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

Holes – So Beck and Kyle discovered that clothes are just holes to cover up your bodily holes, and then they made a song about it, and now we get to bask in the joy of their wonder. It sounds like a cheesy ’80s power ballad, although the sartorial style is more reminiscent of Michael Bolton and other over-the-top soft rockers. And there’s even some “We Didn’t Start the Fire” influence there with the rhyming of Federico Fellini and Roberto Benigni. Wonderfully singular.

Chris Farley Song – One would think that Adam Sandler would have written a tribute song to his good buddy Chris Farley closer to the time of his passing back in 1997. But maybe the loss was just too painful to put the lyrics together back then. As far as I know, we’re not currently approaching any notable Farley-related anniversaries, but twenty years later is as good a time as any for one of SNL‘s best songsmiths to sing about one of SNL‘s biggest balls of energy. (Apparently Sandler already debuted this song on his recent Netflix special Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh, but it shows no signs of rust.)

Sandler kicks off the singing in his Monologue by going on about how NBC fired him way back when, and the kicker is that Pete Davidson thinks he’s already been fired…The beset-by-Snapchat War Zone Reporter sketch is mostly an excuse for Sandler to show off his silly voices, but damn if it doesn’t work when it works. (See also: Beck saying “hubba hubba”)…Romano Tours takes quite the (welcome) turn by emphasizing to its customers that if they’re suffering from any struggles in life, those struggles will still exist when they go on vacation…Rectix demonstrates that if you’re going to have a butt plug masquerading as an ED pill, then you ought to let Adam Sandler and Aidy Bryant hawk it…Kate McKinnon’s Elizabeth Warren comes out swinging with some really stinging burns on Biden, Mayor Pete, and “Beto O’Dork”…It turns out that Opera Man was what we needed all along to find the humor in this political moment.

Keep It

Sandler Family Reunion – It makes sense that every cast member wants to do an Adam Sandler impression. He’s SNL royalty, and it’s also a fairly easy mimic job: just do a silly voice and hold your hands stiffly in front of your mouth like you’re playing the clarinet. The idea that Sandler’s relatives are all the inspirations for his movie characters is more cute than funny, but the appearance of Jimmy Fallon as Adam’s grandfather is really killer. In spouting complete gobbledygook, he breaks the Sandler appeal down to its most basic form.

The C-SPAN fake-out at the beginning Family Feud cold open is a cool change of pace, but otherwise this is the same old overstuffed parody (though Leslie’s “Bitch, I’m Groot” is a treat)…Michael and Colin can’t avoid  delivering at least some laughs, what with them covering ridiculous stories like KFC in Congress and the “Transient Anus”…Another Last Call, and this time Sandler and Kristen Wiig are on hand to complete a threesome version of the Lady and the Tramp spaghetti trick.

Leave It

No leave it sketches this week – thank you for totally delivering, Sandman!

Adam Sandler

CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

Adam Sandler has a Cubist sensibility as a sketch performer, wherein he breaks down his bits into their constituent parts. That is to say, he gets a lot of mileage out of the merest of syllables. It can be tricky when stretching out that persona into feature film length, but it often works like gangbusters in 3-5 minute segments. So while I’m rarely excited for the Sandman’s newest movies, I was happy to have him finally back to host SNL, and he’s proven my anticipation to be well-placed.

Shawn Mendes

On a scale of teen idol rocker boys, Shawn Mendes is way up there in the musical and vocal chops but straight down the middle in terms of sensibility. He’s singing to his lady loves with lyrics that could be creepy, or just lame, if you look at them from an ungenerous angle. But I must admit he wins over the crowd with his fully strapped-in belting and riffing.

And now for some letter grades:
Family Feud – B-
Adam Sandler’s Monologue – B+
War Zone Reporter – B+
“Holes” – A-
Romano Tours (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-
Sandler Family Reunion – B
Rectix – B+
Shawn Mendes performs “If I Can’t Have You” – B-
Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Elizabeth Warren – B+
Opera Man – B+
Last Call – B
Shawn Mendes performs “In My Blood” – B-
Chris Farley Song – B+

I’ll be back next week to let you know what I’m loving, keeping, and leaving from host Emma Thompson and musical guest Jonas Brothers!