After 39 years, too many sketches to count, and an army of talented comedians, SNL’s 4oth season kicks off with host Chris Pratt and musical guest Ariana Grande. If you read that in a late night NBC announcer’s voice, you’ve come to the right place!
If you haven’t read the little intro to this column, I’ll summarize. We’ve got two new cast members: Michael Che (former SNL writer and brief Daily Show Correspondent) and Pete Davidson (standup comedian seen on numerous MTV productions). Darrell Hammond has also taken over role calling duties from the dearly departed Don Pardo. It’s a transition period for SNL, that’s for sure.
So let’s break this down. People like numbered scores, so I’ve chosen to rate every sketch at 0, 1/2, or 1 point. A sketch not worth watching at all receives a 0, a sketch that doesn’t stand out but didn’t totally flop gets a 1/2, and a sketch that does its job of entertaining and delivering a few laughs will earn 1 point. A standout sketch that goes above and beyond will receive the normal point plus 1 bonus point. Cool? Cool. Let’s talk about it!
Air Date: 9/27/14
Host: Chris Pratt
Musical Guest: Ariana Grande
Cold Open: CNN State of the Union
Well, it’s obvious the cast has had a summer break, but this was the correct choice for a cold open. The sketch ran a bit longer than typical openers, but it’s a large enough issue that it’s excusable. 1/2 point
Much like the cold open, Chris Pratt is the correct choice to start the season. So much of the episode’s success depends on the host’s energy and ability (Jon Hamm, anyone?), and Pratt is a wise choice in both of those departments. Unfortunately, just as much falls on the writers, and the choice to start with an obscenely overused and trite “musical number” was disappointing. 0 points
Do you like your comedy with a dash of douche-bro pop culture terminology? Then this is the sketch for you. For the rest of us, Taran Killam and Aidy Bryant continue to be the (totally deserved) powerhouses of the show. 1/2 point
He-Man and Lion-O
For all her big energy, Aidy Bryant can also be simply adorable–especially when paired with Kyle Mooney. This sketch was basically written for the Laser Time audience, sporting Pratt and Killam as He-Man and Lion-O, respectively. Ariana Grande’s cameo added nothing overall, but the raunchy turn midway through the sketch is that classic SNL blueness we all love. 1 point
It’s not the first time this sketch has aired on SNL, but it’s infrequent enough that it stays more entertaining than the garbage “What Up With That?” Like the sketch before it, there’s plenty of late night cruelty in this one. 1 point
The writers hit the nail on the head here, making the point that Marvel can essentially succeed with any property they want after the pleasant success of Guardians of the Galaxy. And Bobby Moynihan as a “dude dressed as grimace” is a brilliant sight gag. 1 point
It’s the first time in SNL history that Weekend Update has been hosted by two men. Colin Jost is getting back into the groove, while newcomer Michael Che will need to find his footing before really shining at the desk. Writer Leslie Jones showed up for some standup; it’s funny enough, but if you’ve seen some of her other bits, you know she can do so much more. Then came new guy Pete Davidson. While I had my reservations at first, Davidson’s debut on the show and Weekend Update was gold. I see exactly why Lorne Michaels brought him aboard–this kid (yes, he’s just 20) is hilarious. 1 point
And after the high of Davidson’s comedy, we get another taste of lowest common denominator pop culture lingo humor. Musical numbers are rarely funny in any comedy, and even though the sketch served to subvert today’s overtly sexual music society, it quickly tapered out of its initial jokes. 1/2 point
As a quick bit of history, Kyle Mooney and pal Beck Bennett are part of a comedy group known as Good Neighbor–the other two members of the troupe now write for the show as well. To put things plainly, SNL was looking for another tight knit troupe after The Lonely Island crew left. Luckily, the Good Neighbor guys are funny outside of Digital Shorts. That said, this riff on 90s sitcom cheese didn’t make a splash like some of their other work. 1/2 point
SNL loves its “talking heads” sketches (see Back to the Future Screen Test), and they haven’t disappointed yet. This had enough variety to keep the laundry list of one-liners funny. 1 point
Putting aside the genericism that mainstream media uses when portraying video games, this closer held its own weight. The early twist was exactly the weirdness we expect as the show winds down, and now I can’t help but think Vanessa Bayer writes sketches just so she can make out with celebrities. You deviant, Vanessa. 1 point
Total: 8/11 possible points
Things were a little shaky early on, but the cast got back into the groove as the episode went on–hopefully that rings true for the season overall. And if Michael Che and Pete Davidson are the first of a new wave of SNL talent, the show’s fabled attitude and rebelliousness may soon be back in full swing.