CREDIT: Steven Molina Contreras/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

Colin and Michael Switch Jokes – Michael and Colin’s semi-annual tradition of writing compromising jokes for each other is now the best part of their Weekend Update era. There’s a potential pitfall that just repeating the formula could lead to diminishing returns, but this edition proves that there’s still room to up the ante. As usual, Che has written the sneakiest punchline (MLK running his mouth), but Colin implying bestiality for Michael is also a fox-like triumph.

What’s Wrong With This Picture? – Usually when a sketch gives away its game with its first joke, it becomes tiresome quickly, but not when there are a bunch of variations on that one joke, and all the zingers are delivered fast and furiously. In that vein, we have this supposedly simple game show about identifying pictorial goofs that goes awry when the contestants instead offer answers that are offensive, weirdly inoffensive, or filled with a bizarre backstory. I’m wondering if these are the smartest sorts of people in life and they’re just punking us with their dopiness.

Paul Rudd proves that he is the best man that SNL deserves with his best man speech Monologue…The next chapter of Leslie & Kyle‘s romantic adventures get meta, and then plain old sexy-wacky…As the Sleepover sketch reminds us, it’s nice to be reminded that hell-creatures have feelings, too.

Keep It

Antique Store – There are a lot of lovely details to this little scene about a nostalgia-prompting music box, a few of which we rarely see on SNL. First off, we’ve got a child actor who actually gets to speak a few lines of dialogue. Also, that child gets insulted (by Paul Rudd, of all people!). And the random twist about this supposedly being a Twilight Zone episode is a welcome dash of surreal and wacky. It’s a little undercooked, though, as the craziest details don’t quite hit as hard as they could.

The Time Travel Interview brings Colleen Rafferty back for even more paranormal mistreatment, but this time the best jokes are about her companions getting the most out of their free trial of Showtime…Pete Davidson changes his Game of Thrones Rap to a tribute to Grace and Frankie, and I can feel the love…Leslie Jones has something to say about the recent abortion-restricting legislation, and she wisely incorporates it into her relationship with Colin (“Ofjost,” “flat, white, privileged latte”).

Leave It

A Message From the President – Is a rendition by Trump and his cronies singing a Queen song really the best we can do for a season finale political cold open? At least Eric attempting to get The Muppet Show theme going offers a nice change of pace.

Cecily’s Jeanine Pirro impression is pretty great, but it’s just not working on Update. To deliver the funny, we need more than the guest and the anchors getting showered in martini…The ladies of The View get all riled up by Pete Buttigieg, and then inexplicably by Joe Biden, and meanwhile I’m all riled up by confusion over what the comedic point of view of this sketch is.

Paul Rudd

CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

On a scale of Paul Rudds, Paul Rudd is the Ruddiest! Just when you think you love him for one thing, he comes along and does something else that you love him for just as much. If that’s not a formula for a reliable SNL host, I don’t know what is. And it turns out with his fourth appearance, it’s just as true as ever.

DJ Khaled

On a scale of musical guests who aren’t really musicians, DJ Khaled is in a class of his own. He’s really nothing more than a hype man, just shouting “Another one!” over and over as he welcomes his carousel of guest singers. This could actually be a formula for an enjoyable performance, especially because he surrounds himself with such talented people, but it mainly comes off as disjointed and identity-less.

And now for some letter grades:
A Message From the President – C
Paul Rudd’s Monologue – B+
Time Travel Interview – B-
Game of Thrones Rap – B
What’s Wrong with This Picture? (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+
DJ Khaled (and a bunch of Another Ones!) perform “Jealous”/”You Stay” – C+
Weekend Update
The Jokes – B+
Jeanine Pirro – C
Leslie Jones – B
Antique Store – B-
The View – C-
DJ Khaled (and a bunch of Another Ones!) perform “Just Us”/”Weather the Storm”/”Higher” – C+
Leslie & Kyle – B+
Sleepover – B+

I’ll be posting my picks for the Best of Season 44 in the near future. And then I’ll be back in a few months in some form to let you know what I think about Season 45!

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