Rachel Brosnahan hosts a solidly B episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Rachel Brosnahan & Greta Van Fleek
January 19, 2019

Saturday Night Live is back after its long winter break and while last night’s episode wasn’t terrible, let’s just say that it felt like some writers and performers don’t quite seem like they have entirely mentally have returned from vacation? It is not that the episode was lazy, per se — there were a couple of sketches that I think really hit it out of the park, including one that revels in its immaturity, and a surprise visit from the delightful John Mulaney — it’s just that the bad sketches weren’t bad as much as they were half-assed.

As for Brosnahan’s performance, I honestly had forgotten she was the host through much of the episode. That’s not meant to be a knock on her, she fit in well enough that I found myself reminding myself that she was the host and not a “featured player.” (Not a star, mind you, but a featured player.) (OK, maybe that was a dig.)

Our cold open this week takes aim at the government shutdown, with a Deal or No Deal parody hosted by Steve Harvey? Because they can, I guess? The sketch is fine, placing blame equally on Trump and Pelosi, with a particularly good dig at Chuck Schumer. But for my money, Mitch McConnell is the best part of the sketch.

Grade: B

Ugh, Rachel Brosnahan sings her monologue, ugh. It’s not that she’s a bad singer, it’s that the song is dumb: “let’s have fun in 2019, except there are all these things that are not fun that are happening!” Boo. My New Year’s resolution for Saturday Night Live: NO MORE MUSICAL MONOLOGUES.

Grade: C+

This bit in which a news station reports from a social security office where a bunch of people were changing their names when an earthquake hit is the very definition of juvenile humor, an excuse to say a lot of names Bart Simpson might use while pranking Moe’s: Mark Peanus; A. Hitler; Ty Neadick; Pete Ophelia; Holden Tudiks. You get the idea. And I know you think I’m going to be all frowny-face about this one, but the truth is, I snickered at this more than I should have.

Grade: A-

The first commercial spoof of the night is for a fake urn that women can carry around to avoid unwanted attention from strange men. And I feel like they are hinging a lot of the joke on the name of the item, the “Leave Me Alurn,” because this one just doesn’t work. As a woman who has been forced into way too many unwanted conversations with strange men, I should have loved this, but it let me flat. Although a point or two for “Lower Bback Spikes,” — that shit is for real.

Grade: B-

The best sketch of the night was the fake game show, “Millenial Millions” in which millennials compete for the sort of things Baby Boomers take for granted that are completely out of millennials’ reach, like a mortgage or debt relief. All they have to do is listen to a Boomer complain about how hard they have it for 30 seconds. Sharp and brutal, this bit takes no prisoners.

Grade: A+

I mean, they had to do a parody of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, that goes without saying, so I guess this is fine. Not great, but fine.

Grade: B

“Weekend Update” takes on Trump, the shutdown and Trump’s hostage-taking of the Dreamers, as well as Buzzfeed, whom they implore to stay in their lane. It’s appropriately angry and funny and angry.

Grade: A-

Elizabeth Warren stops by the “Weekend Update” desk for the first time and Kate McKinnon actually kinda looks like her, much more than she looked like Hillary Clinton (and considerably more than she looks like Pelosi). There’s not much zingy here, but McKinnon is always solid.

Grade: B+

John Mulaney joins Pete Davidson at the “Weekend Update” desk to review the Clint Eastwood movie, “The Mule.” A lot of the news stories are harping on the fact that Davidson referenced his suicidal post, but the real story here is that John Mulaney and Pete Davidson need their own Rogers and Ebert-style movie review series YESTERDAY.

Grade: A

Leslie Jones hosts a talk show whose entire topic is how when men are caught doing something they know is wrong, they look like guilty dogs. Kenan single-handedly saves this otherwise unremarkable sketch and it is going to be a DAMN SHAME when he leaves next year.

Grade: B-

You know that Gillette ad that tells men to not be shitty men? This is like that, but with Kool-Aid telling its drinkers to not be like the Kool-Aid Man and burst through walls. I could go into a long explanation as to why this doesn’t work for me (Gillette didn’t have a mascot that was associated with toxic masculinity that they were trying to distance themselves from is the TL;DR version) but it will just make me sound like a humorless feminist prig, so I’ll save us all the lecture.

Grade: C

WHY ARE WE DOING THIS BARBIE ON SOCIAL MEDIA SKETCH AGAIN? IT DIDN’T WORK THE FIRST TIME AND IT DOESN’T WORK HERE. WORST SKETCH OF THE NIGHT, HANDS DOWN.

Grade: D

Final Grade: A solid B. Yeah, that feels right.

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

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