I was really hopeful for John Cena’s first appearance as the host of SNL, just as I was for The Rock’s (before the Dwayne Johnson moniker) first time in 2000. Some athlete shows aren’t great. Fine, most athlete shows aren’t great, save the Manning brothers (low-key, Eli might have been better than Peyton, but don’t tell anyone here in Indianapolis I said that). Athlete hosts usually have to portray themselves or some version of themselves, which makes for a generally boring show.
Coming off his breakout role in Trainwreck, I was really hoping they wouldn’t put Cena in the same box. So needless to say, when he came out for his monologue and was interrupted by tired pro wrestling humor, I was skeptical about what the rest of the show would have in store. It was uninspired and felt throw together. Paired with the one-note cold open (more on that later), it felt like this episode could be a mail-in.
Luckily, it was much ado about nothing. The remainder of the show brought a bunch of weird and interesting characters that allowed the host to really flourish and show a little range. I really enjoyed this show. Spoiler alert: Cena wins.
I really liked a lot of this show, but I sort of loved the “Joanne & The Tree” sketch. From Cena’s wig to Beck Bennett’s obsession with saving the Christmas tree to Aidy Bryant trying to catch Monster Energy drink in her mouth and “power up like Popeye”, I was all in. I legit LOL’d (damn right I’m using LOL in a sentence) at Bennett continuing the White Elephant and giving his 30 pound kettle bell to Bryant as she hung precariously on the window ledge. Great stuff.
There’s always a fine line between brilliance and forgetability (I made that word up, but you get it) with “10 to 1” sketches. Cena and Mikey Day played owl trainers for a United States of Talent act. Guess what: the owl didn’t work. Not even the excessive release of bodily fluid (reminiscent of Dan Aykroyd’s vintage Julia Child bloody finger sketch) could save the day. This one was forgettable.
Also, this may be a little hot take-y, but I didn’t love Bryan Cranston’s cameo in the cold open. While it was awesome to see Walter White don the iconic porkpie Heisenberg hat, the appearance came on the back of a funny one-punchline joke that was dragged out for a whole bit. After the initial applause for Cranston died down, his dialog sounded more like a Twitter egg than the original White character.
- I wrote last week about how SNL seemed to be having a hard time satirizing Donald Trump. I think this week’s “Through Donald’s Eyes” was very good. Trump seeing himself as John Cena with great hair and huge hands was spot-on. Really, really good sketch.
- On the same note, Cecily Strong’s character Cathy Anne, the Lady that is Always Yelling Out the Window was pitch-perfect, right down to looking in the camera, and almost breaking on the line “I know he’s watching” regarding the President-elect.
- Cena was awesome as the Billy Zabka-esque villain in “The Karate Teen”. Also, Mikey Day might be a star.
- Dyke & Fats has been resurrected, and it is glorious.
- Not much else needs to be said about the greatness of Kate McKinnon’s Angela Merkel. So I won’t.
LINES WITHOUT CONTEXT
- “I used to not like bananas because they look like boys’ wieners, but now I like them because they’re yummy.” – John Cena
- “When Trump shows up to a briefing, I hope they give him headphones and an iPad and make him watch Frozen.” – Michael Che
- “It’s an absurd, unethical, and potentially illegal conflict of interest. Only on NBC” – Colin Jost