Sofia Vergara is one of the most appealing people on television, it's just a matter of how she appeals to you. A huge amount of the population may simply enjoy how she looks, but I'm pretty sure it's her comedic chops that propelled her to into the zeitgeist so quickly. It doesn't matter that her accent may or may not be exaggerated for comic effect or that she might have been built in a lab using the DNA of Lucille Ball, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Charo. The fact is, the lady is just straight-up entertaining. The question was not whether she'd do a good job hosting SNL, the question was whether SNL would do a good job featuring Sofia Vergara. So how'd SNL manage this can't-miss proposition? It didn't knock it out of the park, that's for sure. It was more like a ground-rule double. (Quick question: What is baseball?)
So while the episode was an average one for SNL (admittedly, nitpicking the quality of an SNL episode is about as useful as discussing the weather), there were definitely some highlights and many of them Sofia Vergara-related. Basically, whenever she was allowed to play funny characters (Fran Drescher!) or just be weird (the Hunger Games reporter), she was amazing. But when she was relegated to straight-man parts (Sex-Ed teacher) or sketches involving how funny her accent sounds (Pantene commercial), the show did her a disservice.
But let's talk about the show! There were some other notable happenings, namely the addition of new cast member Kate McKinnon, plus two performances and a cameo by One Direction, the most diabolical British invention since the umbrella dagger.
Here are the sketches in the order in which they aired. (Apologies up front to international readers, Hulu is a bit of a jerk sometimes.)
Cold Open: Mitt Romney Campaign
Merely okay. It's debatable just how much SNL has to say about modern politics with shows like The Daily Show and Colbert Report transmitting brutally incisive brilliance four nights a week, so SNL and resident political sketchwriter James Downey (he of the incredible Billy Madison speech "Mr. Madison, what you just said... ") have settled for toothless and wacky. Mitt Romney is all things to all people, so let's have him pretend to be tons of random things while a random heckler shouts "We don't believe you!" It was funny in a listicle sort of way, but really the most notable part was the brand-new blonde cast member standing wordlessly beside Sudeikis's Romney about midway through. Welcome to SNL, Kate McKinnon!
Sofia Vergara's Monologue
Charming. Those of us not completely distracted by Vergara's leather bustier were treated to some solid "I'm from Colombia" jokes, complete with a cutaway to Vergara's thirtysomething grandparents (everyone ages slower in Colombia).
Fake Ad: We're Just Friends
The coolest sketches are definitely ones about straight dudes that—ickily enough!—seem gay! Related: If Andy Samberg leaves at the end of this season, can he take head writer Seth Meyers with him? Enough of this stuff.
Bein' Quirky with Zooey Deschanel
This was fun! First of all, this was the second installment of this sketch, so huge congrats to Abby Elliott for scoring a recurring character! It's about time, girl. And normally I disapprove of parodying comedy, but Elliott's impression of Zooey Deschanel was hilarious, as was Kristen Wiig's Drew Barrymore, Taran Killam's Michael Cera, and especially Sofia Vergara's half-crazed Fran Drescher. She was seriously crazy! Not the most accurate impression, but it didn't matter, I was laughing so hard.
Fake Ad: "Almost Pizza"
This was the best, I think. Yeah, it was the best. Super short, perfect idea. It hit a little too close to home for me (that box looks A LOT like Digiorno's, which I eat shamefully often.) But the pizza shattering, then morphing back together, then scurrying under the oven? Such a good video! They should've played it three or four times throughout the night, just peppering it in every now and again.
News Team Promos
This was fine, mostly because of Fred Armisen doing whatever it was he was doing, plus how INTENSE Sofia Vergara's face looked in the end. This was a good example of her being forced to play a straight character but still managing to pull off some secret laughs against the cue cards' wishes.
Gilly in Sex Ed
Ooh, the widely loathed Gilly character! You know, I don't hate Gilly. Sure, to enjoy these sketches one needs to be a bit masochistic, but I really appreciate Kristen Wiig's commitment here. That dance. That wig. The aggressively formulaic setups. Oh and the button at the end of the dream sequence got me good. Really, I was fine with this sketch.
One Direction "What Makes You Beautiful"
I don't even know what to tell you about this. It doesn't really matter what year it is (2012, for the record) or how much self-awareness our society has about awful boy bands of yore. As long as there are little girls there will always be boy bands. Deal w/it. In the case of British boy group One Direction, they had tons going for them: Elaborate haircuts, clumsy dance moves, passable singing voices, adorable faces, and mix-and-match outfits that suggested they quickly got dressed after a five-way naked wrestling match on their tour bus. "Hurry, lads, you're on in five!" "Blimey! You're wearing m'slacks!" Anyway, they were better than Karmin.
I don't like Seth Meyers, let's put it that way. It's partly to do with how shouty he is, and partly to do with the fact that most of his jokes are based on wacky stories (which feels like cheating to me), and partly to do with the smug, nailed-it, self-satisfaction he slathers all over his material regardless of whether it works or not. SSB (sorry so bitter)!! I would say 'don't quit your day job, Seth Meyers,' except whoops, his day job is HEAD WRITER of this show, so yeah, maybe quit your day job, Seth Meyers?
I love Bobby Moynihan's Drunk Uncle so much. I could probably watch a whole show of this.
If you predicted that there would be an installment of the Manuel Ortiz Show during Sofia Vergara's hosting stint, then congratulations, you won your office pool! The bad news is the sketch wasn't super strong. For a bit that really has one joke (it's a GOOD joke, but still), nothing felt particularly inspired about it, especially not the shoehorned-in cameo from One Direction wearing fake mustaches. I appreciated the verve with which the second-to-left one shimmied, but for the most part this sketch worked best as a showcase for all the amazing wigs.
Here's an old (but great) fake ad that got a re-airing. Yup, still horrifying! I love the quick double-take Kristen Wiig does at the end when a doll looks at her.
Watch What Happens Live
Here's a parody that was so spot-on, I almost disliked it as much as I dislike the real thing! Everyone knows Bravo's Watch What Happens Live is a nightmare trash heap of a thing, but I almost wish SNL hadn't even dignified it with a parody. Taran Killam's impression of Andy Cohen may have been pretty brutal and perfect, but I ended up feeling bad for Taran. Same with the time he had to play Rush Limbaugh in a go-nowhere sketch a few weeks back: He was really just trying his hardest to make the non-existent material work. Yeah, I did not care for this sketch, especially not its lazy throwaway jokes about gays and Persians. I dunno, Andy Cohen's actual talk show is definitely offensive on its own, but this was still kind of obnoxious on SNL's part. But oh! There was new cast member Kate McKinnon doing a pretty serviceable Tabatha impression! It didn't get laughs, but I wonder if that's because the audience doesn't trust the new face enough to laugh just yet?
One Direction: "One Thing"
Oh, I didn't realize this, but One Direction went and remade the old Backstreet Boys hit "I Want It That Way"! Fortunately, that was a great song, so no harm no foul. So yeah, here they are kind of wandering around the stage in a very loosely choreographed rendition of that song and some of them occasionally yammer into microphones between the hooks.
So this was the sketch in which Kate McKinnon really got the spotlight, and she was great! Playing a thickly accented Penelope Cruz, the joke was that she had to read complicated words while Sofia Vergara got easy ones. I really enjoyed how confident Penelope Cruz was while mispronouncing things, that's what's known as a good "choice" in acting terminology. Kate McKinnon seems like she has chops, you guys! Unfortunately the sketch itself was kinda blah, relying a little too heavily on foreign accent humor. I don't know, I just think if you had to write a sketch for Sofia Vergara on SNL, maybe a shampoo commercial sketch would be Level 1 thinking? Let's take it up to Level 2 next time, guys.
Hunger Games Reporter
I usually look forward to the last sketch of the night, they can be super weird and memorably half-assed in ways that I genuinely love. This one was Hunger Games-related and made almost no sense even if you've read the books or seen the movie. But still, it all worked because of how committed Sofia Vergara was to her weird character. "Ungerr Gaaaaaaaames!!"
So I complained a lot about this episode because I'm a reprehensible comedy snob, but I did find it had a lot of entertainment value. While definitely not as strong as the Zooey Deschanel, Channing Tatum, or Melissa McCarthy episodes, Sofia Vergara acquitted herself nicely and was able to overcome a lot of SNL's bad habits. Is it too early to hope they'll bring her back with even better material? Probably none of my business, let's be real.
... How do you think Sofia Vergara did?
... What kind of impression did Kate McKinnon make on you?
... How many One Direction posters will your mom let you put up on your wall?