‘Saturday Night Live’: Sam Rockwell was fucking great

Saturday Night Live
Sam Rockwell & Halsey
January 13, 2018

The story that will dominate the news about last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live is that Sam Rockwell accidentally said “fucking” during one sketch, Colin Jost deliberately said “shithole” during “Weekend Update,” and as a result there will be a bunch of think pieces about how this is a reflection on how our culture is being vulgarized by our vulgar President and blah blah blah blah blah.

But what we should really be talking about was just how good last night’s Saturday Night Live was and why. It’s easy to credit a talented host, and let me be clear, Sam Rockwell was a talented host and SNL needs to figure out when they can bring him back as soon as possible. Last night’s episode also seemed to almost have a theme to it: the awkwardness of social situations in a politically correct era, which in its own way helped tie the episode together.

But you know what I think really made this episode work was the brevity of the sketches: not counting the monologue and Weekend Update, there were 10 sketches last night, most of which were about three minutes long. Keeping the sketches tight and brief meant that no one sketch overstayed its welcome and that even if you didn’t care for a particular bit, a new one was just around the corner. It felt fresh and light and invigorated. And in conclusion, the takeaway from last night’s episode should be: don’t be like this intro, keep the writing short and sweet.

We began the night with a spoof of Morning Joe tackling the Fire & Fury book controversy, because how could they resist. (Although, with the amount of material Trump has provided since Saturday Night Live was last on, they really could have opened with any number of things. “Stable Genius” anyone?) While the most notable thing about this sketch are its guest stars, former SNL cast members Fred Armisen as Michael Wolff and Bill Murray (!!!!!) as the unhooded Steve Bannon (!!!!!), for my money, the best part of this entire sketch are Leslie Jones’ Oprah and Kate McKinnon’s Mika Brzezinski which are UNCANNY.

Grade: A

The entire concept of Sam Rockwell’s opening monologue is that he’s a character actor who is ready to be a lead actor. It is not great. It’s not actively bad or anything, and Rockwell does do the splits, which is something, but y’all know how I feel about the song and dance monologues. (Not great, Bob.)

Grade: B-

“The Science Room with Mr. Science” is basically a spoof of Mr. Wizard’s World, in which Mr. Science becomes increasingly frustrated with the sheer stupidity of his child assistants. The sketch is receiving a ton of attention because, having gone full method with the character, Sam Rockwell blurted out, “YOU GUYS CAN’T BE THIS FUCKING STUPID” at one point, and the censors didn’t catch it. What makes it even more remarkable is that SNL is now being broadcast live simultaneously across the country, which means this aired at 8 p.m. in California. Whoops! Unfortunately (?) the word is muted in the video below, but it doesn’t matter as this was a very funny sketch even without the f-bomb.

Grade: A

See, there’s this song called “Gucci Gang,” and there’s this actor named Stanley Tucci and Gucci sounds like Tucci.

Grade: B

This sketch is basically a spoof of “Fashion Police,” — which no longer exists — and how difficult it is to talk about something as frivolous and potentially objectifying as fashion in this #MeToo and Time’s Up moment. But what saves this sketch is that Kate McKinnon’s Frances McDormand is genius.

Grade: B+

“150 pounds of dead weight and you get to be his babysitter.”

Grade: A

As I noted earlier, there was no shortage of Trump material this week, and “Weekend Update” took advantage. “S-hole, that’s what NBC asked us to say, by the way, even though the President can say ‘shithole’ … oops.”

Grade: A

There is no one on the planet who wants Oprah to run for President more than Leslie Jones. This is the role she was born to play.

Grade: A

Aidy Bryant chats about Marky Mark’s dunderheaded decision to take a $1.5 million salary for reshoots on All the Money in the World when Michelle Williams waived her salary (he has since donated the money to the Time’s Up movement — but only after a public outcry). Aidy ties the story to how women are conditioned by society to try to make everyone around them feel comfortable. Smart, pithy and on the nose. “It would be so cool if it didn’t take a week-long public shaming to do the right thing. Maybe do a daily private shaming, which is what I have done my entire life.” WORD, GIRL.

Grade: A

Hey, it’s LaVar Ball again. ~shrug~

Grade: B

In this bit, Captain Hook rethinks the optics of a grown man hanging out with a bunch of young boys. It’s one of those one-laugh concepts that doesn’t really have anywhere to go, exactly.

Grade: B-

In this digital film, Rockwell is a white guy who becomes uncomfortable when a black man follows him into an ATM in a dodgy neighborhood. Awkwardness and social niceties seems to be the theme of tonight’s episode, and I’m not mad at it.

Grade: A-

A man brings his boyfriend —  a gay porn star — home to meet his conservative parents, and his father recognizes the boyfriend. You know where this is going.

Grade: B+

Scientists put the head of a dog on a human body. Stupid but funny but stupid. SNL needs to make this dog a cast member immediately.

Grade: A-

The final sketch of the night is a spoof of a pharmaceutical ad in which the “real person” takes umbrage at being called “not an actor,” because, you see, she is actually an actress. That’s the whole punchline

Grade: B-

Final Grade: A

Saturday Night Live airs at 10:30/11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC.

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