"Watching Saturday Night Live has always been an uneven experience—there are duds and gems, silliness and darker satire, and often stark shifts in tone from one sketch to the next," says David Sims. "But given the anxious state of the world today, watching the show has started to feel uncannily like doomscrolling through a social-media feed. The news the show is riffing on has been unrelentingly bleak for years, and the show’s satire has only grown more apocalyptic. There’s an internet-esque dissonance that comes from watching the show swerve between grim send-ups of Trump, social unrest, and COVID and delightfully inane nonsense. This weekend’s Saturday Night Live opened as usual, with a grab-bag political sketch addressing the news of the week, this time the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. Cecily Strong played Jeanine Pirro, doing her usual energetic work as the permanently incensed Fox News host; Mikey Day played the case’s headline-grabbing judge as a Rittenhouse sycophant; Chloe Fineman played a liberal commentator outraged by the not-guilty verdict; and Chris Redd played another, more resigned, talking head ('I’ve never seen anything like it before,' Fineman said. 'I have,” Redd replied. 'Many, many times'). Finally, Donald Trump (played by the new hire James Austin Johnson) showed up to hold forth on Joe Biden’s dismal approval ratings. What followed? A cheerful monologue from the Marvel star Simu Liu, a repetitive scene set at a karaoke bar clogged by terrible singers, a commercial parody about items to buy at Target to deal with annoying family members at Thanksgiving, and a sketch about a military experiment that created a man with the head of a dog. When the episode eventually wheeled back around to topical material in a game show designed to illustrate how Republican talking points can sound confusingly liberal, it was only after that heavy helping of absurdity. On SNL, as online, news about the brazen horrors of contemporary society sits uncomfortably alongside cute animal memes and chipper celebrity chatter. It’s easy to lose yourself in the flow, but it all blurs strangely together."
TOPICS: Simu Liu, NBC, Saturday Night Live