Emmy episode analysis: Adam Sandler (‘Saturday Night Live’) makes triumphant return to his roots

Well, it took a while, but Adam Sandler finally returned to his roots with a triumphant hosting job on “Saturday Night Live” 24 years after he left the show. The comedian rose to prominence as a performer on the sketch comedy series, earning Emmy nominations for writing in 1991, 1992 and 1993. His long-awaited hosting gig earned him a Best Comedy Guest Actor bid, one of two noms he received this year (he’s also competing for penning his standup special “Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh”).

Sandler opens the episode playfully kidding his termination from the series in 1995 with the original song “I Was Fired.” His former cast mate, Chris Rock, joined him onstage to sing about his own firing, as did current cast member Pete Davidson. Sketches included a Sandler family reunion (with fellow “SNL” alum Jimmy Fallon doing his best impersonation of the comic’s mumbly characters), a father-son erectile dysfunction commercial and the return of Opera Man to Weekend Update. It all culminated in a heartfelt tribute to Sandler’s late friend, Chris Farley, who died in 1997.

SEE Adam Sandler movies: 15 greatest films, ranked worst to best, include ‘Happy Gilmore,’ ‘Punch-Drunk Love,’ ‘The Wedding Singer’

Can Sandler win his first Emmy for his guest spot on “SNL”? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

PROS

Recently, there’s been no easier way to win an Emmy than hosting “SNL.” In the past decade, Dave Chappelle, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Tiffany Haddish, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler, Justin Timberlake and Betty White have taken home the gold for appearing on the NBC laffer. This year alone, Sandler is competing against Matt Damon, Robert De Niro and John Mulaney for their own guest spots. So the law of averages just might work in his favor.

Sandler shines in the episode, bringing both the funny that he’s become famous for and a surprising level of pathos, particularly in his loving musical salute to his late “SNL” pal Farley. It’s rare for an actor to make us laugh and cry in equal measure on the sketch comedy series, yet this former cast member found a way. It’s a victorious return to the show that made him famous, one that Emmy voters may feel inclined to reward.

Given his additional nomination for writing his Netflix standup special and the buzz for his upcoming Safdie Brothers movie “Uncut Gems,” Sandler’s having a pretty good year, one that could culminate with a little gold statuette.

SEE Can ‘Saturday Night Live’ pull off another sweep of the Emmy comedy guest acting categories?

CONS

Critical opinion on Sandler as a performer has fluctuated wildly over the years. Long the bane of highbrow cineasts who turned their noses to his lowbrow comedies “Billy Madison” (1995), “Happy Gilmore” (1996), “The Waterboy” (1998) and “Big Daddy” (1999), he’s earned raves for playing it straight in arthouse hits such as “Punch-Drunk Love” (2002) and “The Meyerowitz Stories: New and Selected” (2017). Yet even when garnering Oscar buzz (and a Golden Globe nomination for “Punch-Drunk Love”), he’s never abandoned his frat house sense of humor, continuing to crank out poorly reviewed audience favorites like “Grown Ups” (2010) and “Jack and Jill” (2011). Will Emmy voters punish him for being too trashy, or reward him for continuing to stretch himself?

Though vote-splitting hasn’t hurt “SNL” hosts in the past, four might be too many to choose from, which could benefit “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” nominees Luke Kirby and Rufus Sewell or “Veep” contender Peter MacNicol.

PREDICT the Emmys now; change them until September 22

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before winners are announced on September 22. And join in the fun debate over the 2019 Emmys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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