Martin Freeman Hosts SNL: What Were the Best and Worst Sketches?

There were lovely gifts and lumps of coal under the tree as Martin Freeman (Fargo, Sherlock, The Hobbit) took the reins of this week’s Saturday Night Live.

The episode started strong — with one of the better cold opens in recent memory (Taran Killam’s Charlie Rose interviewing the psychologists who helped the CIA with their brutal interrogation methods), a weird but occasionally amusing sketch featuring Freeman and Leslie Jones as a mismatched couple getting married after five days of dating (Kate McKinnon is just amazing), and then one of the best pop-culture mashups the show has produced in several years (more on that below).

Things devolved over the course of the installment, however, thanks to a Waterbed Warehouse ad that found Aidy Bryant turning up the volume to no avail, Colin Jost’s stilted cue-card reading during “One Dimensional Female Character from a Male-Driven Comedy” and, alas, the two “weakest links” discussed at the end of this recap.

Below are my picks for the week’s best and worst.

BEST: THE OFFICE: MIDDLE EARTH
Every detail of this pre-taped gem — which welded Freeman’s breakout role on the British The Office and his current stint in The Hobbit — was perfection. Bobby Moynihan was surprisingly perfect as a David Brent/Gandalf — “THOU! SHALL! NOT! PASS!… gas.” — while Killam’s shirtless, raw-fish-gobbling Gollum added just the right level of absurdity to the mix. Who’d have thunk you could save Middle Earth and wind up selling reams of paper and driving a Jetta?

BEST: ST. JOSEPH’S CHRISTMAS MASS SPECTACULAR
All your favorite annual-trip-to-mass archetypes rolled into one very funny pre-taped short. I actually guffawed at the line about Pastor Pat “who sings everything in constantly changing speeds” (well done again, Mr. Moynihan!) and McKinnon’s hapless organist wasn’t far behind. By the time we got to the dueling lectors — “12-year-old Ryan Kelly, who really doesn’t want to be doing this, and 44-year-old Colleen Chapin, who really, really does” — this one was nipping at The Office: Middle Earth‘s heels.

WORST: PINE RIVER LODGE TREE LIGHTING
Kenan Thompson (who also fronted the ho-hum Sumpin’ Claus) mugged his way through this pointless bit about a jazz singer probing his reluctant saxophonist (Freeman in a terrible wig) about a domestic altercation — in the middle of a holiday performance. Killam’s last-minute entrance as the disturbed, boot-stealing “Roman” helped escalate (or should I say drag) this sketch not just to “worst of the night,” but a contender for “worst of the season.”

WORST: HEINZ ASSEMBLY LINE
Freeman was saddled with the unenviable task of playing a manager at a Heinz ketchup plant attempting to teach a clueless newbie (Taran Killam — was he in every single sketch this week?) incapable of understanding basic instructions on how to work an assembly line.

What did you think of Freeman’s SNL episode? What were your favorite and least-favorite sketches? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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37 Comments
  1. Cook says:

    The Obvious Chrisley skit was great. I don’t understand why they didn’t come out and just use the couple’s real names. I was a show based in Atlanta. I thought Taran was spot on.

  2. Alichat says:

    After the monologue, I was hoping the show would stay at that level of funny. But you are right, it devolved. And Freeman was in probably 5 live bits, and everything else was pre-recorded. Did it seem like half the skits were pre-recorded???

  3. Sara says:

    I think it is a huge problem when the funniest skits on Saturday Night Live are pre-recorded.

    • M3rc Nate says:

      Personally i would prefer a show like SNL (obviously wouldnt be live anymore) that was all recorded skits like they do. Their recorded skits are almost always 5x funnier than their live stuff. I mean what do you expect? They have like 4 days of sleep deprived high on caffeine time to come up with ideas for the show. IMO that pressure doesnt really breed hilarious ideas. Honestly most of the time when i watch a live skit i end up thinking “wow….i bet some guy/gal thought this was hilarious at 4 am while semi high on pot and pitched it to be a skit and it got approved…this is just bad…”.

  4. sillyemmy says:

    Why oh why was Martin Freeman even ON this show? He’s so good and they gave him almost nothing to do. I haven’t watched SNL in forever because it hasn’t been funny in so long. Only watched for MF, and… I mean… is it ALWAYS this terrible? I only chuckled at the Office bit and didn’t even crack a smile the rest of the time. Awful.

  5. Lee Harvey says:

    SNL failed a game host like it so often does. Freeman had energy and seemed up for anything. It started strong and faded pretty quickly. Charli XCX was terrible.

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  7. jocasta says:

    I find him to be a cold performer. Quite charmless.

  8. It seems like someone just doesn’t really get into the groove of the live sketches. If you’re consistently rating the pre-taped ones over anything actually airing live, maybe the show isn’t really your thing.

  9. James says:

    So… If I laughed at some of the sketches you say are the “worst”, do I seek professional help, or just loll myself immediately?

    • Jillian says:

      I also thought the two worst were two of the best. Freeman’s rapid-fire line delivery in the assembly line sketch was perfect, and he really held his own with seasoned pro Killam: and this is coming from a person who really, really dislikes Martin Freeman.

      Overall I thought it was one of the best of the season; is TVline so sure it’s giving objective reviews???

  10. Kurstin says:

    So, was he not allowed to mention Sherlock on the show? I was waiting for a Sherlock spoof and it never happened!

  11. Simon says:

    I was quite surprised to find a SNL show to be funny almost all way through. Yes there were some hiccups but the way the last few seasons have been going last night was one of the best.

  12. colig says:

    the waterbed sketch was awful.i can not stand aidy bryant.

  13. Morisot says:

    I thought Martin Freeman elevated everything he did. (I liked the assembly-line skit.) He had terrific presence and pitch-perfect delivery.

    Charli XCX — I just imagined it was a skit and that it was Cecily playing the lead singer — and that made it really funny. (Because, otherwise, Charli XCX was really terrible!)

    And I LIKE Kenan Thompson. He is always prepared. Has a great grin. And carries on.

  14. Anna says:

    Cecily was amazing as the “One Dimensional Female Character from a Male-Driven Comedy”, and while I don’t dislike Colin Jost (*gasp*), I kept thinking that Seth Meyers would’ve killed this bit. Jost is just not flirty enough to pull this off the way Meyers could’ve…

    • dan says:

      I actually thought Weekend Update was pretty solid this week. The “news” offered some laughs, while the bits by Shasheer, Vanessa and Cecily were all relatively funny. It hasn’t hit the level of Seth & Amy’s Updates, but it was better than it was a few weeks ago and Colin has improved since last year.

  15. Ally says:

    Maybe an hour of comedy is too much to ask for SNL. Maybe the show should only be 30 minutes or so.

  16. GuessWhat says:

    Not sure who is voting A or B.
    I have voted C – F all season.
    Wish you guys were my teachers in school!
    Easy graders!

    • Dan says:

      Not easy graders…just that people who hated it feel more compelled to share their feelings in message boards for whatever reasons. People who enjoy SNL tend to be, “well, that was funny” and then get on with their lives, rather than take time out to tear it down for not meeting their subjective comedy standards.

  17. Tran says:

    I give the Martin Freeman episode of SNL a B. Kudos to Taran Killam for the most part and Freeman has made quite an impression in his first ever stint as host but for Kenan Thompson who has a long way to go before he leaves SNL after this season is still more overrated than he is right now and who can blame Mr. Thompson for that. Can’t wait for the final SNL of 2014 next week when Amy Adams and One Direction brings holiday laughter to life and I wonder if the ladies of SNL can upstaged last year’s must see hit Do It On My Twin Bed featuring Jimmy Fallon.

  18. My favorite skit was Sump’n Claus.

  19. DarkDefender says:

    I thought the Sump’n Claus was funny… And I also found it odd Freeman didn’t mention his role as Watson on the BBC’s Sherlock. I was expecting a role reversing Cumberbatch impression or at least a joke about it.

  20. Et al says:

    When they stay away from the awful Kyle Mooney, this show still has some life in it. Not as solid as last week but it was an okay episode, at least in the first half.

  21. Derek says:

    I’m completely in agreement on the Best/Worst noted above. The office/Rings skit was hilarious and the “mass” skit was right on the money. That’s every mass my parents ever dragged me to.
    Tree lighting and Assembly Line were so boring. So. Boring. I was hoping for a Sherlock skit. That was an opportunity missed. And Love, Actually. That was ripe for the pickings.

  22. Jack says:

    SNL needs to give up the notion that Aidy Bryant is funny.

  23. Ame says:

    The pretaped stuff is the best. I also almost died laughing at Kate McKinnen as Keith Urban.

  24. Theod says:

    Martin Freeman was excellent! Brought new life into SNL! Hope he returns for many many more …. Missed having Sherlock and Fargo skits ~ perhaps next visit. Best show of the season SIMPLY BECAUSE MARTIN WAS THERE!