‘Saturday Night Live’ really needed to trust Sandra Oh more

Saturday Night Live
Sandra Oh & Tame Impala
March 30, 2019

I am not sure when I learned Sandra Oh was funny — I’m not a Grey’s Anatomy viewer, so I’m guessing it was with Sideways? — all I know is that I associate Sandra Oh with being a funny actress. And so Sandra Oh hosting Saturday Night Live should have been a natural fit: she’s funny, she’s game, and if you’ve ever seen a single episode of Killing Eve, you should know that she is going to be able to pull off whatever material you give her. And yet, it felt like Saturday Night Live‘s writers weren’t sure what they could trust Oh with, only giving her a couple of sketches in which she was allowed to play something other than the straight (wo)man. It’s a shame because when she was given more room to demonstrate her comic skills, Oh killed it. Here’s hoping SNL has her back soon enough — and gives her more to work with.

The cold open presented the biggest news of the week — that the Mueller report is complete, was given to the Attorney General, who then interpreted it for us with his own spin without actually allowing anyone else to see it, and President NO COLLUSION declared it completely exonerating (when it was not at all) — and turned it into the giant game of Human Centipede Telephone that it was.

It’s fine. It’s not hilarious by any stretch, but it is accurate, it limited Alec Baldwin’s Trump’s screen presence, and because he was literally supposed to be reading off of something, it made Robert DeNiro’s terrible cue card reading less embarrassing for everyone. That must have been a relief for everyone involved — it certainly was for me watching.

Grade: B

I love Sandra Oh. I do not love this suit that she is wearing which I am pretty sure is from the 1987 Paula Poundstone Lady Suit collection. Nor did I love this opening monologue which was about how she is Korean and Canadian and recently became an American citizen. And as both a Korean and a Canadian, she has a hard time tooting her own horn, so, as an American, the most she can brag about is that she “cries more than anyone you know.”

It really feels like the writers let her down here.

Grade: B-

OK, so there are these Discover credit card commercials where people call Discover to complain or demand something and the person on the other side of the line is … them? Or their doppelganger? I don’t know. It’s a weird campaign. And so, Jordan Peele’s new movie, Us, also features doppelgangers (or something, I haven’t seen the movie AND I WISH TO REMAIN UNSPOILED, PLEASE) and so you put them together and get … this. It’s not a terrible idea for a commercial spoof, and maybe I would appreciate the sketch more if I had seen the movie, but it felt more like a clever idea than an actually funny bit.

Grade: B+

Saturday Night Live decided to take another bite of the Jussie Smollett apple with this TURRRRRRRIBLE sketch in which Smollett’s agent tries to talk Empire out of firing him from the show, only to have Smollett show up with claims of another obviously fake attack.

Maybe I’m just overly sensitive, but I find the whole Smollett mess just … sad. And while there are elements of the story that are kinda funny if you squint, it takes a deft hand to turn a dark, ugly and divisive situation into a humorous one. Apparently, the writers’ room is just not that deft.

Also, how did this get pushed up so early into the episode?

Grade: C-

In the first digital sketch of the night, two men have a duel for the affections of Sandra Oh’s character, only to accidentally shoot her to death. Ha?

The feminist in me wants to go into a long discussion about how Oh’s character keeps forgiving the men after they repeatedly shoot her and what this means about toxic masculinity and gun culture and how women are culturally conditioned to place men’s emotions and needs ahead of their own but I think it’s just supposed to be an absurdist little trifle so I am not going to overthink it more than I already have.

Grade: B-

In this bit, a nerdy 15-year-old kid gets a glimpse of his future self and his future self’s girlfriend who is a loud, Four Loko-drinking lunatic who has burned down his house multiple times and talks about her “good goo-goo.” I suspect this will be one of those sketches that some people hate with every fiber of their being, but I have to admit — I thought it was pretty funny? Mostly thanks to Oh’s total commitment to her obnoxious character. But because Oh goes so hard here, and because she is so funny, it makes me wonder why the show didn’t trust her with more in this episode. (see: intro)

Grade: A-

In another sketch that felt more like a funny idea than a five-minute bit, Vladimir Putin is the unexpected loser in the wake of the Mueller Report and feeling defensive when questioned by his people and Kim Jong-un — who appears to be wedged in to give Sandra Oh something to do. Hey, at least they found someone Asian to play Kim Jong-un instead of doing something offensive? I guess we can be thankful for that?

Grade: B

“Weekend Update” covers the release of the Mueller report and how “all the bad guys got away with it.” As Che puts it: “I can’t believe I actually thought for a second that the FBI was going to lock up the sitting President of the United States simply because’s guilty.” hahahahasob

Grade: B+

“Judge” Jeanine Pirro visits the Weekend Update desk, and literally falls out of her chair at the idea that Trump might close the border with Mexico and investigate Hillary and Obama:

Grade: B+

And Anne McClain, the lady astronaut who didn’t get to go on a historic space walk because NASA didn’t have enough space suits to fit TWO women visits the desk to discuss her disappointment.

Grade: A

Kate McKinnon plays an 85-year-old woman who is celebrating her birthday by demanding that her co-workers kiss. That’s it.

Grade: B-

My favorite bit of the night celebrates the DRAMA of writing a check (or “cheque” as they spell it here for added DRAMAZ) in the age of Venmo. I love this with all of my heart.

Grade: A+

In the most annoying — but deliberately so — sketch of the night, Kenan plays a 1960s R&B artist who refuses to give up the spotlight. It’s one of those bits whose humor depends on sheer repetition — it’s funny the first time, less funny the second time, not funny at all the third time, but then around the fourth or fifth time, the sheer absurdity of it all makes it funny again — if you haven’t turned it off by the second time. At least that’s the philosophy here. Mileage will vary. Personally, I didn’t love it — it felt like the show just letting Kenan do whatever he wants since he’s leaving at the end of the season. But that said, I did like the little meta nod at the end.

Grade: B-

In the final sketch of the night, students in an SAT prep course give long angst-filled monologues. I guess it’s supposed to be a spoof of a teen drama? And I know this is super picky and taking the air out of the punchline — such that it is — but the teacher is asking them to explain metaphors and symbolism, but then getting irritated with them for doing just that? So … the logic just isn’t holding here.

Grade: B-

The sketch they cut last night took square aim at this ridiculous college admissions scandal, bringing us into the admissions office as they make their decision to admit heirs of famous and rich people over deserving candidates. And the reason I am irritated is that this sketch is a much better example of how you skewer a very timely topic than what they did with Smollett, and yet it was cut while the Smollett sketch stayed in? I understand that this sketch was twice as long as the Smollett sketch, but they really should have kept this and cut literally any other two bits (as long as one of them was the Smollett sketch).

Final Grade: B. The complete mediocrity of this episode is what saved it. And I’m sorry for the Human Centipede reference. But it’s true.

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

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