The 86th Academy Awards provided an easy running theme for last night’s post-Seth Meyers return of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Jim Parsons. That focus aided the Big Bang Theory star as he gamely tried to break out of his Sheldon Cooper mold, only referencing the hit show in a musical opening monologue on the theme of “I’m Not That Guy.” “I’m not a scientist. I do not speak Klingon. I do have a male roommate, but I assure you that it’s a vastly different arrangement,” he declared.
The show kicked off with an Ellen cold open, as Kate McKinnon channeled the Oscar host’s sweetly corny humor and awkward body language. A gentle prank segment found DeGeneres paying a visit to Captain Phillips‘ Barkhad Abdi (played by Jay Pharoah) and Parsons made his first appearance on the show as ice skater Johnny Weir.
The Oscars theme continued with a tensely funny look at an open casting call for Best Picture nominee 12 Years A Slave, where white actors auditioning for Steve McQueen (played by Kenan Thompson) grow increasingly uncomfortable meeting the demands of roles such as “hostile slave owner.”
A commercial for Spotlightz Acting Camp revisited the Best Picture nominees with overacting children taking on scenes from The Wolf of Wall Street, Gravity, Captain Phillips, Her, and Dallas Buyers Club. (“I’ve got an idea! Let’s sell drugs! To help our AIDS!”)
New head writer Colin Jost made his debut as Weekend Update co-anchor, taking up the seat recently vacated by Seth Meyers. “Before we start, I just wanted to say I’m so grateful and excited to be here tonight. This is really a dream come true,” Jost said as he settled into his post alongside Cecily Strong.
The evening’s true highlight (aside from the amazing “Bird Bible”) was Beck, making his seventh appearance on the show as musical guest, returning after an eight-year gap to perform songs from his new album, Morning Phase. He opened with a lushly reverberating “Blue Moon” (backed by a band that included Father John Misty’s Josh Tillman) and returned with a string orchestra and intense blue lighting for a the haunting, tidal “Wave.”