Bowen Yang and Chloe Fineman Are SNL’s Bright Future 1

This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.

This week:

  • Everyone is talking about Emily. (The one in Paris.)
  • Two reasons to keep watching SNL.
  • Things that made me happy!
  • Things that made me angry!
  • What can’t Mariah Carey do?

Say Something Nice About SNL

It’s like Charlie Brown and the football with Saturday Night Live, with all of us chugging coffee in order to stay awake for what promises to be searing, dangerous, hilarious political satire only for Lucy, er, Lorne Michaels to serve up Alec Baldwin’s sphincter-lipped Trump impression and bland both-sidesism as commentary instead.

The political content of last weekend’s SNL premiere was milquetoast to the point of infuriating. With Donald Trump—the man who publicly flouted his own experts’ coronavirus safety guidelines, openly belittled those who adhered to them, and downplayed the danger of the pandemic—in the hospital being treated for the very same disease, SNL doing even-handed political comedy was as close to meeting the moment as Fergie was to hitting the high notes in the national anthem.

But as the season’s second episode approaches and we await the inevitable news that, I don’t know, Channing Tatum has been cast as the fly on Mike Pence’s head, we’d thought we’d focus on the aspects of the premiere that actually worked: the platform given to the show’s two most promising rising stars, Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang.

It’s the biggest SNL cast in the show’s history, so we’d imagine there was stiff competition for a premiere spotlight. (Even Kate McKinnon barely appeared outside of a silent RBG cameo that was exhaustingly trite, yet still made me cry a little.) Fineman’s The Drew Barrymore Show parody and Yang’s “Weekend Update” appearance as a Chinese trade representative were inspired: comically brilliant, full-stop, but also remarkable because of how historically bad the show has been at utilizing their specific talents.

Fineman ranks among the best impressionists the show has ever had, as that Drew Barrymore Show sketch proved, showcasing her flawless take on the host as well as Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. But, as we’ve seen with how Melissa Villaseñor has toiled in the background for her years in the cast, the show for some reason seems to fail female impressionists.

And Yang, who in addition to his ferocious delivery at the Update desk, also was responsible for co-writing and performing in last season’s iconically bizarre Harry Styles “toxic in the community” Sara Lee sketch. That sketch nailed two notorious dim spots for SNL: millennial/Gen Z humor, and queer humor.

Fineman and Yang are sharp and weird and seem to have a handle on the current cultural pulse, something novel for SNL! People wonder why, if SNL is so exasperating, do we continue to tune in week after week, year after year. The answer is masochism! We love to complain. And also, now, these two future stars.

A Few Moments of Actual Happiness and Fun

In a rare treat during these overflowing toilet times that we’re living in, instead of scraping the barrel for the One Damn Nice Thing Keeping Up My Will to Live this week, there were, much to my surprise, multiple contenders for the title. At one point I even found myself in something I barely recognized as a *good mood.* Shocking if true!

First, we have, in an important update to last week’s soul-healing news that a Christmas musical produced by and starring Dolly Parton is coming to Netflix this November, the first photo evidence that this cinematic miracle is actually real and not something from a melatonin fever dream I once had.

The first thing to say about this photo is that it is art. I’ve never seen such beauty. When people mock “this is the future liberals want,” they think we’re envisioning some sort of socialist, gender-fluid utopia, when really all we want is Christine Baranski in a leading role in a Netflix movie that casts Dolly Parton as an actual angel.

Next, if you’ve caught me smiling in the past week, it’s because I’ve been thinking about the time that Wendy Williams was reading Trump’s outrageous “don’t be afraid of COVID” tweet and pronounced “COVID” as “Cornova.” Twice. (Watch it here, but wait until you have 47 consecutive free hours to play it on loop over and over again.)

Speaking of that criminal Trump tweet, if you’ve seen My Girl you’ll know why this meme making fun of it made me laugh harder than I had since I have since…Wendy Williams invented the word “Cornova.” And also why I then wept for about two hours because, you know, My Girl.

And speaking of My Girl and Macaulay Culkin and things that made me happy, this photo of Culkin wearing a mask that is the bottom half of his Home Alone character Kevin doing the after-shave scream is just about as delightful as it gets.

A Few Moments of Absolute Anger and Disappointment

One of the maddening—though, yes, in the grand scheme of things, less consequential—byproducts of the pandemic, the months-long lockdowns, and the safety protocols that must be organized to return to work is that some TV series that had been previously renewed for new seasons have had those renewals revoked and have been canceled.

This includes the underrated On Becoming a God in Central Florida (which featured Kirsten Dunst in one of last year’s most entertaining performances); the underrated I’m Sorry on TruTV; and Netflix’s underrated I Am Not Okay With This. Feel free to let out a big ole “HMM…” and fire off a few hundred side-eye emojis at how predominantly female-centric, both in front of and behind the camera, the now-canceled series on this list are.

In any case, last year after the brilliant third season of GLOW, I wrote a piece with this headline:

It appears Netflix has called my bluff.

New York Times Bestselling Author Mariah Carey!

We stan a literary icon. (And by the way, dahlings, the book is very good.)

What to watch this week:

Deaf U: Atone for your Emily in Paris binge sins with this legitimately great show. (Friday on Netflix.)

The Right Stuff: Handsome men blast off this planet. Jealous! (Friday on Disney+)

Totally Under Control: A documentary about the White House’s pandemic response. Spoiler: It wasn’t good! (Tuesday on VOD.)

A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote: The original cast performs a staged reading of a classic episode. A nice thing! (Thursday on HBO Max.)

What to skip this week:

Social Distance: What I’ll be doing from this show! Hey-o! (Thursday on Netflix)

The Bachelorette: We as a nation deserve better than Bachelor Nation. (Tuesday on ABC.)