I’ve said it before, but a charming host that’s willing to do anything can make things much better on a typical Saturday Night Live episode. For that reason, Emma Stone has been a welcome host over the last few years, and with her Spider-Man co-star and boyfriend Andrew Garfield, we got a similar dynamic. He wasn’t often the main source of laughs in his hosting debut, but he has the type of style that suggests he’ll only grow stronger with future gigs.
For the opening topical sketch, it makes sense to see Bobby Moynihan playing Donald Sterling, who claims to love Questlove from Roots, and talks about wanting to start a cruise that will take people back to Africa. The real stars in this skit are the people that join Sterling during his press conference—Jay Pharaoh backs him as Dennis Rodman, and Kenan Thompson as NAACP president Leon Jenkins defends his decision to take Sterling’s donation of 10 million dollars.
The opening monologue has Emma Stone predictably appearing to assist Garfield on his first time. Stone and Aidy Bryant give him advice like, “be self-deprecating,” “just read the cue cards,” and “don’t be yourself.” It’s nice and quick, and honestly, it’s just great when the monologue doesn’t involve singing at this point.
A fake commercial for a Spanx-like product called Stanx, which helps keep farts in, was particularly stale. Beck Bennett’s pants grow larger every time he farts throughout the day, then when he takes them off, his apartment explodes. Blah. Next.
“Family Feud” has become one of the more consistently amusing game show parodies, and this celebrity edition where American and international musicians face off creates a fun chance to see some of the cast’s impressions. It also seems to be the main opportunity to do Justin Timberlake impersonations. Fallon did it before, and now it’s Garfield’s turn. He doesn’t necessarily look like him, or even do that great of a job, but it’s still pretty funny. There are some pretty great lines in this one; Thompson as host Steve Harvey mistakes Kyle Mooney as Skrillex for a spooky ghost, and we get to hear Taran Killam impersonating Russell Crowe singing a Les Misérables song.
An Oliver Twist parody with Garfield as the title character started off with promise, but the introduction of Cecily Strong as Deidre—a full-grown woman who wants some more as well—brings the whole thing down. In the last episode with Seth Rogen, Strong was particularly prominent with great success, but this week most of her sketches weren’t as impressive as they should have been.
Filling the new short quota this week was a pretty great trailer for a movie called The Beygency, about a man who admits that he doesn’t like Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love,” is shunned by the world, and chased down by a group suspiciously similar to The Adjustment Bureau. We get an appearance by Jack Bauer and Chloe, and it’s great to see these characters with some humor, especially considering the fact that 24 is completely lacking in that department.
Coldplay’s sixth time as musical guest (last time was in 2011 with, oddly enough, Emma Stone hosting) was a welcome change compared to whatever they’ve been doing for the last few years. Unlike the showy Viva La Vida, or the just-plain-weird Mylo Xyloto, their appearance feels like a back-to-basics Coldplay. Their performance of “Magic” was pretty simple, with no costumes or bizarre crap happening. Their second song “Sky Full of Stars” did feature more of the latter Coldplay stylings, especially with their stage design and Chris Martin’s dancing, but still, it’s a vast improvement from what we’ve heard from them in the recent past.
“Weekend Update” has been getting stronger, much of which has to do with Colin Jost starting to feel more comfortable behind the desk. When he started out just a few episodes ago, he was far too stiff and it was almost like he was imitating what he thought someone on “Weekend Update” should be doing. He’s a bit looser now and the dynamic he has with Strong is growing, well, stronger, although they should have more interaction.
Two favorites on “Weekend Update” pop up, starting with Kate McKinnon’s Olya Povlatsky, who is now especially hilarious with her Full House and Destiny’s Child obsessions: “Ladies leave your men at home, the club is full of wolves and it’s very dangerous.” Killam also returns as Jebidiah Atkinson, here to discuss the Tony nominations. You can always expect Killam to break character at least once and yell at the audience, which is great. “Weekend Update” also presents SNL writer Leslie Jones as the show’s house image expert. She claims that, while Lupita Nyong’o has topped the most beautiful list, she’d personally be number one on the most useful list. It’s a shame that Jones’ bit just isn’t all that funny, feeling more like a stand-up routine performed from behind the desk.
Stone returns to the stage for a Spider-Man bit where she and Garfield are a couple incapable of kissing like normal people. Together, they’re pretty adorable and it’s enough to make me wish for dual hosting duty for the two of them. Chris Martin is also quite good when he takes Stone’s place to show Garfield how it’s done.
In the final skit of the night we see Garfield asking a bride at her wedding reception to run away with him. Things intensify as we learn that Garfield’s character is also the best man, the groom’s cousin, and married to the maid of honor with several children. This one doesn’t last too long, and while it does escalate, it feels like it could’ve gone a bit crazier.
The night ends with a repeat of “The Bird Bible,” which is a shame when you consider that another fantastic Kyle Mooney short is cut due to time restraints.
There have been plenty of strong first-time hosts this season. Even though all of the episodes weren’t particularly hilarious, the good debuts suggest that if the hosts return, the material they’re given might be a bit stronger. Garfield was very enjoyable here and was clearly willing to do whatever he was asked to do. However, his performance shows that he isn’t a strong enough host to carry the entire episode on his back without a little help.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.