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

Virginia State Capitol – If all else fails, write a sketch about a group of people who just don’t get it, and have Kenan react to them with maximum frustration. Although I have a distinct suspicion that there was no “all else” that failed and that this was instead a sketch that someone was mighty inspired to write from the beginning as soon as all the Virginia blackface nonsense was blowing up. All in all, this is an ingenious dramatization of the rationalization people come up with when attempting to minimize explosive behavior.

Thanks to the Black History Month Presentation, we now know that Kyle and Beck are allies of women AND minorities!

Keep It

Meet the Press – I did not watch the most recent episode of Meet the Press, so I have no idea if the real Chuck Todd and his guests were actually super-psyched to see Jeff Bezos’s genitals, but as a comic premise, it is heartening to see SNL commit to something so ridiculous in a political cold open. It is even a little reminiscent of the classic Nightline sketch featuring Steve Forbes as the obvious author of an anonymously written political memoir. It’s also always heartening to see the cold open stick with the same premise for the whole sketch instead of just parading various newsmakers of the week. It deviates a little from that when Kate’s Wilbur Ross shows up, but I can’t complain about him going on about ghosts talking in his ear.

Halsey uses her Monologue to assure that she is in fact from New Jersey…The Valentine’s Song offers some hard-to-forget images of inappropriate faces superimposed on lovers…The Parents Call sketch is kind of like a full-length version of that GEICO commercial, which it turns out is mostly a good thing…The Women of Congress short gives us some memorable phrases (“Maxine ‘Don’t Go Chasing’ Waters,” etc.), but it’s just begging to be stretched out into something longer…Michael and Colin have a so-so night overall, but they do kill it with the Gov. Northam runners…Melissa Villasenor looks more like Cher in Mamma Mia than she does Lady Gaga to my eyes, but I’m happy to see her fit in an impression however she can…I’m starting to appreciate Guy Who Just Bought a Boat now that his cluelessness is fake allyship (unless it’s sincere-but-misguided allyship)…As Maurice, Kenan gifts us with an enthusiastic portrayal of a webcam performer, and I give this sketch high marks for open-mindedness.

Leave It

Sorority Karaoke – Making sorority pledges do outrageous and offensive things as part of joining their sisterhood isn’t the most groundbreaking premise, but it does offer plenty of room to be hilariously wild. But the timing is all off, nobody seems to really be having that bad a time, and the choice of karaoke song (“What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes) doesn’t have anything to do with anything. It’s a little embarrassing how non-embarrassing their behavior is.

Them Trumps needed to expand the joke if it was going to come back like this…I appreciate what Mikey and Heidi are going for, but their Nico Slobkin and Brie Bacardi routine is a bit too sloppy…Same goes for the floppy, gassy Riverdale sketch, which is too bad because it really showcases Pete Davidson stretching his acting muscles.

Halsey The Host

CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

As soon as I heard this booking, I wondered what Halsey had done to make herself look like a viable host. And now that I have seen her episode, I still have that same question. She did not embarrass herself, and she was perfectly willing to play a variety of characters, instead of just herself over and over again, like so many non-actors are wont to do. But she never really stood out in any positive way either. Perhaps if the writers had given her some Jersey girl characters to sink her red hair into, maybe then it would have been a different story.

Halsey The MG

Halsey strikes me as the sort of artist who has been struggling much of her career to make music as weird as she is. Maybe she is fighting against label pressure, or maybe it’s part of the journey of developing a voice, or maybe I’m missing something and she actually is more unique than I’m giving her credit for. But at least as far as these performances go, I’m hearing some fairly standard pop compositions with sprinklings of R&B, and meanwhile, Halsey spends the entirety of one of her songs painting a giant face on a mural, and that’s certainly something I’ve never seen before on the SNL stage. Now she just needs to make something as unusual as that a regular part of her audio repertoire.

And now for some letter grades:

Meet the Press – B
Halsey’s Monologue – B-
Them Trumps – C
Virginia State Capitol (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+
Valentine’s Song – B-
Parents Call – B
Women of Congress – B
Halsey performs “Without Me” – B-
Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Melissa Villasenor – B
Nico Slobkin and Brie Bacardi – C
Guy Who Just Bought a Boat – B-
Sorority Karaoke – C
Black History Month Presentation – B+
Halsey performs “Eastside” – B
Maurice – B-
Riverdale – C

I’ll be back next week to let you know what I’m loving, keeping, and leaving from host Don Cheadle and musical guest Gary Clark Jr.!

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