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‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: “Jim Parsons”

SNL Jim Parsons
NBC

SNL‘ finally returns tonight after its brief Winter Olympics hiatus! Jim Parsons from ‘The Big Bang Theory‘ makes his debut on the 30 Rock stage as tonight’s guest host, and after years of watching him yuk it up as mega nerd Sheldon on the hit sitcom, we’re pretty interested to see him give us something a bit different — or will he? Read on for our review of tonight’s all-new episode of ‘SNL’!

Ellen Cold Open

Kate McKinnon pulls out her Ellen DeGeneres just in time for Oscars weekend, with Kenan Thompson as her DJ Tony and Aidy Bryant as her adorably over eager staff writer (with bonus adorable dogs). And oh boy, she’s making ’12 Years a Slave’ jokes — and honestly, this satire is probably not far off from how horribly cheesy her puns will be during the Oscars (have you seen her tweets lately? Yikes). Ellen goes to ‘Captain Phillips’ star Barkhad Abdi’s (Jay Pharoah) house for a prank, and it’s a great excuse to get Pharoah to say “Look at me, I am the captain now,” which is all you need for comedy. Jim Parsons makes his first appearance of the night as figure skater Johnny Weir, and already I’m apprehensive about tonight — even playing someone else, he just sounds like Jim Parsons. At least he looks like he’s having a good time and he’s fully committed? Anyway! Here we go!

Opening Monologue

Oh hey! They’ve added another featured player to the line-up. Hello, Colin Jost, AKA another white dude whose name I will likely have to Google many times before I remember it.

And hello, Jim Parsons. Parsons wants to establish that he’s nothing like his character, Sheldon, on ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ To prove his point, he’s got a song. Watch out, Neil Patrick Harris, Parsons is coming for you. I will forgive him and ‘SNL’ for this song because we get Bobby Moynihan doing an incredible George Costanza impression and Kate McKinnon doing a wackadoo Angela Lansbury that is so left field that I kind of want an entire sketch devoted to bank robber Lansbury.

Peter Pan

Holy hell, meet Tonkerbell, Tinkerbell’s trashy sister played by Aidy Bryant. Her dad was a housefly. Parsons is Peter Pan, naturally, with McKinnon, John Milhiser, and Kyle Mooney as the Darling children. Tonk is bringing major sass (she’s been stepped on, “like, a lot”), calling out the kids for their “nice-ass house” and sharing her happy thoughts to help them fly, like Gorditas and “loose underwear.” I am a fan of Aidy Bryant getting her own sketches, and especially fond of the way she says “my ass” like a trashy white Rihanna. Bonus: Bobby Moynihan dressed as a pervy version of Cinderella’s Gus Gus.

The Bird Bible

Yeah, okay, white people would totally buy this, and I come from a very white family, so I would know. This faux commercial promotes a bible that tells all the classic stories, but with pictures of American birds. McKinnon and Mike O’Brien play parents who try to get their kid more interested in bible-learning with the help of The Bird Bible, featuring all the classic stories, like Adam and Eve and yes, even the crucifixion of Christ. Uh, holy crap.

The Killer Files

Beck Bennett plays Jack Manville, the host of ‘The Killer Files,’ an Investigation Discovery show. This episode focuses on “The Dancefloor Killer,” played by Parsons with some appropriately creepy glasses. Using some retro editing, the show uses footage from various classic dance shows like ‘Soul Train’ to show us where the killer was creepily hanging out, scoping out his victims. ‘SNL’ makes clever use of the editing here for some golden set-ups, and Parsons uses deadpan awkwardness to his advantage. Absolutely wonderful stuff.

Oscar Profile: ’12 Years a Slave’

Thompson plays director Steve McQueen, explaining how he cast the smaller supporting roles of racist characters in his Oscar-nominated film ’12 Years a Slave.’ Brooks Wheelan walks in to read for “friendly guy in field,” but is asked by casting (Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong) to read for “hostile slave owner,” eliciting a hilariously awkward reaction from Wheelan. O’Brien and Parsons have similarly awkward auditions when they’re asked to go off-script and improvise a bit, but refuse to read the racist dialogue or get too mean. It’s an interesting concept: how do you cast supporting roles for something like this? How do you convince people to play the mean slave owners and racists? The especially wonderful touch is Jay Pharoah as the camera operator and Sasheer Zamata reading along with the actors to up the squirm factor. And apparently tonight’s trend is having Bobby Moynihan pop in near the end of sketches to steal the scene? A+

Weekend Update

And here’s Colin Jost joining Cecily Strong at the Weekend Update desk. He’s doing well so far, but I imagine it’ll be a few episodes before he really finds his stride. Our first guests of the night are Charles Barkley (Thompson) and Shaquille O’Neal (Pharoah) to comment on Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the NBA. I am quite fond of this goofy buddy pairing, as much as I’ve gotten some Thompson Weekend Update fatigue, since most of the characters he plays on W.U. are usually cut from the same silly cloth.

But the best guest of the night is 1860s newspaper critic Jebediah Atkinson, played by Taran Killam (where has he been all night?!). Jebediah, ever the harsh critic, shares his hyperbolic disdain for the best picture nominees in anticipation of tomorrow’s Oscars. Oh he’s so damn sassy, I love it. And yikes with that Woody Allen dig. Yikes! Nothing is off limits, not even ‘Schindler’s List.’ Can we make Jebediah a real film critic? Can we give him a blog? I mean, come on.

Murder Mystery Dinner

Parsons, Strong, Zamata, and Bennett play couples attending a murder mystery dinner party hosted by Killam. Everyone gets a very specific and kooky character to play, but Parsons gets the vague character assignment of Dudley, a “harmless, oversexed nutball,” and while everyone gets instructions to perform tasks to solve the mystery, Parsons has to do perverted acts. Eh, it all feels very sitcom-y and basic, and then it just gets redundant. I kind of wish Jebediah would show up.

Spotlightz! Salutes the Oscars

The acting camp for kids is back with a tribute to Oscar nominated films like ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ and just in time for all those viral videos we get this time of year with real kids reenacting Oscar nominated films. But really, I’d watch that ‘Return to Pizza Island’ movie with Vanessa Bayer. Let’s make that happen, ‘SNL.’ Bayer, Parsons, Noel Wells (oh hi, where have you been), and the rest of the cast do their best precocious over-acting kid impressions with tributes to ‘Gravity,’ ‘Her,’ ‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ and the like. Particularly cute: Sasheer Zamata as a Somali pirate in ‘Captain Phillips’ and Aidy Bryant as Samantha the OS in ‘Her.’

Elevator

Parsons plays Mr. Conrad, who is stopped in an elevator by his employees, played by O’Brien, Bryant, and Thompson — but Conrad is carrying a soiled pair of underwear from earlier when a construction explosion went off nearby, eliciting a rather, um, gross reaction from him and causing a painfully awkward interaction. I have no idea who decided this was a good idea for a sketch, but it is agonizingly basic and lame. I’m all for poop jokes, guys, but this feels lazy.

Dwayne’s Birthday

The guys play old school southern cowboys planning a surprise birthday present for their buddy Dwayne because they forgot to do something for him the year before. Parsons plays Clem, who is annoyed because no one cares about his ridiculous idea to dig a hole for him to jump out of and yell “Surprise!” The best part is Brooks Wheelan’s super silly birthday cards. I want more Brooks Wheelan on ‘SNL,’ period. Also, Jim Parsons has not been a great host. He’s consistently played the straight guy while the rest of the cast has supported him, playing the funnier parts and holding every sketch up around him. He’s just been pretty damn boring.

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