SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Tom Hanks" Episode 1708 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kenan Thompson, Beck Bennett, Tom Hanks as David Pumpkins, and Kate McKinnon during the "Haunted Elevator" sketch on October 22, 2016 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Tom Hanks” Episode 1708 — Pictured: (l-r) Kenan Thompson, Beck Bennett, Tom Hanks as David Pumpkins, and Kate McKinnon during the “Haunted Elevator” sketch on October 22, 2016 — (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

This review was originally posted on News Cult in October 2016.

Love It

Black Jeopardy – If memory serves me correctly, Tom Hanks is the first guest to appear on both Celebrity Jeopardy and Black Jeopardy. I thought this concept had been played out, as it has already explored well-meaning white people who don’t mean to be offensive, and black people who defy easy categorization. But I had not considered a possible appearance from the “Make America Great Again” crowd, which at first seems like an easy target for meanness, but instead there is a pivot towards common ground like conspiracy theories, that one guy who fixes everything, and Tyler Perry. Race and class are both big factors in this country.

100 Floors of FrightsSNL enters a late, compelling entry for the most popular Halloween costume of 2016: David S. Pumpkins. Any questions? At first, Hanks’ Mr. Pumpkins gives off a Paul and Phil vibe of “goofy ruining spooky.” He and his skeleton pals are certainly delightfully out-there, but there is a lingering sense that this sketch may have blown its load too early with a too-soon reveal of the main attraction, but then it takes it to another level by doubling (or 73-ing) down on Pumpkins and saying, “We knew just how to scare you the whole time.”

Michael and Colin get in their usual mix of electoral frustration and witty asides, and they also take it to the next level with a few punchlines that take an unexpected turn…The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party first emerged during the 2012 campaign, so it is only right that she should share her thoughts about this election, warning us about “Syrian referees,” having to show our IUD’s when voting, and “man-terrupting”…Tom Hanks’ Ron Howard impression is a little inexplicable, but the devastating existentialism from Cecily and Kate’s French hosts of America’s Funniest Pets is always welcome.

Keep It
Halloween Block Party Meeting – When breaking down a sketch like this one, it falls apart into a bunch of random pieces violently thrown together. But the actual final product is held firm by the conviction of committed performers. There is not really a joke to a witch and Dracula acting out a story inspired by “Don’t Stop Believin,’” but in the hands of Tom Hanks and Cecily Strong, it feels like something we more or less needed to see.

The 3rd Presidential Debate displays some signs of exhaustion, but finds its moments when it kicks back and says “That’s a bingo!”…“America’s Dad” Tom Hanks uses his Monologue to find a cozy metaphor to help get the country through its growing pains…The new CBS show “Broken” makes the obvious joke about the proliferation of comedies-in-theory and adds memorably specific details, like every family member being diagnosed with depression on the same day…Leslie Jones goes for a little more applause than laughter in her defiant stance on hacking, but hell, she deserves it…Hanks offers an alternate version of hero pilot Sully, proving he is just as adept at playing former heroes desperate to hang on to their glory…A Girl’s Halloween is more disturbing than funny, but sometimes – as when vomit is on pizza – disturbing and funny collide.

Leave It
As is only right with a master like Hanks, this is the first episode of the season with no “Leave It” sketches!

Tom Hanks
On a scale of Tom Hanks’ first appearance to Tom Hanks’ fifth appearance, this is Tom Hanks’ ninth appearance. That is to say, the only things that have changed are the people around him. He is still full of energy and ready to craft unforgettable characters like David S. Pumpkins and Doug the Black Jeopardy contestant. He is a star, and a team player: he has a prominent role in nearly every sketch, but this is a strong night for the cast as well. America’s Dad was hosting basically every season in the late ’80s, but now his rate is only about once a decade. What up with that?!

Lady GaGa
On a scale of everyone else to Lady GaGa, she is still GaGa, so don’t be confused by how (relatively) dressed-down she is. I had been hoping she would perform her real rockin’ stomper “Perfect Illusion,” one of my favorite songs of the year, but she chooses to lean a little country, which is okay, too. “Perfect Illusion” would require something kinetic, but “A-Yo” and “Million Reasons” allow her to keep it steady and really show off those pipes.

Letter Grades:
Third Presidential Debate – B
Tom Hanks’ Monologue – B
Black Jeopardy – B+
Halloween Block Party Meeting – B-
Broken – B-
100 Floors of Frights (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-
Lady GaGa performs “A-Yo” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B+
Leslie Jones – B
The Girl You Wish Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party – B+

Sully – B
A Girl’s Halloween – B-
Lady GaGa performs “Million Reasons” – B
America’s Funniest Pets – B+