May 11, 2014

THE SKED Review: “Saturday Night Live” with Charlize Theron


It was 12:45AM before Charlize Theron really had a highlight to call her own on tonight’s SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, another instance of the show bringing on a bright talent and then not having them do very much.  Although Theron had her issues with the cue cards, as many movie stars on SNL do, she’s proven her way with comedy (an arc on Arrested Development, the upcoming female lead in A Million Ways To Die In the West, not to mention a previous SNL hosting gig albeit 14 years ago), so it was unclear why she was left mostly in the background.

The 12:45AM sketch was a promo for a store called Whiskers ‘R’ We, in which she and Kate McKinnon played purveyors of cats.  The piece, unlike most SNL sketches, had multiple lines of humor; even as McKinnon was doing her best to sell the cats (some of them such problematic beasts as a mini-jaguar who only eats bald eagles–and don’t try capturing a hawk and shaving its head, because the cat will know–and a sociopath who kept Theron’s character prisoner for a month), Theron was pursuing her romantic obsession with McKinnon.  The mostly matter-of-fact tone taken by both performers as things became increasingly crazy made the sketch work.

For that matter, the second most interesting bit of the night ran after Whiskers ‘R’ We, a pre-tape called Tourists in which various cast members, including Theron, enacted eccentric and seemingly genuinely unrehearsed conversations as foreign tourists with people on the street in New York, including Beck Bennett puzzling where he was on a map that turned out to be of Chicago, and Kyle Mooney asking how to say “jazz club.”

The preceding 75 minutes were less entertaining.  A Mothers Day cold open with Vanessa Bayer as Hillary Clinton and Sasheer Zamata as Michelle Obama was just an excuse for a catfight gag, and the Theron monologue brought the writing staff’s obsession with writing musical monologues to its inevitable conclusion:  a song about the fact that the host couldn’t sing.

The week’s Mothers Day-themed game show sketch sounded like a bright idea, with the contestants, including Theron, being the children of the host (McKinnon) and all the questions being about their relationship, but although there were a few funny bits about e-mails she’d sent them (“Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Celery Salad”), it didn’t go deep enough.

A pair of franchises returned.  First there was the Girlfriends talk show with Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong, which as always played off the Bryant character’s discomfort, but the dynamic this time was a bit different–instead of the guest being someone who threatened the friendship between the hosts, it was their ex-drama teacher (Theron), who talked about sex too much for the Bryant character’s prudery.  The change didn’t help.  Also, the piece that stars the show’s sound-effects crew, and also Nasim Pedrad, as a motivational speaker whose every movement is choreographed to a sound or musical cue, this time with Theron as her friend and virtual duplicate, was merely a repetition.

Two sketches were just strange.  A very elaborate pretaped piece that included CG animation turned out to hinge on Mike O’Brien as an ex-cop who was very badly trying his hand at supplying voices for cartoons (the explanation of why he’d gotten the part was that he was the director’s AA sponsor), a great deal of effort for almost no return.  And what started out as a parody of Gidget movies and turned into an excuse for a dead whale prop (two, actually) to explode fake blood and guts on Theron and Taran Killam had, for no real reason, an undercurrent about child seduction, when it turned out that Killam’s character was a 22-year old and Theron’s was 13.

The big event on Weekend Update was a live appearance by the real Barbara Walters, whose retirement next week brought her on to goodnaturedly “complain” about the lampoons of her over the years–the best part was the montage of those sketches that preceded her, including the great Gilda Radner bits that helped put SNL on the map almost 40 years ago, although Walters was a good sport about a jab at The View.  The return of Bobby Moynihan’s Drunk Uncle was the same as every other Drunk Uncle appearance.  More generally, enough weeks have gone by since Seth Meyers’ departure that it seems fair to wonder if Cecily Strong and Colin Jost are ever going to offer much as an Update team.  Jost, in particular, started off bland and has so far stayed that way.

One more SNL left in the season!  Next week should have plenty of callbacks and no shortage of cameos, as it’s Andy Samberg’s turn to return in triumph, with musical guests St. Vincent.


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."