After a bizarre Christmas episode that got derailed by COVID, the first Saturday Night Live episode of 2022 went off without a hitch this weekend, with West Side Story star Ariana DeBose making her hosting debut alongside musical guest Bleachers. DeBose was the consummate theater professional—completely comfortable with live performance, utterly poised, and seemingly on the verge of breaking into song at any moment—but she unfortunately didn't get a lot to do in an episode that was filled with overly long sketches — it just never quite found its swagger, with one swaggy exception.
Chris Redd killed it as the swagger-obsessed Mayor Eric Adams, who has definitely been a cop for over 222 years, in Eric Adams Press Conference. It was the best sketch of the night, the kind of SNL political content that has something for everyone: Adams probably thought it was quite flattering ("I’m muscular, I’m vegan and I get that thang-thang every day before breakfast"), but Adams haters probably enjoyed it even more (what with the constant cop jokes). It was a howl into the the abyss that is a swag-less existence, and now we can only hope the impression doesn't get too overplayed.
The Message from the President Cold Open, with James Austin Johnson once again ably stepping in to play President Joe Biden, had a simple case to make to end the pandemic: "Stop Seeing Spider-Man." It was the kind of effective messaging that Democrats could really learn from. Pete Davidson made a fun appearance toward the end as an alternate universe Biden who definitely has swagger.
While Sappho was a bit too long, it gave a nice understated showcase to DeBose and Kate McKinnon as a pair of professors who unearthed timeless works of lesbian poetry such as, "You moved in three weeks ago. It has been hell. Marry me."
Nothing else really hit hard this episode, though there were a lot of things that almost worked, especially Winter Formal and Kitchen Staff. The former was a pretty standard-but-funny low budget commercial for a company specializing in school dance needs; Andrew Dismukes and Sarah Sherman were great, though Davidson just did a straight-up Adam Sandler impression. The latter sketch, which was basically a nothing premise, was an extremely silly exercise in talking slightly-Southern-inflected gibberish dialogue (the kind of thing Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis would have killed at). Big shoutout to Heidi Gardner and Alex Moffat for not tripping up with all those words.
The NBA On TNT sketch wasn't anything amazing (also, the Sacramento Kings will never make the national broadcast), but it had plenty of great impressions, especially Moffat as Ernie Johnson, Kenan Thompson as Charles Barkley, and best of all, Bowen Yang as the extremely-uncomfortable Yao Ming.
Check out the rest of the sketches below: What if Urkel, but a gritty reboot? And DeBose got to show off her excellent pipes in the Monologue and in New Governess, the latter of which was a solid parody of Sound Of Music's"Do-Re-Mi," with the cast over enunciating in bizarre Austrian-adjacent accents.
Only one guest on a relatively short Weekend Update: Chloe Fineman truly inhabited the soul of Elmo in Elmo & Rocco, referencing the "feud" between the furry red monster and the rock without a mouth.
There was one cut-for-time sketch: All On Me was another standout showcase for Chris Redd, a musical parody about a rapper who gets in over his head after signing a major label deal (Freddie Gibbs makes a cameo too).
Bleachers filled in for previously-announced musical guest Roddy Ricch, who had to cancel because of a COVID exposure, performing "Chinatown" and "How Dare You Want More."
Next weekend, the great Will Forte will make his return to Studio 8H to host SNL for the first time since leaving the show, with musical guest (and Eurovision winner) Måneskin.