Michael Che and Colin Jost get a summer half-hour showcase that feels predictably like a padded Weekend Update segment.
NBC following up a resurgent season of Saturday Night Live with several weeks of what is being branded Weekend Update Summer Edition (but still listed as Saturday Night Live for your DVRing convenience) is a bit like like a restaurant celebrating the success of its table-side guacamole by serving patrons big bowls of cilantro. Some people like cilantro and think it adds a lot to dishes. Some people have a visceral hatred of cilantro and think it tastes like soap. But nobody came to the restaurant just for the cilantro.
Premiering on Thursday (August 10), Weekend Update Summer Edition played as exactly what it was, namely a straight-forward headline recitation delivered in typical mixed bag fashion by Michael Che and Colin Jost, padded with guest appearances by whichever members of the Saturday Night Live family weren’t rushing to finish up making movies and whatnot during their summer hiatus.
I’m sure there are people whose favorite part of SNL is Weekend Update and who don’t watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Daily Show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, The Jim Jefferies Show, Late Night with Seth Meyers or any of the other myriad late night offerings that have already made the exact same jokes about Donald Trump goading North Korea into nuclear war the new conservative vendetta against the Statue of Liberty and more. And this show is for those people!
Weekend Update has only rarely tried to put the “live” in Saturday Night Live anyway, so canned and reheated monologue leftovers don’t feel that unusual coming from Che and Jost, whose jokes were mostly the stuff of Twitter from last week and perhaps as recently as Tuesday, rather than offering any immediacy. Jost began with “Well, it’s been a crazy year these past few weeks,” but there was little they did that couldn’t have been held with equal currency until a September premiere for Saturday Night Live. The best line in two headlines sequences came when Jost chided NBC for renewing the rebooted Will & Grace before it even premiered, before noting that whenever NBC has even a little success, “they overdo it and dilute the brand.” Then he explained the joke, in case you didn’t get he was referring to Weekend Update Summer Edition. Jokes are funnier that way.
If there was any reason to watch Weekend Update Summer Edition, it was the three guests.
Mikey Day and Alex Moffat reprised their performances as Donald Jr and Eric Trump, a pair of amusing characterizations that lost all teeth this summer, since the whole premise was based on the idea that Eric is nearly addled and Junior is malevolent and cunning. At least the latter has been proven inaccurate in recent months. Accuracy aside, there was some genius to Moffat/Eric’s hypnotized reaction to being handed a fidget spinner to distract him from mentioning Junior’s legal difficulties.
Viewers were also treated to a glimpse at what might have been in the form of Bill Hader’s self-aggrandizing take on Anthony Scaramucci. It was less an impression of The Mooch and more about the realization that Anthony Scaramucci was probably always a second-tier Bill Hader character and not a real person. It wasn’t timely and it wasn’t a deep take on the departed communications director, but if jokes about The Mooch’s vulgarity-filled immolation already are stale, just imagine how meaningless they’d be in six weeks. Might as well take advantage now.
Chances are good that in an actual Weekend Update segment, Kenan Thompson’s blustery, Big Baller-pimping LeVar Ball — “They’re made of South African rhinosaucerous horn,” he said of son’s trademark shoes — would have been cut, or might not have even made it into the script. In this case, Thompson was available and 22 minutes had to be filled. I’d have preferred David Ortiz listing favorite foods, but that’s just me.
Availability was probably also the impetus for Leslie Jones doing one of her as-herself appearances designed to make Jost blush at her aggressive flirting and to troll her online adversaries. Also, it wouldn’t have been a good look if Weekend Update Summer Edition had just been, Saturday Night Live: Our Women Were Otherwise Occupied. Jones gave much better material to Seth Meyers earlier this week.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Lorne Michaels asked for a token appearance or two from each cast member and a couple other players cycle in next week. Probably that does not include Alec Baldwin, but Melissa Villaseñor might be wise to try getting a couple characters or impressions vetted by the American people when she isn’t competing with Kate McKinnon for screentime.
As summer programming goes, Weekend Update Summer Edition probably costs nothing to make and will deliver better-than-filler ratings for NBC, so it’s bound to be a small winner. It also probably won’t hurt to keep Saturday Night Live in the minds of Emmy voters, with final round balloting continuing through August 28. And what better way to get voters to remember a season dominated by Baldwin, Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon than with something else that is absolutely, incontestably also a part of the show? Without the rest of what makes Saturday Night Live hum surrounding it, Weekend Update Summer Edition is just another sometimes funny, mostly so-so comedy news half-hour in a landscape that, even in the summer, doesn’t lack for better examples of the same. I’ll watch it again, but mostly because NBC tricked my DVR into recording it for me, but as with regular SNL, future non-reviewing viewership may include some fast-forwarding.
Saturday Night Life: Weekend Update Summer Edition premiered on NBC on Thursday, August 10.