The force was not with Jyn Erso this weekend.
Saturday Night Live kicked off 2017 with first time host Felicity Jones, who was the weakest part of an otherwise solid episode. After a very funny pep talk from Tina Fey about not letting her nerves get the best of her, the Rogue One actress spent much of the evening struggling to maintain an American accent in sketches involving Bachelor knockoffs and famous figures in the women’s suffrage movement.
In addition to Fey, Alec Baldwin returned in the show’s sharpest cold open since Election Day. Politically speaking, however, the series once again stuck its foot in its mouth with a sketch that appeared to be mocking Hollywood for speaking out in the era of Donald Trump.
Lo and behold, my picks for best and worst sketches:
BEST: DONALD TRUMP COLD OPEN
This loose recreation of Trump’s mid-week press conference took full advantage of a “golden” opportunity, not letting a single “pee-pee” joke go to waste. Baldwin was at the top of his game, as was Kenan Thompson as Steve Harvey, and Mikey Day and Alex Moffat as Eric and Donald Jr. But best of all, the sketch was genuinely funny from beginning to end, which simply hasn’t been the case with other Trump-centric bits in the weeks following the election. (Watch and discuss the sketch here.)
BEST: OPENING MONOLOGUE
Fey might argue that SNL is reviewed “way too much,” but she probably won’t disagree with this assessment of her cameo. The monologue worked entirely because of her presence, as she appeared via hologram to calm a nervous Felicity Jones who, ironically, had already bungled a Dropbox joke. During her brief appearance, Fey warned the host that Trump would be watching and tweeting about the show being “sad” and overrated.” Even funnier, though, was when she told her that if at any point during the evening Leslie Jones appeared in a sketch “acting vaguely horny and angry at everybody, it means the writers couldn’t think of an ending.”
BEST: SUSAN B. ANTHONY HOUSE
Clever premise, solid execution and just about the absolute best use of Kate McKinnon. After a group of women took a tour of Anthony’s house, they held hands and said her name three times to make her appear before them. Though initially inspired by Anthony, they quickly found themselves annoyed with her trivia about historical artifacts and questions about modern day technologies. At one point, Vanessa Bayer’s character went so far as to refer to Anthony as a bitch, while Cecily Strong’s mentioned that she was “becoming such a pain in the ass.”
HONORABLE MENTION: BEARD HUNK
It’s never good when the funniest joke comes at the top of a sketch that winds up running about two minutes too long. Having Nick declare that this season’s Bachelor was going to include “a lot of drama, a lot of excitement, and as always, minimal Asians” was a great dig at the reality-TV franchise for its continued lack of diversity. Aidy Bryant would later provide the most risqué joke as one of the bachelorettes, informing Nick about her lack of gag reflex and “four very sharp teeth.” Jones was the weak link, seemingly incapable of reading her cue cards and maintaining an accent at the same time.
HONORABLE MENTION: THE PRINCESS AND THE CURSE
This pre-taped bit, about a prince who loses interest in his princess when he learns she gains 15 pounds at nightfall, was amusing enough. McKinnon was clearly having fun in the Maleficent-inspired role, and Beck Bennett earned the sketch’s sole belly laugh when he excused himself by saying “I just realized I have a thing until the end of time.”
WORST: FANDANGO ALL ACCESS
OK, serious question here: What role does Lorne Michaels & Co. feel SNL is supposed to play in the realm of politics? As you may recall, I was tough on the show for its last pre-Election Day cold open, which found Baldwin and McKinnon breaking character to tell viewers at home that none of what the show was doing politically made a difference and that all that mattered was that they get out and vote. At the time, I referred to it as “a spineless PSA” which indicated that the Powers That Be still hadn’t realized that “viewers were hoping for SNL to take a stance during this brutal election season,” and that the show had chickened out.
Now, at a time when a segment of the population is ridiculing Hollywood for speaking up about politics, as if celebrities aren’t allowed to express their opinions openly, the show goes and does a sketch mocking celebrities — albeit from a movie called Hot Robot 3: Journey to Boob Mountain — for doing this very thing. The tone-deaf, pandering sketch essentially condemns so-called “Hollywood elites” for having an opinion.
What were your favorite sketches of the night? And what missed the mark? Grade the episode via our poll, then hit the comments and make your picks.