MMA star Ronda Rousey hosted the latest Saturday Night Live but couldn't deliver a hard-hitting performance. She warned viewers she was an athlete, not an actor, and it showed in what was overall merely an adequate episode of SNL
Unlike other athletes that have hosted the show and excelled in the roles written for them — LeBron James instantly comes to mind — Rousey had a hard time hitting her mark throughout the show. Fortunately for viewers, there were a few surprise appearances that more than made up for Rousey's disappointing gig.
SNL veteran and 30 Rock creator Tina Fey returned to the show to portray Sarah Palin, a role she made forever famous in 2008. Fey appeared during the cold open, beside fellow SNL veteran Darrell Hammond (who's been playing Donald Trump in recent episodes), and provided her own take on Palin recent endorsement of Trump's presidential candidacy.
Reminiscent of some of the best years the show's ever had, it was the perfect cold open and was one of its bigger highlights.
SNL also took aim at the Academy Awards and the controversy surrounding the lack of nominations for minority actors, writers, directors and other talents. Unlike other late night shows, SNL handled the topic in a refreshing way that hit the issue head-on.
Despite a couple of great sketches, it was still a lackluster show overall. It felt like the cast was reaching for jokes in some sketches while in others the jokes felt like they had been pulled out of storage, as if they were needed during a weak spot.
Here's the report card for last night's episode:
Best sketch: Screen Guild Awards
Although SNL didn't come out and point fingers directly at the Academy, it's pretty obvious from this sketch who they're talking about.
In the sketch, the cast and writers address five films starring predominantly black actors or movies that are about black historical figures, only to nominate the random white guy in the movie instead. The list of nominations gets more ridiculous, proving the satirical point.
It's hard to pick out one cast member that performed better than the rest, as all nailed their parts. It's these types of sketches that remind us of how powerful SNL can be as a cultural conversation and it's something I'd like to see much more of going forward.
Runner up: Palin Endorsement Cold Open
Any time Tina Fey returns to SNL is a good time. Fey and Darrell Hammond together is a recipe for success in any situation. But handing Fey the ridiculous speech Sarah Palin gave this week in support of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump was comedy gold.
Fey slipped back into her 2008 character, quoted some Dr. Seuss and stole the sketch while Hammond stood off to the side and broke the fourth wall, reminding the audience just how "nuts" Palin really was.
It was a nice collaboration for longtime fans and is something we'll probably see more of next week.
Best throwback: Love Struck
This was one of the few sketches that used Rousey's talents and personality to her advantage.
The sketch follows Rousey as she's tricked into going on a date with the most popular guy at her new high school, only to learn it's all a setup to embarrass her. She then gets into a fistfight with Vanessa Bayer, the bully who orchestrated the prank.
It's a rare moment for Rousey where her intense facial expressions are enough to carry the sketch, but she's also accompanied by some amazing ‘80s movies throwbacks to ease things along. The homage to The Breakfast Club at the end is the cherry on top of the sundae.
Worst sketch: At The Club
I'm still not sure what they were trying to do with this one, but the entire three minutes are just awful.
It stars Taran Killam, Jay Pharaoh and Beck Bennett as three guys who want to bring Rousey, Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant home. When the women express they're not interested, the guys break down into a corny rap about how impressive they are in bed —e xcept for Bennett, who raps about how polite he is and how romantic he can be. The sketch tries way to hard to be funny and completely misses the point.
Saturday Night Live returns Feb. 6 with former writer and Seinfeld co-creator Larry David, after a weeklong hiatus for the cast and writing staff. David will be joined by The 1975 as musical guest.