Saturday Night Live: Selena Gomez fronts laziest episode of season

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Saturday Night Live opens with a special report from MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace (Kate McKinnon). Despite the myriad catastrophes currently plaguing us – fallout from the January 6 subpoenas, the ongoing war in Ukraine and a nationwide shortage of baby formula – the program opens with coverage of “the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard Cuckoo Trial”.

Related: Saturday Night Live: a game Benedict Cumberbatch tries to save a patchy episode

We go to live coverage inside the courtroom, where Depp (Kyle Mooney) smirkingly testifies about Heard allegedly pooping in his bed. Depp’s lawyer asks to show surveillance footage of the house staff discovering the mess and the judge allows it, “Because it does sound fun and this trial is for fun.” After it plays, the judge says she believes Heard did it, but also that Depp – a self-proclaimed “full nightmare” – drove her to it. Before you know it, the sketch is over.

It’s obvious that SNL has been chomping at the bit to lampoon the Depp-Heard trial, and yet they rushed through it so quickly and with so little effort you have to wonder what the point of it was in the first place.

Selena Gomez makes her debut as host. To prepare for the gig, the star turned to her Only Murders in the Building co-stars, SNL legends Steve Martin and Martin Short, for advice. Martin told her “Trust no one,” while Short said, “I think Steve Martin has been using my credit card”. She also mentions that she’s “manifesting love” in the hopes of finding romance on the show like other celebrities before her: Emma Stone and Dave McCary, Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost, “Pete and Machine Gun Kelly”. She subsequently shoots down the attentions of dweeby Mooney and James Austin Johnson, but seriously weighs an offer from Punkie Johnson. Gomez’s deadpan energy makes the monologue a bit of a snore.

First up, a trio of Bratz dolls (Gomez, Bowen Yang, Aidy Bryant) come to life to console a young girl (Sarah Sherman) whose parents are divorcing. Their advice isn’t particularly helpful: they think her mom’s “a bitch” and are way too interested in her dad’s sex life.

This is followed by an American remake of Netflix’s hit Japanese import Old Enough. Since Americans aren’t comfortable sending toddlers off on their own, this new version replaces them with long-term boyfriends. Thirty-four-year-old gamer Matt is sent off to run two simple errands, neither of which he manages to pull off. One thing SNL has been consistently good at over the last several years is harshly lampooning the arrested development of men in their 20s and 30s, with this being a prime example. That said, it’s more clever than it is laugh out loud funny.

Next, Gomez and Melissa Villaseñor play Vanessa and Sofia, two cholas who host a public access talk show in Pico Rivera, California. Another noticeably formless shrug of a sketch, the only joke here is the girls’ penchant for quickly cutting off their guests and correspondents. Also – and this is coming from someone who grew up right next to Pico Rivera – neither Gomez nor Villaseñor’s accents are on point, both of them sounding like they hail from the San Fernando Valley than the San Gabriel Valley.

A performance of the play A Storm Within – from which pictures of lead actor Rory McFadden’s live full-frontal nude scene recently popped up online – sees the roles taken by understudies after a Covid outbreak sidelines the regular cast. The new actors flub their lines and accents, leading to a fun bit of Who’s on First-style screwball before the lead barges on stage early and starts to unzip. Like almost everything thus far, this all comes to a surprisingly abrupt halt.

A new episode of American Inventors covers the history of the whoopie cushion, the rainchild of one Archie Gizmo (Steve Martin). Gizmo tells how he was inspired by his muse, a flatulent woman named Dina Beans (Bryant) whose endlessly bad luck also inspired him to create Snakes in a Can, the hand buzzer, googly-eyed slinky glasses, electric gum and other novelty gags. It’s a very one note idea, but Martin’s warmly silly presence gives the episode a much-needed shot in the arm.

On Weekend Update, Colin Jost gives a run-down of the week’s apocalyptic headlines, saying, “The entire crypto market has lost over a trillion dollars, but don’t worry: you can make that all back so long as you’ve been hoarding baby formula.”

Speaking of babies, the first guest is Baby Yoda (Mooney), who announces he has a new spiritual outlook on life after going on a makeshift Ayahuasca retreat and joining a cult alongside Jared Leto, “Carlos Santana, featuring Rob Thomas”, Bob the Builder, and Tila Tequila. He feigns making peace with longtime enemy Baby Groot, before launching into his usual violent tirade against him.

In a new twist on the format, Update follows “field correspondent” Sherman backstage for a tour. After a brief pitstop at her wardrobe rack (which include size zero pants), the only stop is Jost’s dressing room, or, “as our female interns like to call it, The Chamber of Secrets!”. There, she reveals a mirror pasted with pathetic daily affirmations, a caged intern and a creepy shrine dedicated to her (replete with a pair of her underwear) – all of which she’s clearly planted in an attempt to destroy Jost. Sherman manages to make the most of a flubbed piece of blocking, getting the biggest laugh of the night (from both the audience and Jost). The long-running joke about this one-sided rivalry continues to pay off, and it seems increasingly likely that the show is gearing up to hand Update over to Sherman at some point in the future.

After her boyfriend (Chris Redd) leaves to run a sudden, suspicious errand, Gomez is visited by her intuition (Punkie Johnson), who raps about how “He at that bitch’s house” while convincing her to digitally spy on him and break his stuff. Redd responds to this by following his own jealous intuition (Post Malone), which leads to a big fight, which leads to angry sex. Yet another half-formed premise that doesn’t wrap up so much as it just stops.

At a high school assembly, two guidance counselors address the senior class about post-graduation career paths. Their advice is simple: “Model. Get into modeling.” They bring Gomez’s former student-turned-model, who busts out poses and faces. She answers three student questions and then … that’s it. By far the laziest sketch in what has to be the laziest episode of the season.

The show wraps up with Gomez’s high school student inviting a group of friends over to her house while she babysits her twin infant siblings (Yang and Sherman, both made to look extremely unsettling with the help of carrot-like wigs and white contact lenses). Instead of raiding her parents’ booze, the teens just want to watch the tots strange and violent antics on the baby cam. Some decently creepy effects, a slow building sense of dread and an honest-to-god ending make this the standout sketch of the night. It also has Sherman’s fingerprints all over it, so, combined with her Weekend Update segment, she proved the standout performer of the episode.

Unfortunately, everything else was a total whiff. This wasn’t the worst episode of the season by any stretch, but it may be the most instantly forgettable.

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