by Julian Spivey
“Saturday Night Live” legend Will Ferrell returned to host the show for his fifth time (the show made no mention of him joining the iconic Five-Timer’s Club) on Saturday, Nov. 23 in an episode that was disappointing, especially given that Ferrell is arguably the greatest cast member in the 45 year history of this sketch comedy show.
Part of the issue with Ferrell returning to host ‘SNL’ is that unlike many past greats of the show who return to host he doesn’t seem very interested in bringing back classic characters from his time on the show. Bringing back something like Celebrity Jeopardy with his Alex Trebek impression would have a built in comedy factor in that we as viewers would be set to love it from the start. It’s also proven hilarity.
Ferrell is one of the funniest men to ever grace Studio 8H at ‘SNL,’ so I’m not going to put much of the fault of the episode being a disappointment on his shoulders but like with most weak ‘SNL’ episodes the fault lies within the writing. I say this, especially as Ferrell hosted one of the show’s best episodes just last season. The show’s writing staff just hasn’t been up to par with its great cast over the last few seasons.
The show opened with Alec Baldwin reprising his role as President Donald Trump, this time doing a chopper chat with the press in which the primary joke is how he pretends he can’t hear the questions over the whir of the helicopter blades. I’ve long past the point of rolling my eyes whenever I see Baldwin as Trump on the show. Baldwin was brilliant the first season he portrayed Trump and well worthy of the Emmy he won for his performance, but it’s been stale for a long time now. I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat myself, I wish the show would mostly ignore Trump during sketches and just focuses on making fun of his antics during Weekend Update.
The show’s second political sketch of the night fared much better as the show mocked the most recent Democratic Debate and might have set a record for most all-star cameos during a single sketch. Larry David and Woody Harrelson reprised their roles as Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden respectively. Harrelson’s take on Biden has been one of the true surprises of this season of ‘SNL.’ Maya Rudolph also reprised her performance as Kamala Harris and was attempting to become a viral superstar this time, which is something that might have made more sense to me had I watched the most recent debate. Making their first appearances as candidates were former ‘SNL’ standouts Rachel Dratch as Amy Klobuchar and Fred Armisen as the seemingly always on the fence about running Michael Bloomberg. Both did good work in the sketch. Ferrell would take the role of newcomer to the race Tom Steyer in a performance that was right up his alley as he just tried to capitalize on the awkwardness of the candidate. The sketch went on too long, but still wound up as one of the highlights of the evening.
The best sketch of the evening involved a 1600s Thanksgiving in which John Smith, played by Beck Bennett, joins Pocahontas (Melissa Villasenor) and her Native American family, played by Ferrell, Rudolph and Armisen for the holiday. The sketch was hilarious in that it mimicked much of today’s political issues but had the Natives as what you’d consider a politically incorrect white conservative family and John Smith as an “illegal.” The family comes to terms that Smith and themselves aren’t completely different when it is revealed that none of them can properly digest corn. At this point a fairly smart sketch got a bit too scatological for my taste but wasn’t completely ruined.
The other real highlight of the night was a short music video about two teens, played by Cecily Strong and Mikey Day, who throw a big party with their entire school when their parents are out of town, but have a surprise guest in one of their middle aged teachers, played by Ferrell. Ferrell gives his best performance of the show as this teacher going through a mid-life crisis.
Weekend Update, which has at times been noticeably shorter this season, was mostly a bust. There was only one guest featured this week and it was Alex Moffat’s uber-douchey Guy Who Just Bought a Boat, joined by guest Ryan Reynolds doing a similar schtick. There were some laughs to be had, mostly by Update anchor Colin Jost’s disgust at the two, but it wasn’t really a highlight.
The second half of the show didn’t really have anything worth taking up your time as a reader or mine as a reviewer worth writing about.
The synopsis of Ferrell’s fifth hosting stint on ‘SNL’ is that it ultimately should have been a lot better than it was and will almost certainly go down as one of this season’s biggest wasted opportunities.