SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Emma Stone" Episode 1712 -- Pictured: (l-r) Beck Bennett, Mikey Day, Kate McKinnon, Emma Stone, Kyle Mooney, and Aidy Bryant during the "High School Theater Show" sketch on December 3, 2016 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Emma Stone” Episode 1712 — Pictured: (l-r) Beck Bennett, Mikey Day, Kate McKinnon, Emma Stone, Kyle Mooney, and Aidy Bryant during the “High School Theater Show” sketch on December 3, 2016 — (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

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

Love It

Woodbridge High School Student Theater Showcase – I love the maddeningly self-righteous Woodbridge crew, but with each new edition, I fear their appearances have run their course. But then I remember what is going on in the world, and I realize how much we need them. Where else are we going to get a joke about a modern Holocaust that is so nonchalant and so cutting? Or a Black Lives Matter joke that is so loopy? And you know this is the only we can hear Aidy Bryant say, “Yep. You guessed it. I have AIDS.”

Keep It
Trump Re-Tweets – Much of SNL’s political Trump sketches have struggled to go beyond “yes, this is something that actually happened.” But this time, at least there is some formal inventiveness in the theoretical dramatization of the scenes behind the Donald’s re-tweets. For future reference, though, for bits like these to really hit, I recommend going completely surreal, as when Trump confuses a plate of mashed potatoes for a picture of himself and when Steve Bannon walks in as the Grim Reaper.

The Candle song actually works better as PSA than comedy (the comedy’s fine, though)…Good call, The Hunt for Hil – those photos of people who ran into Clinton in the woods really do have a Bigfoot feel…Colin and Michael’s best jokes this week? “Ohio, Pennsylvania, Russia…” for the former, “Starring Kevin James!” for the latter…Leslie Jones obviously calls on men to up their game, but I’m more interested about how she marks time by the cancellation of Martin…The Cleaning Crew Christmas Show gives us quite a unique picture of Santa, and quite frankly their performance could stand to be even more shameless…Big Parts, Small Actresses is mostly just an excuse for Kate McKinnon to do her thang…Wells for Boys is sensitivity I can get behind, but also, what is that about getting back to watch Y Tu Mamá También?


Half Leave It/Half Love It

Rachel from Friends – I was all set to be mostly dismissive. This bit may have a welcome anarchic streak (via the perfectly pastiche-y cutaways), but otherwise it is just lazy reference comedy. But then Jennifer Aniston shows up, despite this being one of the least likely candidates for an Impersonation Confrontation Cameo. Vanessa has done her Rachel only once before, and this time is just as minimalist to the point of pointlessness. So Jen pulls no punches and says what we are all thinking (or at least what I’m thinking): “Vanessa, what are you doing?” and the even sharper “Is it a great bit, though?” It may be buzz marketing for Office Christmas Party (co-starring Vanessa), but at least there’s a story behind that.

Leave It
I really don’t want to be down on Emma Stone’s Monologue; it’s got a lovely premise (returning to SNL is like high school homecoming for Emma), but the execution needs more oomph…The Math Posters get derailed by a hot dog fanatic who tries to be sloppy-sexy but mostly ends up incoherent…The Nativity scene makes a fair point (surely after giving birth, Mary would rather rest than welcome so many visitors), but does not go much beyond that.

Emma Stone
On a scale of “Emma Stone, Oscar nominee” to “Emma Stone, happy to be here,” the third outing from Ms. Stone is very much on the latter end. I mean, I think it’s pretty clear that this is how it is going to be every time she stops by Studio 8H. She loves it there! Does she love it enough to become the first female member of the 10-Timers Club? If so, she could use some more starmaking performances than she has in this episode. The hot dog-chomping poster model doesn’t quite cut it.

Shawn Mendes
On a scale of Justin Bieber to Justin Timberlake, Shawn Mendes is not obnoxious like the former, but he is not quite as mature as the latter. He cuts a teen idol figure, and he croons teen idol-style pop rock, but he does not have huge swaths of screaming fans. I am sure he has some following, but for a performer of his ilk to make it on SNL, he usually has to be a phenomenon. Mendes by comparison just feels so run-of-the-mill. Plus, the lyrics to “Treat You Better” are kind of creepy.

Letter Grades:
Trump Retweets – B
Emma Stone’s Monologue – C
Woodbridge High School Student Theater Showcase (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+
Candle – B
Posters – C
The Hunt for Hil – B
Shawn Mendes performs “Mercy” – B-

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Leslie Jones – B
Rachel from Friends – C-/B+

Cleaning Crew Christmas Show – B-
Big Parts, Small Actresses – B
Wells for Boys – B
Shawn Mendes performs “Treat You Better” – C
Nativity – C