Long live Saturday Night Live, which kicked off its 40th (40th!) season last night with Chris Pratt hosting, Ariana Grande musical guesting and cast alum Darrell Hammond stepping into the formidable shoes of announcer Don Pardo. The whole night was a pretty strong comeback, but here are the three sketches you've gotta watch.
"He-Man and Lion-O"
If you bet on "Chris Pratt repeatedly pats his package and Taran Killam's package before the half-hour mark," you won a huge prize on Saturday night. Right after his monologue, Pratt dove in headfirst with this sketch featuring Kyle Mooney as a friendless little boy who wishes his He-Man and Lion-O action figures would come to life. Suddenly Pratt's in the kitchen wearing a furry loincloth and a blonde bob, with absolutely no idea what he's doing, since in real life, toys don't have rich inner lives and a quiver of witty quips. Soon enough Pratt and Killam, Lord of the ThunderCats, are simultaneously destroying the kitchen and discovering the human concept of lust. Come for Pratt's Parks and Recreation–tested klutz humor, stick around for the totally game cameo from Ariana Grande, also known as She-Ra.
On Chris Pratt Night, Saturday Night Live could have walked into the laziness trap and done multiple sketches poking fun at superheroes, Marvel, and/or Guardians of the Galaxy. Luckily "He-Man and Lion-O" went so absurdist that the real, high-grade Marvel mockery all got saved for this quick, hilarious take on the comic book movie empire.
The gist of "Marvel Trailer," which is a pure delight: if the relatively obscure Guardians of the Galaxy can become a $635 million international sensation, and if there’s seriously an Ant-Man movie on the horizon, why not just start surfing dictionaries for random titles and making those into movies, too? In Creatures of the Cosmos, Pratt plays a pastry chef who teams with a Harlem Globetrotter, a cigar-smoking McDonald's mascot, an office chair, and an alien real estate sign-spinner. After that we're on to Marvel's Bus People, Marvel's Fancy Ghosts, and Marvel's Star Wars, starring Pratt as the Princess Leia to Bobby Moynihan’s Boba Fett, Jay Pharoah's Lando Calrissian, and Taran Killam’s Han Solo. Also: best use of "Hooked on a Feeling" since … Guardians of the Galaxy.
A decent chunk of the SNL season 40 premiere had a "what did we miss while we were on summer vacation?" vibe, which makes sense. But recent events were also strong in the mix, and the NFL's abuse kerfuffle got tagged twice over the night. The cold open, featuring Kenan Thompson, Aidy Bryant, and Jay Pharoah, missed the mark. But "NFL Intros," despite operating very much in the shadow of Key & Peele's legendary NFL sketch, hit it with hilarious accuracy, and used Chris Pratt well.
"Kyle Jeffries: manslaughter," says Bobby Moynihan, playing a Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman. "Terry Pope," says Jay Pharaoh. "I brought an assault rifle to a barbecue." It goes on like that for another two minutes, getting – like both Key & Peele's "East/West College Bowl" sketches — sillier and sillier, till we’re meeting players guilty of involuntary prostitution, mailman-punching, and joining the "American Taliban." The acid kicker, from commentator Taran Killam? "We'll see you back here for the Bud Lite Lime-a-Rita halftime show, featuring Chris Brown and a very special tribute to Pacman Jones."