Saturday Night Live: Michael B Jordan plays host for a lukewarm episode

Saturday Night Live opens with a press conference held by America’s top cop, Attorney General Merrick Garland (Mikey Day). The diminutive, hopelessly dweeby lawman puts on his best Judge Dredd impression, proclaiming “I. Am. The. Law.” and vowing to go after anyone harboring classified documents, be they “Democrat, Republican, or whatever Trump is now”.

He turns the microphone over to a trio of FBI agents who provide details about searches conducted at the homes of former vice-president Mike Pence (“Right away, I knew: this man needs a friend”), Vice-President Kamala Harris (“Joe Biden won’t even give this woman a pen, you think she has classified documents?”), and former President Barack Obama (“Beyonce called him on his cell phone and he ignored it!”).

It’s a weak cold open befitting what is, let’s face it, a weak scandal. The show even acknowledges this by seriously asking: “When we done playing with these little papers, we’re going to head down to Memphis and make sure justice is served there, right?”

Michael B Jordan hosts for the first time. Filming some of the videos for the show makes for “a full circle moment” for the actor, as the studio is the same place where he filmed one of his first acting roles on the soap All My Children. His trip down memory lane includes a clip from that series in which he “hit puberty” about halfway through. Jordan talks about a recent breakup and fends off the ferocious advances of several members of the cast, including Ego Nwodim in a full wedding gown and Punkie B Johnson, who may be gay, but is also “Punkie B Curious.”. SNL tends to go to this same well every time they have a male sex symbol host.

A cooking segment on Good Morning Today sees the return of host Francine (Sarah Sherman), who missed the previous day’s episode because she “got stuck on a runaway roller coaster going 150 miles an hour for 19 hours straight”. Cut to Sherman looking “nuts” with her hair blown all the way back and a rictus grin plastered over her face. A little later, Jordan shows up as the weatherman, who was also stuck on the same coaster. The initial sight gag is funny, but the wackiness wears thin fast.

A commercial for Southwest sees the airline apologize for stranding thousands of fliers over the holidays. They promise a better experience moving forward thanks to new system and policy changes, including upgrading their system to Dell computers, completely getting rid of check-in, and staffing their flights crews with former Waffle House employees (“Come at us if you want, but these big bitches don’t play”). The skit betrays a weird animosity towards Southwest customers throughout.

At a hotel in the Dominican Republic, two cabana boys (Marcello Hernández and Kenan Thompson) riff on movies and confuse vacationing guests for American TV personalities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Tony Soprano, and both “the old Little Mermaid and the new Little Mermaid.” As with almost every segment that’s centered Hernández so far, the humor revolves entirely around over-the-top Latino accents. Already dire, this one is done no favors by the fact that Jordan can’t pull his accent off.

Next, Jordan plays Jake from State Farm. After helping a young family out with their policy, he sticks around, worming his way into their lives much to the chagrin of the jealous husband. Things grow increasingly dark, and soon we’re watching a dangerous stranger erotic thriller of the kind we used to get in the 90s. Jordan is so convincing in the role he ought to make one of these movies for real.

On Weekend Update, Michael Che’s doorman Carl comes on to discuss rent hikes throughout New York, but all he does is rib Che over his drunken antics, as well as his love life and family problems (“Hey Che – you know that kid came looking for you”). Thompson is having silly fun, but it’s instantly forgettable.

He’s followed by Every Boxer’s Girlfriend from Every Boxing Movie About Boxing Ever (Heidi Gardner) who demands vengeance against Adonis Creed for savagely beating her husband Tommy’s brain to mush in their recent fight. Creed shows up and puts the moves on her after revealing they had a past romance. As a parody of Jordan’s blockbuster franchise, it leaves a lot to be desired.

A male confidence seminar sees Andrew Dismukes’ “alpha” life coach dispense bad wisdom to a bunch of shy nerds. After he’s rude to Jordan’s interrupting water delivery guy, the guy demolishes his confidence by making fun of his large forehead, before stealing his students away. The whole thing is over before it begins, which is fine since there isn’t anything to it. It’s felt odd that SNL has shied away from taking on the spate of men’s rights activist gurus (read: con artists) like Andrew Tate and Jordan Peterson given their prevalence over the last couple of years, but if this sketch is any indication, perhaps it’s better if they leave it to others.

As mentioned earlier, SNL can’t pass up the chance to ogle a hunky host, and it was a foregone conclusion that at some point in the night, we would see Jordan showing off the goods. That comes by way of the next sketch, which sees him play a male stripper at a bachelorette party. His striptease is interrupted by his very pregnant wife, who’s been sitting out in the car. She comes in to charge her phone, but soon gets in on the act, much to the extreme discomfort of the partygoers.

It’s followed by a commercial for King Brothers’ Toyota Overstock Sale-A-Thon. The namesake brothers (Dismukes, James Austin Johnson) give viewers very specific directions to their dealership, warning them to take a “hard, HARD left” immediately after the freeway exit, lest they find themselves stuck in “the massive overflow line for the new Raising Cane’s”. The ad spirals into a tirade against the “Brigham Chamber of Commerce and their villainous patron, Councilman Hugo Gallegos” for destroying their business and lives by renting out all the property around them to prohibitively popular fast-food chains. While not a new classic, it’s a good example of late-episode weirdness that’s been missing of late. The best sketch of the episode by a wide margin.

Things close out with a pre-filmed, backstage sketch in which a nervous Jordan keeps slipping and falling in front of Dismukes. Despite a few chuckle-worthy moments, it makes for a paltry end to the show.

Jordan made for a mostly fine host, but not a particularly strong or memorable one. And although the episode was far from a disaster, there was a noticeable dip in quality after last week’s very strong return.