Owen Wilson opens a whole new season of ‘Saturday Night Live’: back and mediocre as ever!

Saturday Night Live
Owen Wilson & Kacey Musgraves
October 2, 2021

Saturday Night Live is back for its 47th season, and they’ve chosen Owen Wilson, a first-time host, to helm the episode. And honestly, he’s fine. Wilson is an affable, easy-going sort who has no problem allowing himself to be the butt of a joke, and is clearly up for whatever the writers have in store for him. What is unfortunate is that what the writers have in store for him … isn’t a whole lot. But then, that’s what we’ve come to expect by now, right?

This summer, Saturday Night Live hired three new cast members: Aristotle Athari, Sarah Sherman, and James Austin Johnson. And apparently, SNL has a ton of confidence in Johnson because his is the first face you see in the first sketch of the new season. Johnson, who went viral with his impersonations of Former President Disgrace, impersonates President Biden in the cold open, insisting that the Democrats are actually very much on the same page, despite Senators Manchin and Sinema doing their level best to torpedo Biden’s platform for no reason other than “chaos.”

Johnson isn’t bad as Biden — he’s a hell of a lot better and less messy than Jim Carrey — but there’s some room to grow here. That said, between this and a few other sketches that Johnson leads in this episode, it’s clear the folks of SNL are betting on him being a breakout star.

As for the sketch itself, it’s a typical cold open: political, too long, trying to cram too many characters in for one or two lines, and making points that have already been covered — and covered better — by the late night guys.

Grade: B-

It’s kind of surprising that this is Owen Wilson’s first time to host Saturday Night Live since he’s been bouncing around Hollywood for nearly 30 years now. Wilson’s brand is funny and disarming, all of which he delivers in this monologue where he talks about his brothers, his childhood, reading his reviews, and being compared (not inaccurately) to a Golden Retriever. It’s not super laugh-out-loud funny but it feels very authentic to who Wilson is.

“Everyone comes out and says it’s going to be a great show. Is it?” Probably not, Owen.

Grade: B

So this is a baffling sketch: It’s clearly a spoof of The View‘s meltdown last week when Ana Navarro and Sunny Hostin were literally pulled off the stage mid-episode ahead of an important interview with Vice President Kamala Harris because they had (falsely) tested positive for COVID.

Except … it’s not The View? Instead, it’s a fictional ladies’ talk show called, “The Talking”? And none of the women are based on real people? And it’s only strange because Saturday Night Live has for YEARS done spoofs of The View … so why not this time?

I have my theories: Kate McKinnon — who is still on the show, but just not in this episode — wasn’t available to do Joy Behar, and they worried no one would know who any of the other women were supposed to be, but they also felt like they had to do the sketch THIS WEEK to remain timely. The bottom line is it feels like watching a foreign version of a show you’re familiar with, like The Office: you know what they’re going for, but somehow it’s all terribly wrong.

Grade: C-

Billionaire Jeff Bezos went to space this summer with his brother, some teen kid, and 80-something wannabe astronaut Wally Funk, for reasons that remain unclear. Anyway, this is about that, except couched in Star Trek references and a Luke Wilson cameo. It’s exactly what you think it’s going to be.

Grade: B-

Here, Owen Wilson plays himself, heading into a studio to record lines for Cars 4. The final script hasn’t been written according to the director, but they need Wilson to come in and put down some lines for the animators to work with. And from the few lines he has to record, a picture of a womanizing, abusive, and law-breaking Lightning McQueen begins to take shape, alarming Wilson. It’s dark, and it also might be the funniest sketch of the night.

Grade: A-

One of the more distressing signals of our fraying democracy has been this year’s trend of school board meetings becoming the new frontline for the culture wars, with screaming lunatics from the right-wing fringe freaking out about everything from mask mandates to critical race theory. This sketch is that, and honestly, y’all, these caricatures are not that broadly drawn. They genuinely cut too close to the bone:

Grade: B+

“Weekend Update” is back with both hosts, after some speculation that either Colin Jost or Michael Che would be leaving. And it’s fine. It starts off in a defensive posture, noting that last year at this time they had a lot of material to work with: an election, a deadly virus, a President who might be dying from the deadly virus. And now they’ve got: infrastructure.


Che gets a good joke in about R. Kelly that leaves the audience unsure, and Jost jokes about his whiteness, so you know: same ol’ same ol;

Grade: B

Visiting the “Weekend Update” desk this week is A Black Woman Who’s Been Missing for 10 Years, who points out the disparity in media coverage of missing white women to missing Black women. It’s a funny take on a painfully very real problem, and Nwodim also manages to get a good swipe in at Che. But it’s the final zinger, that neither Jost nor Che even asked her what her name is, that is most brutal.

Grade: A

Pete Davidson went to the Met Gala and wore a dress and then talks about it for three minutes.

Grade: B

“Weekend Update” also paid tribute to the greatest “Weekend Update” host ever, Norm Macdonald, who passed away last month. It should be noted that Norm was fired from SNL for refusing to stop telling OJ Simpson jokes on the top brass’s orders. The man was a genius and stuck to his guns, and I’m glad the show honored him despite their acrimonious split.

Grade: A+

A grandma requests that her favorite Atlantic City casino lounge singer sing her favorite song at her funeral: R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.” SNL has long had a tendency to make fun of cheesy lounge singers, dating back to Bill Murray’s days on the show, and this is partiallly that. But mostly it’s a joke about the thorny question of separating the art from the artist, and also a grandma being an unexpected fan of gross predators. Points awarded for brevity.

Grade: B+

Two NFL announcers have to do promos for a FOX sitcom called “Crazy House” during a football game, each promo becoming increasingly absurd. It’s fine.

Grade: B+

A pair of doctors record a commercial for their mail-in stool testing business, in which they assure customers that they won’t be doing any “weird stuff” with their samples. This feels like an overly long version of the “A lot of people have questions about X that could be answered by my ‘X’ t-shirt” Twitter joke, but I also don’t hate it? I probably should hate it, but I don’t.

Grade: B

Cut for time is this sketch which starts out as a bit about a group of people trying to split a dinner check in which Owen Wilson’s character has ordered the most (and most ridiculous) items on the menu, but then makes a HARD left turn into absurdity. Good thing this one doesn’t count against the grade SNL, because wow. This was bad.


Final Grade: B.

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

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