Saturday Night Live’s “rebuilding” year kicked off on Saturday night (well, of course) with the fall season’s first episode, featuring Tina Fey back to host (and to presumably add some gravitas and reliable talent to a rocky show) and Arcade Fire back to apparently have a Roman Coppola-filmed reason to consume illicit substances and dance on national television as if no one was actually watching.
Fey’s entire monologue was amusingly centered on making the show’s six new cast members prance around in gold lame to a song about, well, making new cast members prance around in gold lame. While it could have fallen flat, Fey’s charm (and the inclusion of some very funny examples from her own early SNL days) powered it, and the mild desperation/total gameness of some of the new featured players (Beck Bennett, congrats on just really going for it) made it not entirely embarrassing for everyone involved (fine, we really enjoyed it). While the episode featured yet another self-referential bit that didn’t have nearly the same mileage, with “New Cast Member or Arcade Fire,” the show was at its best when it allowed the new cast members to actually do something interesting and clever that genuinely capitalized on their talents.
Or, as is the case with their “Girls Promo,” when it allowed new cast members (Noël Wells) to gel seamlessly with returning talent (Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Taran Killam) and the episode’s host, giving the show not only its best sketch, but the best parody of Lena Dunham’s HBO show ever. Take a look:
The idea behind the sketch is deceptively simple – Fey plays an Albanian refugee named Blerta who moves in with the perennially moan-y Hannah (Wells), effectively giving her an “I’ll give you something to moan about” lesson for all of us to enjoy – but the premise is elevated by sets, costumes, and lines that could have actually been ripped from a real episode of Girls and the terrifyingly spot-on impersonations of both Jessa (here played by McKinnon) and Shoshanna (Bayer, who even has her walk down pat).
In just three minutes, the sketch manages to call Hannah a baby, accuse Shosh of wearing a donut on her head, let Jessa sound off about how “chic” getting an outfit out of “a fire” is, and remind Marnie that there are worse things in life than having a successful ex-boyfriend. Killam even pops up in Adam Driver’s role as Adam, sucking in his gut and flipping his hair into one hell of an unexpectedly solid Driver impersonation (his use of “kid” is also surprisingly perfect). All the while, the entire cast ticks right along, anchored by Fey’s work as Blerta. This is exactly what an SNL sketch should be and it’s exactly what a Girls parody should be.
Yes, the skit successfully skewers the show using the same points every other send-up of the series has gone after, but with Fey as an entry point and the rest of the cast bringing their impersonation A-game, it’s an obvious instant classic. There’s even a rubber hand – one that Fey eventually removes so that can slap a whining Shoshanna. Consider her the best audience surrogate ever, and consider us hopeful we’ll see more of this kind of work from the cast, at least until the real Girls is back (or Dunham is drafted for hosting duties, whichever comes first).
Saturday Night Live airs on Saturday nights (live!) on NBC and, no, you probably didn’t need this programming reminder.