Saturday Night Live: Regina King shines, cast mines Trump impeachment

Alex Moffat’s Tucker Carlson was weaselly the best thing in a lame cold open. Maybe the show should just move on

Nathaniel Rateliff, Regina King and Beck Bennett during promos.
Nathaniel Rateliff, Regina King and Beck Bennett during promos. Photograph: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images
Nathaniel Rateliff, Regina King and Beck Bennett during promos. Photograph: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

First published on Sun 14 Feb 2021 07.01 EST

We open on Tucker Carlson Tonight. After rolling through “a loose collection of scare-mongering non-sequiturs”, the weaselly Carlson (Alex Moffat, a bang-on impression) moves on to cover Donald Trump’s acquittal in the Senate.

He welcomes Trump “teacher’s pet” Lindsey Graham (Kate McKinnon), who wants the country to focus on the really important issues: “Locking up Hillary and freeing beautiful Britney Spears.” He’s joined by fellow Republican senator Ted Cruz (Aidy Bryant), who has to swallow his pride and carry water for Trump even though Trump called Cruz’s wife ugly in 2016.

Bad impressions of Trump’s defense team follow, before things wrap up with a short visit from Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (Beck Bennett), who “pretzels out” his logic for voting to acquit despite thinking Trump is “guilty as hell, and the worst person I ever met, and I hope every city, county and state locks his ass up!”

While the cold opens of the past few weeks haven’t been any great shakes, this lazy, laughless excuse for political commentary is a reminder of the show at its worst.

Regina King hosts. The Oscar-winning actor and new director notes that “if you’re black, you probably know me from being in some of your favorite movies, and if you’re white you probably know me from Watchmen – or this monologue right now.” She’s joined by Kenan Thompson, dressed like a member of Run DMC, as her hype man, berating some of the audience for “NOT CLAPPING LOUD ENOUGH”.

What’s Your Type is a dating show on MTV. King plays the “sexy single” looking for a “cringy white dude in his early 40s”. The three contestants include a guy trying way too hard to show his feminist bona fides, a musician who bursts into song at the drop of a hat (in his case, a lame fedora), and an awkward dweeb who can’t keep from doing high-pitched joke voices. Somehow, they all get King’s motor running. She picks the dweeb.

Peletaunt is the cynic’s answer to Peleton. Instead of relying on standard corny inspiration, the machine’s virtual coaches “pull from emotional manipulation techniques”, such as insults, pranks, “avoidant attachment style” and withering judgment, to gaslight users into giving their all.

Next, King and Thompson play married lawyers who help get settlements for people who used Gorilla Glue as a hair product. “It’s a mistake that could happen to anybody,” they explain, “like brushing your teeth with Preparation H”. Ego Nwodim, Chris Redd, Cecily Strong and Punkie Johnson play the “NOT stupid people” they represent.

A group of friends gather over wine. The suburbanite women all give the birthday girl kitschy decorative signs which start off innocently – “Wine gets better with age, I get better with wine” – but quickly turn dark: “Hey barkeep, I want to die tonight” , “I drink too much”, “My sponsor thinks I’m in bed”, “I am sexually promiscuous and my house is dirty”. Then, King plays a police negotiator dealing with a hostage situation after unknowingly eating a bag of weed gummies. Both sketches start promisingly but neither goes as crazy or as dark as it could.

The night’s musical guest is Nathaniel Rateliff, who performs Redemption. On Weekend Update, Colin Jost laments the outcome of impeachment, the “dumbest trial ever”. Speaking from a black perspective, Michael Che isn’t surprised Trump was acquitted, explaining, “Just because there’s video evidence, doesn’t mean you’re going to get a conviction.”

Their first guest is QAnon member Stephanie Green (McKinnon), a witch – as in, green skin, long nose with boil, pointed hat – who only joined the group to learn more about that secret cabal of child-eaters. It’s impressive anyone thought this idea could bear a minute’s worth of jokes, let alone three or four.

A little later, Drunk Tom Brady (Bennett) shows up to celebrate his Super Bowl victory. He angrily chastises former coach Bill Belichick (“You’re not my dad anymore!”), uses his beat-up trophy to pop the top off a beer bottle and spirals into depression over how nobody likes him. “Thought they would talk about the wins … but all they talk about is how I kiss my sons.”

Disco diva Fliona gets ready to perform a concert in Chicago, only to find none of her demands have been met. Everyone is having fun playing 70s caricatures and rolling through tricky tongue twisters, but the sketch ends far too abruptly, apparently cut for time. Still, the cast, King and Bowen Yang particularly, acquit themselves with screwball aplomb.

In the final sketch, a grade school assembly welcomes a feminist theater group who perform a “child-friendly version” of their Vagina Monologues-esque show. They swap out the title body part for elbows but it’s clear what they’re talking about. Credit to King and the show for slipping a “See You Next Tuesday” joke past the censors. Then Ratliff and his band, The Night Sweats, close the show with A Little Honey.

This was a decent enough episode, with low-key laughs throughout. King has always been an excellent comedic actor, so it’s no surprise she felt at home. It’s only too bad she wasn’t given that one great, memorable sketch to showcase her powers to the full. Hopefully she returns soon.