SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Kristen Wiig" Episode 1711 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kate McKinnon as Napoleon, Pete Davidson, Kristen Wiig, Cecily Strong, Sasheer Zamata, and Leslie Jones during "Kristen Wiig's Thanksgiving Monologue" on November 19, 2016 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Kristen Wiig” Episode 1711 — Pictured: (l-r) Kate McKinnon as Napoleon, Pete Davidson, Kristen Wiig, Cecily Strong, Sasheer Zamata, and Leslie Jones during “Kristen Wiig’s Thanksgiving Monologue” on November 19, 2016 — (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

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

Love It

Kristen Wiig’s Monologue – The world is perpetually in need of good Thanksgiving songs, so “Thanksgiving freak” Kristen Wiig gives us a ditto supposedly about the origins of Turkey Day. But first, she fidgets with her instruments and the placement of props, in a deconstruction of form worthy of Will Ferrell. Dropping by are Steve Martin and Will Forte – big-name cameos that could distract, but since Santa Claus is already there, and Sacajawea is paying for dinner with her own coins, they just add to the wittily written, delightfully rhyming cacophony.

The Bubble is the deceptive utopia we’ve all been waiting for…Anderson Cooper 360° is a whole series of brick jokes mashed together, with a timely twist for the ages.

Keep It

Trump Cold Opening – The scene at Trump National Golf Club feels like more a statement of purpose than a rigorous attempt at killer comedy. Sure, there are jokes to be had, but this is not a singular effort. It is a reflection of a widespread attitude. If this sketch is to be believed, then Trump will spend his time in office googling info he probably should have known ahead of time, deferring to his VP for all decisions, and using that same VP for cover from impeachment. This is an understandable comic stance, but not one that stands out, because it feels like everyone is taking it.

Secret Word was a recurring sketch dogged by ungodly repetition when Kristen Wiig was a cast member, but this edition actually has some variations to offer…The Target ad offering a space to just take a timeout from life is actually a service we could all use…The saga of the QVC Guest Host Audition Reels is awfully esoteric, but welcomingly bizarre…Michael and Colin have had the week to come up with metaphors about Trump’s presidential prep (“billionaire go night-night in his big boy bed”) and also Dwayne “The Scissors” Johnson…Pete Davidson’s commentaries may be perennially weed-fueled, but the election has left him more clear-eyed than ever…Che’s improbably cheery neighbor Willie is always disturbing, and apparently Thanksgiving makes him disgusting…A view from an apartment right alongside the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade provides a nifty visual trick…Is there any end to the feline puns (Furonica, “find Him-a-layan on the couch,” “regular Katt Williams”) of Whiskers R We? Meow.


Leave It

Surprise Sue – The latest appearance from Kristen Wiig’s overly excitable surprise-ruiner is not bad, per se, but as a heavily formulaic recurring sketch, it gets graded on a curve. I will certainly laugh when Wiig eats an entire pillow or attempts to walk with her legs locked up, but if you’ve seen one Surprise Sue sketch, then you’ve seen ’em all. Without any significant twist, there is simply not a compelling enough reason for this latest version to exist.

Kristen Wiig
On a scale of “Kristen Wiig the cast member” to “Kristen Wiig the guest,” this episode offers an SNL version of Wiig that we are not too used to seeing. During her tenure on the show, she was undoubtedly, and deservingly, a star, but she eventually garnered a reputation in some corners for being so at the expense of everyone else, dominating with loud, often one-note recurring characters. In her second time as host, her roles are either part of the ensemble or co-leads. She brings a couple of characters back, but one is a little subdued, and the other is weirdly relegated to the 12:50 slot. This teamwork approach serves her and the show well.

The xx
On a scale of Sleigh Bells to St. Vincent, the xx are firmly ensconced in the set of inscrutable musical guests sure to confound much of SNL’s audience. They are hard to pin down – and that’s a good thing! This English alternative trio has taken its style from the turn of the century and cleaned it up for 2016, assimilated the iciest aspects of ’80s new wave, thrown together some urban cowboy outfits, stuck it all in a blender, and garnished it with trance samples. It may be out-there, but the xx clearly know what they are doing.

Letter Grades:
Donald Trump Cold Opening – B
Kristen Wiig’s Monologue – A-
The Bubble – B+
Secret Word – B-
Anderson Cooper 360° (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-
Target – B
QVC Guest Host Audition Reels – B
The xx perform “On Hold” – B+

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Pete Davidson – B-
Willie – B

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – B
Whiskers R We – B
The xx perform “I Dare You” – B
Surprise Sue – C+