If I were to tell you that Saturday Night Live closed out its 35th season with a perfectly enjoyable episode, would you believe me? Of course you would. I'm very convincing. If I were to tell you that SNL's 35th season finale also produced little that'll show up years later on a "greatest hits" video, then, well, you'd probably believe that, too. After a 34th season that tapped into the American zeitgeist and brought the show back into the front and center of even the most casual viewer's minds, this season felt wildly inconsistent -- but leave it to Alec Baldwin, hosting for a record-tying 15th time, to bring it all home in timely fashion. Everybody got a chance to shine. Nobody dropped the ball nor did they even choose to announce their farewells. Just on with the show.
Let's begin with that cold open, shall we? SNL poked fun at the oil executives who cannot either accept the blame for BP's tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, nor can they figure out how to stop it. All in under three minutes!?!? Short and to the point, with Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis as the oil executives talking about their outrageously idiotic ideas for stopping the spill. Club soda gets everything out, right?
Then Baldwin came out for his monologue, and mentioning tying Steve Martin with his 15th hosting stint on SNL, you'd think Martin might be there. He has shown up plenty of times before for a cameo. This time, however, he's stuck on video. Considering Baldwin just delivered the commencement address to NYU students, why not also help this cast graduate for the summer? Let's hear it, "Dr. Alec Balwin, OB-GYN." Baldwin also referenced last week's Betty White episode, as well as a tacit acknowledgement of the difficulty of being a celebrity as well as the joys of finding success in a sitcom. Here's looking at you...
And we're right into the SNL Digital Short. No ads yet. Instead it's Andy Samberg with a song-and-dance routine that's as easy to figure out as the powdered mustache on his face. He's all coked up! Really. That's it. That's the whole premise. If you're looking for a plot twist, well, keep on looking. Or do some blow (don't do blow, kids or big kids, it's bad for you). The execution still manages some laughs, though.
And still no ads. Instead we're on the set of "Arizona Evenings," so obviously we're going to find a scene that satirizes Arizona's latest attempt to show how it's the least tolerant state in the union. By pushing forward another new wacky character from Kristen Wiig. Obviously. No, wait. What? So this is a TV melodrama, and Baldwin, Samberg, director Kenan Thompson, Bobby Moynihan and others are interrupted by the substitute script supervisor with big front teeth, Starfish (Wiig). Who cannot stop from walking into the shot. And it's only a two-line scene. How and why is her mouth in the shot? How and why is this happening? I'm sure there's a metaphor in here somewhere, and if you're not an avid watcher of SNL, it doesn't feel nearly as hard to swallow this whole.
OK. Now we have a commercial break.
And we're back. Hudson Valley High is having its sports banquet, and despite the big swim team banner in the background and the fact that the team didn't score any victories -- so why is their banner up for the high schoo's entire sports banquet? No matter. Just look at Lutz! And Jessi Klein! Will Forte talks up the soccer team champs first. Wiig is in charge. And Baldwin is the blonde-haired swim coach who insults everyone he gives a participation award to, with a Boston accent? Mike (Hader), Rachel (Jenny Slate), Julie (Abby Elliott), Brad (Samberg) -- "despite doing #1, he still swam like #2", "Titanic" (Moynihan) who swam with his shirt on, Luke (Armisen) who has two things in common with Greg Louganis, Pete (Sudeikis), Paul (Thompson), and the daughter (Nasim Pedrad) of the woman he's having an affair with.
Hey, next week is the Tina Fey/Justin Bieber episode repeated. Which reminds me, that's when Belinda, er, Bedilia (Pedrad) made her first appearance as a teen who's way too into her parents and hasn't figured out how to relate to actual teens. Here, she's having her 14th birthday party BBQ and her dad (Baldwin) is working the grill. And calling her two different names in the first minute of the sketch. Make up your minds, actors and cue card writers! Slate, Elliott, Moynihan and Samberg play the other teens at the party. The first time she appeared, I didn't completely buy into it. This time, Pedrad's character sells her lines with a little more attitude and to better effect, I felt. The ending, however, tried to wrap things up much too quickly, putting Bedilia/Belinda with Hader's equally parental-loving teen.
Oh, look, if you like Sally Field's Boniva ads, then you'll love Abby Elliott's impersonation of them, bringing the bone less to more heightened realism, scaring viewers into taking Preniva. Roll it!
Bang. Here comes another sketch before ads. They're trying to squeeze in a lot of material in the finale, aren't they? It's the return of Grady Wilson (Thompson), the old man with the even older dance/exercise moves that are all sexual in nature. Baldwin joins in for some team action as a Greek guy. I'm guessing these guys sold it very well at the table read.
If you wanted an old-school, legendary rock band, well, the Rolling Stones were in 30 Rock this week. But they were on another floor helping out Jimmy Fallon helping them celebrate one of their classic records. For SNL, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were introducing new songs. I'm a fan. Of his older stuff. I didn't know he was recording new songs. Here is one of those songs:
Seth Meyers told fans on his Twitter feed earlier on Saturday that some old friends would be stopping by his Weekend Update desk. Sure enough, they did. Meyers seemed even less detached than he or other Update anchors have been with their guests, giving them extra-special introductions and talking to them during their segments. Such as his unabashed love for MTV's Jersey Shore's Snooki, as played by Moynihan. Why'd they need to overexplain the orange skin tone, though?
Same went with Stefon (Hader), the city correspondent who only seems to know which NYC clubs are the hot places to be at, and who clearly designed one of his character traits -- putting his hands over his face -- to help conceal the times in which he cannot help but crack up. German Smurfs? A DJ made of bok choy with ravioli hands? Sounds like nightmares of a meth addict, indeed.
And here is something remarkable that came back to the show: A mostly improvised routine featuring musical duo Garth and Kat (Armisen and Wiig). Notice how Wiig spins to look at Armisen so she can follow his lead. Such a rare thing to see on SNL. Cherish it. Cherish. It.
And here are some other jokes from Meyers during the Update segment. Nice one about the Knicks, but he threw up a brick on the bonus trying to recruit LeBron James.
OK. Here's a sketch that has some fun taking risks, spoofing an infomercial for something called the "Timecrowave," a microwave that relies on time travel, and carries extreme consequences if you don't follow the instructions carefully. Baldwin, as Glen Crampton, sells the concept to perennial Miss Indiana runner-up Penny (Wiig). It's not a microwave made by GE. Enjoyed how they heightened the scene -- how often do you see SNL characters trying to lip-sync live? But without explanation, they revert back to the beginning. So it's heightening, then shortening? Not exactly. Look in the background when everything else looks normal. I don't know how sketch writing works. These guys do, though. They're professionals. You know who figured out time travel? Planet of the Apes. Spoiler alert?
Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz brings us back from commercial to lead us into a classic movie clip featuring Baldwin and a hooker with a heart of gold (Slate). He's some big shot with some big schemes. Some classy acting, and the pay-off is some classic last half-hour silliness.
Speaking of 12:30-1 a.m. silliness, how about a scout sniper school at Quantico led by Baldwin as a guy who cannot pronounce the exact order exactly, which confuses the recruits (Sudeikis and Thompson) to no end. Sudeikis gives a shout-out to his hometown back in Kansas City, and tries not to laugh too much as Baldwin rolls on top of him again and again. "Tay the Shah!?" Don't ask. Don't tell. That's still the policy, right?
Are we ending the season on music? Apparently so. It's another Tom Petty song to close things out.
The goodbyes are short and to the point. Nobody said goodbye for reals. Which means we'll have to enjoy our summer and see if everyone comes back in September. One thing you can say for certain about this 35th season cast: They truly bonded well and enjoyed performing together. Let's not get weepy-eyed. Instead, enjoy the summer!