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Date Posted: 23:00:00 10/05/17 Thu
Author: Mike (Male)
Subject: Grade: B
In reply to: The Doc 's message, "Live Discussion: Ryan Gosling/Jay-Z" on 23:14:38 09/30/17 Sat

Cold Open: No real way to top the surprise of last season's opener, when Alec Baldwin's Trump managed to exceed the sky-high expectations that built up over the end of that summer after his casting was announced. Then, we didn't know how he'd act or sound. Now, we know it almost too well. Still, the news makes itself, and it's become pretty easy to build a sketch out of the president's latest controversy. Here it was his feud with the mayor of San Juan, and his call to fire the NFL kneelers. Liked his FEMA Prime line. Kate's Jeff Sessions is as creepy as ever. And before Moffat's Schumer had any opportunity to establish himself, the sketch abruptly ended.

[On the montage: Surprised to see it back for a fourth season, with the same music. If it sticks around until May, it'll tie the record for longest-surviving montage, set by 1990-94. Darrell Hammond sounded extra-enthusiastic. And I thought Mikey Day's goodwill from writing would lead to a promotion from featured player after one year, but it didn't happen. Luke Null was at the Washington Square Park fountain, while Chris Redd was chowing down on St. Mark's Place. Heidi Gardner seemed to be somewhere in Chinatown?]

Monologue: A pretentious-looking Ryan Gosling was funny for a couple minutes pretending to think that he actually saved jazz. But the bit stretched out for too long. He broke for the first of what seemed like DOZENS of times tonight after talking about Nerlins and Chicagee. Emma Stone's cameo was too obvious.

Alien encounters: Once again, the biggest surprise would have been if this sketch did NOT appear somewhere in this episode. It played out exactly like the first – Kate's Colleen Rafferty used new rhyming phrases to describe her lady parts aside from her “knockers,” Ryan Gosling broke character a bunch of times, and Cecily Strong might as well have been portrayed by an extra. Now with more butt-squeezing!

Levi's Wokes: The first sketch that actually worked! As woke as it gets, the pants didn't conform with anyone or anything, and the models were properly offended that you would even question otherwise. They even convinced me they were right by clapping back properly.

The Fliplets: Hey, I liked this. Ryan's odd-man-out character worked because he dove head-first into unveiling the pain of his broken family. They're just “trying to build the home they never had.” Great tagline.

“Bam”: Unusually flat for Jay-Z, and Damian Marley didn't add much. What really got my attention was the strangely dark lighting of the stage. It looked like a few bulbs had burned out during the commercial break.

Update: Depressingly straightforward at first. And then, Michael Che called President Trump the, uh, white c-word. I'm suddenly intrigued to see if it becomes a theme (although the late-night shows have used all kinds of vulgar name-calling lately), if Che would build on it each week. I guess we'll find out. As much as HHS Secretary Tom Price's resignation was newsworthy, it felt like Jost was taking cheap shots – Price had said clearly he'd repay the cash. Kate's Angela Merkel wasn't a showstopper, but at least she was reliable. I got a kick out of her trying not the say the word “Nazis.” And SNL made its social media team happy with that meme. Liked the Saudi Arabia and fatberg jokes. Didn't think Alex's GWJBaB would ever come back – although Bobby and Vanessa were Update regulars, so somebody's gotta fill the spots. His character's improved; the shamelessness is on overdrive, complete with an homage to Mr. Subliminal.

Henrietta & the Fugitive: Call me crazy, but I loved this. From Aidy's voice to the prop troubles (his gun, her scarf) to the sheer oddities of renegade hen love, everything about this sketch was a hoot. All these Barcelona references between this and Update... just over a month after that terror attack. Seemed odd.

Terrezano's: Ryan's character could have been the same guy in that Santa Baby sketch from his first show – not only refusing to acknowledge the truth, but insisting on fighting over it. And Cecily can't always play outraged very well (I've had issues with her Cathy Anne), but this mock indignation was hilarious. As was Mikey's fourth-wall-breaking by noting how the “restaurant” had only three tables. So what if it turned out to be a Domino's ad?

“4:44”: I thought this worked better. Jay-Z laid it out himself with zero distractions (including an empty stage at the start with just the backing track playing). And he seemed to open up his heart for this. His long silences made it seem like he was really at a loss for words.

Papyrus: This grew on me. At first, like a lot of sketches that seem to have Kyle Mooney's fingerprints on them, I thought it was too esoteric. Hilarious for a small group of people at the expense of everyone else. But eventually, I came around to seeing the humor in Ryan's strange obsession. It helped that he explained where else we've seen the Papyrus font, like Shakira merch and off-brand teas. That title at the end was in Comic Sans, right?

Mickey's End Zone: Whoa. I never predicted that the lounge singer character who freaked out over his red boots in the Martin Freeman episode back in 2014 would ever come back. But sure enough, there he is, now with a long-haired flutist instead of a long-haired sax man. And now all he cares about are his good, dark jeans. Leslie's quick appearance at the end made this better than the first sketch. And all of Ryan's breaking leads me to think the show factored in an extra minute or so of wasted time between the delayed line-reading and the audience applause.

Grade: B. A weak start with a stronger finish. Ryan Gosling seemed much more comfortable this time around, so at least it made for a better monologue. But on the flip side, he casually lost his composure during just about every live sketch of his – all except the Fliplets, I believe. SNL certainly doesn't seem like it's flailing after the departures of Vanessa, Bobby, and Sasheer, none of whom ever broke out significantly as stars on the show. New featured players Heidi and Chris (especially Heidi) already seem comfortable, which is a great sign. Too bad Luke got shut out entirely. And since he seems to operate on his own now, it was less of a surprise that Pete would be MIA except for the fake ad. A B grade to start doesn't necessarily indicate that the season will be strong; we can give the show time to enhance or cut down on the political writing, but something needs to be done there. I never saw Jay-Z's 2002 performance, but compared to the others, tonight's was his sleepiest by far.

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