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

No “Love It” sketches this week, although there are some moments that I love.

Keep It

Air Traffic Control – “Difficult-to-understand air traffic controller” is a fruitful sketch comedy premise, and SNL pulled off perhaps the best example of it ever back in the nineties with the mumbling Suel Forrester, a.k.a. Chris Kattan’s best recurring character. This edition is pretty good, too, and a satisfying utilization of McAvoy’s natural accent. But it would have been even better if there were moments when we could actually understand the Scottish folks. The key to these types of scenes working is that the confused people are given just enough rope to think that they might be able to crack the code of the strange speakers. At least the random detail of the plane’s passengers being Kylie Jenner’s brand integration team (but not Kylie herself) is a nice touch.

Return to Narnia – You know, The Chronicles of Narnia has a pretty important place in SNL history, so I was kind of hoping that the person at Mr. Tumnus’ door was going to be Andy Samberg and/or Chris Parnell. But I am all for new sketches being their own things, and this one has a satisfyingly unique point of view. I can buy that there is a certain nerdy girl (“lazy Hermione,” in the parlance of the sketch) with a thing for Narnia’s resident faun, and “put my thumbnus in your bumnus” is a line I will not soon forget.

Virgin Hunk is the latest quick-hit Bachelor parody with some quick-hit laughs (“Rest Area, MO,” “20-frunk years old,” “I mostly do PR: Puerto Ricans”)…Mr. H is a welcome corrective to the “white teacher saves inner city student” trope…It’s nice to see Leslie Jones sing the praises of The U.E.S., her current home neighborhood, in light of it being so much more livable than her previous homes, but this is one music video sketch that would have benefited from even more wackiness…I’m not sure what Charmin was even looking for in this focus group, but McAvoy and Kenan at least offered unique flavors of crazy…Michael and Colin‘s best moment in this edition comes courtesy of Mr. Che’s wide-eyed discovery of the truth about Roger Stone…A Soulja Boy impression seems rather pointless in 2019, but Chris Redd gives the proper oomph to the off-brand video games he’s hawking…I’m always happy to see Cathy Anne and hear her stories about holding an Arby’s bathroom hostage…Kyle and Beck return with their overgrown, marvelously uncouth Brothers, and while the shock value has worn off since the first time, the commitment is still admirable…“I Love My Dog” is likable enough, because you can’t go entirely wrong with a music video that features plenty of different dogs…The New Orleans vacationers are the sort of obnoxious married couple characters that SNL can pull off in its sleep.

Leave It

Tucker Carlson Tonight – Here is a sketch with individual elements that I like but that does not add up to a satisfying whole with a clear point of view. Cecily’s Jeanine Pirro is always reliable for some absurd bigotry, while the debuts of Kate’s practically melting Wilbur Ross (“Do I look into the spaceship?”) and surprise guest Steve Martin’s subtly grotesque Roger Stone both have plenty of virtues. If only this weren’t a typical this-person-and-then-this-person-and-then-this-person cold open carousel.

I remember James McAvoy showing off his “shredded calves” in his Monologue, but not much else.

The Host

CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

James McAvoy kicked off the night by revealing how seldom he is called upon to use his own accent, and sure enough, his SNL debut was marked by his ability to speak in 1,000 voices. Alas, he was never really given a fully fleshed-out character to match his accent talents. But his potential knack for knocking it out of the park is self-evident, and I do not want it to go unappreciated.

The MG

I mostly know Meek Mill for his feuds with Drake (EDIT: I totally brainfarted and forgot that  I also know Meek from his unfortunate legal saga), and in fact before this episode, I am not sure I had ever heard any of his songs. This appearance does nothing to convince me that that was a mistake. The trappings of his performances and the nature of his flow all seem pretty typical of the last twenty or so years of hip-hop and do not appear to be pushing the genre forward in any way. His music is at least chill and agreeable, but not much more than that.

And now for some letter grades:

Tucker Carlson Tonight – C

James McAvoy’s Monologue – C

Virgin Hunk – B

Mr. H – B-

Air Traffic Control – B

The U.E.S. – B-

Charmin – B-

Meek Mill ft. Fabolous performs “Going Bad”/”Uptown Vibes” – B-

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Soulja Boy – B-
Cathy Anne – B

Return to Narnia – B-

Brothers – B-

Meek Mill performs “Championships” – C+

“I Love Dogs” – B-

New Orleans Vacation – B-

I’ll be back in two weeks to let you know what I’m loving, keeping, and leaving from host and musical guest Halsey!