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SNL Love It/Keep It/Leave It: Tina Fey/Nicki Minaj

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

Michael and Colin – With a finale consisting of mostly disappointing sketches, I will take this opportunity to take a deeper dive than usual into Weekend Update. It has been a solid year for Misters Jost and Che, as the two have long settled into an undeniably strong rapport. For their final Season 43 outing, the ostensible centerpiece is their set of jokes that had previously been deemed too sensitive to air, but the real highlight (as usual) is their in-between-joke banter, as when Colin notes that Michael’s take on a racial epithet-based story turned out better than when he gave it a go.

Keep It

Chicago Improv – First off, that improv team is totally unprofessional for refusing to accept “dildo.” You’re never supposed to say no to an audience suggestion in improv. But anyway, the idea of Dick Wolf trying his hand at the local comedy scene is intriguing, though certainly it is a case of going way out of one’s wheelhouse. Alas, the review blurbs are a tad unrealistic. Surely, professional critics in 2018 would have some familiarity with the improv world.

SNL Season 43 political cold openings wrap up their business with a Sopranos series finale homage at Holsten’s Restaurant, and if you’re going to cut to black, maybe commit all the way and don’t cut back for the “Live From New York” after the black…Tina Fey’s Monologue calls out SNL’s current overreliance on celebrity cameos by … bringing in a bunch of celebrities to cameo. It certainly doesn’t fix the problem, but at least the chosen celebs are mostly of the self-aware variety…Tina (foolishly) decides she wants to appear onstage in the Mean Girls musical, and I’m mostly amused by her (lack of) rapport with Aidy and Cecily…Some excellent “monkey see, monkey do” work from Alex Moffat in the latest Update appearance of Eric and Donald Trump, Jr.

Leave It

Dateline – There is a germ of a promising idea in this bit of an entrapped-by-Dateline predator facing greater pressure from the realities of TV production rather than the law. But it can never quite pin down its comedic logic. Is the predator willing to play along because he thinks this will allow him to slip away, or is he distracted by the spotlight? Unfortunately, it is just never clear why he hardly acts like someone who has been caught red-handed. Also, was the prostitute he was expecting to meet underage or something? Soliciting a prostitute may be illegal in many jurisdictions, but it hardly makes one a pervert.

The Royal Wedding Reception sketch amounts to little more than “This is something that happened this week”…Morning Joe involves Kate McKinnon and Alex Moffat making faces, and that’s about it…Kenan as Bishop Michael Curry’s description of himself at the royal wedding as a “chicken-and-waffles kiosk in the middle of Pottery Barn” is worth a laugh, but other than that, it is unclear what makes him unique…Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin returns, but she feels notably irrelevant, and in fact, so do all the Trump administration folks passing through to whom she offers advice…There are some cool world-building details in the Livingston High Talent Show (like Kyle Mooney’s quick bit with his invisible box and Principal Kenan noting that the “booty is worth it”) but the centerpiece of a surly teen and her mom performing together never really goes anywhere particularly adventurous.

Tina Fey

CREDIT: Kailey Fellows/NBC

On a scale of “essential to the show” to “we’ve moved on,” Tina Fey uncharacteristically does not really have any standout performances in her sixth time returning as host. She lends a professional sheen to some weak and/or indifferent material, but she never really saves a sinking ship like an SNL superstar often can.

Nicki Minaj

On a scale of trailblazing to legacy act, I’m wondering how relevant Nicki Minaj still is to the rap game. I am not ensconced in hip-hop culture, so the answer may be that she is important as ever, but I get a sense that a new breed is pushing things forward with or without her. And it actually might be with her, as Playboi Carti’s assist on her second number, “Poke It Out,” feels like what the rap youngsters are doing these days. But I much prefer the steady beat and thorough Minaj-ness of “Chun-Li.” No matter her place in the current rap pantheon, it definitely feels like she has not shied away from doing her own particular thing.

I’ll be around somewhere in a few months to let you know what I’m loving, keeping, and leaving from SNL Season 44!

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