The Best and Worst of Last Night’s ‘SNL’ with Martin Freeman

American audiences are familiar with Martin Freeman from his time in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film trilogy, FX’s Fargo, Sherlock, and the British version of The Office. But he seemed like a bit of a strange choice for SNL host over someone like Sir Ian McKellen (since it’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies time and everything). This is SNL’s 40th season and the celebrations are supposed to be stupendous. Freeman also lost fans when he made that weird rape joke during press rounds for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. He’s a gifted actor and comedian, but let’s see if he can be on his best behavior during tonight’s episode and still keep it funny.

The Best

“Charlie Rose Cold Open”

The “experts” from the recently released CIA torture report are guests on Charlie Rose. They fess up to creating some of the most torturous experiences of modern life, including Time Warner Cable, autocorrect, and self-checkout.

“Martin Freeman Monologue”

Freeman appears confident and comfortable on stage (he has a fairly extensive theater background, which helps). He’s here to remind the very American audience that all English celebrities know each other. Taran Killam’s Alan Rickman is aces, and Kate McKinnon dons the first of many fun impressions during the evening as Maggie Smith.

“Wedding Objections”

Freeman and Leslie Jones’ lovebirds have only known each other for a few days, but they’re ready to get married. The problem is, no one else wants them to tie the knot. The ceremony is filled with objectors — like the groom’s current wife (oops) and the bride’s father (who drops a hilarious reference to the Wu-Tang Clan). Things reach the height of hilarity when Kate McKinnon’s concerned elderly passerby comes in off the street to “shut it down.”

“Hobbit Office”

Combining Freeman’s Tim Canterbury in the British version of The Office and his character Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit trilogy is this mashup sketch. Watch out, Andy Serkis. Taran Killam’s Gollum is pretty fantastic.

“Church”

A host of churchgoing stereotypes that will confuse the non-believers and gently traumatize anyone who went to Catholic school.

“Weekend Update”

Sasheer Zamata joins the desk to discuss the lack of diversity in tech. She uses emojis as the most relatable example, and reminds us that even the “Black Power fist” is white. Cecily Strong’s “One-Dimensional Female Character in a Male-Drive Comedy” appears to let us know she’s kind of hot, but loves burgers and wings — and isn’t that really confusing? But she sleeps in a jersey so it’s ok, right? I get the deadpan delivery, but it still doesn’t quite work. Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy is back to talk about Hanukkah in that way he does. I think it’s time to axe awkward Jacob, since he’s so intrinsically a Seth Meyers thing. Jost must be taking his vitamins. He actually has a pulse in this episode (even without Leslie Jones there to perk him up). Che seems to do best when he’s responding to the audience spontaneously, but this is a gig where you read the jokes. Still, I really like him for SNL and hope he stays put.

“Assembly Line”

A little Abbott and Costello meets Monty Python. A simple premise, but a fun punchline. Taran Killam gave me Julia Sweeney (Pat) and Molly Shannon (Mary Katherine Gallagher) vibes.

“Waterbed Commercial”

Aidy Bryant’s pushy wife Janine forces her way to the top of waterbed fame, becoming the spokeswoman for her wimpy husband’s (Freeman) business — and it’s fabulous.

The Worst

“Sump’n Claus”

“He sees you when you’re sleeping — that’s weird!” was the best line of the sketch. Am I the only one who has a thing against Kenan Thompson’s scream-singy thing? It grates on me.

“Right Side of the Bed”

It could be a lost episode of that reality show starring the millionaire Chrisley family, but it’s possibly worse.

“Holiday Gig”

This is like “What’s Up With That?” with saxophone, set in a lodge. But that isn’t a good thing. The “red boots” repetition was good for a giggle.

Musical Guest: Charli XCX