Very mediocre with few bright spots. At the very least, Gosling was having a great time.
[6.0/10] Ryan Gosling is a much better actor than he is a sketch performer, but he’s Fallon’d his way to some solid laughs through corpsing, which at least makes his appearance as host amiable, if not exactly winning in terms of quality. (And hey, I’m far from qualified to be a fashion critic, but his “jackets over Cosby sweaters” look throughout the night struck me as odd.)
The best sketches of the night were the weirdest ones, and true to Gosling’s skillset, more the filmed pieces than the live ones. The gem of the night was the filmed piece of Gosling as a guy obsessing over the use of the papyrus font in the logo for Avatar. It’s an amusingly quotidian thing to have someone haunted by; Gosling brings his intense best to the skit, and the cinematography and production perfectly captures the beats of a cinematic thriller devoted to something so silly.
The other stand outs were the bit of “Woke Jeans” which, again, got the cadence of hip clothing commercials right, with just enough of a point of view to make it work, and the “Henrietta the Chicken” sketch, which similarly works as a pitch-perfect parody of old cops and robbers movie with the ridiculous twist of the inclusion of an anthropomorphic chicken. Aidy Bryant is a real pro, and the way she sold the chicken bit was tremendous. The only other highlight was the monologue, which in addition to an amusing cameo from Emma Stone, spoofed the fraught conversation around La La Land with how Gosling’s character “saved jazz.”
The rest of the show was a mixed bag of eh material and rehashes. The opening Trump sketch (with Alec Baldwin -- color me surprised that he’s sticking around) is the usual take the show offers, with only Kate McKinnon’s impish but malevolent Jeff Sessions to recommend it. Similarly, they redid the “Kate McKinnon’’s burnout character gets abducted by aliens” sketch for what feels like the hundredth time, and while her burying her face in Gosling’s but while he corpses has its charms, it’s a “been there, done that” kind of skit.
Weekend Update wasn’t much better. Despite the “Summer Edition” shows, Jost and Che seemed a little rusty, with only the non-topical gags about stuff like Hostess Snack Cakes really landing. McKinnon’s take on Angela Merkel is funny enough, but has kind of run out of gas, and Alex Moffat’s “guy with a boat” riff on Mr. Subliminal is just so-so.
Otherwise, there’s the closing sketch with Kenan Thompson in a bizarre nightclub act that just went on and on to no avail, and the “Fancy Italian Food is actually Pizza Hut” bit that feels like half-product placement, half regurgitating a superior Chris Farley sketch with the same premise.
Overall, not as strong of a season premiere as we might like, but some bright spots here and there.