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

Roach-Ex – Man, maybe all SNL sketches should be under three minutes long. Perhaps every once in a while, you can bust out a ten-minute behemoth, but there is plenty to be said in favor of economical storytelling. The twist of how visceral the fight against the roaches is just hits so hard with this approach.

The Extreme Baking Championship certainly offers a variety of ways for cakes to be awful, and for that, I am grateful…Jules “sees things a little differently,” which means that when I hear Beck Bennett say “a white hand touching a black hand, finally,” my funny bone knows that everything is going to be okay.

Keep It

Pound Puppy – The expectant puppy dog reaction shot is a useful option in the editor’s toolkit, and it is weaponized strikingly here. When you are trying to get it on, but then you see some big eyes calling to you from the floor, that is a mood killer, but it is also a formula for comedy. Add a giant stuffed animal love-making container to the equation, and we’ve definitely got something.

The SNL Monologue is an endangered species. Unless somebody wants to sing a song, it’s such an afterthought. The host says a little bit about himself (emphasis on “little”) without much of a comedic premise to the introduction, and then that’s pretty mych it. But at least when you have someone like Don Cheadle, the vibe is enjoyable enough…Fresh Takes rediscovers the value of centering a sketch around awkward high schoolers…Michael and Colin say what they can about the wall, but they really nail it with the European-style sirens suggesting the illusion of universal health care…Alex Moffat and Kate McKinnon as Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are a couple of kooky kids pretending not to gloat…Supercentenarian Mort Fellner‘s stories all have the same punchlines (really old people are dying!), but he generally has the right wordplay for the lethal reveal…The Biker Bar Fight is nothing too special, as we’ve seen the unlikely intrusion of music in standoffs on SNL before, but it is still a winning enough premise…Does Don Cheadle say “squeakiest green beans” in the Regal Promenade Pavilion sketch? There is definitely a lot of character to this event service.

Leave It

Celebrity Family Feud – The one current recurring sketch that is just as tired as the political material is the Celebrity Family Feud parody. In this edition of Oscar-nominated contestants, the impressions are generally technically accurate, but it feels like they are in eight different scenes. And the survey answers are nonsensical such that you cannot parse what the comedy of the bit is even supposed to be. I did appreciate Pete Davidson’s Rami Malek, though, who said the most with the least.

There’s a Trump Press Conference cold open, Alec Baldwin spouts some nonsense, yada yada yada.

The Host

CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

On a scale of hosts who have already had long and illustrious careers before their first time hosting, Don Cheadle isn’t set to retire from the entertainment biz anytime soon, while it’s also true he certainly could have MC’d SNL twenty years ago. But let’s not worry about what could’ve been, and instead revel in what we have. And what we have is a host wild-eyed enough to pull off the character of a cockroach vicious enough to sleep with some guy’s wife. That is a star-making performance, SNL-style.

The MG

On a scale of blues rockers in SNL history, there hasn’t been a whole lot of representation in this particular genre. Thus, Gary Clark Jr. is right around the top of the heap pretty much by default. But even if the competition were stiff, he would deliver. “This Land” is the sort of deeply felt personal message that also fits perfectly within society at large that any songwriter would dream of crafting. And Clark totally brings it on home with his tasty guitar solos and the just-as-delicious accompanying faces.

And now for some letter grades:

Trump Press Conference – C
Don Cheadle’s Monologue – B-
Fresh Takes – B-
Extreme Baking Championship – B+
Pound Puppy – B
Gary Clark Jr. performs “Pearl Cadillac” – B+
Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi – B
Jules – B+
Mort Fellner – B
Celebrity Family Feud – C
Biker Bar Fight – C+
Gary Clark Jr. performs “This Land” – B+
Roach-Ex (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-
Regal Promenade Pavilion – B

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

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