Sure, the second week of Saturday Night Live's 37th season was a comedown from its strong premiere, but still offered a lot to like -- namely, host Melissa McCarthy, who hosted for the first time every coming off an Emmy win for Mike & Molly and becoming the breakout star of this summer's Bridesmaids. Unlike a lot of other guest hosts, McCarthy really was the star of the show this week -- she was at the center of every sketch and always given the opportunity to be funny and create a character. And, boy, did she throw herself into everything (sometimes literally; more on that in the highlights below), coming out like she had something to prove and demonstrating that she could easily have been a cast member on the series. I don't know that she'll become one of the all-time greats (Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, the up-and-coming Jon Hamm), but she had such a strong showing this week that I'm sure she'll be back next season. I'm looking forward to that.
- "Cold Open: Lawrence Welk" - Well, that lasted a week. After not repeating any sketches in its season premiere, SNL goes back to the well in week two and opens with yet another edition of "The Lawrence Welk Show." The only twist here is that host Melissa McCarthy plays an extra freak (it's usually just Kristen Wiig). I get that the show wants to reunite Bridesmaids stars Wiig and McCarthy as soon as possible, and the sight of McCarthy's too-muscular arms was funny, but they've just done this one too many times.
- "Melissa McCarthy Monologue" - And the McCarthy/Wiig show continues. I've grown tired of musical number monologues, because they feel kind of lazy. Obviously, this one went a different way and was all about not doing the thing you think they're going to do, but that didn't make it work any better. I did enjoy Wiig and McCarthy's old-timey showbiz speak and attitudes, though, and some of the forced rhyming was amusing. Not a great opening, but not the worst. (Watch the "Melissa McCarthy Monologue" video)
- "Lil Poundcake" - Awesome. Short, relevant, didn't beat me over the head. Good jokes. "And she has her own phone!" Even the name makes me laugh now that I know the joke of the sketch. (Watch the "Lil Poundcake" video)
- "Arlene" - I'm trying to be way more positive in my recaps this season, so I will say that I liked how "Arlene" set the episode's trend of putting host McCarthy front and center in every sketch and allowing her to have the "funny" role -- most other weeks would have Kristen Wiig in all the McCarthy parts and just have the host reacting to her. McCarthy throws herself into everything here, and I'll admit to laughing when she started trying to hide balloons underneath her shirt. On the other hand, this is one of many sketches this week that casts McCarthy as a loud, energetic oddball and plays to the fact that she's a different physical type than most Hollywood actresses. McCarthy seemed, at times, to be mugging for laughs, and while I appreciated the tiny element of spontaneity it afforded the sketch, I couldn't help but feel like this was something I might have seen on MAD TV. Still, there was a structure to it and an actual payoff -- it felt like a closed sketch -- and even that is an improvement over last season. More positive! (Watch the "Arlene" video)
- "The Comments Section" - I perked up a little at the premise of this sketch, because the obnoxiousness and anonymity of internet commenters is something that should be made fun of and isn't nearly enough. It was pretty much a one-joke sketch, though, and didn't do nearly enough with its premise for my liking. Bill Hader's funny walk off camera after punching everyone in the stomach did make me laugh. (Watch the "Comments Section" video)
- "Chris Rock on Broadway" - After being left out of the season opener entirely last week -- and looking like he wasn't going to get to do anything but deliver balloons this week -- featured performer Jay Pharoah got his very own showcase sketch. His Chris Rock impression is great, and there was half an idea here, but, once again, it didn't quite deliver on the promise set up by the first 60 seconds. It just didn't say anything about Rock's comedy or about stunt casting, belonging more to the "What if (this) was a (this)?" gimmick found on a show like Family Guy. I did like the audience reactions. (Watch the "Chris Rock on Broadway" video)
- "Taste Test" - Once again, McCarthy plays an oddball spazz, and there's basically only one joke at work, but you would have to be made of stone to not at least appreciate the gusto with which McCarthy dumped the bottle of ranch dressing on her face. Some of the small character dynamics were good, and Abby Elliott looked very pretty. Good job, hair and makeup! Also, Melissa McCarthy wore a Spock shirt. You're ok in my book, "Taste Test" sketch! (Watch the "Taste Test" video)
- "Lulu Diamonds" - Credit to the SNL writers for this one. While it was just one joke -- and not a great one at that -- there was a clear effort to write something specifically for the host that wasn't just about her playing an awkward freak. Putting her in the role of a Mae West-esque actress was very clever. And while it owed a lot to the Chris Farley school of comedy, I could have thrown up the first time she fell all the way down the stairs in one interrupted take. McCarthy had already won me over for the night, but that fall will have me remembering her for seasons to come. The rest of the sketch was basically just a repeat of that joke with severely diminishing returns. Nice touch at the end with the joke about Robert Osborne being a drunk; not super funny, but I appreciate the fact that the SNL writers are trying to work more jokes into sketches this season instead of just coasting. It wasn't needed, but it was nice to have it there. (Watch the "Lulu Diamonds" video)
- "Complaints" - For the last sketch of the night, this wasn't too bad. Some decent jokes and another solid performance from McCarthy, who was funnier and more assured in her delivery than cast member Andy Samberg. (Watch the "Complaints" video)
- Original Air Date: 10/1/11
- Host: Melissa McCarthy
- Musical Guest: Lady Antebellum