Saturday Night Live: Harry Styles

November 16, 2019

BY Vish KhannaPublished Nov 17, 2019

Harry Styles might have been a keen host and musical guest, but he was steering a Titanic-like episode of Saturday Night Live that was confusingly terrible. Here's everything that happened this week.
The cold open

Oof. In their attempt to infuse the past week's impeachment inquiries with more "pizzazz," SNL framed it all as an elaborate, melodramatic soap opera. Aside from Jon Hamm generating the requisite cameo applause, the writing here fell dead flat in the room, the audience tittering nervously, as if the show was a showboating uncle making terrible jokes at a family dinner. Complete with camera direction miscues, this whole thing was brutal.

The monologue
Harry Styles riffed on his serious musicianship, "playing piano" and making jokes about One Direction and other random things. He took some little shots at the show itself and exhibited some pretty good comedy chops in a short, but good monologue.

White Get Out
Styles played a British intern at an American office who naively thinks he can pick up Popeyes popular chicken sandwiches for lunch. All of the black members of his team, played by Kenan Thompson, Ego Nwodim and Chris Redd, express panic at his brazenness, which has a certain eeriness to it. It's all explained in the concluding twist, but none of this was particularly amusing.

In a remote for Aidy Bryant, she played a kind of Lisa Loeb character, singing a song about her lonely life with her dog/boyfriend. Styles played the dog/man but again, this music video generated a confused response from the studio audience and wasn't big on laugh lines or funny imagery.

Iceland Iceland Baby
At a childbirth class, Styles and Heidi Gardner played a bizarre Icelandic couple that have learned American phrases from social media and confound their fellow classmates by enjoying their pregnancy a little too much. Some good physical performances by the pair here, but this was rather one-note in its silliness.

Styles and Mikey Day played a couple of idiotic pilots who can't stop saying horrible things into the airplane public address system. They make sexual comments and reveal how faulty the plane is, all of which makes their passengers uncomfortable and upset and viewers of this sketch antsy for it to come to a merciful end.
That's the Game
The night's first bright spot was this excellent remote featuring Chris Redd as a cocky, know-nothing drug dealer who tries to usurp his knowledgeable partner, portrayed by Kenan Thompson. This was a great showcase for Redd's expressive acting and he plays such confident morons like nobody else. And, unlike everything that preceded it on this episode, it was well-written and hilariously executed.
Harry Styles

A moody, soulful, but ultimately tepid performance of "Lights Up" gently introduced Harry Styles, the night's musical guest, to his captive audience. Normally a musical guest leaves an earnest ballad for the second half of the show, and artists go upbeat and poppier out of the gate. Styles flipped this, singing "Watermelon Sugar" with a bigger band later but, other than showing off his proficiency as a singer, there was no particular heft to these performances, which felt rote and forgettable.

Weekend Update
Colin Jost and Michael Che reported on the impeachment inquiry and, after a few solid jokes by Jost, Che did a bizarre bit about how he just wants something bad to happen to Trump. But, as he's done a couple of times this season, he started a joke premise but had nothing to close it with, and so the whole thing just awkwardly fizzled out, as the camera panned back to a bewildered Jost for the next joke.
Kate McKinnon reprised her not-so-great Jeff Sessions impression (her Southern accent is some indiscernibly mush-mouthed thing) for a desk segment that made Sessions seem like the spineless kiss-ass he is, but wasn't very funny. After a slew of miscellaneous news jokes that were hit-or-miss, Kyle Mooney appeared as an embattled dairy executive named Scooter Rineholdt, who laments the decline of his sector. A physically challenging and vocally assertive idea, Mooney was good in this and the best part of a limp update.
Sara Lee
Styles played a Sara Lee employee who handles the brand's Instagram account and is brought before his bosses, played by Cecily Strong and Bowen Yang. It would seem that Styles' character can't stop posting suggestive, horny captions about their queer lifestyle from the Sara Lee account and that was the entire premise for this minimal sketch that wasn't all that rewarding to sit through, aside from reveling in Yang's obvious glee that it got to air.

Baby Faye and the Grown-up News Guys
Oy, this interminable episode seemed hellbent on setting a record for the fewest laughs per sketch, ever generated by this show. This horrid bit of #tV waste featured Cecily Strong as a hapless vaudeville star putting on an ill-advised and awful show. What this was sending up in 2019 is not to be known by any of us and is not really worth pondering but to say, what the fuck SNL?
DJ Casket at Nana's Funeral
Styles and Chris Redd played funeral DJs, who turn up at an elderly woman's send-off and try to make the affair at least a little turnt. This was so dumb and ridiculous that even as a five-to-oner, it may well have been one of the few bright spots on this abysmal excuse for an episode.

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