Saturday Night Live: Sam Rockwell & Halsey January 13, 2018

Saturday Night Live: Sam Rockwell & Halsey January 13, 2018
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On an episode where the sketch sequence seemed to be purposefully reversed (An ad at the end? An obvious 12:55er slated after the monologue?), noted character actor Sam Rockwell seemed to really enjoy himself, diving into the variety of roles he was assigned, and Halsey too came to Saturday Night Live to make a statement. Here's everything that happened.
 
The Cold Open

Fred Armisen returned to SNL to play Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff, and later Bill Murray also showed up to play Steve Bannon, both as guests on MSNBC's Morning Joe. Before they showed up, this was more of a send-up of the sexual tension between, and personality quirks of, co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, played by Alex Moffatt and Kate McKinnon respectively. Armisen gave it more of a spark with his portrayal of a factually nihilistic Wolff, and Murray was a spacey Bannon. Leslie Jones appeared as Oprah, capturing most of the weird political news of the last week or so in an enjoyable cold open.

The monologue
Lampooning his character actor status, Sam Rockwell revelled in his recent Golden Globe victory by embarking on an action-packed studio tour during his monologue. A tad stilted singing, Rockwell came into his own as this thing unfolded, engaging in fight and dance sequences with the cast, and it was a captivating and adventurous introduction.

The Science Room with Mr. Science
By the time you read this, Rockwell blurting out "fucking" will have made some headlines, which is kind of ridiculous given how slight and short this throwback kids science show sketch was. Rockwell played a frustrated host who got lost in anger at his two inept students, played by Cecily Strong and Mikey Day, straying off-script and authentically cursing them out. It was the most memorable thing about this funny, but random sketch which, most weeks, would have quietly appeared as filler to close out the show.

Tucci Gang
Man, this was good. Pete Davidson lampoons the vapid rapper, Lil Pump, mocking his song "Gucci Gang" by instead paying tribute to Stanley Tucci. Rockwell played Tucci, gyrating to the crunk beat, which was propelled by Pump's deep, IMDB rhymes about Tooch. "Tucci Gang" had all the attention to detail and absurdity of a "Weird Al" Yanokovic treatment. When we say "all," we mean it; SNL just clearly ripped off "Weird Al."

The Look
This was an amusing rendering of what a problematic network like E! might do to engage with the growing consciousness about sexism and objectification of women, when being sexist, superficial, society-destroying scum is really all the network has ever been. This fashion show highlighted the kind of fake woke business that goes on as shitty garbage people try to jump on a movement like it's just some new bandwagon. It was cutting and an amusing takedown of the kinds of characters who serve as commentators on such unconscionable TV.

My Drunk Boyfriend
A mid-show faux ad, My Drunk Boyfriend is meant for women (only, apparently) who miss their idiot dudes when they're not around. To help, order a MDB and watch him act like an emotionally unstable moron whom you have to helplessly take care of. Weird messaging but props to Kyle Mooney and Rockwell for playing these real dolls so convincingly.

Halsey
Rising pop star Halsey elaborately choreographed her two performances, which, whatever you made of her music, made for a theatrical experience. For "Bad at Love," she emerged in a yellow bustier, resembling an anime cross between a cheetah and Annie Lennox, and poured her all into singing the impassioned song while dancers dramatized the action within the lyrics.

Later, G-Easy joined her for their collab on "Him & I," and the pair did everything possible to play up some sexual tension to some modest, if not contrived, effect. They first appeared entwined in a longing embrace, behind a rain-fogged window, which was a noir-ish bit of staging. From their, the performance felt stronger visually than it did musically but that might have more to do with how much you buy into G-Easy's Eminem-meets-Macklemore flow and presence.

Weekend Update

On a particularly spirited WU, Colin Jost and Michael Che delivered some astute and funny jokes about Donald Trump's "shithole countries" fiasco and the myriad other things we've all had to contemplate over the past few weeks. Riffing on yesterday's report that Trump may have given porn actress Stormy Daniels hush money to cover up an alleged 2006 affair, Jost said, "At least there's one storm Trump will pay for," as the words, "Puerto Rico" flashed onscreen. Leslie Jones re-emerged as Oprah, joined by Chris Redd as her longtime partner, Steadman, to discuss her presidential prospects, which was fine, thanks mostly to Redd's beta yes-Steadman. Aidy Bryant's desk piece was a slightly sarcastic and pointed monologue about women "gently" requesting basic human decency gestures like equal pay with men, while Kenan Thompson's LaVar Ball just brought preposterous chaos to the desk.

Captain Hook and boys
Not sure what prompted this angle on Peter Pan's Captain Hook, as possibly a self-conscious pedophile pirate, but it was certainly awkward, unusual and ill-advised.

ATM
A remote, dramatic piece, Rockwell plays a white guy drawing money out of a bank ATM in a rough neighbourhood who is confronted about his racist assumptions by a fellow customer, played by Kenan Thompson. What seems to be playing out as a parable about racism takes an ironic turn when Thompson gets beaten down for his money by a black gang, led by Chris Redd. Not really funny, not heartening, just kind of… there.
 
Marcus
In a rather brilliant piece of writing, Alex Moffatt plays a gay man visiting his parents with his new boyfriend, played by Chris Redd. Rockwell and Aidy Bryant play the Archie-and-Edith parent archetypes, doing their best to uncomfortably accommodate their son's orientation, but there's a funny twist. Early on, we learn that Redd's character is a gay porn actor, a fact Moffatt urges him to keep secret from his parents. Of course, his angry, repressed father totally recognizes him because he's, shockingly, really into gay porn. Great idea, very well-executed.
 
Next Gene Labs
Quite a wondrous bit of visual comedy here, as a group of scientific authorities tour a laboratory where questionable scientists have created something called Dog Head Guy. This silly premise centres upon a well-done prop setup where an actual dog is placed atop an unseen human being whose arms and hands seem to be part of its body. The dog happily eats snacks and sandwiches, while the arms and hands gesticulate communicatively. Mikey Day could barely keep it together and his joy was infectious. This was fun to watch.
 
Chantix
An ad parody that might normally appear early on in an episode, the premise here is, what if those "real people, not actors" disclaimers weren't exactly true? Cecily Strong plays the pill-taking customer here who seems triggered by the voiceover describing her as "a normal person and not an actor," which prompts the character to contemplate her past life as an aspiring dramatic actress. It's a cool idea that features a dynamic, fascinating performance by Strong, who really can act.