When Saturday Night Live returned strong last week with Tina Fey, it was hard to avoid the looming shadow that was to come with Miley Cyrus’ hosting the next week. The last time Cyrus hosted in 2011 was awful, yet having her host right now makes quite a lot of sense, considering she is sort of everywhere and can even be funny on occasion. But the combination of the actual Cyrus’ annoying persona and some really weak writing set the bar pretty low for this early in an SNL season.
The cold open for this week takes place in a post-apocalyptic 2045, thought to be brought on by the government shutdown, but really due to Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs. Of course a parody of this needed to be made, but I hope this is the last thing we ever see or hear of that performance. Vanessa Bayer came out as Old Miley, trying to talk some sense into New Miley, but I’m incredibly surprised that we didn’t see Sinead O’Conner in this bit, or even mentioned once throughout the night.
After the shortest opening monologue I can ever remember came casting videos for the Fifty Shades of Grey film. Sometimes these exhibits of celebrity impersonations work, but with a few exceptions here, it just fell flat. Taran Killam as Christoph Waltz was perfect, and Kate McKinnon as Jane Lynch was fun, but everything else felt sort of lazy.
The return of the Girlfriends Talk Show was disappointing, with Cyrus playing Lol Teeny, the cool kid at the girlfriends’ high-school hip hop club. This inevitably led to Cyrus twerking, which she promised in her monologue that she wouldn’t do. Cyrus and Killam had a government shutdown-themed parody of Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” as they played a spray-tanned John Boehner and sexualized Michele Bachmann. It’s fine, but besides Killam being ridiculous, there weren’t really that many laughs.
Then was an incredibly poor attempt at bringing back Piers Morgan and Nasim Pedrad’s Arianna Huffington to show a bunch of failed Hillary Clinton TV movies. There were jokes made about Fox News being biased and a Vince Gilligan-created one that just parodied the Breaking Bad finale, but nothing special here either.
Cyrus’ performances were pretty mediocre as well, first playing “Wrecking Ball” and then an hilariously serious acoustic version of “We Can’t Stop” featuring three guitarists. It’s not a good sign when one of the funniest moments of an SNL episode is the musical performance.
Weekend Update turned things around somewhat, with McKinnon coming on as Pat Lynhart, a mother who has become obsessed with Grand Theft Auto 5 and the return of the always great Bar Mitzvah boy Jacob. Having Cecily Strong try to interact with Jacob was a great twist on this segment, and Bayer continues to kill as Jacob.
Probably the biggest disaster, both comedically and technically, was the cheerleader roll call bit, in which cheerleaders are beamed up by aliens in the middle of practice. There were a few occasionally fun lines, but there were so many elements to it that could go wrong and did go wrong. I know my television started distorting the image, and when the image came back, there was a technician on the set trying to make adjustments behind the cast. There are several other special effects and mistakes made for a joke that isn’t worth any of it.
The night picked up though in the last few segments. A bit starring a Miami morning show team doing promos had more funny lines than the entire night combined, and another great character from Bayer as a poetry expert coming in to sub for a class worked well besides a weird twist at the end.
But the highlight, and last bit of the night, was a prerecorded segment with newcomer Kyle Mooney getting ready to have sex with Cyrus in his office. It builds and concludes in a satisfying way, and also gives Mooney and Beck Bennett a good way to get the audience to warm up to them. Considering that we’re two episodes in and I still have no idea who John Milhiser and Brooks Wheelan are isn’t a good thing, so they should probably do something for those two next week.
Whew, that Cyrus episode was rough. Not quite sure if having Bruce Willis next week will be good or bad, since I can’t really imagine Willis has that much of a sense of humor about himself, but at least Katy Perry will be there to equal things out. I mean, it can’t be as bad as Cyrus. SNL is rarely THAT bad.