It's supposed to be an easy show when a former cast-member makes a triumphant return to the "Saturday Night Live" stage. "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon has gotten much better at keeping a straight face during sketches, but he didn't turn in one of the season's strongest outings. There was too much reliance on musical numbers and singing, without making the connection that there's supposed to be some humor in those.
We did get a couple of exciting returns, with both Alec Baldwin and Melissa McCarthy skewering the Trump administration as the president and his press secretary, respectively. And as we've come to expect, Fallon reprised one of his classic recurring characters, even going so far as to bring back one of his "SNL" co-stars from those days to help him out in updating the bit for the next generation.
WORST: The Monologue
I didn't expect to be so disappointed by a Jimmy Fallon monologue, but this one accomplished nothing. He sang David Bowie's "Let's Dance" as he danced around backstage with professional dancers behind him, but the main cast was under-utilized and the usual backstage shenanigans like the llama, chorus girls and Lorne Michaels were nowhere to be seen. Instead, it was literally just Fallon singing this song. No fun twist, nothing. So what was the point? Isn't this a comedy show?
There was a theme throughout the night, and it wasn't a good one. Considering how strong Fallon is as a singer and a singer-comedian, it's surprising how many of his musical sketches fell flat tonight. Maybe he needed Justin Timberlake by his side for the jokes to stick. This was a long setup of him singing this Savage Garden hit poorly to try and get his girl back just to get to the punchline that he's the guy who dragged that doctor off the United Airlines flight. The writers then doubled down by having her new guy be the Pepsi ad director. Bonus points for having Beck Bennett portray him again, as he did last week, but not enough to rank higher. Sorry. Still need it to be funny.
Yet another musical number, and this time one that made no sense at all. Bennett is a Union soldier in 1863 singing a song about "Old New York," and Fallon jumps up and adds a modern hook about partying at his parents' house. Musical guest Harry Styles makes another guest spot in a sketch as a rebel soldier who provides the bridge. The song they wrote wasn't particularly clever or enjoyable -- like a Lonely Island song, or even some of the songs the female cast has come up with of late -- so there was nothing to grab onto. The non-sequitur of modern club hooks in the Civil War? It's odd, but it wasn't funny. They went to the musical well way too many times this week and just didn't have enough funny to go with it.
This sketch had the potential to be really funny, but they really needed to commit to the absurdity of what Fallon and Mikey Day were doing in the background of a dramatic film scene. They were extras who were supposed to just shoot some ball, only they were terrible at it. They tried going silly with it, but it just didn't work all that well. This one gets point for being a solid enough idea, they just didn't milk enough laughs out of it.
Another pre-recorded bit, like the "Basketball Extras" sketch, this one found more success in the contrast of the super-confident junior high thespians talking about how great their Tony-worthy take on the modern musical is while backstage and the shy and awful production they were actually putting on. It went a little off the rails at the end when they put the girls in harnesses for no reason. It was unnecessary, because there were enough laughs in the girls muttering through their lines on-stage while boasting back stage about how great they were going to be. They absolutely captured the awkwardness of insecure junior high theater.
As weird as any of the previous "SNL" fake commercials like "Colon Blow" and "Almost Pizza," this could easily become a modern classic. The premise is right there in the title, a shirt that allows you to "turtle" inside of it when you're caught in an embarrassing situation like your boss hearing you talk about him behind his back. It's completely impossible and ridiculous, but the effects of the heads (and other parts) submerging into the shirt is absurd enough to make it enjoyable nonsense.
Alec Baldwin turned in another solid performance as the president, with Fallon stepping into the role of his son-in-law and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner. Baldwin's gag with Trump inadvertently describing himself and Kim Jong Un was strong enough, but it went to the next level when he channeled his reality television background to decide which of his advisors could stay, between handsome but silent Kusher and the terrifying to look at Steve Bannon. In the end Bannon was banished to the basement with Kellyanne Conway.