Miles Teller hosts the most wildly uneven ‘Saturday Night Live’ in recent memory

Saturday Night Live
Miles Teller and Kendrick Lamar
October 1, 2022

As I’m sure you know, this is a season of change — literally — for Saturday Night Live. Eight cast members, Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon, Kyle Mooney, Alex Moffat, Melissa Villaseñor, Aristotle Athari, and Chris Redd, left this season, some under … interesting circumstances.

They have added four new cast members, Marcello Hernandez, Molly Kearney, Michael Longfellow, and Devon Walker, but as anyone who has watched this show for a while knows, it takes a minute before baby cast members find their sea legs.

And so I was ready for this premiere to be uneven. Without seasoned performers like McKinnon and Bryant around to anchor what would otherwise be mediocre sketches, some bits just aren’t going to land as well.

What I was not expecting was for this episode to give me whiplash: sharp and self-aware in one moment, delivering two of the worst sketches I have ever seen on this show in the next. Sketches so bad that at the time of this writing, no one has yet taken credit for writing them. Genuinely, you guys, this episode is one of the most baffling I’ve seen to date.

Not that I’m blaming Miles Teller. I’m not a huge fan of Teller — I find him very punchable, but I understand that this must just be a me thing since he’s a huge Hollywood star. But I have to admit, he did his very best with what he was handed. When the material was good, he was very good! When the material was terrible, he still tried his hardest.

No, the blame lies squarely on the writers and head writers here. Let’s hope they can pull it together in the coming weeks.

The cold open features our host, Miles Teller playing Peyton Manning teamed with Andrew Dismukes as Eli Manning, doing a Manningcast on the SNL cold open itself. It’s SUPER meta. But it’s also very clever and the highlight of the episode. By commenting on the cold open, they are able to address the fact that we have lost several cast members, added three new ones, and respond to criticisms of the show, namely the heavy — and often lazy — reliance on political bits and celebrity cameos. They do this, of course, by using a pair of celebrity cameos: Jon Hamm and Shawn White. They also manage to criticize SNL’s use of dumb catchphrases, lack of internal logic, and the insistence on shoving current trends where they don’t belong. It’s well done, and a satisfying bit of self-awareness for anyone who has been watching this show for a while.

Grade: A+

Miles Teller’s monologue is good: he manages to get the obligatory Top Gun jokes in and a little self-deprecating humor. But the highlight is the video of himself and his older sister re-enacting the now-classic SNL Spartan cheerleader sketches as children.

Grade: A

Our obligatory game show sketch is “Send Something Normal!,” a game show in which men are challenged to send a normal response to a woman’s DM to win $100 million. The contestants include Adam Levine, Armie Hammer, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Bowen Yang, and needless to say, none of them are winners, not even the gay guy.

Grade: A

So there’s this social media app called “BeReal” that I do not use because I have not been in my twenties for decades now, in which you are challenged once a day — and when you are not expecting it — to post a selfie within two minutes no matter where you are. You know, to “be real” about your life. Anyway, in this sketch, the notification to “be real” happens during a bank robbery; hilarity mild amusement ensues. Honestly, as a Gen Xer, I was just grateful for an explanation of this app, which I have seen posted on social media in other places, because I sure as hell wasn’t going to look it up myself.

Grade: B

And then the show falls off a cliff. In this sketch, the Charmin Bear son wants to be a dancer instead of going to “toilet paper college.” I don’t even know what to say, except that somehow, SOMEHOW, this terrible sketch is also plagiarized from a YouTube video and they didn’t even manage to steal what made the video (kinda) funny.

Grade: F

In this bit, Teller and Mikey Day play a couple of douchey day traders who try to pick up a pair of women at a rooftop bar, but they are really awkward. That is the entire concept of the sketch. It’s basically “Wild and Crazy Guys!” but for the fleece vest crowd.

Grade: D

You know those AMC Nicole Kidman promos where she talks about movies like they are something mystical instead of an expensive way to hang out with a bunch of strangers for a few hours? This sketch is a spoof of that, finding the not-so-vaguely sinister tone of the original:

Grade: B+

“Weekend Update” this week feels … watered down. It feels like they are pulling some of their punches on the political jokes, like they are frightened to go too hard on anyone, lest they be accused of bias. And maybe I’m just imagining it having read too many articles about Che wanting to leave, but neither Che nor Jost seem to really want to be there anymore. I mean to be fair, this is the eighth season they’ve been doing this, the longest anyone has.

Grade: B-

Georgia Senate candidate and dumb weirdo Herschel Walker and Mitch McConnell come to the Weekend Update desk to discuss his race and McConnell’s clear discomfort with it. It’s fine. Points for James Austin Johnson’s McConnell.

Grade: B

They are trying to make new cast member Michael Longfellow your new Pete Davidson. It seems to be working.

Grade: B+

And then Bowen Yang is a “Spotted Lanternfly” in his ongoing series: “Bowen Yang Plays Sassy Things That You Wouldn’t Naturally Think of Being Sassy.”

Grade: B+

In this tragically unfunny bit, the McDonald’s mascots reunite for a new campaign, only to discover that Grimace is super-ripped and that they are all bisexual. This is a disaster. Literally a disaster.

Grade: D-

Finally, there is this talk show spoof called “Caribbean Queens” in which Ego Nwodim and Heidi Gardner are squandered as two older drunken ladies at a resort. I’m not even sure what the joke is supposed to be: old ladies be sexual? It feels like a leftover sketch written for Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant that they read through and were like, “ehh … I mean, we could probably pull this off, but we’d rather not even try?”

Grade: D+

Final Grade: C.

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

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