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SNL Love It/Keep It/Leave It: Sterling K. Brown/James Bay

CREDIT: Rosalind O’Connor/NBC

NewsCult Entertainment Editor Jeffrey Malone watches every new episode of Saturday Night Live and then organizes the sketches into the following categories: “Love It” (potentially Best of the Season-worthy), “Keep It” (perfectly adequate), or “Leave It” (in need of a rewrite, to say the least). Then he concludes with assessments of the host and musical guest.

Love It

Dying Mrs. Gomez – So Nickelback was and remains a punchline for many people as the height of 2000s rock music mediocrity. But while they were the most disproportionately successful of their ilk, they weren’t the worst. They actually have a few decent sing-along stompers, and “How You Remind Me” is the best of the bunch. And thanks to this episode, we now know that is the perfect tune to build a sketch about a dying unlikely superfan around.

Vanessa Bayer drops by for a new Dawn Lazarus bit, and now we must christen a new bumper sticker with the message, “We treat that earth like a big bitch. ’Kay?”…Instead of interviewing real people as himself, Kyle Mooney steps into his Chris Fitzpatrick role to pose the query of “Rock vs Rap” and the result is beautifully illogical but also imbued with that patented Kyle Mooney kindheartedness.

Keep It

The Bachelor – Here’s a sketch that I very much like and almost love. It’s a fine juxtaposition: the potential disappointments of the Robert Mueller investigation being played out as the latest reality dating show bait-and-switch. And you gotta love it when the SNL directing team brings its A-game, as in the split screen of two people in the same room.

Sterling K. Brown’s Monologue works as well as it does because it only makes sense to me that someone would get that choked up over Kenan Thompson…This Is U.S. earns a laugh for its premise, but the execution is a little staid…The Shrek-vs.-Coco Dinner is certainly wild, but what I really want to know more about is that fender bender with the NBA’s Penny Hardaway…Michael and Colin keep making jokes, and the best one this time is Che having no idea what the Dow Jones is…Alex Moffat and Mikey Day’s Eric and Donald Trump, Jr. are pretty much repeating the same beats at this point – they haven’t quite exhausted their goodwill yet…Sterling K. Brown can indeed save lonely hearts as Doctor Love, but what’s that about Beck Bennett’s “tech decks”? (Did I hear that correctly?)…The Movie Shoot with the awkward close-up coverage doesn’t really go anywhere with its premise, but it does give Cecily Strong another opportunity to get deep into character work.

Leave It

Celebrity Family Feud: Oscars Edition – I think it’s time to retire the Celebrity Family Feud sketches. In fact, it’s probably past due time. Even if you get 8 great impressions (and the takes on the Oscar winners and losers are here are all mostly solid, particularly Heidi Gardner’s Allison Janney), the whole routine is so formulaic and the setup takes forever.

It Came From the Woods gets points for its cinematic qualities, but come on, anyone could write a sketch about Sasquatch being a bully…The Black Panther Deleted Scene riffs on Wakandan culture crossing with stereotypical African-American culture, I guess? Honestly, this sketch is mostly just Kenan being Kenan, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it would be nice if he had a firmer joke to work with.

Sterling K. Brown

CREDIT: Rosalind O’Connor/NBC

Plenty of SNL hosts these days are visibly excited to finally get the invite to the Studio 8H stage, but has anyone ever been more overjoyed than Sterling K. Brown? That goodwill goes a long way to propping up some otherwise meh sketches, and it lends a special quality to the more inspired premises. Even when he flubs a few lines here and there, he somehow manages to recover in a way that actually improves his performance.

James Bay

So “Wild Love” is one of the most buoyantly sexy rock-soul songs in a good while. James Bay’s rendition of it here starts a little slower than I would think makes sense, but it eventually gets to the point such that I’m sure plenty of SNL viewers have now fallen in love with him. As for his first number (“Pink Lemonade”), I appreciate that his top few buttons are unbuttoned.

I’ll be back next week to let you know what I’m loving, keeping, and leaving from host Bill Hader and musical guest Arcade Fire!

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