After a prolonged layoff, Saturday Night Live kicked off the final stretch of the season with a sleepy episode, no thanks to that charming Andrew Garfield.
This week's episode was a fairly mediocre affair with few sketches that really jumped off the screen, and at least one rerun, which was strange. That SNL used 'Bird Bible,' a favorite sketch from two months ago, in the 12:55 slot says a lot about the quality of this week's episode. A long layoff should give the writers enough time to write material to fill a full episode, but SNL seems to come up short every time the show returns from a break. The show's usual intense, grinding writing process brings out the best stuff, which speaks to how crazy you have to be to work on Saturday Night Live. These people are beautiful geniuses.
This week had its moments, to be sure, lest we say anything that might get us killed by the Beygency, the clear highlight of pre-Weekend Update sketches. That SNL has not covered Beyonce's devoted following before was honestly surprising, considering it's a very real phenomenon, as our Philip Bump discovered late last year. Now Philip is Andrew Garfield's cellblock neighbor.
But at least he's in there with Kyle Mooney and not Kate McKinnon's terrifying, unforgivable wedding guest. Honestly, who talks about hating "Crazy in Love" at a wedding?! That's blasphemy. Would the world complain if the U.S. replaced the NSA with the Beygency? No, and the eavesdropping would be forgiven if it was used to weed out the Beyonce heretics among us.
Anyway, Andrew Garfield was as great a host as he is a terrible wedding guest, but we will address that further down the page.
Weekend Update continued to be an uneven affair as Colin Jost finds his footing in the anchor seat. His delivery has improved a lot from midseason and he's slowly getting more and more comfortable in his own skin. The segment brought back two of our favorite guests and gave writer Leslie Jones a chance to address People naming Luptia Nyong'o the most beautiful person alive. Olya Pavlotsky was our favorite, obivously, but it was nice to see Jebidiah Atkinson again and Jones knocked her segment out of the park.
Oh, and if you bet on SNL tackling Donald Sterling in the cold open, call your bookie this morning to collect your winnings. Tim Donaghy is waiting for your call.
Kenan Thompson has never been an SNL cast member particularly renowned for the accuracy of his impressions, but he’s become such a vital anchor for so many sketches, and his work as Steve Harvey in "Family Feud" exemplified that. With Bill Hader gone, Kenan has stepped up as the grand old man of the show. He literally bossed the other actors around in both this sketch and the wedding toast sketch, loudly telling Andrew Garfield to sit down and tutting at all his antics. For a less-experienced cast member, this might come off as a pointless bit part, but Thompson exudes a weird kind of authority at this point. Coupled with his lengthy non-monologue in the cold open as the abashed Los Angeles NAACP President (“Look…I mean…”) Thompson had a very solid night. Steve Harvey was probably his best work of the episode—it’s an impression that actually has a little verve to it, and it served the vital function of deflating Andrew Garfield’s enthusiastic Justin Timberlake lest he take the whole thing over. — DS
At this point, it's a bigger surprise when Kate McKinnon does not win our MVP award. She's Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Muhammad Ali in one package that is exactly as weird and wonderful as their three-way love child would be. (Note: I failed biology.) This week she first appeared as Shakira in the "Family Feud" sketch, you know, playing the Yangri Birs, as one does. From that point on she shined through an otherwise unremarkable week, earning bonus points for her insane prisoner in the Beygency sketch. But any time Olya appears on Weekend Update is a blessed week for everyone involved, and we hope no one ever kills her, despite her wishes. We'd totally say "FML" if Olya ever disappeared forever. — CS
Before we begin, it should be noted that Andrew Garfield would have taken MVP by an even wider margin had he and Coldplay's Chris Martin actually kissed at the end of that Spider-Man sketch. Regardless. The one benefit of an episode this mediocre is that it allows the guest host to shine, and while Garfield may not have delivered the comedy showcase of the year, he was on balance the strongest element of his sketches. His nervous, eager-to-please energy combined with his Young Hollywood A-List good looks made him seem like a lankier Joseph Gordon-Levitt. His Justin Timberlake impersonation in the "Family Feud" sketch could have probably hit a few more varied notes (a shot at JT's dorky showmanship or celebrity chumminess would have been good), but playing Justin as a smoldering golem killed for what it was. Subsequent sketches with the wedding toast or the Spider-Man kiss (no matter how disappointingly homophobic it ended) likewise succeeded on the strength of Garfield's game and goofy charisma. The Beyonce Adjustment Bureau sketch was more of a triumph of concept, but Garfield nonetheless delivered on what he was asked to do, "Single Ladies" shimmy and all. More than enough to earn a return trip to host, probably the next time he's promoting a Spider-Man movie, since they seem to be the only movies he makes anymore. —JR
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.