Who knew Sofia Vergara would be such a great SNL host? Did you? Maybe you did — maybe you watch more Modern Family than I do, maybe you’ve got a lot invested in her because of an appreciation for her breasts or very interesting backstory (appearing in Madea Goes to Jail, battling thyroid cancer, an older brother kidnapped and killed), maybe you developed a crush on her when she was nominated for an Emmy, I don’t know. I knew Sofia Vergara played Ed O’Neill’s hot wife on Modern Family, and that she was in a Pepsi ad that ran itself into the ground all winter, and that she had a fun accent and that was it. Hosts without steamer trunks of tabloid baggage or who lack the ability to cause the irrationally strong celebrity-face-rejection response tend to be the best ones — like when Bryan Cranston hosted in 2010 and sang through an opening monologue about how most people didn’t know who he was. Sofia Vergara seemed charming enough on Modern Family, and is certainly beautiful, but there was comparatively little riding on whether or not she was good at hosting Saturday Night Live — she wasn’t hunting for redemption, she was just doing publicity for The Three Stooges and probably hoping to be intelligible (she was). And so, instead of freezing up or letting her pupils crawl from left to right across a big piece of white cardboard with lines on it, she picked her cuticles a little, but then just seemed to set about having a good time.
What was clear from the promos was that it’s hard not to address two things about Vergara: her accent and her almost pornographic prettiness. There was no question that there would be a segment from “The Manuel Ortiz show”, that the opening monologue would alight on boob-staring and how sexily Vergara rolled the r’s in “gonorrhea,” or that she would be asked to flash a dazzling smile and flip her hair over and over (in the low-impact news team intro sketch, which hinged on the joke that Fred Armisen’s weird weather man couldn’t stop giggling long enough to turn to face the camera for his shot, and then again with new featured player Kate McKinnon, whose Penelope Cruz got stuck with all of the tough Pantene commercial copy while Vergara cooed through monosyllables). But where Vergara shined the most was as Fran Drescher on “Bein’ Quirky with Zooey Deschanel.” “Bein’ Quirky,” better this time than when it debuted earlier in the season, is a good place to stick funky outliers like “Iceland’s only celebrity,” Björk, Wiig’s spot-on Drew Barrymore — hell, it might even be able to make Garth and Kat more palatable just by turning the attention to their sweaters instead of their five-minute-long improvisational ditties. Whatever genius saw Vergara and immediately thought of Fran Drescher, and then put her in “Bein’ Quirky” with a macaroni handbag and a pompom dog, is like a molecular gastronomist — the kind of person who deconstructs a poutine and somehow captures all that gravy and fries and stuff in a stick of gum (coming soon). Queens and Colombian accents don’t generally resemble each other, but for whatever reason (the laugh, the mince, the acrylic nails implied by the float of a hand), this was a nearly perfect impersonation and existed somehow beyond the realm of the obvious.
I would have wished for more of these strokes of genius host-casting, instead of the lame Hunger Games newscast closer (Vergara has newscaster teeth, which helps explain why she played two reporters in this episode, but those kinds of sketches — even when Bill Hader is playing a cranky geriatric in them — often fall flat), but the episode as a whole was so solid that it seems like giving Vergara a lighter load than they could have may have worked to everyone’s advantage. “Almost Pizza” and Taran Killan’s Andy Cohen in a “Watch What Happens Live” sketch were SNL jewels, like Easter eggs of disconcerting sillies (disconcerting because who hasn’t had something that was truly Almost Pizza, and also because, if they were situated next to each other, it would be hard to tell the parody Cohen from the real deal), and I am not one to ever want to cut Drunk Uncle short on “Weekend Update” (nor would I have happily parted with the “Just Friends Booty Shorts” sketch). I’m not sure why, but I could watch Drunk Uncle for hours. I could watch a Drunk Uncle documentary, maybe one where he lives with his stepfather and it’s like Grey Gardens but instead it’s Beer Gardens. Without bothering to think of a bridge between that fertile port and this one, the only thing to carve out another sketch for Vergara would have been the repeat of Lil’ Poundcake, the HPV-vaccinating doll. Vulture hit some good psychic predictions in its precap of the episode, but instead of treading again over the accent and boob territory, maybe the sketch that never was could have covered something like, oh, making fun of The Three Stooges or envisioning a post-modern family. I don’t know. I just wanted more of her. Maybe that’s just greed.
In closing, I have just one thing to say about former X Factor contestants and musical guest One Direction: dudes, whoever is dressing you is half a degree away from sending you onto the stage as a gang of Petits Ecoliers. Do not let anyone attach capes to your Peter Pan collars. Do not let anyone taper the calves of your trousers any further. I see what you’re going for and I respect it, but you’re going to walk down the street at night and make all of the haberdashers deadbolt their doors and peek between the panels of their Venetian blinds. You’ve got one toe in the danger zone. Beware.
Next week!: Josh Brolin (hyping Men in Black 3) and Gotye, and hopefully more from Kate McKinnon (who delivered a great impression of Tabatha Coffey, of Bravo’s Tabatha’s Salon Takeover — but really, the world needs less Tabatha, not more).