Just as Michelle from Full House once appeared on Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, so, too, did Blake Shelton show up for last night's SNL/The Voice crossover episode. It's synergy, baby! Looking like a slightly deflated Nick Offerman (he's referred to, correctly, as a "metrosexual lumberjack" at one point), Shelton serves as both host and musical guest in a mostly mediocre hour and a half of show. Like so many musicians who aren't Justin Timberlake, the goal here seems to be to get this guy next to a guitar whenever possible and prop him up with funnier people. Light chuckles abound, and while there are no serious clunkers in sight, man is this episode vanilla. (It's the most vanilla. It's vanilla bean.) In one sketch, Shelton plays a disbelieving audience member instantly converted by a magician, which is pretty much the opposite reaction I had to my initial skepticism toward Shelton as a host.
Patriots Press Conference Cold Open
The big sports story this week, and perhaps the biggest boon to New York Post headline writers in years, is the Patriots' deflated-ball scandal. This bit of pre–Super Bowl intrigue is addressed in a cold-open press conference where Beck Bennett's Bill Belichick throws Tom Brady under the bus. Taran Killam plays Brady as too dumb to know what he doesn't know. Things finally get going when Bobby Moynihan shows up as an assistant equipment manager, and the scene transforms into a wildly untimely parody of A Few Good Men. To borrow an analogy from another sport, it's a nice, easy softball gently lobbed right down the middle, signaling what most of the episode will be like.
Blake Shelton's Hee-Haw Monologue
Our host endears himself to the audience right away by self-identifying as the Justin Bieber of country music. ("Just a little trouble-makin' cutie.") Donning an untucked dress shirt and blazer to show off his folksiness, Shelton sings the praises of long-ago variety show Hee-Haw, his avowed alpha and omega of comedy. Suddenly SNL transforms into a Hee-Haw clone before our very eyes, with the cast all clad in farm gear and incest jokes. Leslie Jones looks visibly upset in her blonde wig until it turns out that her doing so is part of the gag. This is as close as SNL gets to meeting Blake Shelton halfway.
This parody of The Bachelor zeroes in on some key tropes of the show, mainly how every bachelorette says "Can I steal him for a second?" to get some face time with the titular Adonis. Aside from making fun of the show's soft racism, though, this sketch doesn't actually have much to say about The Bachelor or anything else.
In the unlikely event of a country music star hosting SNL, there will most certainly be a spoof of country music videos. This digital short is that. It's an ode to a magical wishin' boot that cures all that ails you and then some. It's kind of fun to see how far out the writers go with this arbitrarily weird premise, but you kind of get the joke midway through the first verse and then, whoops, there are three verses. Props to the wardrobe team, though, for Shelton's pleather jacket and Kate McKinnon's crushed-velvet Stevie Nicks dress.
Celebrity Family Feud
There's a moment in this edition of Celebrity Family Feud where Kenan Thompson's Steve Harvey makes a joke about being mistaken for Ving Rhames and nobody laughs. That's what this entire sketch felt like. However, I must point out that Kenan saying "'Scuse me, but I think this Bratz doll is possessed" is maybe the shrewdest way to summarize Nicki Minaj's "Roman" persona.
Bobby Moynihan stops by Update this week as Michael Che's friend from high school, Riblet, decked out in a Spider-Man medallion and Afro-puffs. Although he currently works at Friendly's, Riblet's convinced that he could do Che's job (pronounced "jorb") better than Che could do his. Watching him try is worth it, especially for his epic mike drop at the end.
Elsewhere, Pete Davidson is back on Update for the first time in a while to talk about the importance of strong cybersecurity. Really, it's just an excuse for him to launch into a routine about the phenomenon of highsexuality, which is when stoned straight guys think they might be gay. To be perfectly frank, it's almost radical how far away this bit is from the gay panic humor of, say, Adam Sandler's I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Davidson's only panic is that he might be a "straight five and a gay one." Welcome to the future: Homosexuality is no longer a joke in and of itself.
Imagine Morgan Freeman's parole board appeal from Shawshank Redemption if Morgan Freeman was Hannibal Lecter and you have what is easily the best sketch of the night. Kenan plays Wallace Redding, the Texas Man-Gobbler, as an unrepentant lover of human flesh, roundly rejected for parole with extreme prejudice. ("You ate a whole guy, man.") Finally the alternate Shawshank ending I've been waiting my whole life for!
My Darlin' Joan
Oof, this sketch. Really: oof. Taran Killam in old-man makeup plays a 97-year-old songwriter on a show called Topeka Today to play the world-famous tribute to his wife that apparently nobody has heard before? Blake Shelton is the musician who helped set to song such lyrics as "Does the devil let you curse at him in front of his friends." It's another all-too-common instance of having nowhere to go once the joke is revealed, but at least Kate McKinnon proves that she can still win a sketch even with just non-comedic pictures of herself flashing in the background.
Blake Shelton plays a skeptical audience member won over by a magician. Now that he's convinced that magic is real, Shelton wants Taran Killam's magician to use those powers to make him, alternately, rich, have guns for hands, a black guy for one day, and in possession of some chicken nuggets. Considering that it's the last sketch of the night, it's kind of a surprise to see Shelton so wild-eyed and animated, but his commitment to the bit can't really elevate it beyond the level of amusing. Much like the rest of this resoundingly unspectacular episode.