CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

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

Ken Instagram – This redux is not quite as masterful as the Barbie Instagram bit from the Donald Glover episode, which was my pick for the best sketch of last season. Luckily, it’s different enough to stand on its own and still be quite hilarious, thanks to Pete Davidson and Heidi Gardner’s daffy suggestions and Rachel Brosnahan’s unique darkness. Alas, it is also different in a couple of bad ways, as the timing isn’t always perfect and the ominous piano is unnecessary. But that’s just evidence of how difficult it is to capture magic in a bottle more than once. In this case, I’ll settle for almost-magic.

Keep It

Pete Davidson and John Mulaney – It is quite clear – if it wasn’t already before – that John Mulaney is much better at turning his pop culture musings into a stand-up routine than Pete Davidson is. Their shared enthusiasm for the bizarre adventures that Clint Eastwood gets up to in The Mule is palpable, but Mulaney is really the only one of the two able to put it together into some cogent observations. Also, I seem to have forgotten one of The Mule‘s two threesomes.

Alec Baldwin’s Trump is still so far past his usefulness date, but dang it, Deal or No Deal: Government Shutdown Edition is a decent idea to put this whole mess into perspective…I like a good silly name list as much as anyone, but Action 9 News could have offered a little more creativity, although at least we get to hear Pete say “Nanu nanu”…I’m putting Millennial Millions in the “Keep It” field, but only because I laughed at Pete’s character being an intern at Burger King; otherwise, this is more realistically depressing than funny…Regarding Michael and Colin, Mr. Che gets the most laughs by attributing “Don’t go chasing waterfalls” to Dr. King (although it is worth noting that Buzzfeed often does fine reporting)…Kate McKinnon’s Elizabeth Warren impression is a decent facsimile of the Massachusetts senator, but it’s more pessimistic than I think may be warranted…Indeed, going after the Kool-Aid Man is the right way to increase the ridiculousness in Gillette’s toxic masculinity commercial.

Leave It

Tabitha – Not only does this talk show parody present a toxic version of marriage, it is rather tame in how it lampoons that type of relationship. That is, until the end, when Cecily Strong’s character reveals that her marriage is suffering because of her husband’s second family, and she’s treating it the same way that all the other wives treat their husband’s misbehavior (i.e., like they’re naughty dogs). This is a prime example of a sketch that ought to have gone back to the writers’ room to re-orient the focus around the most outrageous element.

Rachel Brosnahan’s Monologue does not go beyond “Let’s sing about how we’re feeling now!”…The Leave Me Alurn ad has a decent concept (vacationing women attempt to ward off unwanted strangers), but the product’s name sounds like it should have something to do with Madea…The Raunchiest Miss Rita has too many bleeps for its jokes to come across effectively.

The Host

CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

Rachel Brosnahan is one of those hosts who fits in so thoroughly with the SNL cast, which has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, it’s clear that she is a total pro who can effectively deliver whatever the writers ask of her. But on the other hand, she does not stick out as a hosting star. There is some danger that I could very well forget her Studio 8H debut just a few months from now. But while looking closely at her performances, I am pleased enough to say that I would like to see her come back and really be given some future opportunities to shine.

The MG

Wow, Greta Van Fleet sound so much like Led Zeppelin. I’m all for up-and-coming bands evoking classic rock, but this may be a bit much. When I first heard GVH, I actually thought it was awesome how closely they resembled one of my favorite bands of all time. But the more and more I hear from them, the clearer it becomes that they need to find something more unique in their own sound and style. Lead singer Josh Kiszka’s Suspiria-style overlaid torso accessory is a start.

And now for some letter grades:

Deal or No Deal: Government Shutdown Edition – B-

Rachel Brosnahan’s Monologue – C

Action 9 News – B-

Leave Me Alurn – C

Millennial Millions –  C

The Raunchiest Miss Rita – C-

Greta Van Fleet performs “Black Smoke Rising” – B-

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Elizabeth Warren – B-
Pete Davidson and John Mulaney – B

Tabitha – C

Kool-Aid – B

Greta Van Fleet performs “You’re the One” – B-

Ken Instagram – B+

I’ll be back next week to let you know what I’m loving, keeping, and leaving from host James McAvoy and musical guest Meek Mill!