If you tuned in to Saturday Night Live this week, but only for the opening monologue and closing salutations, you’d surely believe that host Joseph Gordon-Levitt had led the troops through an electric, energetic, hour-and-a-half romp across the stage. See Gordon-Levitt dancing in a Magic Mike parody! See him doing pushups! Sporting that ever-present grin! Working the crowd! But the filling in this Joseph Gordon-Levitt sandwich was plain peanut butter. He drove at exactly the speed limit and was in bed by 11:45 p.m. – which is a shame, considering Saturday Night Live goes until 1 a.m.
The highlights of last night’s episode came despite its host – starting with Mumford & Sons. The crowd-pleasing nü-Bluegrass group stood like pillars, side by side at the front of the stage, and intertwined their harmonies beautifully. Backed by a horn section for "I Will Wait," they brought a terrific spirit to Studio 8H – a hoedown meets Dave Matthews Band. Their second performance of the night, "Below My Feet," highlighted lead singer Marcus Mumford doing his best impression of Dick Van Dyke's one-man-band from Mary Poppins: singing, playing the bass drum using one foot, tambourine with the other foot, and quite capably strumming his acoustic guitar, all at the same time.
And while Marcus Mumford’s feet may have taken more chances in five minutes than Gordon-Levitt did the entire episode, there were a few standout moments.
For one, there was the horrifyingly hilarious commercial parody that’s destined to make it to the Sideshow segment of MSNBC’s Hardball: an advertisement for the uncomfortable-looking and anatomically-incorrect G.O.B. Tampons, "Made for a woman, by Republicans."
There was also The Finer Things – a talk show highlighting the latest and greatest in Hip-Hop's transition to the good life. Jay Pharoah and Keenan Thompson, playing rappers, toasted champagne and Louboutin sneakers and paid compliments to the authorities – promoting their new song "Thank You Police. The Fashion Show Went Off Without a Hitch and the Parking was Perfect" – while Gordon-Levitt showed some welcome range as an over-the-top hip-hop fashion authority, raving about the invention of a half-scarf, half-cardigan called the "scardigan."
And Kate McKinnon really picked up the slack at the Weekend Update desk – where Update anchor Seth Meyers was otherwise occupied by subjects straight out of the 1990s, including Fred Durst, Monica Lewinsky, Paris Hilton, and Brad Pitt. Mesmerizingly playing Ann Romney as an unblinking, uncompromising, unwavering Beyoncé fan, McKinnon lamented the everyday activities she and Mitt have given up – ones even the 47% of Americans might enjoy. "Apple picking is like Mormon Mardi Gras," she deadpanned.
The writers did Gordon-Levitt no favors by putting him in a retread sketch, done countless times, sitting in a bar alongside Jason Sudeikis, Keenan Thompson, and Bill Hader. The best buddies tell their most embarrassing and personal stories, before swinging their beers and joining in the chorus of the Beatles’ "You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away." It was essentially a cover sketch – a tribute, sure, but just a knock-off of the original.
The saving grace of this sketch, much like the episode itself: Mumford & Sons, who played the Beatles cover band, Hey Dude.