SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Casey Affleck" Episode 1714 -- Pictured: Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton during the "Hillary Actually" sketch on December 17, 2016 -- (Photo by: Becky Vu/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Casey Affleck” Episode 1714 — Pictured: Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton during the “Hillary Actually” sketch on December 17, 2016 — (Photo by: Becky Vu/NBC)

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

News Cult Entertainment Editor Jeffrey Malone watches every new episode of Saturday Night Live and then organizes the sketches into the following categories: “Love It” (potentially Best of the Season-worthy), “Keep It” (perfectly adequate), or “Leave It” (in need of a rewrite, to say the least). Then he concludes with assessments of the host and musical guest.

Love It

Hillary Actually – I generally cut SNL slack for not having the sharpest political satire around, but I do encourage more adventurous ideas, and this is exactly what I am talking about. Using a movie parody to make sense of the current twist in the election is what SNL is uniquely equipped to do. Hillary wooing an elector in the style of Love Actually’s cue cards scene may be over-the-top, but it rings through and through with essential truth.

I love the hacky comedy in the nativity play covered by New York Now and wish it had lasted even longer and gotten even more ridiculous…At Frankie’s Ale House, it is not just the guys looking to score who are deploying faux shyness: it’s also the bouncer, the guy calling 911, the EMT, and even God.

Keep It

Santa Encounter – The first appearance of Kate McKinnon’s unlucky-in-abduction Ms. Rafferty was a blast of otherworldly goodness. The second edition perfected the formula. This third go-round shows the limits of the premise. An encounter with Santa does not have quite the same type of legendary appeal as capture by aliens. Also, the shock value has worn off, and with everyone more practiced, the chances for breaking are less likely. Still, I am not going to complain when Kate describes how this is not the worst time she has had on all fours.

In our weekly check-in at Trump Tower, we discover how much of a dead ringer Beck Bennett is for Vladimir Putin…Combative Dunkin’ Donuts Superfan Casey Affleck shows us what happens when all the loyal customers show up for the commercial…The inexplicably gay robots at the Microsoft Tech Expo examine overly sensitive minefields, but the whole sketch is a little too timid…Jingle Barack, a sort of “Christmas in Hollis” redux, is a festive and wistful goodbye to the first black POTUS…Michael and Colin get their biggest laughs from the all-potato diet and “phubbing”…With Fred Armisen stopping by, he and Vanessa Bayer don the stereotypical Russian garb as Putin’s Two Best Friends From Growing Up – the gossipy premise is firmly established by now, but the details (e.g., Putin collects “fun, vintage sodas”) are endless…The naughty elves are back in Mrs. Claus and the Christmas Feast, and somehow I have warmed up to their charms a bit.

Leave It

Monologue – It’s the end of the year, it’s the third episode in three weeks, everybody forgot to write a monologue. I understand, but that doesn’t make it okay. Saying “I’m not going to sing about it” is all well and good – we’re not clamoring for the umpteenth musical monologue, after all – but if you’re not going to sing, you’ve gotta do something. A rookie host passing his monologue off on vets like Alec Baldwin and John Goodman may be cheap, but if that’s what you’re gonna do, just do that. Instead, we just get some teeth-gritting that feels like teeth-pulling to fill 3 minutes of air time.

Casey Affleck
When Casey Affleck was first announced as host, I was more than a little wary, given his lack of comedic experience. Sure, plenty of primarily dramatic actors have found success on the show, but the quiet, introspective style he is known for is not the sort of dramatic acting style that generally lends itself well to comedy. Ultimately, Affleck acquits himself perfectly adequately. He seems to enjoy doing silly voices, particularly a post-ironic Borat impression.

Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper gets a lot of critical praise, but with the album release landscape being what it is in 2016 (i.e., riven with exclusives and secrecy), he is one of those artists you can easily miss out on if you’re not specifically looking for him. His two tracks tonight (“Finish Line/Drown” and “Same Drugs”) have a fun multi-genre influence and his verbal acuity is undeniable, but I am most struck by his decision to wear overalls. I assume he is going for a festive vibe, but he comes off more like Rappin’ Super Mario.

I’ll be back on January 14 to let you know what I’m loving, keeping, and leaving from host Felicity Jones and musical guest Sturgill Simpson!