SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Benedict Cumberbatch" Episode 1709 -- Pictured: (l-r) Benedict Cumberbatch, Dexter Fowler, David Ross, Aidy Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Mikey Day during the "Surprise Bachelorette" sketch on November 5, 2016 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC)

Benedict Cumberbatch Hosts SNL: Watch Best and Worst Sketches

To paraphrase the iconic Church Lady, that was anything but special.

Alumni Dana Carvey and Bill Murray just couldn’t save this week’s dire installment of Saturday Night Live, which fell apart almost as soon as host Benedict Cumberbatch took to center stage for his (tone-deaf) opening monologue.

Now, to be fair to TV’s Sherlock, the actor had virtually nothing to work with. Unfortunately, his poor accent work only contributed to already ghastly sketches that required him to do such things as dry-hump a dead grandmother and portray a closeted adjunct professor pouring his heart out to a disinterested student played by Pete Davidson.

Even weirder than the misuse of Cumberbatch was that this last episode before the Nov. 8 presidential election was more fixated on the Chicago Cubs’ historic World Series win. Ball players Anthony Rizzo, David Ross and Dexter Fowler showed up not once, but twice, appearing in both the aforementioned dead grandma sketch and with Murray during “Weekend Update.”

BEST: CHURCH LADY
Carvey and Colin Jost’s “midnight shindig” was the evening’s saving grace. Perhaps only great when compared to the sketches detailed below, we were particularly tickled when Church Lady said that “Jesus loves a good joke,” only to insinuate that Jost didn’t have any. Also worth a chuckle was her inability to distinguish who in the entertainment industry was gay, pointing to The Big Bang Theory‘s Jim Parsons, How I Met Your Mother‘s Neil Patrick Harris and Broadway extraordinaire Nathan Lane as the only three straight men left in Hollywood.

WORST: SURPRISE BACHELORETTE PARTY
This tasteless sketch found Aidy Bryant as an elderly woman recently engaged to be remarried. And while being surprised startled her to death, not a single one of the party’s attendees realized she was dead, as they were all too distracted by Cumberbatch and Mikey Day as a pair of exotic dancers, and the eventual arrival of Rizzo, Ross and Fowler.

WORST: GEMMA & RICKY
Cumberbatch as a poor man’s Criss Angel could’ve been funnier with a better script, but nothing could have been done to salvage the obnoxious Cecily Strong character, who for some reason spoke like Russell Brand.


WORST: MEETING WITH MR. SHAW

Here’s the whole joke: A prospective hospital benefactor has a bird statue for a head. That’s it. We’d say more, but we’re at a loss for words. This was legitimately mind-numbing.

snl-nov-5-cold-openWORST: COLD OPEN
It began as an indictment of the media for ignoring Donald Trump’s latest controversies in favor of covering Hillary Clinton’s emails. It culminated in a generic plea for viewers to get out and vote. Why?!

Saturday Night Live is not the news. It’s allowed to have a point of view. For the sketch to suddenly morph into a spineless PSA means that Lorne Michaels & Co. still don’t realize that viewers were hoping for SNL to take a stance during this brutal election season. For all the work it’s done to try and repair its image after letting Trump host nearly a year ago to this day, this felt like the show saying it’s contribution to the political discussion isn’t important or necessary. That sentiment couldn’t be any more wrong.  (Watch and discuss the sketch here.)

Have at it, folks: Was this the weakest SNL of the season, or worse, of the calendar year? Grade the episode via our poll, then hit the comments and tell us whether you agree or disagree with our assessment.

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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41 Comments
  1. Kermit says:

    I haven’t even watched the episode yet… but i felt the need to comment about the pop up ads on the mobile site. They’re killing me.

    • Maria says:

      You too, huh?
      When I see those ads, I make a mental note NOT to purchase said products/services because they tick me off. Just let me read in peace.
      :(

    • datdudemurphy says:

      I can no longer use the mobile site….it’s awful

      • RBen says:

        Same! I just refuse to even open the page on my mobile, which means I’ve gone from checking/reading 2-3 times a day to MAYBE reading once per week. It’s just completely unusable now.

    • Paula says:

      These annoying ads have ‘frozen’ my tablet more times than I can count. TV Line website has gone from my most favorite to one I actually hesitate to click on! Please do something to remedy this situation!

  2. dsrbroadway says:

    The only mildly funny bits of the show you didn’t even include in the article, the filmed bit about the teacher, and the “What’s Is Benedict Cumberbatch Hot ?” sketch.

  3. Chris says:

    You could add either performance by Solange to the worst list. Her dancing was comedy gold.

  4. AJ says:

    OK it was definitely worst of the season thus far but the cold open was a BEST not WORST. Loved when they broke character with the bit outside and could tell Kate was a little emotional talking about voting at the end. It wasn’t spineless it was saying maybe we all shouldn’t be jerks to each other and no matter who wins we’ll all be ok.

    • Amanda says:

      Agreed! I really appreciated the message.

    • Lauren says:

      Ditto. Sorry to the reviewer but I NEEDED that cold open. It made me smile when nothing about this election has made me smile.

      • xclampa says:

        Yes, I needed that too. I am miles away from the election, I’m living in Poland and a Polish citizen, but there have been so many upsetting turns in this election, so many negative emotions that even I needed that cold open, and to me it was a saving grace of the episode. I think they were very right to say that the whole world is watching USA right now. I know I certainly am. Other than that, I prefer Tom Hanks’ dad talk as a commentary on the election and his episode as a close to all the election anxiety and madness.

    • grazelled says:

      Sorry Ryan the Reviewer but that Cold Open was a “best”! Liked how they mixed it up with “regular” voters outside and the skit gave me a visual of how it really is more about us voters while making me smile. While I know who SNL wants us to vote for, maybe was better to end a kinder, more civil note.

    • Penny says:

      I LOVED the cold open! It was the best thing about this episode other than watching my Cubbies sing “go, Cubs, go”. I agree it made me smile while nothing else in this election has

  5. Mike says:

    As a Cubs fan, the appearances of Rizzo, Ross and Fowler (and Murray) made it a really fun episode, but that’s just me being emotional. The Beck Bennett “Why is Benedict Cumberbatch Hot?” Sketch was OK… I suppose.

  6. Sara says:

    I think the cold open was one of the best things of the night. And I think it explained why there was less focus on the election this episode: they are all just so tired and disgusted with how mean it has been. The focus on a feel good story like the Cubs breaking a 108 year drought is not a cop out, it is just trying to spread a little positivity in an immensly negative time.

    • LAwoman says:

      I agree. Bill Murray with the Cubs and the cold open were the best parts of a weak show.

    • The Beach says:

      Agree. The cold open was excellent. Otherwise it was a complete fail. Not even the Church Lady, whom I love, was funny. Cumberbatch can be cleverly funny in his wry way but certainly not with this terrible writing. Solange was pretty dreary as well.

  7. Amber says:

    Poor Solange. They put her on a dud of a show. She was a highlight, though.

  8. Why is Benedict Cumberbatch Hot? was a great sketch, loved the breaking the 4th wall. I enjoyed the episode enough but it was pretty meh. I kept thinking this is it? Expected a lot more out of a Cumberbatch episode. Aidy Bryant must’ve needed a new pair after that bachelorette sketch lmao, lucky lady.

  9. Diana says:

    Funniest moments of the night belonged to Solange! Her dance moves had us in stitches! What a train wreck!

  10. Kevin says:

    The Church Lady on Weekend Update was the best but sadly the Benedict Cumberbatch episode on SNL was a complete disaster and it wasn’t going to do what Tom Hanks did two weeks ago. Hope Dave Chappelle might do better next week.

  11. Lisa says:

    Sorry but the opening made me smile more than anything I’ve seen in a while relating to this election. Good on SNL for ending this political season with hope.

  12. TK says:

    Cumberbatch really could have been special. What a monumental waste.

  13. Asma D says:

    the Sketches were flat, no humour not so ever , and cmon they had this very respectful actor with unlimited potentials , yet they failed to deliver great show… Shame on you SNL you wasted a good talent by sexualizing him like a piece of meat …

  14. Linda Bryant says:

    I loved the cold open and the Church lady.

  15. Jerri says:

    SNL needs to fire all its writers & hire new ones that can write some funny stuff, because this was just horrendous. Had any of these guys worked for me, they’d have been fired a long time ago for not doing their jobs properly.

  16. Benedict could have been very very funny but the writing was piss poor. Still the Ben opening, the Kohler ad and “Why is Benedict Hot? skit” made me laugh. The sketch with the donator bird head was pointless. That was the worst. The dead granny bit was a little funny but gross. I giove Ben b plus and the writers D.

  17. DL says:

    You didn’t feel SNL took a stance? They had Trump locking lips with the FBI, KKK, and Putin, but all Cecily Strong’s media pundit cared about was HRC’s e-mails. I’d say they made their point without it bludgeoning anyone over the head. And I appreciated that they ended things with a dose of positivity.

  18. Carrie says:

    I actually thought this was a pretty good episode. It wasn’t uproariously funny, but it was enjoyable and it gave me a few laughs. I think it’s pretty obvious who SNL wants us to vote for, they didn’t have to come out and say it. It’s an important message that people just need to actually vote.

  19. datdudemurphy says:

    It wasn’t nearly as bad as it is being made out to be in the review.

    Yes, there were some dud skits…but it’s SNL, there are always dud skits.

    The Cold Open was good….it got their point across without being as heavy-handed as some seem to prefer, and it ended with some positive vibes, something that is sorely missed recently.

    The Church Lady appearance was great….always glad to see Dana Carvey
    The Cubs and Bill Murray singing Go Cubs Go…was also pretty great…. anytime Murray pops up is welcome.

    Why is Benedict Cumberbatch Hot? skit was kinda funny….I’ve been wondering why people think that myself. The sloth from Ice Age thing was pretty on the money too. I can see it.

    The rest had some chuckles…just nothing exceptional…or even memorable.

  20. Lynn says:

    Thank you to the others who brought up the problems with this site. I am usually on my I Pad and it is terrible! Seriously TV Line you’re not the only entertainment site out there so you need to get it together! I couldn’t even write this without it reloading. I had to copy and paste from somewhere else. I like this site but I’ve seriously just about had it.

    As for the episode, I saw on the local news some of the other Cubs were at Disney world. These three should have gone with them. What the hell was that dead grandma sketch? Just weird and gross.

  21. Paloma says:

    The cold open was the best part of the show. And I liked Go Cubs Go. Dead grandma was horrible. Church lady wasn’t even slightly funny (which I found sad). Tragic misuse of Cumberbatch. I would have liked to see him in a political sketch about how the British view our election. And he’s played some iconic characters, couldn’t they have found something funny in Sherlock Holmes or Alan Turing or something. And use his accent instead of making him try an accent he couldn’t hit.

    We are all more than a little tired of the election. It’s been going on for two years (or more) and right now we are being bombarded with horrible ads from all the candidates up and down the ballot. Five or six in a row every commercial break. Which is why I can’t watch anything live until after Tuesday.

  22. burnscindy says:

    I’m wondering if the hosts sign an iron-clad contract. Can they bow out once they see the horrible stuff they have to do? I suppose it might not look good for them and they might get labeled as difficult to work with but that might have been better than what we got Saturday night.

  23. peterwdawson says:

    Opening was nice. Elections are important, but the emotions in them have just gotten more and more toxic, especially since the 90s and the advent of social media. Any dose of positivity, especially a fun one, was nice. I mean we’ve seen depictions of hellscapes if a candidate wins, mock-ups of candidates die so they can finally be ‘transparent’, had basically every category of person in some way dragged through the mud… I’ll take it.

  24. Anna says:

    I think the Cubs parts were the best parts of the show, and I’m glad the Update segment was more fixated on the Cubs than the Election. People are TIRED of this election, and it’s been 108 years for the Cubs, they deserved the recognition and it was so refreshing to see something happy during update for a change.

  25. dman6015 says:

    Lorne Michaels and the SNL “writers” put the crap in Craptastic. That show most definitely belongs on the Top 10 Worst SNL Shows list. I heard they had to bring in one of those Fire/Water restoration companies to get the stink out of the studio. Simply Awful.

  26. Don says:

    This is too harsh on the superbly talented Benedict Cumberbatch. The script was the problem. I thought his singing was very good and the accent was deliberately bad. The problem was there was just so few jokes. He did the best anyone could have done with such poor material.