SNL Power Rankings: Miley Cyrus Is The Poor Man’s Emma Stone

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While watching this weekend’s episode of Saturday Night Live, a sensation not unlike déjà vu washed over me. At first, it was tough to place, considering Miley Cyrus had never before hosted the show. However, by the time the “Les Jeunes de Paris” sketch came around, I figured it out: The show’s writers gave Miley basically the same material to perform as they did when Emma Stone hosted SNL back in October. Careful watchers will note that both did Lindsay Lohan impressions, both danced it up with Taran Killam, and Lorne even decided to rerun the “Baby Spanx” commercial that first aired during Stone’s ep. What gives?

Well, it’s probably this: Although I love Emma Stone’s work in film, both her and Cyrus demonstrated during their respective hosting stints that they’re not natural sketch comediennes. I can only assume that the writers panicked a bit when Cyrus showed up early last week to begin preparing for the show, as they relied on her ability to sing (however thinly) as a crutch repeatedly during the episode. She wasn’t exactly January Jones terrible, mind you, but it will likely be some time before she’s invited back to host again.

And man, what was up with the Strokes? They’re one of my all-time favorite bands, but after seeing them perform two bland songs with what amounted to be no real sense of passion, it’s fairly clear that they all hate each other these days. This comes as no surprise to anyone who read Pitchfork’s ominous “This Is It: Ten Years Of The Strokes” piece yesterday.

But now, without any further ado, here are this week’s patented SNL Power Rankings!

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE POWER RANKINGS: 3/5/11 (Host: Miley Cyrus; Musical Guest: The Strokes)

1. Abby Elliott (36 points): I have been accused of being too hard on Abby Elliott by you, the loyal readers, in the past. So, in honor of her first week atop the SNL Power Rankings, I’ll say this: She wasn’t terrible this week! Sadly, though, she wasn’t very good, either. Her Khloe Kardashian impression irks me to no end; yes, I’m aware it’s supposed to be a broad parody and not a Darrell Hammond level mimicking, but still. Also, I’m sad to admit that Elliott’s #1 ranking this week also highlights a slight flaw in my scoring system; most of her work this week, save for the “Our Time” sketch and the “Duh, Winning!” cold open, was of the background variety. She didn’t have a memorable role or performance this week, yet here she sits… (Well, there goes my attempt at being “nice” to Abby!)

2. Bobby Moynihan (32 points): Like Elliott, Moynihan benefited greatly from playing a number of background roles this week. That said, his portrayal of Anthony Crispino, Weekend Update’s secondhand news correspondant, continues to get better and better. He’s got a strong rapport with Seth Meyers, which contributes greatly to how the audience perceives him. However, as careful eyes would note, Moynihan was NOT spotted behind the drum kit during “The Miley Cyrus Show” sketch this week, a place he had occupied during the previous three incarnations of this sketch. Controversy! (PS: Bring back Mark Payne!)

3. Taran Killam (31 points): Here’s a question for you — Between Taran Killam and Vanessa Bayer, who’s having a better rookie season? It’s pretty evident that we can rule both Paul Brittain and Jay Pharoah out of the equation, so who would you say? Personally, I’m leaning towards Bayer, but Killam demonstrated this week that he’s going to be a talent on the show for some time to come. His John Galliano during the cold open was hilare, and “Les Jeunes de Paris” is one of my favorite recurring sketches of the season (also see: the Emma Stone episode).

4. Jason Sudeikis (29 points): A pretty good week for my boy Sudeiks (at least, by this season’s standards). His turn on “Weekend Update” as the Devil was his clear performance highlight, but the sight of him sporting a Billy Ray Cyrus mullet in “The Miley Show” will go down as one of this season’s best sight gags.

5. Kristen Wiig (26 points): “The Rock-A-Billy Lady Party Facial Cream” sketch was one of this season’s low points. Sure, it wasn’t helped out by Miley Cyrus and her wooden demeanor, but this was an excruciating way to spend three minutes and forty-four seconds of air time.

6. Vanessa Bayer (24 points): When the moment comes (nearly) each week where Vanessa Bayer gets to play the lead in a sketch, it’s almost certain to be that episode’s best moment. Bayer is always impeccably prepared and consistently hilarious, which bodes well for her future on the show. Most impressive, though, was her ability not to corpse while sitting directly across from the target of her most popular character to date, Miley Cyrus.

7. Nasim Pedrad (23 points): Is there anything cuter than the Pedrad dancing? Answer: No. Also, she did a fairly cramazing Mary Kate Olsen in the “Beastly” parody (which, otherwise, was not very good at all).

8 (tie). Paul Brittain, Kenan Thompson (22 points): Kenan carried the alp.de.ap/Taboo sketch, “Our Time,” but this was an instance of a sketch’s premise being funnier than the actual execution. His Raven Symone was passable, too.

As for Brittain, well, he was definitely there on Saturday night! That much can be said for him.

10. Andy Samberg (18 points): Is it time to admit that it’s been an off year for the Lonely Island triumvirate? When their digital shorts hit, they hit big. When they don’t — like with this week’s “Beastly” parody — it greatly effects the overall quality of the show. I don’t think it’s time for them to hit the road, not even close; I just hope they have another strong sketch ready to go in the final seven episodes (or so) of this season and that they come back with renewed enthusiasm next year.

11. Bill Hader (17 points): As we all guessed, Bill Hader was tapped by Lorne Michaels to do his best Charlie Sheen impresh in the evening’s cold open, “Duh! Winning!” Sadly though, by the time the show aired, the Sheen phenomenon had already soured, and the world learned that the only person in the world equipped to play Charlie Sheen is Charlie Sheen. (Related: I wholeheartedly support the #losingcharliesheen movement.)

12. Fred Armisen (15 points): Armisen didn’t appear much this week, but when he did, it was gold. He got off the best line of the night during his performance as Muammar Gaddafi during the cold open — “I have the courage of the lion, the heart of a monster and I dress like Humpty Hump from Digital Underground” — and I’d love to see more of him as the Freddie Prinze Sr.-esque comedian, Richie Inez Jr.

13. Jay Pharoah (6 points): I’ve still got faith that with time and patience, Pharoah will come around. He’s got HUGE potential, it’s just a matter of him working out his place in the show. Hopefully that will come next season.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE POWER RANKINGS: SEASON 36 TOTALS
1. Bill Hader (500 points; Last Week: #1)
2. Kristin Wiig (482 points; Last Week: #2)
3. Fred Armisen (423 points; Last Week: #3)
4. Andy Samberg (395 points; Last Week: #4)
5. Kenan Thompson (361 points; Last Week: #5)
6. Jason Sudeikis (357 points; Last Week: #6)
7. Bobby Moynihan (311 points; Last Week: #7)
8. ⇓ Nasim Pedrad (302 points; Last Week: #7)
9. ⇑ Taran Killam (260 points; Last Week: #10)
10. ⇓ Vanessa Bayer (258 points; Last Week: #9)
11. Abby Elliott (239 points; Last Week: #11)
12. Paul Brittain (194 points; Last Week: #12)
13. Jay Pharoah (155 points; Last Week: #13)

Reference Materials:
Need a refresher on the Scoring System?

Here’s this week’s sketch-by-sketch breakdown:

Also, did you know that we’re showing classic episodes of SNL every night on VH1? It’s true!