Remember all those minutes ago when Saturday Night Live stood accused of ignoring Hollywood’s sexual harassment scandals and crimes? Now the phrase “making up for lost time” seems to be hovering over the NBC comedy like so many groping Christmas spirits.
Last night’s episode, hosted by James Franco, hit the subject often, though rarely with the fresh, gleeful mix of blunt force trauma and expert precision that’s powered the best of the show’s Trump-era political sketches. SNL has yet to find this issue’s comic, show-reinvigorating equivalent of Alec Baldwin’s grotesque Trump or Melissa McCarthy’s belligerent Spicey. (Is the subject too weighty for comedy? Hardly. Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert already have weeknights handled.)
Last night’s episode began with some promise, featuring the first cold open in recent memory (well, my recent memory) without the show’s now-standard political impersonations. In a Shopping Mall Santa sketch, detailed here, children sat the woes of the modern world on Santa’s lap, asking questions and making wishes about Al Franken, Roy Moore, Matt Lauer, kneeling football players and the Middle East.
The topic got a solo spotlight in another early sketch: In “Sexual Harassment Charlie”, two corporate employees – a brusk, high-ranking CFO, played by James Franco, and Kenan Thompson’s folksy old “front desk guy” Charlie – have been fired and are apologizing to their gathered colleagues (Melissa Villaseñor, Cecily Strong, Leslie Jones) for sexually harassing them.
The bit’s foundation – are we more forgiving of harassment when it comes cloaked in grandfatherly, old-timey joshing – was shaky (I mean, did anyone think the elderly George Bush’s grab-ass was anything but gross?), and a sharp, character-shifting turn towards the end cleared things up politically but not very cleverly.
Take a look:
On SNL, the nation’s reckoning over harassment and abuse has found its most logical home on Weekend Update, with co-anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che delivering their take-downs with a solid hit-and-miss ratio. Last night, Che bemoaned the Democrat’s self-sacrificing higher standard (Franken resigned, Moore hasn’t) by reminding the Party that they were politicians.
“You’re the party of morality the same way Don Jr. is the handsome Trump brother,” Che said.
Jost contributed by noting Donald Trump’s advise to Roy Moore – “go get ’em, Roy” – was definitely not an appropriate thing to say to an accused child molester. “And it’s also what Roy Moore whispers to himself right before he walks into a Hot Topic.”
Watch the segment at the top of this post.
Update wasn’t quite finished with the subject, though, but instead of a new impersonation – can it really be that hard to do Franken? – the show brought out Cecily Strong’s recurring drug-addled Cathy Anne character to set things as straight as she could (“I’m kinda a political junkie, and a regular junkie.”) Those polls predicting the Moore election outcome? “That would be like you calling me and saying hey Cathy Anne are you planning on smoking crack again?” she said.
The news segment introduced one new note, though, with Che appearing in a pre-taped bit in which he went undercover as a liberal white woman named Gretchen. Expectations of a rehashed take on Eddie Murphy’s SNL classic “White Like Me” mini-mockumentary were scuttled from the get-go, with Che explaining that he’d do his research sans white make-up. Best part: Having brunch with the girls, just like Sex and the City. Almost.
“Gretchen” arrives about a minute into this clip: