They can’t all be good. While the 39th season of “Saturday Night Live” was a roaring success for the most part, there’s bound to be a few faux pas when rushing to put together a show every week. These are the worst of the gang’s best efforts, including a few hosts who just weren’t up to par. “Catching Fire” fans, please avert your eyes now.
1) Josh Hutcherson – “Girlfriends Talk Show”
It’s never a good sign when a sketch relies solely on alternate pronunciations of random words for laughs rather than punch lines. Combine that with a premise as predictable as this, and you’ve got the makings of one of the worst sketches all year. Aidy Bryant and Cicily Strong have pushed the recurring bit on us five times in the last two seasons, and it’s well past time to retire. Hutcherson, who’s an amiable young actor, was simply that as host — pleasant, but not special. If you’re not a comic or A-list thespian, you’ve got to bring more to the table than good looks.
2) Seth Rogen – “D.A.R.E. Safety Officer”
When Seth Rogen shows up not only as a cop, but as a representative of D.A.R.E., he has to be playing the most corrupt, worst promoter of the “Just Say No” motto ever, right? Not in this sketch. Listed here as much for missing an opportunity as being unfunny, “D.A.R.E. Safety Officer” makes Rogen the straight man, a concept he’s just not fit for, and the opposite direction this sketch should have headed. While he does prove incapable of keeping kids off drugs, it’s not because he’s a pothead (as he so often plays on film) or a corrupt cop (as he memorably was in “Superbad”) — it’s because Shallon is an ignorant, stubborn little kid who sways the class away from his cause. Lesson to remember: when you’ve got the perfect pitch headed straight down the middle of the plate, knock it out of the park. Don’t try for a bunt single just to catch them off guard.
3) Jonah Hill – “Benihana”
While he does make a good point about Benihana’s community table arrangement (really — go anywhere else if you’re looking to be left alone), Jonah HIll’s constant high decibel level ruined the joke of an overly talkative six-year-old who thinks he’s a stand-up comic. As an overall host, Hill’s efforts weren’t lacking. He tried, but most of his high energy antics went for naught in poorly planned sketches. Even the much-hyped opening monologue with a special guest appearance from Leonardo DiCaprio relied on an obvious (an ancient) movie reference. I’d like to see Hill host again with better material, and I’d like to see this bit reworked with an arch so it’s more than just a child shouting at strangers.
4) Drake – “Slumber Party”
Now, Drake actually didn’t do a poor job hosting “SNL.” He had a few moments where the singer stood out, namely for his Lil Wayne meets Urkel impersonation, but this sketch is simply too excruciating to ignore. A young girl being attracted to a nerdy parent isn’t all that enticing to begin with, and it turned out much creepier than even the core concept implies. Sketches reliant on “one-joke” premises need stellar performances with pitch perfect line readings to work at a basic level, and usually require more than that (twists, sneaky quips, etc.) to excel past mediocrity. This did not.
5) Melissa McCarthy – “Art Exhibit”
Melissa McCarthy is a dream host for “SNL.” Literally. Her brash attitude, willingness to go dark at the drop of a hat, and incredible improv skills make her the perfect person to lead a crew of youths through goofy sketches every week. And for most of her appearance this season, she did just that, just like she did in her past stints as host. This, though…this is an atrocity. She does her best to save it with some aggressive insults (her speciality), but it simply couldn’t be saved.