As Ray Donovan, Liev Schreiber is one of premium cable’s best-known fixers — but is he funny?
If you tuned out of this weekend’s Saturday Night Live following a nervous Schreiber’s awkward opening monologue, you missed what was easily the strongest episode of the still-young season. During an off night, the fact that Schreiber felt out of his element would have been a detriment to the proceedings, but this week it worked in the show’s favor, bringing a very particular energy to a series of increasingly weird skits. And while neither is highlighted below, both the cold open (featuring the return of Robert De Niro as special counsel Robert Mueller) and Weekend Update (featuring Cecily Strong as that White House intern plus a cameo by Dan Crenshaw) were also strong.
Lo and behold, my picks for best and worst sketches…
BEST: UNITY SONG
The show followed up on its midterm election ad with an equally amusing music video highlighting a list of annoyances we all share, regardless of political affiliation. That included wet jeans, child actors in sitcoms that act like full-blown adults, and airplane pilots who interrupt the on-flight movie to discuss wind speeds yet have nothing to say when the flight hits a patch of turbulence.
BEST: PARANORMAL OCCURRENCE
Not to toot our own horn, but we predicted the return of this eccentric, fan-favorite character. Kudos to Schreiber for holding it together until Kate McKinnon literally had her butt in his face. I was cracking up as soon as his character divulged his obsession with a very specific film genre.
BEST: OUTSIDE THE WOMEN’S BATHROOM
There’s no reason for this sketch to exist, and the fact that it even got a 12:55 am slot tickles me. Schreiber stepped on many of his lines, but it worked for this particular character, who was filming “what we in the biz call a pilot” for a talk show that takes place — you guessed it! — outside the women’s bathroom. I’m not sure what I loved more: Dave’s attempt at a Letterman-esque Top 20 list, or the stink eye Leslie Jones’ character gave him when she exited the powder room.
BEST: HOUSE HUNTERS
The bizarro nature of this HGTV parody was rather brilliant, with each potential home more nightmarish than the next. Best of all was the payoff for the running joke about John’s desire to have a mancave.
HONORABLE MENTION: THE PODDYS
The humor here was so specific that I can’t imagine it went over well with people who don’t listen to podcasts. But Schreiber was spot-on with his impression of The Daily‘s Michael Barbaro (if you’ve never heard Barbaro speak, here’s an interview he did with Seth Meyers), and Alex Moffat genuinely looked like WTF host-turned-GLOW star Marc Maron. All that was missing was a Stamps.com joke.
Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney’s portrayal of roughhousing sixth-graders getting hosed down by their dad might have delighted Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant, but this recapper found the whole bit rather grating. It was the one truly dismal sketch in the second half of the show.
What were your favorite sketches this week? And what missed the mark? Watch all the highlights above, then grade Schreiber’s hosting debut in our poll. (Next up: Steve Carell hosts on Saturday, Nov. 17.)