Last night, for just the second time in series history, “Saturday Night Live” went live in all U.S./Canadian time zones. First-time host and card-carrying member of the Hunky Chris Squad Chris Pine anchored the broadcast, which makes him the only “SNL” novice NBC tapped for the season’s fully live gigs. (Veteran hosts Melissa McCarthy and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are due up next.) Whether it’s for novelty, timing or ratings, there’s something undeniably magical about the live-live show, so does it really matter how Chris Pine and his sweet baby blues fared? Well, yes, actually. But we’re in luck: He crushed it.
Host: Chris Pine
Chris Pine has done everything from romantic comedies to major franchises, but remains just shy of a household name. So, how did he do off-book? Can your mom correctly identify him in a lineup after last night? Signs point to yes!
Chris Pratt has lovable, puppy-dog hot guy cornered, Chris Evans is woke (and was recently deemed boyfriend-worthy by the likes of Jenny Slate), and Chris Hemsworth is Australian. But what’s Chris Pine’s thing? For obvious reasons, Pine has a cult following, but for non-devotees it can be difficult to get a read on him. That’s why last night was so important; He got to literally make the case for Chris Pine Awareness, and we were sold. The dude had a great time! He sang a lot. He danced a lot. He lip synced to Erika Jayne and grinded up on Vanessa Bayer. It’s unusual to see a first time host be so comfortable on stage, and Pine came across as relaxed and into it for 90 straight minutes.
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Also, that monologue! In addition to showcasing Pine’s unexpected singing abilities and making ample use of Not That Chris props, it was NBC’s best use of “Uptown Girl” since the episode of “30 Rock” where Tracy and Liz used it to avoid being on Tracy’s reality show. His silly dance moves. Shooing the cast members offstage, the part where he sings his own name during the key change… It would be most likely to go viral, if the episode hadn’t only gotten better from there.
Best Sketch of The Night: The Handmaid’s Tale
This masterfully shot pre-tape is a faithful recreation of the Margaret Atwood novel-turned-Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” That would be mesmerizing on its own, but the sketch takes the scenario a step further, asking the crucial question – have the guys noticed that anything about the world is different? The answer…will not surprise you.
Best Parody: Where In The World Is Kellyanne Conway?
At a tight two minutes, this sketch packs a punch. The “Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego?” parody instead asks its preteen contestants to find Kellyanne Conway, who went from ubiquitous to invisible seemingly overnight. Sasheer Zamata is perfect as the host, and watching so many cast members (and Pine!) do the theme song in ‘90s outfits was delightful. The sketch was just short enough to be endlessly watchable. Also, they should bring that child actor back for more bits.
Sketch Most Likely to Go Viral: Auto Shop
At once commenting on performative masculinity, and the majesty of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” this sketch is the gift that keeps on giving. At its simplest, it can be broken down as follows: Chris Pine gyrating + Erika Jayne lip sync + RuPaul’s Drag Race = Viral. The sketch works for Drag Race fans and novices alike, and even has elements of the classic Chippendale’s sketch with Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley. “Auto Shop” is the sketch that will launch a thousand gifs of Pine Vogue-ing and grinding up against a wall. You’re welcome.
Best Male Performer: Beck Bennett
Oh, Beck Bennett. Whether he’s rocking his Putin accent as a porn-addicted Slavic recording artist, or playing a laconic bro on the 6,000th season of “The House: Seattle” (an obvious “Real World” spoof), we can’t take his eyes off of him. He’s hilarious, he’s weird, and he’s almost too committed to his characters – what more do you need?
Honorable Mention: Bobby Moynihan
Best Female Performer: Vanessa Bayer
Too often, Vanessa Bayer is the unsung hero of “SNL.” Last night, she excelled; whether as the cheerfully unintelligible Update Meteorologist or an HR representative sexually harassing Chris Pine, Bayer was a joy to watch. She’s often sidelined, or put in the straight woman role in an over-the-top sketch, so it’s great to see her have the opportunity to act fully nuts. Her duet with Aidy Bryant to ‘90s classic “The Boy Is Mine” by Brandy and Monica isn’t available on YouTube, likely due to copyright reasons. Even so, you need to find it.
Honorable Mention: Leslie Jones
Best Impression: Kate McKinnon & Alex Moffat
Wow, “Morning Joe” is the best cold open “SNL” has had in weeks. It’s breathtaking from start to finish. McKinnon and Moffat are dead ringers for newly engaged hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, whose political differences and angry, sexual banter distract the guests and nearly derail the show. McKinnon’s exaggerated physical reactions as Brzezinski work perfectly against Moffat’s horny, stern Scarborough, and their whole vibe is completely unsettling. While the pet names and flirtatiousness may escalate, the two never break. The costumes! Wigs! Commitment! This would be a smart choice to turn into a recurring sketch, if anyone up early enough to catch “Morning Joe” would also be up late enough to watch “Saturday Night Live.” But hey, that’s what YouTube is for.
Side note: Without the visual of Alec Baldwin as Trump, it really sounded as if the President were calling into the show. Spooky.
Honorable Mention: Kenan Thompson as Neil deGrasse Tyson
Worst Sketch of The Night: Couples Game Night
For a sketch that featured terrible wigs, fake blood, and Chris Pine wearing a synth, its references were a little too niche to make “Couples Game Night” successful. It’s not a bad sketch – it’s funny, and it’s engaging – but kind of an odd note (pun not intended) to end on after the rest of the show’s madcap energy. You know that one friend of yours that’s really into Sondheim? Email this to them. They’ll thank you, possibly in song.
So many sketches! But it was a weird amount of singing, right? Is Chris Pine gunning for another musical role after “Into the Woods”? “SNL” returns next week with host Melissa McCarthy and musical guest Haim. Girl power.