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'SNL' recap: Lena Dunham is just a girl, standing in front of an audience, asking them to like her

So, how did Lena Dunham do in her inaugural episode of Saturday Night Live? It depends who you’re asking.

Those who are generally into Dunham’s work were probably amused on the whole, even if they also wished Lena had broken out of her comfort zone a little more. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dunham played a bunch of girls — immature, fast-talking, hyperbole-happy variations on her HBO persona — and one serviceable Liza Minnelli.) But if you’re one of those people who can’t stand cable’s wunderkind — here I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that dislike has nothing to do with Dunham’s looks — your feelings likely weren’t swayed by Lena’s SNL performance, since it hewed so closely to what she does weekly on Girls.

Since I’m in the former camp, I’ll give the episode a tempered thumbs up. While SNL‘s writers’ room is clearly still suffering from growing pains in the wake of Seth Meyers’s exit — someone has to, like, remind them that sketches are supposed to have jokes — last night’s show was, pound for pound, stronger than March 1’s Jim Parsons Experience. And it packed in a few  solid laughs, particularly in the night’s…

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Lena Dunham hosts 'Saturday Night Live' this weekend: Talk about it here!

Girls is smart, well-made, thought-provoking, and very entertaining — provided you’re in the right mindset and/or have a high tolerance for watching selfish people go about their lives. That said, Lena Dunham’s adventure in auteurism isn’t exactly a laugh-out-loud sort of show — and really never has been, barring a few notable exceptions (Shoshanna on crack; Hannah and Elijah on coke; suddenly I’m sensing a pattern). I like to describe Broad City as “Girls, but funny” — which is probably why I like Broad City a whole lot more than I like Girls.

Despite all this, I’ve still got high hopes for Lena Dunham’s first episode as host of Saturday Night Live. Why? Because while Girls isn’t funny, Dunham herself is; I’ve got no doubt that when she decides to make a pure comedy, she’ll end up creating something great. And perhaps more importantly, Dunham is an experienced writer with a fully developed voice, which is just what SNL needs right now.

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Lena Dunham's 'SNL' promos: Only one nudity joke! -- VIDEO

Progress?

I’m going to say yes. First of all, the joke isn’t, “Hey Lena, why do you be so naked?” Secondly, the naked person in question is actually Dunham’s promo partner Kate McKinnon, which means that the Girls creator/producer/writer/star gets to have the upper hand instead of being the punchline. And thirdly, the bit includes a line about how McKinnon should probably take a trip to “the shirt store.”

All in all, jokes like this bode well for Dunham’s debut episode as SNL host — as do a few more amusing bits from the promos, like Dunham and McKinnon doing the “two young feminists” dance and Dunham’s deadpan assessment of McKinnon’s outfit (“She looks like a slut witch”). Grab a cupcake, settle into the bathtub, and check out the clips below:

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'SNL' recap: Jim Parsons tries to prove he's 'not that guy,' while new 'Update' anchor debuts -- VIDEO

Now that the Olympics are over, NBC has finally returned to its normal programming, which means that Saturday Night Live is back…with a bazinga! Emmy winner Jim Parsons, best known for playing practical jokes on The Big Bang Theory, tried to trade away his nerdy persona to host the show for the first time with musical guest Beck returning for his seventh time on the SNL stage. The show’s return also marked the debut of new Weekend Update anchor Colin Jost, who replaces current Late Night host Seth Meyers.

Well, actually I guess NBC is still obsessed with winter sports, because a hockey game delayed the start of the show. Rude. Anyway, the opening featured Kate McKinnon as this year’s Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres and made some uncomfortably dark jokes about her constant dancing and 12 Years a Slave. And that was just the first reference to the film of the night. Actually, there were a lot, maybe too many, sketches and jokes about the Oscars and this year’s nominated films (mocking Barkhad Abdi’s Captain Phillips character twice in one episode is a little much). Also, why are more and more hosts appearing in the opening now? Melissa McCarthy did in her latest outing as host, and Parsons’ first appearance of the night was as flamboyant figure skater Johnny Weir. Is it just me or is something lost in seeing the host before the monologue? It seemed like a weird sketch to open with anyway. READ FULL STORY

Jim Parsons hosts 'Saturday Night Live' this weekend: Talk about it here!

Jim Parsons is delightful. He’s cute, charming, good with a punchline, and unfailingly humble, even when being nominated for (and winning) yet another Best Actor trophy for his work on The Big Bang Theory.

That said, Parsons faces one major roadblock as an actor: He’s so closely associated with theoretical physicist/brilliant jerk Sheldon Cooper, whom he’s been playing for seven seasons on CBS, that it’s a little jarring to see him inhabit another role. And maybe more importantly, Sheldon Cooper is so beloved that a lot of people might not want to watch Parsons experiment with a different character.

Think of Parsons’ debut episode of SNL, then, as a sort of fresh start — an easy way for him to quickly play a bunch of different sorts of people, proving his range and getting folks used to the idea that he and Sheldon are, in fact, different people. READ FULL STORY

Jim Parsons shows off dancing skills in 'SNL' promo

There’s a time and place to say “bazinga,” and Jim Parsons isn’t above policing when that time and place is. The Big Bang Theory star is hosting Saturday Night Live for the first time this Saturday, and he has to deal with an overexcited Bobby Moynihan in the promos for the show. “Hi, I’m Jim Parsons and I’m hosting SNL with Beck,” Parsons starts one clip, with Moynihan replying, “Bazinga!” “No, Bobby, you’re supposed to say that after some sort of prank.” Moynihan doesn’t exactly understand.

Most of the promos revolve around Big Bang Theory, including the show’s alleged laugh track and Parsons’ nerdy character, but the highlight is when Parsons and Moynihan awkwardly “ice dance” around the studio. Watch the full clip below: READ FULL STORY

'SNL' made Seth Meyers a heartwarming goodbye video: Watch it here

With less than a week to go before his big Late Night debut, Seth Meyers must be freaking out just the teensiest bit right about now. It’s the perfect time, then, for his old show to release a video guaranteed to put a smile on his face — a surprisingly earnest montage of current SNL cast members and writers all telling Meyers how great he is and how much they’re going to miss him.

Even if you don’t happen to be Seth Meyers — a condition that unfortunately affects the vast majority of the world’s population — the video is pretty delightful. Bobby Moynihan does his segments while clutching a gigantic Hulk fist. Nasim Pedrad remembers how nice Meyers always was to her dad, even when he was giving Seth unnecessary notes. Kenan Thompson shows a display of emotion that’s somewhere between “just for laughs” and “genuine.” Vanessa Bayer reveals that she was in an all-female sketch group in college called “Bloomers,” and that Meyers wore the Bloomers shirt she gave him to his very last table read. Cecily Strong… is conspicuously absent, but maybe that’s just because she wanted to save her feelings for Seth’s last Weekend Update. READ FULL STORY

Stefon on 'Late Night'? Seth Meyers says...

Could Seth Meyers’s Late Night feature a guest appearance by the comedian’s significant other? By that, of course, I don’t mean his real-life wife Alexi Ashe — I’m talking about his fake-life husband Stefon, a.k.a. Bill Hader’s best-loved SNL character.

The answer? “Bill and I spoke during my last SNL, and we do think he’ll turn up eventually,” Meyers told Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live Wednesday.

We can expect other SNL stars to stop by as well; after all, Meyers’s new studio is just down the hall from the sketch show’s. Just don’t expect a reunion to happen every night; the host added that he doesn’t want to crowd his new show with too many reminders of his old job.

Watch Meyers talk shop in our late-night highlight video below.

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Fred Armisen's music career: A pre-'Late Night' primer -- VIDEO

It’s no joke: Comedian Fred Armisen really has joined Seth Meyers’ Late Night as bandleader-slash-music-“curator.” He’ll be helming the talk show’s house band — a talented group that also includes guitarist Seth Jabour of Les Savy Fav, bassist Syd Butler of Les Savy Fav, keyboardist Eli Janney of Girls Against Boys, and drummer Kim Thompson of Beyoncé’s touring band — even when he’s busy with other projects, like IFC’s Portlandia.

For those who know Armisen only as “that weird guy from SNL,” this news may seem more than a little random. But Armisen’s actually got plenty of music industry bona fides — his showbiz career began with a gig as a punk rock drummer, he made his first steady paycheck as a drummer for the Blue Man Group in Chicago, and he’s frequently showed off his multi-instrumental skills on both SNL and Portlandia. So before Armisen picks up his Late Show guitar — he’ll be both strumming and singing for Meyers’ 8G Band — let’s take a look back at his second, slightly more obscure career… which frequently bleeds over into his comedy.

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Melissa McCarthy returns to 'SNL' tonight: Talk about it here!

The first time Melissa McCarthy hosted Saturday Night Live, she was just coming off the enormous success of 2011’s Bridesmaids. The second time she stopped by Studio 8H, she was promoting her then-upcoming Sandra Bullock buddy comedy The Heat. This time around, though, McCarthy has no immediate projects to plug, unless you count her continuing work on CBS’s Mike & Molly. (And really, who does? Memo to Chuck Lorre: Free Melissa!)

That means the show is bringing McCarthy back largely for one reason: Simply put, she’s really great at hosting SNL. In fact, according to you guys, she was the funniest woman who helmed SNL all of last year — and that season’s second-greatest host period, topped only by Justin Timberlake.

So, could this hat trick performance help McCarthy snag the title of Season 39’s Ms. Saturday Night? READ FULL STORY

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