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Saturday Night Live: "Josh Hutcherson/HAIM" (Episode 39.07)

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<i>Saturday Night Live</i>: "Josh Hutcherson/HAIM" (Episode 39.07)

I’ll admit, my expectations for Josh Hutcherson’s first hosting gig on Saturday Night Live were pretty low. I’ve enjoyed him The Hunger Games and The Kids Are All Right, but he seemed like the type of host that would end up awkward and very timid on his first go-around. But “Josh Hutcherson/HAIM” ended up being one of my favorite episodes so far this season, one that allowed some of the newer cast members to shine.

The night started out with a mostly forgettable Piers Morgan Live skit revolving around George Zimmerman’s recent troubles, but it got slightly better with the appearance of Beck Bennett as George Zimmer of Men’s Warehouse. Between this and The Pete Holmes Show, this is the second George Zimmer impression I’ve seen this week, which is 200 percent more than I’ve seen before in my life.

Thankfully, SNL got the obvious Hunger Games jokes out of the way, with Kate McKinnon running an SNL Hunger Games, pitting a game Cecily Strong with a bow and arrow against a passive Bobby Moynihan.

Then came the return of the Girlfriends Talk Show, which only still works because of Aidy Bryant’s exasperated frustration with her BFF. Hutcherson showed up as Bryant’s not-so-secret crush, causing her to immediately hit womanhood. I’m just glad this time around it didn’t have Miley Cyrus ruining everything, as she does.

The most unusual skit of the night probably would have to go to Beck Bennett’s Mr. Patterson character, who is a brilliant man trapped in the body of a baby. It’s such a dumb and simple idea, but Bennett’s mannerisms make up for what should be a really stupid bit. I can’t really tell if I liked this one or not, but it did get a few chuckles.

SNL’s latest digital short was for Matchbox 3, a group of three subway dancers—played by Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharaoh and Hutcherson as Lil Peanut”—who have limited room to show off their moves. In this skit and all his others, I don’t know what it was, but almost everything Hutcherson did made me laugh. Something about his timing and his delivery caused him to just nail basically everything he was given to do, even if it wasn’t that much.

HAIM’s two performances, “The Wire” and “Don’t Save Me,” made them probably the best musical guests this season, and they have the most unusual performing faces by far of any act as well. I also just love it when musicians finish performing and instead of having that too-cool-to-care attitude, they look as if they’re thinking “holy crap, I just performed on Saturday Night Live.”

Weekend Update felt unusually short, but the quality of the jokes was higher than usual. Cecily Strong is getting better every week behind the desk, and the appearance of Bryant as The Worst Lady on an Airplane sort of solidified Strong and Bryant as the real stars of this week.

Quite possibly the most enjoyable skit I can think of since the “Arcade Fire or New Cast Member” from the season premiere was a throwback to the ‘80s, in which Hutcherson communicates by mouthing along to “Your Love” by Outfield and “Jessie’s Girl” from Rick Springfield. It wasn’t all that hilarious, but it was just so much fun, especially when the cast and HAIM came out in their ‘80s gear to dance along.

Maybe my favorite recurring segment is Strong and Moynihan as the two employees that keep getting fired from jobs. This time it’s Best Buy and returning as well is Taran Killam’s silent, probably-a-serial-killer character Andrew. If the last of these skits don’t involve Andrew killing both Strong and Moynihan, I will be incredibly disappointed.

Another one of the great strengths of this season has been the “Good Neighbor” skits from Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett. This week’s, entitled “Dancing,” is a much stronger version of one of their YouTube videos that goes further and crazier than the original. Mooney and Bennett have become the strongest new cast members, and “Dancing” escalates so quickly and does so many insane things, it’s exciting to see what else they’ll be able to do through their skits.

I also really enjoyed the animal hospital skit, where three employees keep telling their owners that their pets are dead and throwing them in the garbage, when they’re really still alive. Once again, Hutcherson is great here, and every line delivery had me laughing out loud.

Alongside Mooney and Bennett, Mike O’Brien has also been very strong in his first season as a cast member. This week he gets his own short where he plays an investigative reporter trying to figure out where bugs are heading in such a rush. On paper it doesn’t sound like much, but this week’s episode was a great example of how simple ideas with a limited amount of time can work quite well, especially when they aren’t stretched out until they aren’t funny anymore.

The final skit involved Hutcherson bringing his girlfriend home for Thanksgiving, but girlfriend Elise is actually a turkey played by Vanessa Bayer. Once again, it’s simple, well-executed and doesn’t go on for too long.

“Josh Hutcherson/HAIM” as a whole just worked so well, keeping things short and sweet, allowing newer cast members and rarely spotlighted members get more attention and having one of the best hosts and musical guests so far this season. Going into a December filled with almost sure-thing hosts (Paul Rudd, John Goodman, Jimmy Fallon), it was great to be surprised by a first-timer who could’ve gone either way.

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