The new variety hour (whose title fails to mention third cast member Kenan Thompson) featured special guests
Bernie Sanders Larry David, Tom Hanks, Miley Cyrus, Kate McKinnon, Steve Martin, Jimmy Fallon and the cast of Broadway’s Shuffle Along for a debut episode that felt an awful lot like Saturday Night Live — not that there’s anything wrong with that.
In fact, that’s probably the best thing we can say about the series premiere, which played it safe and aimed to please. Missing were the random trapeze acts and D-list cameos that plagued Neil Patrick Harris’ primetime reality venture, as Rudolph, Short and Thompson relied on their own seasoned set of skills to entertain both the studio audience and viewers at home.
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Lo and behold, our picks for best and worst sketches of the night:
BEST: THE ASTRONAUT
Tom Hanks played Gene, a man who really just wanted some time away from his wife. In an effort to catch up on Chicago Fire and spend more time with best friend Rod, Gene faked a 3-5 year NASA mission but kept making the mistake of not getting far away enough from home so his wife wouldn’t catch on to his deception. Three years later, a Skype call with his wife revealed he wasn’t actually on a spaceship, but instead in front of a backdrop in Rod’s living room. Whoops!
BEST: THE WAR IN WORDS: LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
SNL scribe Mikey Day made his debut as Civil War soldier Trenton, a man who wanted little more than thoughtful letters from his wife Elizabeth back at home. Unfortunately, she was incapable of writing a proper letter, and when he eventually suggested that she share a joke, all she sent him was one-fourth of a knock-knock joke. She later shared a picture with new friend Abraham Lincoln (because, sure), then disclosed that she had lost their newborn child in her final correspondence. The more bizarre her responses got, the funnier the sketch became.
HONORABLE MENTION: MELANIA TRUMP’S EDIBLE DIAMONDS
Rudolph essentially pulled out her impersonation of former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff last seen just days ago in SNL‘s Season 41 finale, but watching her chow down on various diamonds while attempting not to break character was truly hilarious. We are curious, however, just how far in advance this sketch was taped given that Kate McKinnon put in an appearance as Heidi Cruz.
WORST: JIMINY GLICK’S CELEBRITY SENSATIONS
Jiminy Glick really likes his own jokes — even when they’re anti-Semitic. Larry David quite enjoys them, too. Nonetheless, this interview segment was simply insufferable. Aside from a jab at David’s expense about his time on failed SNL rival Fridays, there was nothing particularly funny here. Short last played this character in a critically panned movie called Jiminy Glick in Lalawood; perhaps it’s best he never plays this character again.
WORST: LITTLE BIG SHOTS
Thompson’s Steve Harvey impression couldn’t save this miserable sketch that found Short and Fallon as precocious tots Tanner and Todd, brothers who enjoy doing impressions of Harvey on the toilet and using water bottles to make it look like they’re peeing uncontrollably. In the words of Thompson’s Harvey, “hell naw!”
What did you think of NBC’s latest take on 21st Century variety? Will you be spending Tuesday nights this summer with Maya & Marty (and Kenan)? Grade the premiere below, then drop a comment with your full review.