: “Why is Benedict Cumberbatch Hot?” Which, to be completely fair, is a question that is impossible to answer. WHY IS HE HOT? HE DOES LOOK LIKE SID THE SLOTH. BUT YET HE IS SOMEHOW HOT.
In “Office Hours,” Cumberbatch plays a college professor who explores his feelings for his dimwitted student, Chad. I get what they were going for here, poking fun of overly pretentious dramas — not unlike last season’s brilliant Dead Poet Society spoof, “Farewell Mr. Bunting.” But unfortunately this is a one note joke that never actually goes anywhere.
“Surprise Bachelorette” is basically Weekend at Bernie’s but with male strippers. And the Chicago Cubs for reasons that are not clear. I’ll admit, it’s funnier than it has any right to be, but at the end of the day it’s still Weekend at Bernie’s.
This sketch does make me grateful for one thing — that Fred Armisen, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are no longer on the cast because we DEFINITELY would have been stuck with a “Californians” sketch if Cumberbatch’s accent here is any indication. In fact, I am 99% sure those are “Californian” wigs they’re using.
Grade: B+ Mostly for Michael Che’s comments about male birth control, because he’s right: no woman in her right mind should trust a man to be responsible for covering birth control in their relationship.
The Church Lady stopped by the “Weekend Update” desk again. Here’s the thing. The thing is, we should be revisiting these classic characters very rarely. The Church Lady was well used at the end of last season, mocking Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. It made sense! The Trump and Cruz were ripe for the mocking from The Church Lady! But wheeling old characters out of the storage closet every few episodes starts feeling lazy and lame, especially when there is not a natural reason to bring them back. I might just be grouchy, but I don’t get the point here.
Continuing with my “I AM A HUGE GROUCH” theme, I have to say that the “Weekend Update” bit that brought back out those Chicago Cubs, this time with bonus Bill Murray, to sing “Go Cubs Go” in celebration of their historic World Series win was lame. What even was this? Why are we even talking about The Voice? What does that have to do with anything? I love bill Murray! I am genuinely happy for the Cubbies! But this was an uninspired waste of everyone’s time, let’s all just be honest here.
Grade: D+ Mostly because if you can convince Bill Murray to come back to SNL, YOU DO NOT WASTE BILL MURRAY ON SOMETHING THIS BORING AND DUMB.
When Dwayne Johnson hosted SNL last season, they did a bit where he played an obnoxious douchebag with a trashy British girlfriend who interrupt a perfectly nice couple’s dinner. It was kinda funny then, it’s kinda funny now with Cumberbatch in the douchebag role. But it’s not a sketch that anyone is going to be talking about the next day.
In this bit, Cumberbatch plays a “criminal mastermind” who is not nearly as clever as he thinks. It’s a decent concept, and Cumberbatch is the perfect person for the role. But if I am being frank, I just can not get too excited about this sketch.
Sometimes Saturday Night Live tries to be surreal and funny, generating the humor from the sheer weirdness of the situation playing out. It rarely works. And this sketch about a man? mannequin? with a bird head that everyone is talking to as if it were a sentient being is definitely not one of those rare sketches that work. In fact, I don’t know how this made it on air but I do know I am going to be irritated when SNL releases the even just kindof funny sketch they dropped in favor of it. Especially if it features Leslie Jones.
Final episode grade: B- Which, frankly, seems generous.
What do you think? Am I being too hard on this episode?
Next week: Dave Chappelle and A Tribe Called Quest! And I’m going to pretend the whole time that he didn’t say those weird things defending Donald Trump this weekend!
Saturday Night Live airs at 10:30/11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC.