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WATCH: Kerry Washington Shines in An Otherwise Dull SNL

Thompson on Hollywood By Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood November 3, 2013 at 5:44PM

Though the quality of the writing wavered and often plummeted, Kerry Washington sailed, charming her way through several goofy characters on last night's SNL.
Kerry Washington SNL

In the Cold Open of last night's Saturday Night Live, "Scandal" star Kerry Washington was asked to play Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Beyonce. This was SNL's opportunity to address its cast's diversity problem, following Keenan Thompson's remarks about the lack of black women in the cast this year. So after sauntering onto the set as Michelle Obama, Washington sprinted off to change into an Oprah costume while an apology scrolled across the screen ("we agree this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it in the near future"). 

This was a likely a smart move for the show, but it did feel a bit like pandering. Washington's annoyed off-stage response about not having time to change into Beyonce's sparkly dress felt the like the best response (this is not the host's problem to fix--this is SNL's too rectify). In a bit of an odd moment, Reverend Al Sharpton appeared to close the cold open: "What have we learned from this sketch? As usual, nothing." Well, there we are. 

For the entirety of this episode, the writing struggled and warbled, though Washington expertly breezed through the sketches with humor and grace. There weren't too many impressions for Washington after the opening skit and she excelled at going goofy, especially in an odd dating sketch called "Date or Diss." And props for not putting in an easy "Scandal" sketch into the show, and allowing the actress to show off her range. Of course though, during Washington's monologue, a series of cast members bounded onto the stage, mistaking Washington for her Olivia Pope and asked the fixer to solve their various problems. 

Meanwhile, the best character of the night came from Kate McKinnon (not unusual) for her heartfelt Angela Merkel, who weepily scrolled through her embarrassing tiny emails (texts), afraid that the NSA would know what she was googling. 

These sketches and more below:

This article is related to: SNL, Television, Television, TV Reviews, TV, TV Features, Kerry Washington, TV Videos

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.