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

Can I Play That? – The push to avoid having actors of one identity group play characters of any other identity group is, I believe, generally well-intentioned, and it has done real good in terms of achieving better representation in the entertainment industry. But it can also be taken to ridiculous lengths that forget that the point of acting is to (typically) play someone other than yourself. But at least the tying-oneself-in-knots and constriction that result from that ridiculousness are, we now know, a great formula for an SNL game show parody. This could make for a decent recurring sketch, considering that, even though the joke has already been fully established, these controversies and conundrums tend to keep cropping up.

PowerPoint Workshop – People of a certain age being confused by technology younger than them is a premise that has been done to death in comedy. That would seem to be an ill omen for this scene about a couple of receptionists trying out PowerPoint for the first time. But it has a couple of killer elements going for it: the unique creativity of the messy visual gags and the emotionally raw commitment of Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon. Their revelations about their shortcomings beyond slideshow-making are not exactly necessary, but that is not a problem as they fit right in with the characterization they establish within minutes.

Keep It

Baskin Johns – Heidi Gardner returns as nervous Goop employee Baskin Johns, and this time she is joined by her co-worker Fifer James, played by goopy Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow. This cameo does not exactly justify the pseudo-science of Goop products, but it is heartening that Gwyneth is able to laugh at herself. Although, perhaps that makes her a somewhat devious businesswoman? I don’t know what to think for sure. This whole situation might be a bit tangled, but as far as I can surmise, everyone involved here has a decent sense of perspective.

I wish that SNL had made a sketch that took place right before or right after the R. Kelly Interview instead of the interview itself, but it at least features an enjoyably loopy performance from Kenan as the beleaguered R&B singer/alleged abuser…Idris Elba’s Monologue is a fairly heartening NYC-based origin story, and I am digging that green suit…Just about all I know about the Momo meme is the creepy face, which is justification enough to doll up Kate McKinnon as the chicken-humanoid Bok Bok’s mascot…The Impossible Hulk is a cheeky and kind-of astute presentation of the angry “emboldened white lady” stereotype…Gold Diggers of the WNBA could use a more assured premise, but it’s got some agreeably wacky details, like Idris informing Leslie Jones’ (super-tall) baller that she’s pregnant…Regarding Michael and Colin, the moment most worth mentioning is Che appealing to the crowd, “Okay, well, whose side do you take?”…Pete Davidson discusses a dicey topic (whether or not to listen to R. Kelly’s music anymore) rather dicily, but his final message about donating to combat the ills of artists’ transgressions is surely worth hearing…Leslie Jones has some very specific requests for her funeral service, whenever that should be, and if nothing else, I admire her conviction.

Leave It

The Soccer Broadcast mostly features Idris Elba making off-color jokes, which are kind of amusing but not very imaginative…The humor emanating from The Great Rudolpho is pretty much exactly what you’d expect, until the twist at the end, which is a bit too little, too late…The final sketch about struggling actors (titled “Supportive Friend,” according to SNL‘s  YouTube channel) features some committed frustration from Beck Bennett, but it barely counts as a scene.

The Host

CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

On a scale of British tough guys, Idris Elba is one of the most versatile around. He often doesn’t really come across as primarily tough, though, probably because of how handsome he also is. Anyway, those qualities do not factor too much into his SNL hosting style, save for the versatility, which is clear insofar as he does not really play the same character type in more than one sketch. He does it all with aplomb, though not quite mastery of the form. But that cool and collected confidence is always appreciated.

The MG

On a scale of sensitive R&B singers, Khalid is young and clearly talented, but I think he’s just at the beginning in his development of where he truly is as a singer. His two songs here, “Talk” and “Better,” have plenty of the requisite feeling, but he does not leave me quite as emotionally stunned as I would hope.

And now for some letter grades:

R. Kelly Interview – B-
Idris Elba’s Monologue – B
Can I Play That? (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-
Bok Bok’s – B
PowerPoint Workshop – A-
The Impossible Hulk – B
Gold Diggers of the WNBA – B-
Khalid performs “Talk” – B-
Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Baskin Jones – B-
Pete Davidson – B-
Leslie Jones – B
Soccer Broadcast – C
The Great Rudolpho – C
Khalid performs “Better” – B-
Supportive Friend – C-

I’ll be back in three weeks to let you know what I’m loving, keeping, and leaving from host Sandra Oh and musical guest Tame Impala!

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