Fox & Friends Cold Open
‘Fox & Friends’ is an easy SNL target but it’s been a while since they’ve done this sketch since a major cast rotation with Heidi Gardner now playing the interchangeable blonde, Alex Moffat as Steve Doocy and Beck Bennett as Brian Kilmeade. But something was just off about the entire sketch, from the camerman panning away from Cecily Strong’s Hope Hicks in the middle of her dialog, to the near deadly silence from the audience during the ‘jokes’. Chris Redd got a few more laughs as Louis Farrakhan and then … BALDWIN finally makes his triumphant return, the first of the new year. But even the interaction between him and the ‘hosts’ felt a bit disjointed, like maybe his part was pre-taped? I don’t know. It was weird and not a great start to the show. (Note: the camera mishap has been edited out of the video clip NBC has posted online, covered with a shot of the ‘hosts’.)
Natalie Portman Announcer Monologue
Natalie Portman, who has a new movie out on February 23 (Annihilation), returns to SNL for the first time since 2006 … and had probably the least to do in a monologue of any host ever. As this is the last show before the Winter Olympics takes up all of NBC’s broadcast real estate, the monologue features commentators (Thompson and McKinnon) critiquing Portman’s performance. It was more a sketch than a monologue, but the best parts were Portman’s slo-mo reenactment of a bad joke punchline and Leslie Jones’ ‘on site’ commentary.
Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Couched as a sketch about the Revolutionary War in 1775, you’re quickly aware that the ‘Patriots of New England’ are poking fun at arrogant New England Patriots fans with the Super Bowl about to be played. Portman and a few others get to haul out their ‘Bahston’ accents (and Connecticut), but Portman is completely upstaged by surprise guest Rachel Dratch. But then the delegation from Philadelphia arrives, led by the next surprise guest Tina Fey doing her hilarious mid-Atlantic accent (and it sounded more Baltimore than Philly to me), and the verbal sparring between Fey and Dratch was the absolute highlight of the night.
Stranger Things 3
A ‘sneak peek’ at the third season of Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things features Portman as Eleven, the young girl with mysterious powers and Mikey Day as Mike. The premise is they are going to a secret rendez-vous location to meet up with others like Eleven (and some of the powers are pretty funny) but the real punchline to the whole thing is Mike’s increasing desire to make out with Eleven. This was humorous but kind of fell apart when it was obvious they had no idea how to end the sketch.
Natalie’s Rap 2
Portman made a splash with a rap video the last time she was on the show, and here is the follow-up to catch us up on her life since giving birth (vividly depicted in the video). This was a great bit highlighted by Portman in her Amadala Star Wars drag daring anyone to say the new sequels are better than her prequels. Another highlight of the evening with another surprise guest, Andy Samberg.
The top of the segment was taken up mostly by this week’s big news items, the FISA memo and the State of the Union speech, and Jost and Che had some good material and were also in rare form (it seemed that Che barely made it to the set before the commercial break was over). They also covered Black History Month, the Super Bowl and the announced sequel to The Passion of the Christ which allowed Jost a line that completely destroyed Che. And there were guests. McKinnon and Strong appeared as Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve to justify their comments about the #metoo movement (and McKinnon can elicit laughs just by staring into space), Pete Davidson talks about an awkward Super Bowl ad he shot for Dockers, and Che’s neighbor Willie talks about the joys of February. And it really all came together for a pretty solid segment this week.
And here is where things begin to fall apart. Portman plays the captain of a starship about to engage in sexual relations with an alien. And, even though they’ve already had dinner, she just now learns that the aliens face is his butt and his butt is his face, giving Bennett the chance to do the bulk of his dialog by speaking and clenching his butt as the camera keeps it in close-up. And of course there is a fart joke (a them tonight after farts played a part in the ‘Stranger Things 3’ sketch). They did give Bennett some pretty amazing alien makeup though.
Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards Orange Carpet
Portman and Day are the hosts of the awards pre-show which began with them and a gallery of kids (up way past their bedtime) screaming as loud as they could, resulting in Portman’s character losing her voice while still having to report on the goings-on. While Day is interviewing McKinnon’s Ellen DeGeneres, Portman gets a voice vocalizer that frightens everyone, and was the funniest part of the sketch.
Melania Trump (Strong) is in a quandary as the State of the Union address approaches, but she gets some helpful (or dubious) advice from Jackie Kennedy (Portman, who played Jackie in the movie Jackie), Hillary Clinton (McKinnon, of course), Michelle Obama (Jones) and even Martha Washington (Bryant). There was some funny stuff here, but again it felt like they really didn’t know how to end things.
Three friends at a bar lament their sorry love lives but another woman, Bunny (Bryant), offers them some questionable advice on how to deal with the men in their lives, including how she catfishes men to get them back to her apartment. Some of Bunny’s advice led to some laughs, however uncomfortable they may have been. An okay end to the night.
Hey, I actually know the first song, ‘New Rules’, that musical guest Dua Lipa performed and … well … it wasn’t great. The music and backup singers were fine, but Dua Lipa sounded more like someone who’s better in a controlled environment like a studio with a lot of post-production tweaks to her voice than she is live. The second song, ‘Homesick’, was just the singer and a piano and she actually redeemed herself, proving she actually does have a nice singing voice.
As the last show for a month, this outing was a mixed bag of comedy and music, often more successful than not although with technical gaffes and writing that sometimes went nowhere, it wasn’t the slam dunk it could have been. Portman, however, proved she was game for anything — from being upstaged by SNL alums to kissing Beck Bennett’s ass — elevating even some of the more meh material.
Saturday Night Live airs live in every time zone coast-to-coast Saturdays starting at 11:30 PM Eastern time on NBC. On March 3, Charles Barkley hosts with musical guest Migos.
What did you think of this episode? Tell us in the comments below!