If you’re like me, you may be wondering, “Why is Liev Schreiber hosting SNL this week?” Then, upon learning that he’s promoting the latest season of his Showtime drama, Ray Donovan, your next question may have been, “What’s Ray Donovan? … it’s on how many seasons now?!”
The normally taciturn character actor was a weird fit for an SNL hosting gig, and he knew it: his opening monologue was an earnest, dry affair about how he’s kinda new at all this comedy stuff, telling the audience: “This is all about managing expectations.” Still, he acquitted himself nicely, even if he didn’t get the richest material to work with. Overall, Saturday Night Live felt like a sigh of relief at the results of the midterms, a milquetoast filler episode with only a couple bright spots. Here are some of the highlights.
THE PETE DAVIDSON FOOT-IN-MOUTH APOLOGY TOUR CONTINUES
Not a week goes by without another controversy from Pete Davidson, and it’s honestly exhausting at this point. Give the poor burnout a break! Last week, he had to give sincere well wishes to former fiancee Ariana Grande the same night she released a diss track a half hour before the show; this week, he had to pop into Weekend Update to apologize to Texas Republican Representative-Elect Dan Crenshaw for jokes he made about his eye patch, which is actually a war wound he earned in his time as a Navy SEAL. Not only that, Crenshaw himself came on the show to offer a few well-delivered barbs at Davidson’s expense (“Pete Davidson looks like a Troll doll with a tapeworm”). While it’s still more than a little annoying that the onus is always on progressives to apologize for jokes in this heightened landscape – last week’s joke was actually at Pete’s expense for his flippancy, not Crenshaw – the gesture at least served as a well-intentioned olive branch to bridge political divides.
SCHREIBER SETS EXPECTATIONS LOW
As for the actual host of the show, Schreiber ended up in the background for a lot of his sketches – a reporter interviewing two Property Brothers-esque twins who accidentally drop double entendres about incest, the host of a podcast-themed awards show – but he at least handled the material with a certain level of comfort. The real highlight, though, was a House Hunters parody late in the hour in which he and Leslie Jones play the typical wine-swilling couple casually talking about their options, which grow increasingly absurd as the sketch goes on. There’s something about Schreiber’s matter-of-fact descriptions of bathrooms covered in towel racks or the intricate way he’d position himself on an upside-down toilet in one house that make the Tim & Eric levels of dada nonsense work. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a couple casually roam around an invisible house with a cat on the roof.
THE SHOW RELAXES AFTER THE MIDTERMS
Now that the midterms gave the progressively-minded SNL cast and crew some breathing room, they pumped the brakes on the non-Update political content this time around. Apart from a so-so cold open giving Kate McKinnon’s Keebler-beast Jeff Sessions a final bow (complete with awkward cameo from Robert De Niro as Bob Mueller), the show largely avoided Trumpy topics altogether. The closest they came was a halfway decent Band Aid-esque anthem about the little things that both liberals and conservatives hate: the words “crotch” and “moist,” guys who make loud sounds at the gym, the noise the chip reader makes when your transaction is done, etc. It’s diverting enough, but all rather toothless in the end. (Which, to be honest, is all we can really expect from SNL these days.)