Josh Hutcherson’s been busy promoting Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which means he's been working the press circuit and fielding marriage proposals from strangers. Still, when it comes to this season's crop of SNL hosts (Miley Cyrus, Bruce Willis, Lady Gaga, etc.), he's less of a household name. And he’s young. All this made his debut fairly quiet. Despite this, Hutcherson’s charms boosted the show’s energy, and while the writers made use of his high-profile project in theaters this weekend, they relied heavily on SNL's ensemble. For most of the episode, that worked.
WATCH: COLD OPEN: GEORGE ZIMMERMAN
This week’s cold open had a funny, if unoriginal, concept (George Zimmerman as a gun-happy maniac), but it got significantly less funny as the sketch wore on.
SKIP: JOSH HUTCHERSON MONOLOGUE
Sadly, the Hunger Games star's first monologue was weak and went off on too many tangents. Did it center on a key party, or Cecily Strong upstaging Noël Wells? Too many parts working at once.
WATCH: GIRLFRIENDS TALK SHOW
Girls love Josh Hutherson, and he only has to wink to get huge laughs. Serious props to Bryant’s character, who spent the sketch grasping for the upper hand, making up inside jokes, and winding her stifled desperation up and up until she awkwardly implodes and professes her love for Hutcherson's Trevor.
WATCH: OFFICE BOSS
It's not often that SNL relies on outrageous physical comedy. The powerful CEO with the body of a baby could easily have been Taran Killam's thing, but instead they cast Beck Bennett in the role. Watching a finance alpha dog, who speaks like a CEO and smashes spaghetti on his head, stumbling around made this sketch an instant classic.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: HAIM
Not unlike the host, the band was noticeably low-octane, but not short of talent. The sisters in this indie rock band rarely smile. (They’re intensely emotive and focused on impressive harmonies.) Thankfully, this performance didn't feature any glitchy audio problems.
WATCH: MATCHBOX 3 HAS THE FRESHEST, SMALLEST MOVES
The New York jokes may not play as well elsewhere in America, but this was a novel sketch. Worth the watch, regardless of where you live.
Weekend Update was funny, but not cutting-edge enough for a show that typically boasts a strong political viewpoint. Just one appearance from Aidy Bryant, the worst woman to sit next to on a plane, adds some pep to this week's offering.
WATCH: '80s SKETCH
This sketch delivered, making great use of SNL's ensemble. Points to Vanessa Bayer for showing off serious comedic chops, and even more points to SNL for giving us the opportunity to listen to Hutcherson
Kyle Mooney continues to undermine classic comedy structure with his sheer madness in sketches. This story of an unremarkable dancer’s big break is hilarious.
SKIP: BEST BUY
Strong and Moynihan hold the reins for too long as the Best Buy employees who keep insulting the staff with jokes that aren't original or funny. Cheap jab after cheap jab, you sense a bit of awkwardness through the mid-level laughs from the studio audience.
WATCH: ANIMAL HOSPITAL
For the first time, Josh gives us a funny voice as one of three unrepentant workers breaking the bad news to pet owners at the worst animal hospital in town. He scores most of the best insensitive lines of the sketch.
A sketch centering on a reporter obsessed with getting bugs to talk into his microphone. The reporter’s emotional breakdowns could have been hilarious, but the sketch warms up far too slowly. Buzz on this one is to skip it.
Watch it here.
WATCH: THANKSGIVING GUEST
The show saved its only Thanksgiving sketch (apart from the airport lady cameo in Weekend Update) for last. Vanessa Bayer gives a nuanced performance as a turkey forced to eat her neighbor at her boyfriend’s family Thanksgiving. The most brilliant two moments happen when 1) she pecks cooked corn out of Hutcherson's hand, and 2) when she gets turkey pelted at her, determined to endure the injustice out of love for her boyfriend. Gobble this one up.
Next week, the show will feature a rerun before it returns Dec. 7 with host Paul Rudd and musical guest One Direction.