The otherwise delightful Steve Carell is saddled with the laziest ‘Saturday Night Live’ of the season.

Saturday Night Live
Steve Carell & Ella Mai
November 17, 2018

Despite his recent turn into Serious Actorhood, Steve Carell is still one of our funniest comedic actors in the business. He is a natural fit for host of Saturday Night Live (which he has hosted three times previous to this appearance, he’ll be ushered into the Five-Timers Club in no time). He is goofy, game and giving (h/t Dan Savage). And it is because Carell is so funny that this episode receives such a low grade: it’s the expectation gap.

But I don’t blame Carell — he gave his all to unfunny material. No, I blame writers who think the word “kern” is inherently funny, and are too lazy to write a monologue or come up with anything for a sketch beyond, “So Steve is a dad and …” On behalf of all middle-aged parents, THERE IS MORE TO US THAN JUST BEING YOUR MOM OR DAD, YOU DUMB MILLENIALS. ~shakes angry fist at the ceiling in the direction of where her teenage sons are playing video games~The cold open returned to The Ingraham Angle to tackle this week’s political issues, including the California wildfires, Facebook, “voter” “fraud,” and Nancy Pelosi. It’s a sharp dissection of how Fox News spins conspiracy theories and lies to fit their agenda because they feel right — as opposed to actual facts which do not support their right wing agenda. “Doesn’t it feel more true that all Hispanics voted twice? You can’t dismiss that idea simply because it isn’t true and sounds insane.”

While the sketch is accurate and does a valiant job of exposing Fox News’s bullshit for what it is, it never actually achieves funny. Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe I am so exhausted and overwhelmed by the nonsense and “alternative facts” that the right is constantly spewing that I can no longer find the humor in it, despite its patent absurdity.

But bonus: another week without Alec Baldwin’s tiresome Trump impersonation.

Grade: B+

Steve Carell’s entire monologue is an excuse for a mini-Office reunion, as Ellie Kemper, Jenna Fisher and Ed Helms (and his wife, Nancy Walls) appear in the audience arguing that people want an Office reboot — and they want one for the dolla dolla bills, y’all.

Here is what is most irritating about this: Steve Carell is HILARIOUS. He may not be a stand-up comedian but he is a naturally funny person who, if given actually funny material, could have delivered an actually funny monologue. Instead, the writers threw up their hands and were like, “I dunno, let’s see how many Office actors we can get to come to the show and call it a day.”

SO LAZY.

Grade: C+

Hey, have y’all noticed that Steve Carell is, like, dad age? Because the SNL writers sure did and wrote three separate sketches in which he plays a clueless father. This, in which the dad of four kids is the last to know about his wife’s infidelity, is easily the worst of the three, and yet somehow managed to land the first (non-cold open) sketch of the night. The mind reels.

Grade: C-

The first ad spoof of the night features Jeff Bezos explaining that Amazon’s decision to open up headquarters in New York City and in Virginia was not just to troll Donald Trump.

~exaggerated wink~

It’s fine. It never raises to the level of great, but it’s fine.

Grade: B

In the most surreal sketch of the evening, a group of friends (and a couple of strangers) argue whether or not there is a special Thanksgiving song, only to suddenly simultaneously remember an absurd song that has little to do with Thanksgiving.

Here’s the thing. I was never much of a fan of Garth and Kat’s improved songs on “Weekend Update” but I could at least appreciate Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig’s ability to make up nonsense on the spot. But this isn’t even improvised, this was written beforehand — they had time to think about what the song would be — and it still manages to not be funny.

OR MAYBE I’M JUST A BIG OL’ MIDDLE-AGED GROUCH. WHO CAN SAY.

Grade: C

But then the night takes a turn for the better, starting with this rap ode to Ruth Bader Ginsberg. More of this, Pete Davidson, less of elevating shitty congressmen, kthnx.

Grade: A

And before you accuse me of not having a sense of humor, may I present to you my favorite bit of the night — and I would argue one of the best bits of the season so far: While a group of NASA astronauts is doing a live chat with middle schoolers, there is an incident with the lab animals. Children are horrified and terrifying props are deployed. Remarkably dark and funny, this is one of the few bright spots of the night. Also, bonus points to all the actors for mimicking zero gravity pretty well. How much practice did that take?

Grade: A+ (I wasn’t going to go all the way to an A-plus, but then Kate McKinnon … )

Look, I know I’m grumpy about this episode, but you have to admit, “Weekend Update” was pretty flat last night. Unfortunately for them, Trump’s suggestion that California “rake” the forests to prevent forest fires happened too late for them to really get any traction out of it.

Grade: B

True Fact: Virginia elected a Republican who is obsessed to some degree with Bigfoot erotica. He claims it’s a “joke” but is it? An investigation:

Grade: A-

Oh, hey, it’s LaVar Ball again.

Grade: B-

“Remember ‘Beauty School Dropout’ in Grease? OK, but what if instead of Frankie Avalon, the ‘teen angel’ who appears to Frenchie is one of her friend’s dads? That’d be weird, and kinda icky, right?” — The entire conversation about this sketch in the writers’ room.

Grade: B-

In the third — and best — of our “Steve Carell is a Clueless Dad” triptych, Carell and Heidi Gardner play parents who have given up their suburban home for an RV, a choice that Mom isn’t entirely on board with, but is trying to be game about. Bonus points go to Lady Gray, the Great Dane. Did you know that a dog can punch you?

Grade: A-

One question, SNL: How many of the drugs were you all on when you wrote this Space Thanksgiving sketch? All of the drugs or just a few of the drugs? You know what, actually I have some follow-up questions: how many of the drugs did you all eat when you rehearsed it? Because it does not seem like any of you rehearsed this, at least not while you were sober. (Not that I can blame you — I wouldn’t be able to perform this sober, either.) And did you share what drugs you did not smoke while writing and rehearsing this with the guys in the booth last night? Because the only thing that would explain this complete — or should I say “kernplete”? — disaster is allllllll of the drugs.

Grade: D-

OK, but then SNL ended on this ad for a drag queen-voiced GPS system which I would buy in a heartbeat, hunty, so yasssssssssssss. Also, bonus points to SNL for bringing in Peppermint and Jiggly for this sketch instead of just slapping a wig on Kenan and Mikey Day.

But seriously, if someone can make this product happen before Christmas, I will give you all of the money.

Grade: A+

Final Grade: C+ 

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

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