Josh Hutcherson, who can be seen in theaters everywhere reprising his role as Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, hosted Saturday Night Live November 23, 2013. The 21-year-old actor seemed eager to please right out of the gate, though he often stayed in the margins of the sketches, playing straight man to the more experienced cast. Below are some highlights from the episode.
In his opening monologue, he spoofed the Hunger Games franchise that found SNL cast members preparing to participate in their own version of “the games.” It’s a great way to kick off his appearance, with Kate McKinnon stealing the bit as a convincing Effie Trinket.
Beck Bennett dominated the sketch “Office Boss,” playing a mega-successful businessman whose muscle-control and agility never matured past infancy. Hutcherson is the new employee who must endure Bennett’s spastic movements. It’s a moderately inspired idea and Bennett’s commitment to the part makes it work.
In a pre-taped bit called “Matchbox 3,” Hutcherson joined Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharaoh as a subway-based dance troupe that specializes in performing their routines in very close quarters. This one falls pretty flat, despite a relatively strong reaction from the studio audience. Hutcherson’s “street” accent allowed him to display a bit more versatility than most of his parts throughout the episode.
“Animal Hospital” is a one-joke sketch in which Hutcherson, Kate McKinnon, and Cecily Strong play a trio of receptionists at (you guessed it) an animal hospital. The joke is that this particular hospital loses an abnormally high percentage of its patients. The Southern drawls get old pretty quick and Hutcherson’s stereotypical effeminate characterization is ill-advised at best.
Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong brought out their recurring “Girlfriends Talk Show” routine. Hutcherson again played mostly straight man here, reacting to the Bryant’s swooning. He did get one amusing moment when he sang his own isolated harmony part from a number by his a cappella vocal group. This one could’ve used a stronger wrap-up (and Strong needs a punchline besides her repeated “Awesome”), but it was one of the episode’s stronger bits.
SNL writer Michael Patrick O’Brien took center stage in the pre-taped short “Bugs.” This one, which finds O’Brien playing an investigative journalist attempting to find out where insects are always rushing off to, would probably be funnier to a young Nickelodeon viewer than the typical adult staying up late for SNL. Hutcherson cameos as O’Brien’s younger brother, whose name (Lance Sam Bass) is easily the most amusing moment in the sketch.
The musical guest for the evening was indie pop group HAIM, who performed two numbers. The first was their hit single, “The Wire.”
Typical of SNL throughout the years, Josh Hutcherson’s episode was a mixed bag. Some of the sketches worked, others not so much. While HAIM’s performance factored in as a highlight, Hutcherson didn’t demonstrate a particularly strong or natural ability as a sketch comedian. His performance was very even, however, and far from the worst efforts the venerable series has seen.