Put a rising Hollywood actress starring in a box-office smash in NBC’s legendary Studio 8H stage to host Saturday Night Live, and what do you get?
If you’re Dakota Johnson, it turns out you get a modestly successful SNL debut, with most of the inevitable flurry of bondage jokes referencing Fifty Shades of Grey – including a cameo from her famous parents Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson (“We were just afraid you were going to be naked”) – hitting the mark.
Below, my picks for the night’s best and worst moments:
The outright glee that the SNL ladies showcased during this Microsoft commercial parody (featuring the ubiquitous Sara Bareilles hit “Brave”) was downright infectious. As their liberating truth bombs started to fly (highlighted by Kate McKinnon’s impatient woman in a bathroom stall finally screaming at Sasheer Zamata, “Excuse me, I can’t poop while you’re in here… so I’m gonna need you to get the f*** ouuuuut!”) the sketch grew increasingly more scathing, and more hilarious.
BEST: Fifty Shades Press Junket
What better way to parody the movie’s full-court publicity press than by letting a nerdy middle school student (a game Kyle Mooney) interview sexy star Johnson — and get entirely (and cluelessly?) inappropriate in the process? “Now when Christian shows you his playroom for the first time…”
BEST: Weekend Update: Kanye’s Apology
While Kate McKinnon’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“You’ve been Gins-burned!”) never quite caught fire, Jay Pharoah’s “Greatest Apology of All Time” rap (“…I asked Apple to autocorrect the word Beck to Beyonce, I’m sorry!”) was oh-so-perfectly Kanye-esque.
WORST: Cold Open: The “Real Story” With Gretchen Carlson
OK, there were worse sketches tonight (Cinderella, anyone?) but how did such a promising, seemingly clever concept – a Birdman sendup called Giuliani, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – fail quite so spectacularly? Vanessa Bayer’s Carlson was mildly amusing and Taran Killam’s Rudy Giuliani/Michael Keaton totally nailed the actor’s nervous facial tics, but even if you’ve seen this year’s Oscar winner – and woe to those who haven’t – the specific point of this cold opener was…what exactly? On the upside, Johnson did a killer (and all too brief) Emma Stone.
WORST: Worf M. D.
Other than the well-intended Leonard Nimoy tribute at the end (a shot of Mr. Spock with “Live Long and Prosper”), this unbearable sketch’s only redeemable moment was when Johnson unexpectedly (and adorably) broke up before uttering, “you look so stupid” to Kenan Thompson’s Star Trek-inspired doctor. You got that right, girl!
WORST: Net Neutrality
One decent yet random Fifty Shades joke (an out of the blue “Harder!” from Johnson after she randomly got slapped by another panelist) couldn’t possibly save this lame and nonsensical attempt to debate net neutrality.
MOST POLARIZING: ISIS: We’ll Take It From Here Dad
Was this short mildly inappropriate, horribly offensive, or a welcome return to the wildly subversive SNL glory days? Who honestly expected Johnson’s sweet high-school grad to chirp that totally unexpected, Marcia Brady-esque “Dad, it’s just ISIS,” to her father, and then jump into a truck full of gun-toting terrorists?