Octavia Spencer on SNL: Trump Sons, Kellyanne Gag Can't Save Woeful Ep

Octavia Spencer couldn’t have asked for worse material for her Saturday Night Live hosting debut.

Save for a terrific, Forrest Gump-inspired cold open, where the Oscar-winning actress ever-so-briefly reprised her role from The Help opposite Kate McKinnon’s Jeff Sessions, Spencer was wasted in a series of uninspired, practically unwatchable sketches. And while it would be nice to say that it was the Hidden Figures star who kept us tuned in for the duration of the show, that honor actually goes to standout featured players Melissa Villaseñor, Mikey Day and Alex Moffat.

It’s also quite telling that the biggest laughs of the night came courtesy of McKinnon’s Kellyanne Conway, who at no point led her own sketch, but kept popping up before various commercial breaks (as well as during Weekend Update) recreating a certain #Couchgate pose.

ZOO-OPOLIS VOICE ACTORS
Poor Spencer was completely out of her element, failing to sound anything like Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis or Judy Dench. Villaseñor singlehandedly saved this Zootopia sendup with her impressions of Owen Wilson, Kathy Griffin, SNL alumni Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Kristen Wiig, and current co-star McKinnon.

ERIC AND DONALD TRUMP JR. ON WEEKEND UPDATE
Day and Moffat have appeared as President Trump’s sons before, but never before have these characters received this much screen time. Rather than mock the businessmen for their smarmy behavior, the bit instead focused on Donald Jr. having to baby his younger brother, who was incapable of keeping his mouth shut when it counted (he at one point blurted out that their father is still running the family business despite being president).

STICKY BUN
Spencer, Villaseñor and Day gave this one-note sketch their all, portraying three fast-food cashiers who couldn’t quite master the “mock transaction” portion of their training. From the randomness of Day asking Vanessa Bayer’s character if her parents were still alive, to Spencer freaking out and announcing that the airport Sticky Bun was now closed, the actors’ deft delivery ultimately justified the skit’s existence.

WINE BAR
A dud from start to finish. The jokes just didn’t land in this sketch about Cecily Strong’s character obsessing over a new friend played by Spencer. The timing was off from the get-go and everyone involved clearly knew it. (Also among the night’s biggest bombs: “The Chocolate Man” and “Spencers Gifts HQ.”)

Would you agree that this was an unusually weak episode of SNL in an otherwise strong season? And what would you say was the absolute worst sketch of the night? Grade the episode via our poll, then share your thoughts below.

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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53 Comments
  1. Jimmy says:

    Tonight was a great example of why they still need Jay Pharoah, Taran Killam, and (bc he’s barely there this season) Bobby Moynihan.

  2. Vanessa Bayer was great in the Weekend Update, but otherwise she was just an extra with barely any lines. Kate McKinnon only appeared as Jeff Sessions (and as Kellyanne). Bobby Moynihan appeared once, but did he say anything? I like him, but please leave if you are given this kind of material.

    Of the featured players I would keep Mikey Day, who is absolutely great. Moffat is ok, but Villaseñor is underused and awkward. I would dump Villaseñor, Pete Davidson and Sasheer Zamata. Davidson and Zamata started in 2014, so their potential is known already.

  3. JaneC says:

    Hardly the worst. Have you guys forgotten Ben Cumberbatch episode?

  4. Aeol says:

    This is not Octavia’s medium, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of, but watching her keep her eyes glued to the cue cards for an hour was excruciating. And the writing…sheesh!!!!

  5. Kevin Tran says:

    Worst SNL episode of the season and Octavia Spencer was a very poor choice as host. Let’s hope Scarlett Johansson should do better next week.

    • EJ says:

      Yes, bring on Lexi extolling the virtues of the latest in upmarket home furnishings. “There’s THIS one and THAT one and THAT one and THIS one!”

  6. Collette says:

    IMO SNL has been a collection of unfunny, trying too hard wannabes for decades. Looking back on the enormous talents in the early years, what it is now is lipstick on a pig not unlike the Oscars. Where has all the talent gone? Maybe Peter, Paul & Mary should have written a song about that.

  7. dan says:

    There were a few chuckles along the way, but overall not a great episode. Update was weak except for a couple zingers. The Trump brothers were actually funny and the best Update bit. I had a hard time understanding what Vanessa Bayer’s news-girl character was saying (and I usually like that bit). The cold open, monologue and the medication name skit were all decent, but the voice-over bit made no sense. The Cecily Strong in a bar skit was groan inducing (maybe that was the point), but the chess pre-filmed bit was ok. Liked seeing Kellyanne Conway pop up throughout the night. Just an OK episode for me.

  8. peterwdawson says:

    I loved the opening too much to give it an F, and I’m regretting that decision already.

  9. Johnny Appleseed says:

    Octavia, I absolutely love you as an actress but now that YOU’VE started to bash Trump I’ve dropped you from my list. If you don’t like him fine, but keep it to yourself or you’ll destroy your career.

    • Billy Bob Johnson says:

      Well, Johnny, now I can’t stand you for bashing Octavia. Keep it up and you’ll lose your TVLine privileges.

      • Justice says:

        Lol typical left wing attack. Say you promote free speech until someone doesnt say something you like and silence them!

        • Angela says:

          …yeah, I think that was a sarcastic response to Johnny’s post in order to show the silliness of what he said. Settle down.

    • Aeol says:

      Wow, you sure are bossy about your fellow Americans’ right to free speech!

  10. Sam says:

    The pharmaceutical/African-American girls’ names sketch was offensive (and I’m a white man).

    • Billy Bob Johnson says:

      You found it offensive BECAUSE you’re a white guy.

    • Collette says:

      Years ago there was a black comedian who said in his routine that his girlfriend’s name was Chlamydia. I miss the great A/A comedians from back then because they were hilarious without being vulgar. Loved Bill Cosby, Scoey Mitchell, Flip Wilson etc.

      • There was a black female comic on the old MTV Half-Hour Comedy Hour who said there was a pregnant ghetto mom who thought naming her baby Farfignugen would be a good thing. Farfignugen Jones, that’s a GOOD name!

  11. hbeachman says:

    The skit with Octavia’s character suing Merck by claiming that they used the names of her family members, friends and neighbors for drug names was pretty funny. Deftly made fun of how many African-American first names are very “distinctive.”

  12. Will says:

    Why does Eric and Donald Jr, look like and reminds me of the Ronnie and Reggie Kray?

  13. Lysh says:

    Girl at the Bar is all too real for women, especially online. I saw some people thinking it was gross, well, yeah it is. It was a good commentary on the issue, but not really funny I guess. The only good skit was the opening and the Zoo-opolis one. And KellyAnn sitting. They need some new writers.

  14. isaaedi100 says:

    The only funny thing about this episode was watching them all read from cue cards the entire time. Sad.

    ;)

  15. Haz says:

    The way this site and other entertainment blogs fawn over it I’m actually surprised to see a truthful review written. Who is head writer now? Didn’t they demote Colin Jost? The show became a mixed bag under Seth Meyers but it truly jumped the shark when Jost took over.

  16. Ashley says:

    I’m surprised by the negativity. I thought this was a pretty good episode.

  17. MMD says:

    I have never been a SNL even in the good days because it came on at 12:30 and I was either asleep or out. Even after reading the reviews I just forced myself to watch it online. Octavia Spencer deserved better and I will never get that time back. The cold open was good though.

  18. texmike says:

    Total suckage. I can’t remember a worse episode.

  19. Dee says:

    I agree that Octavia Spencer’s talent was wasted in this episode, which took a nosedive after Update

  20. Tracy288 says:

    As much as Octavia Spencer wanted to do this, she didn’t fit. The woman isn’t funny.

    • TV Gord says:

      She has been funny many times, most recently on Mom. She can only be as good as the writing, which–this week–was pathetic!

  21. Tom says:

    Wasn’t all that impressed, Villaseñor’s impressions and the Kellyanne gag were the highlights for certain. Other than that, meh.

  22. ChrisGa says:

    Re: Octavia Spencer–she’s on record saying that live performing is not her forte (she’s only ever done one stage play in her career, citing stage fright among other reasons). Love her to buts but I’m not sure why she agreed to this.

  23. dsrbroadway says:

    Octavia was fine, and I actually liked her Judi Dench and Oprah Winfrey. But the sketches were kind of awkward the whole night. SNL without its political sketches is just silly stuff.

  24. Raftrap says:

    People come on, I had a lot of laughs in this episode, liked the pretaped stuff, the sketches were funny, if you’re looking for a terrible episode this episode don’t forget the Felicity Jones episode, not even Tina Fey could save that shipwreck

  25. I wouldn’t say this was the worst. The worst was the first episode after the Xmas break. That one sucked royally, a dumpster fire if I ever saw one. This ep wasn’t anywhere near that bad. There were rough spots so it wasn’t one of the best. But they did use a lot of the rest of the cast and it wasn’t ‘All Kate, All the Time’ like in the past.
    And I liked Zoo-opolis, as well as the Drug Company Arbitration. Friedchickenisha gives that one Two Thumbs Up!

  26. Susan Lew says:

    While it’s hilarious when they portray Eric Trump as the quiet, dumb brother… it’s seriously NOT funny when they make it like he has an intellectual disability and then make fun of it. Ruined the bit for me, and I’m not offended easily. Hope they go back to what they had been doing with the brothers… b/c it was damn funny (before last night)!

  27. Justice says:

    Lol all that material from the botched oscars ignored for more attacks on trump. This show sacrifices comedy just to make political attacks.

  28. Where was Leslie Jones? I think she was in one sketch?

    • Two. In the cold opening, and the Drug Company Arbitration. Both were pretty short, the latter was just at the end.
      Leslie is one of the best of the ensemble, so while it’d be nice to see her used more, it can become like Kate where it’s All Kate All the Time, so having the other players being featured more is probably a good thing. A lot of them we don’t see much of at all, and we can’t really tell if they’re any good or not, the crappy writing notwithstanding.

  29. Stacie says:

    I know it was 6 days later, but for them not to do a full sketch on the Oscars fiasco is ridiculous. People are still talking about it, and will for every Oscars in the near future. I know Octavia Spencer mentioned it in her very weak monologue, but that wasn’t enough. The Spencer’s sketch, the wine bar sketch, the sticky bun sketch, and the impersonation sketch were absolutely lazy writing. It was as if they forgot they were doing a new episode this week and just scrounged around looking for old sketches that never made it to air. They could have done any of those sketches 5-10 years ago. Just lazy stuff. I know they all can’t be winning episode, but just no effort was put in, except the cold open.

  30. Two things: (1) you left out the funniest skit which was the suing the drug companies for using children’s names; (2) McKinnon is great in so many skits, but her Sessions is just awful – not anywhere close in appearance and southern accent is awful. If SNL can’t cultivate someone else in the cast or get Leslie Jordan, then skip Sessions. A poorly imitated character is worse than no character at all.

    • If we’re talking about Kate not looking like Sessions in those skits, then we have to go back to Chevy Chase who looked and sounded absolutely nothing like Gerald Ford, but yet built his schtick on physically falling down at the slightest provocation. Nobody complained then; they just took it as it was.

  31. al becker says:

    It’s the writing, stupid.
    Really, aside from some of the topical current political stuff (via Alec Baldwin and Melissa McCarthy), I am appalled by the weakness, the lack of any relevance to the real world, and the absence of anything really FUNNY.
    The “Harvard” writing staff repeats sketches that are pathetically predictable – example – if Kristen Wiig is a guest, here comes a “don’t ruin the surprise” sketch. None of it is funny. Always weak, lame writing. Wastes so many performers with so much ability.

  32. Alichat says:

    Moffett doesn’t look Stepford enough to portray Eric Trump. They need to at least put some seriously pale make-up on him……and maybe a blonde wig.