And then there were 21. Kate McKinnon returns after spending the first seven episodes filming her Tiger King show and starring in Verizon ads that play every eight minutes. While this is a welcome return, you have to wonder how an already giant cast will fit her in. Billie Eilish is the host this week. While she is a musical superstar, she is another young celebrity whose celebrity history is on the shorter side, similar to Simu Liu, Jonathan Majors, and Kieran Culkin. This is a tough nut to crack for the writers, who are most comfortable writing sketches about the hosts’ lives or playing them against type. I admire that Billie keeps her personal life private, is close to her family, and just concentrates on putting out great music. It’s just that that’s not optimal for a show that is desperate for material.
- Fauci Holiday Message Cold Open
- Billie Eilish Monologue
- Christmas Cards
- Hip-Hop Nativity
- Lonely Christmas Ad
- Billie Eilish: “Happier Than Ever”
- Weekend Update (Punkie Johnson on Her Family’s Holiday Rules/ Andrew Dismukes’ Amazing Animals)
- Santa Song
- Kyle’s Holiday
- Billie Eilish: “Male Fantasy”
- Hotel Ad
Best Kate McKinnon Return
SNL kicks off with Kate returning as Dr. Fauci. SNL has followed a pretty strict formula for its cold opens this year: Take the week’s biggest story (in this case Omicron), slap it onto a presentational sketch (an NIH announcement), and then stuff it with as many walk-ons as possible. However, this version feels tired. Fauci asks a group of “nerds trying their best” to recreate scenarios under the new variant, like going to a restaurant and sitting on a plane. However, their improv is so bad Fauci keeps having to correct their misinformation. The Cuomo brothers, Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor-Greene, and Ted Cruz also make appearances. It feels a little weird not to mention that Fauci is considered an evil villain to half of America, including Cruz, Boebert, and Taylor-Greene.
Best Funny Story That Is Actually Kind of Weird
Billie Eilish shares a story about her mom writing a movie about her life. Billie’s dreams of acting were dashed when her mom cast herself as the mom, her son and husband as themselves, and then didn’t have a daughter. Billie then goes into a poignant anecdote about not paying too much attention to young stars as they get older, asking if we’d want to be remembered for things we said and did when we were 16. As an example, she presents a picture of Colin Jost at 16, “watching other people go to prom.”
Most Creative Sketch
Alex Moffat comes home to his wife, played by Melissa Villaseñor, before noticing the fridge is full of Christmas cards. We then go into the cards, with Mikey Day introducing himself as their super white, super Christian neighbor and Heidi introducing herself as their super pregnant cousin who has made her pregnancy her entire personality. I give this sketch points for creativity, but like the previous episode’s karaoke sketch, there is nothing weird or subversive about this for the audience to grab onto. The closest thing we get is Kenan and Bowen’s old dog.
Best Use of the Host
“Lonely Christmas Ad” is the best sketch of the night and one of the season’s best sketches. Billie plays a young teenage girl who spots a lonely old woman (Kate) sitting alone through a window in the building next door. She sweetly invites Kate to dinner through a small sign, and they communicate through handwritten signs. Kate reveals herself to be a racist, anti-semite, and murderer, keeping her terrifying son named Rutger sick. It’s a very funny sketch that never ceases to surprise.
Best ‘Weekend Update’ Joke
“After CNN fired Chris Cuomo, it was revealed that the former anchor has been accused of sexual misconduct just like his older brother. Well, those two are quite a pair … said Cuomo to a female co-worker.”
Best Return to What Works
After the previous episodes’ brutal “Weekend Update” desk bits (who was asking for more Baby Yoda?), SNL brings on Andrew Dismukes and Punkie Johnson as themselves. In a season with 21 cast members, SNL has tried putting newcomers into “Weekend Update” to build their confidence and ingratiate them with the viewers. I think it works, as Punkie discusses her family’s holiday rules with Che. “Damn, he ain’t got no foot? That potato salad must be delicious.”
Andrew brings on a psychic octopus to predict who will win the Packers-Bears game, except the octopus instead reveals he will die in seven days. “Bongo, you see what man cannot; therefore I will accept my destiny.” Andrew struggling with an uncooperative dog while it asks him if he’s going to die is a highlight of the season.
Billie does a solid job with what she’s given. She giggles a couple of times, but it’s fun when a host has a good time. Her chance to shine was in “Santa Song,” but the sketch never found a hook. She then gets stuck in a “theater director discovers hip-hop” sketch that might have been cutting edge in 1995. It was smart to put her in sketches with singing and dancing — they just aren’t good. Her musical performances are fantastic and are probably the best parts of the entire episode.
(Side note: In the live broadcast, Billie’s monologue is followed by her starring in a real ad for Adobe Creative Cloud. I jotted down some notes before realizing there was no peacock on the bottom right, and this actually is an ad and not a way-too-expensive sketch with no jokes.)
Kate immediately dominates in her return and earns my MVP. She led the cold open, nailed “Lonely Christmas Ad,” and co-starred with Billie in the last two live sketches. However, with 21 cast members, this has been a season of musical chairs, and now Kate will require a couch. SNL is not just a show about ads and game shows; it’s about the cast. So when a breakout star like James Austin Johnson barely gets a line, it feels like a step back.