Saturday Night Live
Jenna Ortega & The 1975
March 11, 2023
By now you know who Jenna Ortega is. Or … maybe you don’t. My own husband came into the bathroom this morning to complain to me that his Twitter feed had been taken over by “someone named Jennie Ortega” and he didn’t understand why. For my husband, and those of you like him, Jenna Ortega is the star of Netflix’s big hit Wednesday; she is starring in Scream 6 which just came out; and before that she had roles in everything from You to Jane the Virgin to Elena of Avalor. As your Twitter feed might demonstrate, Ortega is kinda having a moment with her Aubrey Plaza-esque goth vibes.
But Ortega wants people to know that she does have a sense of humor despite all the darkness, and she demonstrated as much in a middle-of-the-road episode of Saturday Night Live. The episode wasn’t bad, per se, it just wasn’t particularly memorable or outstanding — with the exception of one brilliant sketch that stole the night, and maybe the season.
The cold open takes place on The Oscars’ red carpet and it is 8:20 minutes of oof. There are jokes about Mike Tyson being the head of security … because, The Slap; Jamie Lee Curtis stops by for some reason; Draft Kings takes bets on what will happen during the ceremony and there are more George Santos jokes. It’s a hodge podge of half-baked jokes that goes on waaaaaaay too long.
Jenna Ortega’s monologue is short and sweet and completely unremarkable. She points out that Fred Armisen, one of her co-stars of Wednesday, is there, possibly to give context to his appearance later in the episode. It’s fine, but definitely written by the ChatGPT program they are using in the writers’ room to pump out these monologues.
It’s Quiz Bowl, but one of the teams is from the X-Men’s Xavier Institute, and Professor X spends the entire time screaming at his students that they can not use their superpowers against the other team. Kenan Thompson anchors it with his straight-man schtick, but here’s a LOT of screaming from Ortega and Mikey Day. Like, a lot.
The Please Don’t Destroy sketches have moved up to an early spot in the evening, as they’ve continued to mature. In this bit, the PDD boys go on an “all-American road trip” with Jenna Ortega, which, despite the catchy song, soon devolves into irritation, bad navigation, and crime. Once again, I didn’t hate it.
Fred Armisen returns in this bit where he plays a crew member on a remake of the Parent Trap who fills in for Ortega’s stand-in. Armisen’s character ad-libs some completely inappropriate things. Lisa Rinna is mentioned.
Another explainer for my husband: so there’s a show on MTV called Ridiculousness, which is essentially America’s Funniest Home Videos for the MTV crowd. On the show, a group of panelitsts make fun of internet videos (usually stunt or prank videos go wrong) and in this spoof, Ortega’s panelist character cheerfully responds to the videos with disturbing stories, involving beheadings and monstrous cats.
In my absolute favorite bit of the night — and maybe this season — Ortega and Marcello Hernandez play out a scene from a teen drama. Except. They are standing in front of a Waffle House, and so the entire time they are having this breakup conversation, Waffle House chaos is breaking out behind them. Waffle House is gonna Waffle House, yo. It is so well-executed and another reminder that NBC better pay their post-production editors what they want to avoid a strike next month. These pretaped bits are the best things in every episode.
“Weekend Update” covers The Oscars, Chinese disinformation, Tucker Carlson, and Covid-carrying rats. It’s a little limp this week, though Jost and Che seem to maybe be slipping in surprise jokes for the other to read? Is that what is happening?
Over in Tennessee, their Lt. Governor Randy McNally helped pass some rabidly anti-LGBTQ bills in recent years. Except, oopsie, he just got caught making some suggestive comments on one scantily clad young man’s Instagram page. With conservatives, its always about hypocrisy and projection. Anyway, Molly Kearney is just terrific in this bit as McNally tries to explain himself while playing cute. GIVE THEM MORE TO DO, SNL.
James Austin Johnson also stops by the “Weekend Update: desk to do a series of short random impersonations. It’s a great add, and they should do these more often.
In this bit, an exorcism is interrupted by the possessed’s upstairs neighbor, Ego Nwodim, who has to deal with much scarier things in her day-to-day than a demon. It’s a workable, but it has a very dumb ending.
Finally, a law firm hires a lounge act — Andrew Dismukes and James Austin Johnson — to come up with a jingle for their phone number. It’s another “let’s use a cheesy music act for cheap laughs” bit, a staple on this show from the beginning. It’s also the first time we’ve seen Andrew Dismukes in a minute, which is interesting, as there’s been a lot of talk on the forums about his disappearance in recent episodes.
Saturday Night Live airs at 10:30/11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC and streams on Peacock.