“America Needs Football”: ‘SNL’ Fumbles Cold Open With NFL Pre-Game Offensive Ahead Of AFC & NFC Championship Games

“Without football, what are we going to talk about?” asked the NFL Today’s Nate Burleson in the pro-football thick cold open to Saturday Night Live. “I mean, does anyone have anything remotely insightful to say?” the Devon Walker-portrayed satirical version of the former Detroit Lion added.

“I wished, instead of salt, the ocean was full of sugar,” responded James Brown (Kenan Thompson).

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Yep. To answer that last question from Burleson/Walker in the specific: Nothing remotely insightful in tonight’s cold open for sure.

Lamenting the near end of the NFL season after this weekend, the cold open literally threw everyone and everything against the wall. In a land speed record even for SNL, they name-dropped Taylor Swift, the final season of “dentist office” fav Blue Bloods, the Pro Bowl, the Fast & Furious franchise, those troubled Boeing 737s, CBS viewership and the decline of linear TV, America’s cultural and political divides, Yellowstone and more with a tongue-distinctly-in-cheek dollop of existential angst. Sad to say, even with virtually every male SNL cast member except Bowen Yang in the opener plus Heidi Gardner, it still didn’t add up to much — as you can see:

“This isn’t just about us, America needs football,” lamented Mikey Day’s Bill Cowher as the men-children of CBS’ NFL show wept for the coming conclusion of their Sunday ritual. “It’s the only thing everyone still watches.”

In fairness, constant MVP Thompson almost saved the skit when, with an unseen wink, he quipped: “Especially live. There’s no other live TV even remotely watchable.”

Coming off a week that saw the nominations for the 96th Academy Awards revealed, and Donald Trump score a big win in the New Hampshire GOP primary and a $83.3 million loss in a NYC courtroom, the Lorne Michaels-run SNL had the pick of the topical litter for tonight. Yet, nothing beats the NFL in America, and, going into back-to-back AFC and NFC championship games on Sunday, the choice was obvious — not there wasn’t a bit of Barbie to be had.

Yellowstone is our Barbie,” bellowed Day’s Cowher (who had the best delivery tonight) in not-so-mock outrage. “And I understand that Margot Robbie got snubbed, I really do. Sorry but they’re coming after Gosling. Ken was the first time I felt seen in a movie.”

And then there was singing — enough said.

The second SNL of 2024 and the 10th episode of the 49th season, tonight sees Dakota Johnson as host and Justin Timberlake as musical guest. A Social Network reunion of sorts, this is Madame Web star Johnson’s second time hosting the NBC late-nighter and the latest in innumerable stints for the ex-NSync’er. While Timberlake hasn’t been on Saturday Night Live in more than a decade, he is a member of the Five-Timers Club, having also performed double duty as host and musical guest several times over the decades and popped in for cameos many a time.

Next week sees Golden Globe and Emmy winner and The Bear star Ayo Edebiri make her debut as SNL host. With a new album out next month, Jennifer Lopez is the musical guest for the February 3 show. Lopez has hosted the show three times and been the musical guest on a trio of occasions before.

Here comes, as they said in tonight’s cold open, Liver Failure February.

BTW – the Baltimore Ravens take on the Kansas City Chiefs (with Swift likely in the stands) Sunday afternoon in the big AFC game. That’s followed by the San Francisco 49ers vs. the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship. The winners meet up at Super Bowl LVIII on February 11 in Sin City.

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