by Julian Spivey
1. Eddie Murphy - December 21, 2019
This episode was the moment avid ‘SNL’ fans had been waiting almost 40 years – and for many of us our entire lifetimes – for. Eddie Murphy had never returned to host the show that made him a comedy superstar and at times had a bit of an ongoing feud with the show. But before season 45 even began it was announced that Murphy would finally return to host the show doing so months ahead of time it just helped to build the already heightened anticipation. My biggest question before the episode was – would Murphy bring back his classic characters that haven’t appeared on the show in nearly 40 years? He didn’t let anybody down, bringing back Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, Velvet Jones and Gumby. It was absolutely everything most ‘SNL’ fans wanted and one of the overall best episodes of the show in a long time, if not frankly ever.
2. SNL: At Home 1 & 2 - April 11, 2020 & April 25, 2020
The fact that “Saturday Night Live” just didn’t say, “OK, we were dealt a bad hand with the Coronavirus and we’re calling it a season” was amazing to me. The fact that they even tried at all means a great dealt to me as a longtime fan of the show. And, not only did the show make an attempt at putting together shows at home by recording sketches on their phones and laptops, they also succeeded in being very funny. The first two ‘SNL: At Home” episodes were among the funniest of the season to me, even with the awkwardness of mostly being one-person comedy monologues and having no live audience to laugh at them. The third ‘At Home’ episode this past weekend, which served as the show’s season finale, wasn’t nearly as funny as the first two, but again they all tried and they easily could’ve just closed up shop for the season.
3. Adam Driver - January 25, 2020
Adam Driver has quickly become one of my favorite ‘SNL’ hosts and he’s maybe the most unique host I’ve ever seen and the reason is that he seems to bring the same intensity to comedy sketches as he does to his Oscar-nominated dramatic roles. Watching him play a Medieval Times employee who takes the role with 100 percent sincerity was one of my absolutely favorite moments of season 45.
4. Phoebe Waller-Bridge - October 5, 2019
If you didn’t know who Phoebe Waller-Bridge was before last summer you were likely bombarded with her name everywhere when the final season of “Fleabag” made her the darling of last year’s Emmy Awards. That success propelled her to her first hosting stint on ‘SNL’ and she made the absolute most of it in one of the season’s funniest episodes, which included an incredible monologue, Waller-Bridge showing off a white trash American accent in a great sketch with Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant and one of the season’s funniest sketches where a soldier played by Mikey Day sends home letters to his confused wife, Waller-Bridge at her best.
5. Woody Harrelson - September 28, 2019
Woody Harrelson hosted the season premiere of ‘SNL’ back in late September and absolutely stole the show as Democratic candidate for President (and now nominee) Joe Biden, especially with his trademark smile. The show doesn’t always kick season’s off with good episodes after the summer layoff, but Harrelson certainly helped make season 45’s debut one of the best openers in years.
Jennifer Lopez - December 7, 2019
The 45th season of “Saturday Night Live” had a higher percentage of good episodes than any season in recent memory, but there were still clunkers every so often and none more so than the December 7, 2019 episode hosted by Jennifer Lopez. The episode marked Lopez’s second hosting stint and first in almost 20 years and essentially played upon her persona in the majority of the evening’s sketches. It just didn’t work for me.
Most Valuable Player: Kenan Thompson
Season 45 was the first season in quite a long time where the season truly seemed to be a collaborative effort by the entire cast and the show didn’t have one star cast member the writing staff always seemed focused on. In the last few years Kate McKinnon was that star cast member, but it didn’t feel like she had as much screen time this season. When Phil Hartman was on ‘SNL’ in the ‘80s and ‘90s they used to refer to him as “the glue” because he was the guy who held everything together. For a while now Kenan Thompson, who’s now the longest tenured cast member in the show’s illustrious history, has been “the glue.” Thompson has the ability to be the star or the sketch or steal laughs in the background of them as bit characters and frequently if he’s in a stinker of a sketch he can still pull a laugh or two out of you via his presence.
Least Valuable Player: Kyle Mooney
I was watching one of Kyle Mooney’s wacky sketches on the season finale of ‘SNL’ this past weekend and turned to my wife and said, “you know the show doesn’t shove him down your throat as much as some annoying cast members of the past, but my God he has to be one of the worst cast members in the show’s history.” I might be in the minority here, as people seem to get his weird type of humor – and every now and then he does have a winner in my book – but almost everything Mooney does leaves me shaking my head in confusion.
Best Newcomer: Chloe Fineman
The show featured two new cast members in season 45 – Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang, who became the show’s first Asian cast member ever righting a longtime wrong. Yang probably got more press and attention, especially for his recurring Weekend Update character Chen Biao, a Chinese trade representative, and a sketch involving the Sara Lee Corporation. I’m a sucker for great impressions, though, and Fineman proved herself to be among the show’s best impressionists, especially late in the season in the ‘SNL At Home’ episodes with spot-on impressions of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Timothee Chalamet and Britney Spears. She also had a terrific Weekend Update bit on the Oscars and stereotypical scenes that are always sure to get actresses nominated.