Last year, during the press rounds for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," director David Fincher told me that Daniel Craig was quite funny. I took Fincher at his word -- but the thought, Wait, really? did pop into my head at least twice.
As host of "Saturday Night Live," Craig seemed raring to go -- he was practically screaming, "I want to prove to you that I am funny! No, really, I am!" Unfortunately, for the most part, the material just wasn't there. (Put it this way: In the three-year history of "SNL" Scorecard, this is the longest I've just stared at my computer thinking, Well, I guess I have to pick something to be "Sketch of the Night," right?) I hate second-guessing (even though that's what I'm paid to do here, I suppose), but I think the better strategy with Craig might have been to let him play the straight man while absurd things happened around him, as opposed to letting him play the clown. Alas, on to the Scorecard...
Sketch of the Night
"Bond Girls" (Vanessa Bayer, Katie McKinnon, Nasim Pedrad, Daniel Craig, Taran Killam, Fred Armisen) I have never once thought about the concept of an Ellen DeGeneres impression before, but, man, that was a great Ellen DeGeneres impression. In the end, however, this was another, "Who can do what impression?" sketch, in which the impression -- "Oh, I can do Annie Hall" -- are shoehorned in to fit the sketch. The impressions were great; the concept was a bit of a stretch. But, yep, it was that kind of show. So, ladies and gentleman, your "Sketch of the Night."
"MSNBC Debate Fallout" (Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson, Katie McKinnon, Jason Sudeikis) It has to be weird to step into a character -- in this case, Rachel Maddow -- that a recently released (for lack of a better word) cast member (Abby Elliott) had played before. Regardless, Cecily Strong did a nice job. And, yes, it's always fun to poke fun at Fox News, but it was nice to see "SNL" take a few jabs at a morose MSNBC during a week which saw Mitt Romney have a rare nice showing. (Also: Jason Sudeikis as Chris Matthews? Really, they couldn't call Darrell Hammond?)
"Cold Open: Debates" (Jason Sudeikis, Jay Pharoah, Chris Parnell) Going with the notion that Obama forgot his anniversary makes just about as much sense as anything else that I've read to explain the President's performance. I do feel this was a case in which "SNL" was forced to pick a different angle -- it couldn't go with "Jim Lehrer got pushed around" because that had been done to death by this point. (Boy, a Thursday primetime show airing this past week instead of when they actually did air might have alleviated this problem. I digress.) Regardless, both Sudeikis and Pharoah were strong, but it felt like most of the better ideas were used up by the time this aired. In other words: They did the best that they could without worrying about being accused of ripping someone off.
"Weekend Update" (Seth Meyers, Big Bird, Katie McKinnon) It was nice to see a segment like "Winners and Losers," because (hold on, let me go back to almost every other past Scorecard and copy something from it so I can paste it right here:) Seth Meyers is fantastic when he's on a rant. Though, admittedly, the appearance of Big Bird was disappointing. Look, I get it, it's Big Bird -- it's not like a beloved children's character can come on "SNL" and deliver adult humor for many, many reasons. The joke was that Big Bird was there, but, just like with the debates, almost every Big Bird joke has already been done to death this week. McKinnon as the woman who repainted "Ecce Homo" just seemed odd, considering how old that story is and that there are quite a few other current events going on in the world.
"Loving Couple" (Daniel Craig, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Vanessa Bayer, Tim Robinson, Aidy Bryant) If nothing else, Fred Armisen appears to be having fun. No longer saddled with Obama, he is instead free to do ... well, characters like Regine. I mean, that was pretty much it: Fred Armisen making a face while being touched. You know, I'm not usually a fan of when members of the cast break character. And that didn't happen here, but it was close to happening. And taking into account the general lackluster feel to the whole show, that tension was quite welcome.
"Long Island Medium" (Katie McKinnon, Taran Killam, Vanessa Bayer, Aidy Bryant, Fred Armisen, Nasim Pedrad, Cecily Strong, Bobby Moynihan, Daniel Craig, Tim Robinson) Kate McKinnon had a very nice show. There's always a risk when parodying something that on its own is ridiculous enough -- in this case, TLC's "Long Island Medium" -- that the parody is no more ridiculous than the actual thing. Thankfully, I do not watch "Long Island Medium," so I really have no idea if that happened or not. (Though, there's only so long I can listen to an over exaggerated Long Island accent and this sketch was getting precariously close to that limit.)
"Mars Mission" (Daniel Craig, Bobby Moynihan, Taran Killam, Kenan Thompson, Cecily Strong) Yeah, that cat looked thrilled to be on "SNL." It's a small thing, but one aspect that I love about Bobby Moynihan is the way he pronounces the extended version of "no": "Nooooooo-wa." But this sketch ... it was just screaming for something to happen. In the end, it was just Bobby Moynihan and his very frightened looking kitten.
"Daniel Craig Monologue" (Daniel Craig) So, I appreciate the fact something different was tried here. Instead of the old standby of taking questions from the audience, Craig introduced an "In Memoriam" video of all of the movie characters that he has killed. (Though, is Craig known for killing a lot of people on screen? I'm not sure that's the first thing people think of.) Regardless, the line, "Can someone Shazam it?," did make me laugh.
("Daniel Craig Monologue" is not online due to, I'm sure, song rights issues.)
"Working Class Drama" (Daniel Craig, Bill Hader, Bobby Moynihan, Katie McKinnon, Fred Armisen, Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson) What was supposed to be a parody of a depressing BBC show - titled "A Sorry Lot We Are" -- just wound up coming across as depressing. I mean, this made me sad. I started to feel for these guys. I want to help them. I want to see them get out of that pub and get back on their feet. (I'm going to assume that this was not the reaction that was intended here.)
"Construction Workers" (Daniel Craig, Kenan Thompson, Bobby Moynihan, Tim Robinson, Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader) We can enter "Construction Workers" as "Exhibit A" in the "Daniel Craig really wants to be funny" evidence pile. This isn't a knock on Craig as much as it is an observation that this aired so early in the show, it felt like a "set the tone" type of sketch -- in which Craig acts like a goofball and we, as the audience, sit at home and think, Well, I've never seen him act like that before. You know, if this had been the last sketch of the night, I could almost have explained it away as some sort of absurdist experiment. But, as the first sketch after the monologue, this was the wrong tone to set.
("Undecided Voters" was part of a previous show and is not a part of this week's Scorecard.)
Average Score for this Show: 5.35
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter. Click below for the "SNL," Not Ready For Primetime Podcast featuring Mike Ryan and Hitfix's Ryan McGee.