LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: Move Over, Evans/Pratt/Hemsworth, ‘Cause It’s Chris Pine Awareness Week
From dousing herself in ranch dressing to feeling up Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy has made a name for herself in the “Saturday Night Live” hall of fame. After last night’s episode, she earns a special distinction as well: McCarthy joined the Five Timer’s Club, so named for those who have hosted “SNL” a minimum of five times. (We won’t spoil the fellow club member who presented her with the official smoking jacket during the credits, but it’s good.) McCarthy surprised viewers earlier this season when she appeared as apoplectic White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and it’s a cameo we’ve looked forward to since. That’s all to say: It’s the penultimate episode of the season, so did “Saturday Night Live” step up to the plate?
Whether viewers love Melissa McCarthy from “Gilmore Girls,” from her Oscar-nominated role in “Bridesmaids,” or her subsequent renaissance as an action-comedy star, they love her. McCarthy is as funny as she is physical; she’s willing to break sets Farley-style and scream obscenities as a women’s basketball coach. In her “SNL” tenure, she’s particularly known for strange wigs and weird food fixations (pizza, ranch), but her first recurring bit arrived just this season in the form of Sean Spicer.
This week, McCarthy was true to form. She plays an infuriated Spicer as well as she does a whipped cream-covered weirdo. She’s Melissa McCarthy, official member of the “SNL” five-timer’s club. While at times it felt as if the episode were beneath her, it ultimately didn’t matter.
Michael Che stepped out from behind the Weekend Update desk to grace the cold open, and it went surprisingly well. A heavily made-up Che, as Lester Holt, interviews Trump, who is played once again by Alec Baldwin. It’s a version of the interview that aired on the NBC Nightly News earlier this week, and it’s nice to know that “SNL” was as startled by it as the rest of the country. After Trump declares that he removed James Comey from the FBI to impede their investigation into his campaign’s Russia ties, Holt exclaims “That’s obstruction of justice!” Turning to the audience, an excited Holt asks, “Did I get him?” It’s funny and heartbreaking and all-too-real, not least because Trump announces that he sits on every chair like it’s a toilet. Also, bonus points for Paul Ryan as Trump’s ice cream man, and an Anderson Cooper eye-roll pop-up gag.
Aidy Bryant’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders was an absolute stroke of genius. Her heavy footfall, unchanging expression, and weird beige cardigan made Bryant a doppelganger for the Deputy Press Secretary. When she spoke — her voice deep, and dominated by the Arkansas accent — it barely felt like a parody. Bryant simply became Sanders, who is often a parody unto herself.
It’s entirely possible that the real-life Spicer will be out the door before “SNL’s” next season, and the stunningly uncharismatic Sanders is far less fun to watch. That said, if Bryant has subsequent opportunities to break out this Sanders impression, we’re certainly not going to complain. She probably wouldn’t complain, either.
The night’s lone commercial parody was A+. If only Amazon really could partner with AARP to create a device that’s loud, informative, patient, and calmly responds to forty different Alexa-adjacent names. You’d never have to worry about what to get a grandparent again! Although, good luck buying it, as the Amazon Echo Silver is only available through daytime television commercial.
McCarthy has truly hit her stride as Spicer. The anger has subsided; her Spicer is now an anxious and anarchic government employee who dislodges the building’s columns to heave them at reporters he doesn’t like. “I honestly hope to God that killed her,” Spicey says, shaking his head, and returns to the podium for questions. This new version of the Press Secretary remains unhinged, but with a purpose — after all, the President told him to do this, and he wouldn’t lie to him, right?
Footage of McCarthy as Spicer, riding the motorized podium through New York City and shouting at passersby, already went viral earlier this week. Throw a Baldwin-as-Trump cold open in with that Heavily Anticipated sketch and you’ve got the recipe for most likely to go viral. If you haven’t watched The Saga of Sean Spicer, we won’t spoil it; just know that it’s a blissful use of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy In New York.”
“Saturday Night Live” has never quite known what to do with Kyle Mooney. His characters — typically a combination of mumbly, self-assured, and cheerfully inept — are best left undiluted, and that doesn’t always work when you’re part of the “SNL” team. But when he gets to do his own thing, Mooney shines; “The SoCal Talk Show,” for instance, is exceptional, and any time he gets to work with writing partner Beck Bennett is a delight. Last night, somehow, Mooney appeared as “himself” two separate times, and both were as strange as they are great.
Kate McKinnon can make a weak character dynamic. She can get you to laugh during a bad sketch. She can make a character like Debette Goldry keep happening, and pull the hosts into the madness with her. Last night, McKinnon stood out in even the smallest of roles, and watching her present her “Ghostbusters” costar McCarthy with the five-timer’s jacket was incredibly cute.
Okay, so, while calling “Just Desserts” the night’s “worst” sketch seems a little harsh, it was a far cry from McCarthy’s greatest hits. While Mikey Day (in a post-Hader, potentially post-Kenan era) carves out a niche for himself as the requisite game show parody host, the strength of the sketch lies in the strength of the game’s conceit. “Just Desserts” is, on its surface, entertaining: You win money, or you are hit in the face with a pie. A version of this probably already exists in Japan. McCarthy, McKinnon, and Moynihan round out the sketch as the show’s contestants, and viewers can tell by McCarthy’s wig alone that she’s doomed to lose.
Melissa McCarthy is so funny, so, so funny, and so game, and viewers already love her. What was to be gained by pieing her in the face at the beginning of the show? Would a food gag in her fifth outing “finally” prove her commitment? As the host hacks up sprinkle confetti, struggles to keep her eyes open, and gasps for air, we’re left to wonder if the entire episode will attempt to rehash her greatest hits. It goes beyond that, fortunately, but McCarthy deserves better than pie.
Not McCarthy’s best episode, but we’re always here for the relentless skewering of Washington, D.C. Next week, Dwayne Johnson hosts the “Saturday Night Live” season finale with musical guest Katy Perry. Once again, it goes live in all time zones – and you won’t want to miss The Rock donning a crisp new Five Timer’s jacket. That’s right; it’ll be his fifth time too.
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