Whether you love or loathe (or perhaps try not to pay attention to) HBO’s Girls, you’ve got to give it at least a little credit for the ferociously specific point-of-view of its creator Lena Dunham. (OK, you don’t have to give her credit for anything, obviously, but for the sake of this intro, just work with me!)
Alas, though, in her Saturday Night Live hosting debut, the actress/writer/producer was tossed headlong into such flimsily conceived and executed sketches that they lacked such essentials as decent punch lines, specific characters and even discernable end points.
Sure, the overall quality of the writing represented a slight uptick from last week’s Jim Parsons-fronted debacle, but such back-to-back flops coming out of an Olympics-season hiatus is truly troubling. Sure, former head writer Seth Meyers has left the building — or, more accurately, Studio 8H — to assume hosting duties at Late Night, but Lorne Michaels & Co. had better dig deep between now and March 29 (the show’s next fresh episode) or they might be facing a crisis not even Olivia Pope can fix.
Below, my picks for the week’s best & worst:
BEST: SCANDAL’S NEWEST GLADIATOR
Dunham struck the right goofy note as Kelsey, a new character on ABC’s Scandal who finds herself completely bewildered by the insane shorthand and rapid pace at which the show’s characters operate at while “fixing” problems. Dunham’s best zinger arrived as Kelsey quit her job with this parting bon mot: “I want you all to know you are the most beautiful and ethnically diverse people I have ever seen in one room — and you should be really proud of that.” Oh, and bonus points to Sasheer Zamata for the ecstacy she conveyed while being inappropriately fondled in front of her staff by the Commander in Chief.
A pretaped movie trailer with Dunham (as herself) playing Eve, “a struggling twentysomething in the Garden of Eden” tackling subjects like “apple shaming” (amazing) and her lack of health care. Taran Killam (who maybe should give one of the new guys the occasional chance to be in front of the camera?) was fine as Adam Driver in the role of the Bible’s first human, but it was Vanessa Bayer bringing to life that tricky snake — with the hairstyle and speaking cadence of Zosia Mamet’s Girls character Shoshanna — who had me howling hardest with this stream-of-ridiculousness: “Oh em effing Gee, I’m like a legit snake and I know this sounds crazy, but you should, like, totally eat the apple. And I know, like, God told you no, but like, that was just a guideline. Plus, it’ll make you, like, so smart. And no offense, but I feel like a girl like you, like, needs to be smart.”
HONORABLE MENTION: WILL SMITH TICKETS
It might’ve been sheer exhaustion, but I chuckled a couple times at this very peculiar digital short about a guy (Brooks Whelan) who agrees to attend a Will Smith concert with two coworkers (Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney) but doesn’t want to deal with their endless inane emails. Mooney trying a new drug and envisioning Wheelan as a giant bird/fish hybrid? That’s gonna haunt me all week. And there’s something so compelling about Bennett that he manages to shine even when the material is iffy, no?
WORST: “WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING? YOU’RE BEING CRAZY”
This interminable sketch — with Nasim Pedrad (remember her?) and Dunham as awkward middle-school girls filming a Web cast about flirting — did the impossible: Making me nostalgic for Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong’s tepid/recurring “Girlfriends Talk Show” (which “What Are You Even Doing?” blatantly ripped off — only with Pedrad and Dunham playing almost carbon copies of one anothe, as opposed to “Girlfriends'” opposite characters). Did Jon Hamm really have nothing better to do with his weekend than cameo as himself in this hot, buttered wreck?
WORST: JEWELRY PARTY
Mike O’Brien nearly vanished into the scenery as a mousy boyfriend of Cecily Strong’s waayyy over-the-top Venezuelan beauty pageant contestant-turned-office worker, who joined Dunham and several other pals at a jewelry party. The kicker? Bruce turns out to be a “men’s rights” advocate who campaigns for dudes to earn more than their female counterparts doing the same job. Get it? His girlfriend’s not just from a foreign country, but she’s also too dim to understand what her man does for a living? Oh, and she doesn’t like his body or face or sexual moves, so she’s clearly just with him because he brought her to the U.S.? OK, I’ll stop writing; just know my one-paragraph description can’t convey the awfulness of the full sketch, OK?
What did you think of Dunham’s SNL outing? Grade the installment in our poll below, then sound off in the comments with your picks for Best and Worst!