‘Saturday Night Live’ review: Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump; Kellyanne Conway’s Day Off; Lin-Manuel Miranda (videos)
Last week, “Saturday Night Live” scored a tremendous amount of buzz (and not to mention some really strong ratings) for having Alec Baldwin turn up during the opening monologue as Donald Trump. For a time this week, we didn’t think that this was going to happen again thanks mostly to the Vice-Presidential Debate taking place earlier in the week, which seemed like a more relevant attempt at comedy.
Well, we wondered if things were going to change following the shocking revelation of a particularly offensive tape, which showed further some of the GOP candidate’s thoughts towards women many years ago in a candid conversation to Billy Bush, who was working for “Access Hollywood” at that time. When the show started off with a mock VP debate sketch, we started to think they weren’t doing it — and that played perfectly into their hands. They intentionally through us off!
As you would assume, the show and Baldwin did a really great job, though we’re pretty sure that this probably was too much for some people. We’re not sure that this particular p-word has ever been said on the show before, especially this early in the show. Ultimately, Trump gave the “SNL” writers one of their greatest gifts possible; they had to pull this together quickly, but they did. It was a little long and Baldwin stumbled over his closing line after Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon) turned up, but the rest was funny enough to give it a pass.
We’ll be updating this article with more from tonight’s show (hosted by Lin-Manuel Miranda) soon! You can see a video for the cold open over at the NBC show’s official YouTube.
Lin-Manuel Miranda – Just for the degree of difficulty alone with this rap, we gotta give Miranda some props. This was really fun, sharply-written, and a great cameo from Lorne Michaels to boot. We do wish that there was a big celebrity cameo, though, given that this was something that he personally mentioned as something he was hoping to have. (We’ll have more in the cameo department later.)
Campfire sketch – While there were some entertaining moments in here (see the usage of “Danger Zone” repeatedly and the weird, Lannister-like relationship between the two siblings randomly showing up at the campfire for Lin-Manuel’s character and his girlfriend), there wasn’t much to the premise here. It was about an awkward incident at camping, and that was really about it, unfortunately. It was an idea that probably should have remained just that.
Crucible Cast Party – Ever since “Do It on My Twin Bed” went big, “SNL” continues to pour a tremendous amount of time in effort intro trying to make the whole “female cast members sing an edgy song” bit work. This, which was about a post-Puritan musical jam, was fun, but never quite popped off the screen. Sometimes, you just can’t replicate success, even if the part of this about the shirt with all the cast members’ names on it was rather funny to us. It wasn’t bad, but we just wanted more.
School sketch – This felt almost like “School of Rock” lite with Lin-Manuel, and it was the third weaker sketch in a row on the night that was somewhat of a miss. The biggest thing that worked was the “Hamilton” star’s presence; maybe the problem here for us is that with such crazy things happening in the news right now, this felt like more of an unwelcome distraction.
Kellyanne Conway’s Day Off – We imagine that Trump’s campaign manager had an even crazier day than this yesterday, but it may have been an accurate depiction. While really silly (this was effectively a series of sight-gags where we saw Conway having to dart off to do CNN interviews constantly), it never really got old thanks to McKinnon and some clever one-liners. One of the best of the night.
“Weekend Update” – While Pete Davidson was great and the bits about Trump and Clinton had us laughing, the single best moment in the entire segment tonight was the big about the Apple Store. In our mind, this was absolutely genius. As for the rest of it, we consider this to be one of the stronger “Weekend Updates” of the season even when it wasn’t hitting — Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon made surprise appearances (maybe those were the cameos Lin-Manuel alluded to earlier, but we still wish there was a different one in the monologue), and we laughed extensively at Fallon completely botching his accent for most of this. It was nostalgic, fun, and a trainwreck all at once.
“The Music Man” – While we do enjoy “The Music Man” as a production, this may officially be when we got a little more tired of its inclusion in the show tonight. We get that Lin-Manuel is known for “Hamilton,” but why not give him some things to do aside from the stage?
Calling home – This was a short sketch featuring Lin-Manuel speaking in Spanish and English about weird things in America, and it was certainly that; yet, there was something funny and even meaningful at times about it. We can’t place it, but it is in the “Sad Mouse” school of weird things that work.
“Stranger Things” – Where was Lucas’ parents? The show created a mock scene from the Netflix series, and while we did laugh a couple of times at the energy of some of the cast members, we haven’t seen the show and didn’t get most of the references. For those who are familiar with it, let us know in the comments if this worked.
Melania Moments – We got another one of these after its debut last week, and this one was about Trump potentially searching for another wife. Very short, very silly, but worth the price of admission.
Dying soldier – This was a weird, but funny, way to end the night, with Davidson playing a soldier who, in his final words, revealed a number of surprising habits and aspirations. This was probably the best live sketch of the entire night, and it’s odd that it came so late.
As a whole, “SNL” was probably a little too bipolar this week given that it had super-biting political humor mixed with Broadway spoofs. We’re not a huge purveyor in the Great White Way and don’t know Lin-Manuel’s work as much as the next guy, so there were times we felt like the episode went over our head. Yet, despite a few clear misses, there was enough to laugh about this week that it made for worthwhile viewing. Grade: B-. (We’ll be back tomorrow with videos.)