When it was announced that Josh Hutcherson was going to host last night’s Saturday Night Live with HAIM as the musical guest, I wasn’t particularly excited. Despite being a major part of one of the hottest young adult movie franchises, Hutcherson has yet to become a big ticket star. It goes without saying that he doesn’t carry the same reputation as each host prior this season. It also doesn’t help that he has the ever powerful Jennifer Lawrence to contend with in his most notable film series. The same goes for HAIM who I honestly never heard of before regardless of their apparent rising popularity. So in a way, I was looking to this episode of SNL to give me a crash course on both of these rising stars. I wasn’t expecting anything glamorous by any means but I definitely left myself open to some surprise enjoyment. Will Hutcherson be able to show that he absolutely deserves more of the spotlight? Will HAIM turn me into a fan?
While the Piers Morgan Live cold open started the show off on the right foot, it was Hutcherson’s monologue that really got me going. It was a guarantee that we would see a bit based on The Hunger Games and this monologue fit that bill better than I expected. For starters, it got anything Hunger Games related out of the way nice and quick. We all knew it was coming so why not take care of it first? Kate McKinnon acting like Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket was absolutely spot-on and I thought Cecily Strong was a great substitute for Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen. It almost fizzled out near the end, but then Bobby Moynihan got shot by an arrow and everything got funny again.
The Animal Hospital bit near the end was particularly funny as well. Even though the punchline was obvious from the start (each animal has died), it worked every time. This is that type of skit where you absolutely need to keep a straight face and thankfully everyone involved managed to do that. Hutcherson especially outshone some of the cast members as well with his straight faced, “Oh you’re animal is doing great, except there’s an orange sticker which means that they are dead.” It’s a skit that could’ve really sucked and yet it worked.
Nothing could hold a candle to that 1980’s teenager skit where Hutcherson’s only lines were the lyrics to The Outfield’s “Your Love.” It was simple, quick, and genuinely hilarious. I was greatly impressed by how well Hutcherson did lip syncing the lines to this 1985 classic. Not even Vanessa Bayer, who co-lead this skit, was able to lip sync that well. It’s a shame that this segment isn’t available for viewing on Hulu. It was definitely the best part of the night.
The enjoyment I got out of the monologue didn’t really carry over into the following skit which was the Girlfriends Talk Show segment. I think that Aidy Bryant and Strong are both extremely funny cast members, and yet I’m not a big fan of Girlfriends Talk Show. It has its moments but that hardly warrants it being a recurring segment. It also didn’t help that it went on much longer than it should have. About mid-way through I got tired, and then it just felt like a trudge.
Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney’s pre-recorded segment of the week wasn’t that great either. It’s obvious that the writers are trying to make these the new Digital Shorts that The Lonely Island made so popular and yet they don’t even come close. Last night’s segment was called “Dancing” and it basically followed Mooney through a fake dance career from his discovery to inevitable failure. It was a flimsy premise at best. It also didn’t help that it was completely anchored by two new guys who, despite having some good moments, are still very inexperienced.
Few things were as bad as the Winston Sam Bass Investigative Report on where bugs are going. This time it was newcomer Mike O’Brien holding the segment down, and it was just lame. Does having a reporter talk to bugs with no responses work well on paper? I can’t imagine it does but someone behind the scenes decided this should go to air. That was a poor decision. It also happened near the end when the audience was already feeling exhausted, so the lack of humor did nothing to re-energize them for the ending.
As the show was continuing on last night, I got the feeling that some of the writers had already mentally checked out for Thanksgiving this week. Most of the night was really lacking. The two recurring segments that we saw, the aforementioned Girlfriend Talk Show and the returning Strong and Moynihan yelling characters who think they’re being fired, are not that great by any means. Again, they have their moments, but hardly deserve reappearing time and time again. The Weekend Update was disappointedly short last night as well. There was only one guest and it was Bryant as The Worst Lady on an Airplane. The whole set up was people coming in for Thanksgiving and their travels, but I instantly had flashbacks to the now classic Stefon by former cast member Bill Hader. This felt like something he could have done very well and it just made me miss him even more.
I will say this though. Hutcherson was outstanding last night. Seriously, he had a lot of comfort on the live stage that some new hosts like him simply don’t have. He even outshone some of the cast members which doesn’t always happen. He really made it work with the weak writing as well. As for HAIM, I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan following their two performances but I did actually enjoy their music. I’m interested enough to check them out more. Overall, last night’s show had its funny moments but I found myself watching the clock far too often.