‘SNL’ Ranked: Blake Shelton Brings His Country Sensibility, But Where’s the Charm?
It’s not often that a musical guest pulls double duty as a host on ‘SNL’—we’ve seen some pretty great ones over the years, whose natural charisma lends itself well to the gig, and we’ve seen some…not so great ones, where we (along with the folks at ‘SNL’) were more enamored with the concept than with the execution. This week brings country music star ‘The Voice’ judge (there’s a little NBC synergy for you) Blake Shelton to the ‘SNL’ stage, but does he belong? Read on for your official ranking of this week’s ‘SNL’ sketches from best to worst.
Wishin’ Boot (Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Blake Shelton)
They really nailed it with the styling on this one, from the vaguely mid to late ‘90s outfits (has country style changed at all in years?) to the cinematography and effects. It’s all in the details—the shafts of warm light, the way the camera revolves, the set dressing, everything. It’s definitely more impressive in execution than it is legitimately funny. Up until they get to the first chorus, the thing sounds like a real country song.
Weekend Update (Colin Jost, Michael Che, Bobby Moynihan, Pete Davidson, Sasheer Zamata)
Riblet can do bo’ jorbs! It’s odd, but when Moynihan’s Riblet slips into his “professional” voice, he’s more natural than Jost, whose delivery still seems mechanical for the first half before loosening up after Riblet’s exit. It’s interesting that Davidson has become such a regular at the desk in his first season, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they may need to dial it down a bit or have him try out a character to mix it up. Plus, that joke about wondering if you can appreciate the fifth installment in a porn series if you haven’t seen the first four is so old. My mom’s even made that joke before. Come on, man. On a happier note, I’ve been enjoying Zamata’s appearances at the desk lately.
Farm Hunk (Blake Shelton, Cecily Strong, Vanessa Bayer, Kate McKinnon, Sasheer Zamata, Aidy Bryant, Leslie Jones)
This sketch goes on just a hair too long, but man, McKinnon, Bryant, and Jones really work it as they try to outdo each other’s wackiness as potential love interests for Shelton’s “Farm Hunk.” The front half doesn’t feel too inspired, but once we get to McKinnon’s giant handful of spaghetti and Shelton’s remark about the absence of black people in Iowa, it really rolls from there. Bryant’s abrupt crying fits get better each time, and I kept waiting for Jones to show up because there’s something about pairing her with Shelton that I find inherently funny.
Celebrity Family Feud (Kenan Thompson, Taran Killam, Jay Pharoah, Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Sasheer, Zamata, Beck Bennett, Kyle Mooney)
Oh yes, the celeb edition of ‘Family Feud’ is always a solid choice, although having Shelton play himself is a little disappointing, particularly because he’s so flat. Thompson’s Steve Harvey has grown on me quite a bit and his “Marc Maron 5” line killed me, along with introducing Harry Connick Jr. as a Starbucks best-seller. Killam’s impression game seems off tonight, but the cartoonish-ness of Pharoah’s Pharrell, Bennett’s Harry Connick Jr., and Mooney’s Steven Tyler keep the sketch afloat just enough.
Blake Shelton’s Hee-Haw Monologue (Blake Shelton, Ensemble)
As someone who spent quite a bit of time visiting relatives in Georgia and Tennessee, I can appreciate this ode to ‘Hee-Haw,’ especially with cast members like Pete Davidson and Leslie Jones dressed up in some comical hillbilly ensembles, made all the more humorous by how totally wrong they look. Bringing the cast out to ease us into the idea of Shelton on the show is a smart move, and the concept (the cast doesn’t understand the aww-shucks ‘Hee-Haw’ approach to jokes) pays off pretty well.
Parole Board (Kenan Thompson, Blake Shelton, Cecily Strong, Bobby Moynihan)
It’s telling that Shelton hasn’t been the focus of many of this week’s sketches, and it feels increasingly like NBC wanted him on to cross-promote with ‘The Voice.’ I really want to like him—he seems so likable, but he just doesn’t have the charm. Also, this sketch just isn’t that great. Most of this week’s sketches have been fine, but they’re like under-achievers or like ‘SNL’ just showing up and doing the required work without going the extra mile. At least it’s a little weird. At least it has that.
Patriots Press Conference Cold Open (Kenan Thompson, Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan, Ensemble)
I am not going to pretend that I understand or appreciate football, but I’m not sure that really matters in the case of this week’s open, which just doesn’t quite work. While Taran Killam’s impressions are typically delightful, this one just feels a little too easy, as if he’s just sort of…I don’t want to say “phoning it in,” but this whole thing feels way too basic. I think the biggest thing to come out of this sketch is Kyle Mooney’s haircut. Unless that’s an impressive wig, I’m gonna miss that boy’s hair.
Magician (Taran Killam, Kenan Thompson, Aidy Bryant, Blake Shelton, Beck Bennett, Kate McKinnon)
As this week’s episode goes on, it’s as if the show is under-achieving on purpose, maybe to make Shelton seem funnier or to not make him seem so flat. With a performer like this one, they need to adjust to play to his strengths, but he doesn’t really have a strength as an actor because every character he plays is just some variation on affable country guy.
My Darlin’ Joan (Bobby Moynihan, Sasheer Zamata, Taran Killam, Blake Shelton)
Woof. You know, you keep waiting for Shelton’s song about Killam’s dead wife to take a turn, and when it finally does, the left turn it takes is more like slightly left of the middle—it’s just not zany enough.