Benedict Cumberbatch appeared on SNLon stage for her second stint as host, ostensibly playing her starring role in this weekend’s blockbuster Doctor Strange 2. Cumberbatch noted that the majority of arguments he received from writers involved the film. The show ultimately didn’t go there, as the monologue foreshadowed, which focused on charming and very appealing snippets about his mother and wife before Mother’s Day.
The show was clearly in love with Cumberbatch; like in the previous episode of Oscar Isaac this season, the writers realized what they had and put their host in as many sketches as they could. The writers also did it for Jake Gyllenhaal, to his detriment. The material was much better this time around and performed in a wide range of roles, from suburban dad to western cowboy to Downtowndandy era, Cumberbatch succeeded perfectly. He improved the series in places where it didn’t strictly need help – he was so good I can see the series calling him out as a utility player; I predict he will be inducted into the Five-Timer’s Club relatively soon.
“Gifts for Mother’s Day” was a repeat of a strong skit from last season Regina King episode, but it’s actually better the second time around. A family takes turns gifting mom (Aidy Bryant) these cute wooden wall hangings purchased from handcrafted hells of suburban malls. Things get more passive-aggressive – or just aggressive-aggressive – with each gift offered. Some of the signs: “We dried your pacifiers and now you look weird in a bathing suit” and “Were your ears ringing?” I was in therapy. Things escalate with impressive weirdness and pace. Mom is accused of being an alcoholic and the daughter assures Mom that if she died she would accept her inevitable stepmother. Bryant is perfect here as one of his patented character types, the increasingly aggrieved matriarch who can’t believe she’s treating this bullshit in the most polite way possible. Someone on the writing team is very adept at these list sketches, where things spiral into the twilight zone of LOL (I’m thinking the Maid of honor speech on Zoe Kravitz episode).
“The Passed Out Couch” was a solid showcase for Cecily Strong, still capable and not always quite visible. The premise is pure nonsense – a rich DowntownThe then-British couples are constantly dealing with news that sends them into respective blackouts, just as their butler walks in to serve them the last of a parade of spillable liquids. You see where it leads, but it goes there steadily. It was wide as hell, but it’s kind of exciting to see the show venture into physical comedy, which Strong and Cumberbatch executed with utter precision. Score more for the host – he couldn’t have looked more comfortable and he brought up a sketch that didn’t ask for help, thanks to Strong.
Kate McKinnon is a wonky impressionist – I’m not the only one who observes that her killers Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton bear no resemblance to the genuine articles – but she “Weekend Update” Spot as Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett nailed the essence of the conservative jurist, who came across in her Senate hearings as an oblivious Catholic University sorority sister with cheerful vocal fries and serious insights into Aunt Lydia’s role in American life . Here, commenting on the leaked draft of a decision that will apparently overturn Roe v. Wade, she advises women to “just do your nine” and “plop”, give birth to an unwanted child and leave it somewhere for someone to adopt, ideally a lesbian (“until we ban that too”) – utter nonsense not too far removed from Barrett’s own views. Crisp writing and accurate portrayal made it a cutting moment; we could use more of the series.
Arcade Fire delivered two knockout songs. Maybe because it’s been a rough week or I was feeling the Mother’s Day vibe, but “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” actually smothered me a bit. It’s nice to see a real band on stage, especially if they know how to create a show with pure musicality and really get through the screen, even before they’ve enlisted the inflatable dancers. It also helps NBC’s technical staff remember how to do an audio mix this week, with everything from bells tinkling to backing vocals coming through in a clean, proportionate way. The 360-degree camera work during the second song was cool (and captured parts of a studio audience to spontaneous applause). The band got an unheard-of third performance slot during the closing credits, and they ate it up a bit, but that didn’t detract from their charm. SNL Rarely captures the thrill of seeing live music these days, but this week the band and the show absolutely brought it home.
New toilet. Sigh. I don’t know who is on the 12-year-old’s writing staff, but they have to have their phones taken away and escorted out of the studio. If the writers need to stream material involving toilets, which they really don’t really have, look to “Love Toilet” from 1991 for inspiration, which actually had a point besides “let’s get dirty and jarringly weird.”
Also worth discussing
The concept for “Chuck E. Cheese” was the whole joke – the prepubescent pizza palace animatronic band fell apart, so a vaguely Teutonic/New Romantic musical act from 1983 was drafted in to complete (tell me, what’s more disturbing?). But Cumberbatch was brilliant here, going so far beyond his characterization—literally in falsetto—that he makes a watch of it all on his own.
A strong and well-deserved showcase for the super talented impressionist Chloe Fineman, “Lining” allows him to imitate almost all SNL cast member (OK, not Ego Nwodim) to their faces. The most acute moment: Cumberbatch comes face to face with Elizabeth Olsen, with Fineman doing Elizabeth Olsen, and remarks that “the multiverse is real.” Fineman is extremely capable, and this sketch is a reminder that week to week the show has only allowed her to scratch the surface of what she can do.
• The cold open was good, a throwback to the 13th century, from which Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito cited legal precedent in his draft that would overturn Roe v. Wade. The positives: The show did not dodge the cultural moment. Cumberbatch is comically rock-solid from the get-go. Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon have strong credentials as an oppressed woman and a diviner who isn’t an ogre (she’s just in her 30s) who foresees a place called Florida that holds all the power. But overall, the approach was less than scathing — Alito using such an old benchmark is so absurd it doesn’t require much underlining — and the “keep fighting” conclusion was weak. And I take points off writers who have Cumberbatch open with a shitty reference. Seriously, what’s up with that writing staff and bodily fluids? I say this because some SNL the writer needs to hear it: body horror and poop jokes aren’t the same thing.
• Colin Jost aired Weekend Update this week, while Michael Che sounded fuzzy, even chuckling. Jost had the best lines on the urgent story of the day, “Today is Mother’s Day, whether you like it or not,” and regarding Alito’s project leaked by the Supreme Court, “The Supreme Court made a mistake and has to live with it. forever.” Jost and Che trade standing and sitting – Che dominated discussion of the Will Smith Oscars scandal – but it looks like this anchor team is well past an inflection point. At the start of this season, I I found it more and more boring because the anchors themselves seemed tired, but more in the concert They rallied in the middle of the season, but the disastrous episode of Lizzo and this week’s drifting segment makes me feel like we’re overdue for a turnover in the office. It didn’t help that the SNL Vintage episode (10 p.m. East Coast) featured Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler, who were both electrically sharp from first appearance to last.
• Don’t blink or you’ll miss star player Aristotle Athari, who is a glorified extra in “Chuck E. Cheese.” I’m really curious what cornflakes he’s pissed in for being so sidelined on the show, having made one of the strongest “Update” debuts in recent memory (“Laugh at 3000”).