Saturday Night Live is getting complicated. You want to remain down on the show for letting Trump host during the primary and for its lack of teeth in general. On the other hand, we all know Trump watches the show and it really pisses him off. Meanwhile, the middle-of-the-road nature of SNL, combined with the vaulted media position to which Trump himself elevates it, makes the show one of the few programs out there able to break through Trump voters’ bubbles. SNL has become important. Maybe it doesn't deserve to be, but it is.
And it seems to know that. This week’s episode was largely Trump-specific, starting off with the glorious return of Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer. Now the actual top of the show rather than a fake opening sketch showing up halfway through, McCarthy goes HAM and manages to distil a week’s worth of crazy in a far more creative way than SNL’s usual string of Twitter joke rehashes. Also, this week her terrifying munchkin man look gets upstaged by Kate McKinnon’s Jeff Sessions.
This was really McKinnon’s episode. Along with Sessions, she got to play Elizabeth Warren (though it wasn’t very funny) and return to her Kellyanne Conway in a pre-taped Fatal Attraction riff that would be mean if it weren’t about such an awful person. Recently, SNL has portrayed Conway as the only sane brain in Trump’s room. It looks like they’re all done with that approach.
And then there was Trump on People’s Court, a sketch McCarthy’s Spicer literally warned us was coming later in the show, which is a strange and interesting move for SNL. The concept of Trump standing before a TV court room has merit, but like a lot of their direct Trump parody stuff, the comedy is too broad to really have much bite.
Oh shit! I almost forgot to mention Leslie Jones’ campaign to start playing Trump. That would have been a huge shame, as it was one of the night’s best ideas. Like Jones, I am aghast Lorne dismissed it so readily. Leslie Jones as Trump all day and all night.
The rest was pretty standard, though don’t think I didn’t love the brief and stupid fart sketch that closed the show. Baldwin was comfortable and good, but he seemed much more like a side player here than host. There was just too much great stuff coming from the cast. You’d think him hosting his 17th time would be a bigger deal. They didn’t bring out Tom Hanks or Steve Martin or even John Goodman. Instead, Baldwin had to stand next to Pete Davidson and get made fun of for looking old. Oh, SNL, you are sometimes hard to love, but love you I do.