February 2, 2014

THE SKED Review: “Saturday Night Live” with Melissa McCarthy


The unquestionable highlight of tonight’s SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE was brief but heartfelt:  the tail-end of Weekend Update, as Amy Poehler, Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen (wordlessly, as wandering sight-impaired former NY Governor David Paterson) and, inevitably, Bill Hader’s Stefon, all trooped in to bid farewell to co-anchor Seth Meyers on his way to take over Jimmy Fallon’s late-late night talk show slot.  It felt more like a generational passing of the torch than just a goodbye to Meyers, because with Samberg and Poehler having each won Golden Globes a few weeks ago, and Hader getting (deserved) raves for his performance alongside Kristen Wiig in Sundance’s The Skeleton Twins, the members of that whole era of SNL seem all at once to have passed on to the next stage in their careers.  Meyers was sincerely moved, and the segment also gracefully made a point of giving remaining anchor Cecily Strong some moments in the celebration (Stefon, dismissively:  “You barely know him!”).  All in all, very nicely done.

… and then there was the rest of the show.

Melissa McCarthy is a fearless physical comic with zero vanity, and by now a veteran host (this was her third time at center stage), but the show milked her willingness to be silly to remarkably little effect.  Everything was off from the start, a cold open with the premise that Broadway performers had to take over the Super Bowl halftime show, with McCarthy as an Ethel Merman-ish star.  The joke had no clear point (people on Broadway don’t know anything about football?), didn’t satirize any particular shows or performers aside from an aged Cats gag, and seemed to be mounted on the principle that old-school musicals from the 1930s were still Broadway’s stock in trade.

The monologue was a set-up for a wire battle between McCarthy and Bobby Moynihan, highlighted by McCarthy’s wired triple somersault and Taran Killam’s acting-like-he’s-dubbed master of the battle.  As with the open, it all seemed like an idea that had been sitting on a writers room shelf for too long.

The week’s retreads were soft.  We had the return of the largely pre-taped sketch where McCarthy played a violently angry character caught on various video feeds, this time a politician modeled after the Staten Island Congressman who recently threatened a NY1 reporter on camera, and the “Girlfriends Talk Show” with Aidy Bryant and Strong.  It seemed at first like the latter was going to change up its format, since Bryant’s character got to pick the guest (McCarthy as a recently divorced adult), but as usual, it became about Strong and the guest bonding in giggled conversation about sex as they excluded a bitter and puzzled Bryant.

The closest thing to a newly imagined sketch was one where a women’s group gathered to talk about their goals and vision boards, and while the other women wanted to lose weight and cook new dishes, McCarthy plotted revenge on the gangsters who had murdered her father.  Her matter-of-fact vengefulness in the suburban setting was funny, even if the bit didn’t go anywhere once it had established its premise.

Beyond that, there was of course a game show sketch, where McCarthy was the idiot contestant who kept making guesses that couldn’t possibly be right, and a pointless piece where McCarthy was a prickly maintenance worker who insisted on walking into a museum’s tableau vivant performance art exhibition, endlessly citing her unseen boss and getting into a fight with Nasim Pedrad’s faux-Frida Kahlo.  The very brief 12:55PM sketch had Bobby Moynihan’s voice-over recalling a marvelously romantic summer as we saw his actual interaction with McCarthy’s character, who messily ate spare-ribs and was furious that he let her box of food be thrown out.

Once again SNL needed its pre-tape group to bail out its mediocre live sketches, and there were two good ones this week.  One was a fake commercial for guys who pick up pathetic last-second Valentine’s Day gifts at CVS, and the other was a song tagged to Black History Month, which wittily had the three black cast members (count ’em!) intimidating a white class by pointedly invoking slavery.  A third piece was a return to the bit where Kyle Mooney interviews people on the street in a very low-tech (and seemingly improvised) way, this time about the Super Bowl.  It felt like a vaguer version of a Daily Show on-the-street bit.

SNL badly needs to recharge its batteries, and thanks to the Olympics, it won’t be back for a solid month, returning on March 1 with host and musical guest as-yet unannounced.


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."