November 24, 2013

THE SKED REVIEW: SNL with Josh Hutcherson


It’s too easy to play the Hunger Games/”from hunger” card, so let’s just say that with one endearingly goofy exception, host Josh Hutcherson was barely even a presence on one of the weaker SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE episodes of the season.  His–and the show’s–one notable bit was a post-Update piece in which he (mostly) lip-synched The Outfield’s “Your Love” as his side of the dialogue in a conversation with Vanessa Bayer’s character, complete with a back-up band and 1980s outfits.  It was silly and pretty damn charming, and Hutcherson, freed of worrying about cuecards, seemed to be having fun with it.

The rest was negligible.  SNL wasted no time getting the required Hunger Games bit over with, turning the monologue into a Reaping parody, with the best beat coming from Cecily Strong volunteering a la Katniss Everdeen to take the place of chosen Noel Wells–who would have preferred the screen time.  Here, as in almost all of the night’s sketches, Hutcherson was little more than the straight man.

So, for example, he was the new assistant to Beck Bennett in the latter’s showcase piece, in which he played an industry-leading CEO with the physicality of a baby.  Bennett completely committed to this idea, and some of his slapstick was inspired, but it felt more like a stand-up bit with Hutcherson and the others as glorified extras rather than a full-fledged sketch.  (By the end, you were already dreading this becoming Bennett’s first franchise character, and the number of times you’d have to watch him doing the same schtick.)

Thinking of franchise sketches, two of the show’s less notable ones were brought back for the night.  Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong did their Girlfriends show, in which Strong’s slightly more popular teen girl brings on a surprise guest who mortifies supposed BFF Bryant.  This time the guest was played by Hutcherson, which at least brought a slightly different dynamic from the sketch’s other versions, which were about Bryant’s jealousy of Strong having a new friend.  Also back was the sketch where Strong and Bobby Moynihan, thinking they’re going to be fired from some chain store (here it was Best Buy, with Hutcherson as the manager), insult all the other employees and then it turns out they weren’t getting fired at all.  Apart from Taran Killam’s serial killer face, it was long and unfunny.

Hutcherson was also an onlooker in the 12:55AM sketch, a Thanksgiving special where Vanessa Bayer played a turkey whose human boyfriend invited her home to meet the family for holiday dinner, it apparently never having occurred to him what would be on the menu.  (Not that the logic was worth worrying about, but it was actually unclear whether she was meant to be a person-sized talking turkey or a regular turkey, since at the end when she stormed out of the house, suddenly she’d turned into a gobble-gobble bird.)  The high point of this one was Bayer eating corn out of Hutcherson’s hand.

All of that, though, was better than the sketch set in an Animal Hospital where the joke was that the incredibly incompetent employees (including Hutcherson) told all the pet owners that their animals were dead and thrown away, except that it turned out that they weren’t.  This would have had to be in much, much worse taste even to be ugly-funny; as it was, it was just a mess.

The pre-taped pieces, which have rescued other episodes this season, were below-par this time.  Best was one that presented a club-dancer’s entire career from next big thing to hasbeen (he was Kyle Mooney, with Hutcherson as his manager) as taking place over the span of about 5 minutes in his apartment.  It was weird and clever, although to no real point.  Another piece, about subway performers who have to restrict their acts to small movements because of the crowded train cars, was only vaguely amusing, and the third, in which Mike O’Brien (and Hutcherson as his brother) interviewed bugs on where they were going, felt like something from a comedy website.

Topical humor wasn’t sharp tonight either.  The cold open, about George Zimmerman’s recent arrest for assaulting his girlfriend, fell completely flat, and a short Update boasted one cute Road-Runner joke.  The only desk piece was Aidy Bryant’s Worst Lady On An Airplane bit, which did little but hit all the expected travel gags (bringing food onto the plane, hogging the bathroom, etc).

If the show was tame tonight because Hutcherson lacked zing as a comic performer (probably unfair–the show perks up for a great host, but otherwise its quality doesn’t usually depend on who’s hosting), things may get better when SNL returns in 2 weeks–after a rerun of the Kerry Washington/Eminem episode–with comedy guy Paul Rudd as host and musical guest One Direction.

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."