By and large, the writing on "Saturday Night Live" doesn't differ from week to week. Sure, certain episodes are better than others, but the real difference in the comedic success of an episode is often determined by the host's enthusiasm and commitment to the gig. In that regard, Melissa McCarthy was a brilliant host for the show this weekend. As usual, the writers delivered a series of unoriginal skits that dragged on for too long, but McCarthy's dedication to getting laughs out of things like ranch dressing and balloons kept the scenes energetic and funny.
I could nitpick some sketches that didn't work for me, but I'd rather point out what McCarthy did well. In particular, she took two skits that could have been clunkers and elevated them to genuinely funny. Videos and more discussion on the following pages.
Arlene's sexual confidence is obviously reminiscent of McCarthy's character from Bridesmaids, but this is still impressive to watch. There's just nothing to work with here, yet she still made me laugh. The writers were like, "Uhhhh, we've got seven minutes to fill. Can you just come on to Jason Sudeikis the entire time?" And McCarthy was like, "Can I at least have some balloons?"
This is a better effort from the writers than "Arlene," but once again it's McCarthy who deserves credit. With a lesser host, I'd be complaining about how this was too long and an obvious product placement ad for Hidden Valley ranch dressing, but McCarthy gives her character such hilarious desperation that I was actually kind of sad when the skit ended. That NEVER happens.
Now that I've beaten up enough on the writers, I'll throw them a bone: this is an enjoyable concept with a solid payoff.
Also worth noting: Taran Killam is slowly becoming one of my favorite cast members. He can do wild, creepy characters or play the straight man with equal skill, and he often gets me to laugh even when a sketch is bombing. He did that twice this weekend: (1) I hated the Lawrence Welk cold open, but I liked his banter with Fred Armisen. And (2) he appeared for all of 15 seconds in the opening monologue and got a laugh out of me. Hooray funny people!