The best sketch on last night’s Matthew McConaughey-hosted SNL wasn’t live at all. Two weeks before the release of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, director J.J. Abrams popped up on video to introduce “auditions” for the film that mixed in cameos by Emma Stone and Jon Hamm with SNL regulars, reading with the film’s John Boyega and Daisy Ridley. Call it a homage to the 1997 SNL keeper when Kevin Spacey nailed it as Christopher Walken “auditioning” for Han Solo, although this was more a series of one-liners than Spacey’s priceless character study in comedy. Still, Kate McKinnon’s Dame Maggie Smith, Jay Pharaoh’s Shaquille O’Neal, Cecily Strong’s Sofia Vergara, Bobby Moynihan’s George Lucas and Emma Stone’s Emma Stone (“I know the Star Wars universe is very diverse. I don’t know if you saw the movie Aloha, but I can play a very convincing part-Asian woman”) made up for the general dreariness of the rest of the show.
The writing was below par and the tedium was punctuated by two Debbie Downer numbers by Adele (“Hello” and “When We Were Young”) — three if you include the mildly funny repurposing of “Hello” for a sketch in which the song was the only thing that soothed the savagery during an otherwise typically dysfunctional family Thanksgiving dinner. Noteworthy was that the actual commercials featuring McConaughey and Adele (for Lincoln cars and her new album) were indistinguishable from the show itself. Speaking of ads, however — a special hat tip to Mr. Sulu: George Takei put his own special, baritonial spin on “Hello” in a spot for his Broadway show Allegiance. That was pretty cool.