January 25, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Review: “Saturday Night Live” with Blake Shelton


“Wildly uneven” was probably the best that could have been hoped from a SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE hosted by non-actor, non-comic (but NBC synergy bait) Blake Shelton.  There were times when the need to come up with ideas for a star out of their comfort zone seemed to inspire the SNL writers, but also some where the staff let him, and viewers, down.  There was also some plain strangeness afoot, as in the show’s mistiming that forced it to take two commercial breaks in the last 10 minutes (with just a few seconds of the SNL band playing between them).

The usual soft cold open was at least on a soft subject:  the deflated footballs used by the New England Patriots in their AFC Championship Game.  Beck Bennett was a nicely gruff Bill Belichick, who led into an elaborately unknowledgeable Tom Brady (Taran Killam), who blamed everything on doofus equipment manager Bobby Moynihan.  A few laughs, but no great blow struck for comedy.

Atypically, the monologue spot was one of the night’s highlights.  It was built around Shelton’s memories of Hee Haw, which the cast didn’t entirely get, leading to homespun one-liners about incest and illiteracy, much to the amusement of Leslie Jones.  Farm Hunk was a parody of The Bachelor that didn’t require Shelton to do much but play straight man as a succession of SNL women bumped one another for the park bench seat beside him, each trying to out-insipid the last.  Best were Kate McKinnon, whose contestant kept showing up with crazy props like a live macaw and a welding kit, and Aiday Bryant.  Jones was held for the punchline, but there wasn’t enough of her.

The night’s best sketch was a pre-tape music video for Wishing Boot, a tunefully berserk saga of faith in which a quasi-religious boot showed up to save McKinnon, Bryant and Shelton (in his case, it turned out his old dog had always magically been the boot).  It rather delightfully, and intentionally, made very little sense.  A Celebrity Family Feud sketch that pitted hosts of The Voice against those of American Idol went on far longer than it had the material to sustain, and basically peaked once Kenan Thompson, as host Steve Harvey, introduced McKinnon as Keith Urban.  (Oddly, no one played Jennifer Lopez.)

The episode’s Weekend Update gets some credit for shaking things up with interconnected desk pieces that almost turned the segment into a mini-sitcom. Bobby Moynihan appeared as Michael Che’s “old friend” Riblet, whose hair suggested an Afro version of Princess Leia’s buns, who added unnecessary “r”s to words (“jorb”), and who was so certain he could do Che’s job that he’d come ready with a revised version of Update‘s opening credits (and multiple microphones to drop).  After a Pete Davidson bit that played on the same gay panic theme as some of his other Update appearances, Sameer Zamata appeared as Che’s ex, who capped her continuing anger at Che by revealing that she had a new man in her life… Riblet.  Some of this was fun, although it was hurt by the fact that it doesn’t appear as though Che’s strong suits include interacting with other performers.

There were only 3 post-Update sketches.  Best was one that mixed cannibalism with The Shawshank Redemption, as white-haired, avuncular Thompson tried to convince a parole board headed by Shelton that he should be released despite the many people he’d eaten (when told he was going to be executed, he tried to bargain for a last meal that included two boys, or at least one).  It was followed by another endless piece, this one with Shelton as a singer on a local morning talk-show whose song about a neighbor’s (Killam) deceased wife turned out to reflect the widower’s loathing for his wife.  The 12:55AM sketch (which tonight aired 5 minutes early) was innocuousness about a magic show audience member (Shelton) who believed the magician (Killam) could actually work wonders; it was probably placed so late in the show because one of the man’s wishes was the ability to self-fellate.

Shelton himself was effectively used, with his limited comedy talents put into play in roles that didn’t require a lot of range.  Next week’s host is the opposite, an actor who’s played everything from genial dads to neo-Nazis:  Oscar nominee J.K. Simmons, who will be joined by musical guest D’Angelo.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."