Tom Hanks and Tina Fey induct Rudd into the "5-Timers Club," then stick around to share hosting duties with only two cast members, a stripped down "Weekend Update," and no musical guest.
There’s an adage in show business that some people might be questioning after what happened with “Saturday Night Live” this week.
We all know “the show must go on,” but sometimes it doesn’t have to. Certainly, after all this time in the middle of a pandemic, we’ve seen plenty of shows canceled. Even “Saturday Night Live” went off the air for a time in the early days of COVID-19.
This week, though, the virus hit closer to home with four cast members reportedly getting hit with Covid. From there it was a domino effect as it was first determined to cut the live audience, then musical guess Charli XCX pulled out and by the time the show hit the air, there were two cast members in the studio.
Luckily -- but awkwardly -- this was Paul Rudd’s fifth time hosting “SNL,” so there were plans to induct him into the show’s “5-Timers Club.” As such, both Tom Hanks and Tina Fey were around to help with that. Suddenly, there was a lot more for them to do.
Rather than scrap the show entirely, the decision was made to air the pre-taped content that was recorded prior to the show, probably because much of it is very specific to the holiday season, and otherwise fill the time with some favorite sketches.
While we got some staples like Steve Martin’s holiday wish sketch and Darlene Love’s “Christmastime for the Jews,” by having those present share some of their favorite sketches, we actually got to see several moments that aren’t trotted out for every “SNL” holiday special -- so that was refreshing.
There were nearly twice as many classic sketches as new, though, so there’s no real reason to do our normal rundown or even look at our favorite player of the night. While a lot of the ast showed up in this pre-taped bits, not enough to really get a sense of anything.
Plus, we’d want to give props to Kenan Thompson and Michael Che for actually being there in the studio. Che even partnered with Fey to bring an impromptu “Weekend Update” from the main stage where the host usually delivers the monologue.
Otherwise, the five assembled superstars (Thompson, Che, Hanks, Fey and Rudd) took turns setting up and introducing the various sketches. And with Charli XCX stepping back from performing, they didn’t even bother with any musical performances -- except “Christmastime for the Jews.”
We get that their backs were against the wall here, but was this the right move? Yes, Rudd and Fey and Hanks were all in the building and ready to go. Rudd even revealed that they were filming some of those pre-taped bits as recently as Friday night and Saturday morning.
Would it have been better to just lose that content and put a repeat episode on? Was this satisfying as a Christmas episode of “Saturday Night Live”? Does it even count as a full hosting job for Rudd? Well, Kenan Thompson had some thoughts about that.
While it was an unorthodox night of entertainment, we did get “An Evening with Pete,” which was as weird a sketch as the whole evening, taking a look at Pete’s life 30 years from now. It was a great takedown of the man who inexplicably has become the breakout star of this show -- in his eighth season!
Thanks for coming,” he told Tom, turning to Tina, “Thank you for coming.” Then, without missing a beat, he added, “I am extremely disappointed.” Nevertheless, Kenan Thompson came out to make it official -- “Congratulations on hosting the show four-and-a-half times” -- though perhaps with an asterisk? He even got a special message from Steve Martin (and Martin Short). We have to agree, though, this was a far cry from the full hosting experience.
What do moms want for Christmas? Playing off the stereotype that moms always say they don’t want anything, this fake ad explored what it is that they really want in disturbingly specific detail. Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant were clearly having fun riffing off of one another in fantasizing about every mom’s dream as they get older -- and the nasty that has to happen first. They even roped Paul Rudd, as the commercial’s director, into their fantasy world. Built entirely on the charm of Aidy and Kate’s characters, this piece worked beautifully by keeping its message very simple and very clear.
An Evening with Pete
Almost like a nod to classic “SNL” sketches featuring elderly John Belushi or the Schiller's Reel with Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks, this holiday-themed sketch was a strange look ahead more than 30 years to Pete Davidson doing a bizarre stage version of his “SNL” schtick, complete with robot Colin Jost to introduce his “resident young person” point of view, and Paul Rudd as the writer who made it all happen. Not quite as poignant as those earlier pieces, there was still an underlying sweetness mixed in with all the sadness.
This bizarro night of “SNL” did give us a “Weekend Update” segment where Michael Che confirmed that he and Kenan Thompson were the only cast members there, and Tina Fey stepped in for Colin Jost. They didn’t even bother with the “Update” set because there were basically no crew members, either. And for an audience, they had Paul Rudd, Tom Hanks and Kenan, gamely laughing. The pair had some good content, too, with solid jokes about the guy on the plane wearing a woman’s thong underwear as a mask, OJ’s freedom, and a solid joke about the death of one of the creators of Nintendo. It was weird, but when else could they hit such topical material with the holiday hiatus around the corner.
The Christmas Socks
One of the most repetitive rhythms we’ve ever heard in a song, which was kind of the point, we were nevertheless enamored with Paul Rudd’s fascination with Kyle Mooney (as a six year old boy) and the socks he was buying his mother and his missing bird that flew off to form a band, T.J. Rocks, played by Charli XCX. If that sounds weird, well that about sums up the entire night, so why shouldn’t it be. Actually, we were enjoying the silly narrative, as Paul and Kyle held up the line at a department store, but it kind of lost steam when T.J. showed up.
Ultimately, we think it was good that they did this. If nothing else, it will serve as a snapshot of one of these strange times we live in. It also stands as a stark reminder of how quickly a Covid outbreak can alter everything. This show went from a traditional "SNL" experience to this in a matter of days -- most of it went down on Saturday.
It is a shame the show wasn't able to have a proper holiday episode, but it could have also been funny to postpone this show and do a full Christmas episode in January, blaming Covid the whole way for how ridiculous it is.
Mainly, though, we hope everyone who is sick from the cast and crew get better soon, are able to enjoy at least some of their holiday break, and come back healthy and refreshed ... for whatever fresh hell 2022 has in store for us.