Miley Cyrus Hosts SNL (and Hillary Clinton Assists): Best/Worst Sketches?

I refuse to begin this recap of Saturday Night Live‘s Season 41 premiere by saying that host Miley Cyrus came in like a wrecking ball. That would simply be too obvious, and also not entirely accurate, considering her opening monologue proved to be a good-natured (and pretty funny) takedown of the Maddening But Ultimately Fleeting Newsmakers of Summer 2015.

Kim Davis. Rachel Dolezal. The Entourage movie. Jared Fogle and Josh Duggar (the same creepy Bobby Moynihan impression — minus a pair of glasses). They all got mocked — and ultimately dismissed — to the solid strains of Miley’s “My Way.”

But while The Artist Formerly Known as Hannah Montana proved to be solid, if not entirely spectacular, in her third hosting effort, former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton busted through partisan lines and proved pretty damn funny playing a bartender in a meta sketch opposite Kate McKinnon playing her own high-strung caricature of… Hillary Clinton.

Below, my picks for the week’s best and worst:

Regardless of your political leanings, it would be hard to deny that Clinton proved a game (albeit cue card-reliant) sport as bartender “Val” allowed McKinnon’s version of herself to poke fun at her own slowness in supporting same-sex marriage and condemning the Keystone Pipeline. My two favorite two moments from the encounter? McKinnon’s Clinton sternly noting, “I have a one-year-old granddaughter: She calls me Madam President.” And then there the actual Clinton, weighing in on Donald Trump’s run for the nation’s highest office with a pretty-solid approximation of the Celebrity Apprentice’s speaking candence: “Isn’t he the one that’s like, ‘Ugggh… you’re all losers!’?”

Sorority sisters Vanessa Bayer and Aidy Bryan’s car accident renders them unconscious for months — and when they wake, they learn that the nation’s zombie-apocalypse conditions are merely a result of every person in America joining Taylor Swift’s “squad” — a collection of famous- and model-types who, to Bayer’s understanding, spend their entire day thusly: “I think she invites them on stage and then they, like, walk around on stage for a minute or something.” For those of us who find #SquadGoals less palatable than Syrup of Ipecac, this was one of SNL‘s best movie trailers in recent memory.

OK, so this new “primetime soap” shares quite a bit of DNA with prior/inferior SNL staple “The Californians” — particularly in the over-the-top accents department. But there were some sharp jokes, too, around the entitlement of employees of a certain age — and Miley herself got the most laughs with her exasperated, “I need to go to the south of France to get some perspective!” I wouldn’t mind a repeat installment – just as long as the show’s writers don’t beat the dead horse ’til it’s nothing but silt and bone fragment.

The final few minutes of the episode turned out to be a messier-than-a-Nature’s-Valley-granola-bar affair in which Mooney whined to pals Beck Bennett and Bobby Moynihan about why he didn’t want to marry Miley — despite her even turning his negatives into positives. Not only did the bit waste Cyrus’ down-for-whatever wackiness, but its fast-forward to the couple’s first child, and then Mooney’s own death, felt like it was thrown together during the commercial break after Weekend Update.

Bad enough that Mooney’s pontiff sounded like Borat, but his characterization of the Pope as a Brooklyn party boy failed in both concept and execution. The polite laughter following his “jokes” about dining on Hawaiian pizza and going to a club with “emojis” as passwords was more damning than any descriptive terms I can conjure up at this moment.

Your turn. What did you think of the SNL Season 41 premiere? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments! (We’ll post video as soon as it’s available on Sunday a.m.)