The good thing about Edward Norton‘s inaugural Saturday Night Live hosting experience: The Fight Clubber was fully committed to every sketch, no matter how mediocre, put before him. The not-so-good thing about the Halloween-adjacent episode: Norton had a whole lotta mediocre to work with.
There were a few high points during the evening, including Norton’s quite good impressions of Woody Allen, Woody Harrelson and Sir Ian McKellan during the Alec Baldwin-assisted opening monologue. But the host was more often the brightest point in an unfunny sketch, as was the case when he played a mulleted, backwoods critter enthusiast called in to help clean up an office possum infestation. (“In conclusion, work harder, not smarter and we’ll get ‘er done and my name has been Russell.”). Let’s take a look at the best and worst of the night’s offerings.
BEST: NEW HORROR TRAILER
Film auteur Wes Anderson was thoroughly skewed in this trailer for The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders, an imagining of how the quirky director would handle a horror flick. Washed in color and set to the sunny strains of “Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” the faux promo had Norton’s Owen Wilson (another strong impression) and family – full of familiar Anderson characters – trying to evade a Strangers-like invasion by even more Anderson characters. The Royal Tennenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom and Rushmore were just a few of the flicks called out in this spot-on send-up. Stellar all around.
BEST: COLD OPEN: OBAMACARE
Healthcare.gov’s epic fail created great fodder for the episode’s cold open, which found Kate McKinnon’s Kathleen Sebelius offering the American public troubleshooting tips for the broken site (including IT’s go-to: restarting the computer), alternative sites to visit (such as Kayak “where you can purchase airline tickets to Canada and buy cheaper prescription drugs” and a porn site called Web M DDs – ha!) and when all of that failed, 1,000 free hours of AOL.
WORST: RUTH’S CHRIS
Norton gave it his all, but he couldn’t save this unfunny, one-note bit about virgin waiters at the steakhouse chain killing time by pantomiming how they’d go about having sex.
WORST: 12 DAYS NOT A SLAVE
Jay Pharoah’s newly freed slave can’t figure out why his white fellow southerners aren’t being friendly to him – after all, as he repeated a few times, “It’s been two weeks!” since he was freed. If you’re going to take on slavery, SNL, the comedy should be sharper – and the social commentary therefore more pointed – than it was here. As is, the parody of 12 Years a Slave felt like a belabored set-up for cameo-maker Miley Cyrus’ end-of-skit appearance as a twerking southern belle. (P.S. Please never bring her back again. Thanks!)
What did you think of this week’s SNL? How would you rate Norton as host? What were your picks for best and worst sketch? Take our poll, then hit the comments to expand on your thoughts!