Kenan Thompson Calls Out So-So ‘Saturday Night Live’ Season

As ‘SNL’ seasons go, Season 49 definitely ranked up there as one of them
Kenan Thompson Calls Out So-So ‘Saturday Night Live’ Season

A game Jake Gyllenhaal showed up to host the finale of SNL’s 49th season last night, and his monologue inadvertently spotlighted everything that was so mid about this year’s slate of shows. He joked about all of the other stars who were first asked to host the finale — Pedro PascalZendaya, even Ryan Gosling from earlier this month — and sad to say, he’s right. Gyllenhaal has been an able host in the past but not the knock-it-out-of-park choice the others might have been.

Gyllenhaal showed off a surprisingly soulful singing voice, however, with this parody of Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road,” giving Kenan Thompson a chance to sing the quiet part out loud: 

Girl, we did a lot of sketches this year 
And most of them were fine (wink)
It's one of the top 48 seasons 
Season 49 

Yep, that’s it exactly. Most of this year’s sketches were just okay. Could have been worse. As SNL seasons go, Season 49 definitely ranked up there as one of them. Like Gyllenhaal’s monologue, in which the actor lamented not being associated with the golden celebration, the show seemed to be biding its time in anticipation of the year-long 50th-anniversary bash coming in just a few months.

In the meantime, the show has merely treaded water. Last night’s episode was a good example, trotting out sketch retreads instead of dazzling with new ideas or breakout characters. For example, we got…

A Recycled Kieran Culkin Sketch

Everyone can relate to the frustration of dealing with customer service reps trained to make life miserable. It was a great concept for a sketch when Kieran Culkin did it two years ago. 

Gyllenhall’s version substituted Southwest Airlines for Spectrum Cable, but it otherwise recreated Culkin’s beat for beat. There was Mikey Day’s lisping operator, Andrew Dismukes answering the phone from an unrelated business, Jamaican Kenan trying to solve the wrong problem and Bowen Yang as the mystical source behind it all. 

It was paint-by-number sketch writing, lazy and inevitably less funny the second time around.

Recycled Scooby Doo

Nearly everyone grew up with Scooby Doo because some version of the terrified pooch has been on TV since the 1960s. Sarah Sherman put her bloody thumbprint on this one with a mystery that believes gore is inherently funny. (Is it?) Goofing on the Scooby Doo gang could be fun, I suppose…

But we did this in 2016 with Margot Robbie…

…and in 2000 with Rob Lowe.

Are Scooby Doo sketches just comedy cicadas, doomed by nature to reappear in multiyear cycles? Speaking of which, last night’s show had a comedy cicada sketch as well.

Recycled Michael Che and Colin Jost Joke Swap

This bit has run its course. As first conceived, the idea of Jost and Che swapping jokes designed to humiliate each other was pretty ingenious, and who doesn’t like seeing Colin Jost being mortified on national TV? 

But the gag has grown stale. We know what’s coming — Jost is secretly a racist! Che is a pedophile! — and the element of surprise is gone. Even worse, the guys are pulling their punches. Che brings out a rabbi to bear witness to Jost’s presumably anti-Semitic jokes, another recycled bit from last year when Che hired an actress to play a civil-rights icon. But instead of offending the rabbi with a joke about Palestine, the punchline turns into a lame Harvey Weinstein bit. Not exactly edgy.

Despite its meh year, SNL will be back, of course. Get ready for months of self-celebration, much of it deserved. Any comedy show that can hang for 50 years and stay even somewhat relevant has earned its flowers. But if the show can’t find a funnier, edgier groove after the party, can it survive into Season 51 and beyond?


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