In case you missed it, Billy Gardell -- star of the new CBS sitcom Mike & Molly -- appeared last week on Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Toward the end of Gardell's panel chat, Ferguson mentioned that he'd be visiting Las Vegas soon and would check out Carrot Top's long-running show there.
Which prompted Gardell to say this about knowing Carrot Top:
"When we did open mic night together, and this was back in Florida. We had a big open mic night there. It was me, him, Darrell Hammond, Larry the Cable Guy before he was Larry the Cable Guy (Ferguson: He was just Larry then), yeah Larry. Yeah, and but, but, Carrot Top would come in and he'd set his stuff up on the stage, and we would steal a couple of things out of the trunk. But we wouldn't tell him. And then we'd watch him go, 'Ha ha, ha ha.' But he's a good kid."
Amy Schumer made it pretty far on Last Comic Standing a few years ago, and in a few weeks, she'll have her first Comedy Central Presents on the TV. So she decided to hit up her fellow stand-up comedians at the Comedy Cellar in NYC for some testimonials. Should be great, right? Of course, it quickly becomes a sequel to Seinfeld's Comedian, with Colin Quinn, Jim Norton, Darrell Hammond and Jessica Kirson talking smack about her. "Doesn't every comedian have a special now?" Indeed. Schumer gets some outside help from Nick Thune (who already has a Comedy Central Presents and more to his credit), and if you're on the sidewalk in front of the Cellar, of course, there will be a moment with Ardie Fuqua. Of course. Don't worry, none of these are really spoiler alerts. Roll it!
If you were to tell me that Saturday Night Live would gather up all of its grand presidential impersonators for a one-time reunion, then I'd remind you that Phil Hartman is dead, and stop playing me. But you kept at it, and told me, hey, what if we got Jim Carrey to play the ghost of Ronald Reagan with a dash of Ace Ventura, then I'd go, oh, really, well, which SNL is this going to be on?
Oh, it's not on SNL. It's on Funny or Die. OK. Ready for the viral video action! Wait. This is a PSA? Or as you kids call it, a public service announcement. For the banking crisis. Directed by Ron "used to be Opie or Richie Cunningham if you're an older person, and just another big movie director if you're a kid" Howard. For real this time. If you think SNL's political "cold open" sketches are weirdly too focused on making points, then full speed ahead into the danger zone. At least Dan Aykroyd looks more like Jimmy Carter a generation later (can you believe Aykroyd pretended to be Carter with a mustache on live TV?), as does Chevy Chase as the late Gerald Ford. As for Dana Carvey as Bush 41, Darrell Hammond as Bill Clinton, Will Ferrell as W., Fred Armisen as Barack Obama and Maya Rudolph as Michelle Obama, well, you're not going to see anything here you haven't seen before. Just all of them together in a room. Isn't that special? Roll the clips.
There's also a behind-the-scenes video, if you need to see how and where the magic happens. Which means bloopers and jokes. You like bloopers and jokes.
After a full week of NBC-bashing by the various late-night TV talk-show hosts, how would the reigning big daddy of late-night TV comedy handle its own mockery? Not quite the way you'd think, or hope, even when it looked like they might just surprise you with something magically great. Not once. Not twice. Three times this happened on last night's Saturday Night Live. Let's go through the motions...
The cold open imagined an edition of CNN's Larry King Live in which King (Fred Armisen) presides over a summit with Jay Leno (Darrell Hammond), Conan O'Brien (Bill Hader) and via satellite, David Letterman (Jason Sudeikis). Starts out with a funny line by Armisen about himself, quickly fizzles when you think, they brought Hammond back tonight for that impression of Leno? "C'mon. We didn't come here to have fun!" Prophetic. The voices are all over the place. And the jokes are, well, aimed at Larry King? Hammond and Hader are known for some great impersonations, but here, it seemed more about the look than the voice. Sudeikis, meanwhile, had a decent look but was reduced to the throwing-pencils shtick. But this sketch really only works if you forget about what's really happening at NBC and focus on making Larry King look silly. Wait. Maybe that was the point? Oh, also a Carson Daly (Will Forte) reference.
Sigourney Weaver was our host this week, and it's her second time. First time was way back in 1986? Which means we get a look back at the 1980s. Weird but sexy. Yep. That was the '80s. Did you know? Fun fact! Weaver's late father not only used to run NBC, but also created The Tonight Show. How do you like them apples? OK. Maybe not an apt metaphor movie catchphrase, but still. Great timing. So Weaver has something funny or profound or profoundly funny to say about her dad and this current kerfuffle, right? Right? Well. Hmmm. Someone hands her a piece of paper reputed to be the letter her dad wrote pitching the show. Not enough payoff there. Another foul ball. Two swings at the NBC mess, two foul balls.
Now what? A great show? Stick around and we'll be right back. But first. It's Grady Wilson (Kenan Thompson) with another instructional video of his personal love-making techniques. The sexy sex moves sketch moves up early this time around. Sometimes it's the name of the sex position that sells it, sometimes it's trying to figure out how Kenan, or how his partner Marta (Weaver) visualizes the title, and a couple of times, how what the two of them are doing is really supposed to look. How long did it take you to figure out The Brandy Snifter? The Lawnmower?
This is quickly followed by another recurring sketch with adult themes. It's the return of ESPN Classic's classic mustachioed broadcasting duo, Pete Twinkle and Greg Stink (Sudeikis and Forte), this time covering the Summer's Eve Lady Stars of Darts Championship. Featuring Darcy Vancouver (Wiig) and Olga "The Wolf Bear" Bogunskaya (Weaver). Everything the lady dart-throwers do is secondary to the pitter-patter of Sudeikis and Forte. Which, come to think of it, carries a similar writing pattern to last week's movie quote quiz sketch with Charles Barkley answering questions the wrong way. With another recurring idea, which is how many funny slogans can Sudeikis deliver for the sponsor, Summer's Eve...douche. (Childhood flashback for "old" people to Eddie Murphy's Brut, by Faberge)
Now we do have a commercial break? Nope.
If you go by what the Internets were saying in real-time overnight, then last night's Saturday Night Live was a stinker. Of course, this all happens the one week I decide go to Los Angeles and don't park myself in front of a television. They know I'll still find out what happens on SNL, right? I'm still not sure exactly what happened when January Jones hosted with musical guest Black Eyed Peas, nor when, but I do know that these videos have shown up on the Internets. And the video evidence tells a slightly different story, unless I find out that these videos are from dress rehearsal, or that the real stinkfest came from the Black Eyed Peas, and not from the show itself. Suspense! While we wait for the truth to set us free, let's take a look at the evidence before us...
We're seeing less and less of Fred Armisen's Barack Obama impersonation, and tonight's show opened with Jason Sudeikis' Joe Biden instead, taking over the White House since President Obama headed to Asia on a diplomatic trip. Biden is supposed to be crazy honest, but was this version crazy honest funny?
January Jones has trouble reading off of her cue cards during her opening monologue. Sudeikis, Armisen and Bill Hadar play superfans of Mad Men called Mad Mennies. It's like that sketch from the 1980s when William Shatner took on the Trekkies, only not so much. Bonus points, though, for having Armisen pick Peggy (played by his real-life newlywed wife, Elisabeth Moss, over Jones' Betty Draper). Do we subtract points, however, for Sudeikis calling Betty Betsy? Oh, double bonus points for Abby Elliott as Joan Holloway (though subtract a point, perhaps, for making us think for a second that Christina Hendricks might've been making that cameo?). Math is hard. TWSS.
What else? Did you say you wanted fart jokes? Fart jokes? We got those...
I was going to say something about Tracy Morgan, but before I do that, let me take a moment to note how the other alums for Saturday Night Live are getting love in a variety of ways (and I'm not just talking about Chevy Chase's lovely return to TV with NBC's Community, although there is Chevy to be chased in this post) on this, the show's 35th season.
First, I don't know how many of you noticed the new T-Mobile ad during last week's live SNL broadcast. Companies have gotten rather shrewd about incorporating humor and SNL-type elements in their real ads that air during the breaks on NBC's SNL telecasts; T-Mobile's new ad for its myTouch 3G takes the cake for SNL-relevance (although you're a couple of weeks late for me, since I just got a new iPhone 3GS!). Here is that ad, featuring Chevy Chase, Molly Shannon, Dana Carvey and Darrell Hammond. Roll the clip!
And it's beginning to feel cold like Christmas in NYC on recent windy, chilly nights, and in a month, the window display at Barney's New York store will devote its holiday display to the 35th anniversary of SNL. The reported scenes include classics such as the Coneheads, last year's Tina Fey/Sarah Palin sensation, and a couple of nods to the late 1990s, including Molly Shannon's Mary Katherine Gallagher and Chris Kattan's Mango. Here's one of the draft sketches from Barney's New York creative director Simon Doonan (via FishbowlNY):
How would Saturday Night Live deal with the hubbub and extra attention over the ending of last week's debut? Did you guess ignoring it completely? Did you also guess not letting Jenny Slate say a single word? Slate did appear in one live sketch and one SNL Digital Short, but otherwise, it was full speed ahead. In fact, this week's show offered plenty of its own pleasant surprises. Yes, much better! How much? Well...
Kristen Wiig showed she could be funny without being cliche crazy. Ryan Reynolds showed he could be funny as a supporting player. Lady Gaga proved herself a trooper in two live sketches, one of them also featuring another lady who makes people go ga-ga for her. Now that would have been an afterparty!
By the way, Weekend Update Thursday was much shrewder this past week -- decided to stick to the desk and not completely cannibalize the main Saturday edition by doing too much. Although plenty of opportunities for the cast to shine in celebrity impersonations. Among them: Whoopi Goldberg (Kenan Thompson) and Joy Behar (Fred Armisen) to expand upon Whoopi's awkward defense of Roman Polanski; Jason Sudeikis as a pilot colleague of Capt. "Sully." Suze Orman (Kristen Wiig); John Malkovich (Bill Hader) and Dennis Franz (Darrell Hammond), with Maya Rudolph also returning to appear as Oprah, talking up Chicago's Olympic bid and down on Rio; and Hall and Oates (Will Forte and Armisen) to sing about health care. Now, as for Saturday...
For our cold open, Fred Armisen's diminishing returns on President Barack Obama resulted in a speech about Obama's work performance that managed to echo his impersonation: "almost a year and not much to show for it." It was a sketch that played well to politicos and cable news folk, and proved that SNL is willing to make fun of Obama. But the show got much better from here. How much? Well...
Ryan Reynolds hosted. He's got comedy chops and we know he knows how to use them. The monologue compared his two summer movies (Wolverine and The Proposal), mining the comparisons for laughs. "If there's one thing that kids love, it's lanterns," he said, and after a pause, pointed into the audience. "That guy knows what I'm talking about."
Sometimes, you see a date on the calendar and get excited about it. For me, on a personal note, Saturday night was my birthday. For Jenny Slate, it was her debut on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Neither of us ended up with the night we quite expected or dreamed it would be, but we both had a night to remember; Slate, a little more so.
Within minutes (nay seconds, thanks to Twitter), the Internet was abuzz about Slate's slip, and multiple videos of the sketch appeared on the YouTubes. Rachel Sklar at Mediaite compiled more than a few of them and also noted the coincidence that U2's Bono was on the show (he had faced FCC complaints after he had dropped an F-bomb during a live awards show years ago). And in NYC, it was only just a few days ago it seems (because it was) that local FOX anchor Ernie Anastos misspoke during a live TV promo telling his co-worker to "Keep f*cking that chicken." He apologized and the world moved on. Slate should be fine, too.
Of course, the fact that that's what we're talking about and not Megan Fox or the show itself means that Slate's accident makes her debut a truly breakout performance. Because, let's face facts. The 35th season premiere of SNL otherwise was not going down in the record books as one of its best. But let's rewind back to 11:30 p.m. and get to a recap!
Sources outside the show, and backed up by anonymous sources from within 30 Rock, have informed me that Michaela Watkins and Casey Wilson appear to have been let go from Saturday Night Live and won't be returning this season (although they may have participated in some pre-taped ad parodies and digital shorts). They're no longer listed in specific office protocol. UPDATED: Michaela just confirmed this to me herself. So it looks as though Lorne Michaels hired Jenny Slate and Nasim Pedrad not as additional females to the cast (as SNL follower Rachel Sklar over at Mediaite would have hoped), but rather to replace Watkins and Wilson.
"I will say to you now, though, that I had a GREAT time there. Met some of the most truly talented and fantastic people, had the most exciting job and I honestly can say I don't have any regrets I can think of right now. Although it seems kinda crazy right now, this may shake out to make sense to everyone. Lorne isn't known for indulging in any lip-service and I feel very encouraged by his words last week. I'm working on something I'm very excited about now, so... the journey continues, and I feel so lucky I got to stop off at 30 Rock. It was awesome."
People who work at the show, and those who knew her at The Groundlings, where Watkins was performing with the Mainstage in Los Angeles before she was hired midseason in November 2008 (to help compensate for the loss of Amy Poehler), were shocked. They're not alone. I thought Watkins made the most of her first half-season, lampooning Arianna Huffington, appearing in a series of spoofs on NBC's own Today show as Hoda Kotb (to Kristen Wiig's Kathie Lee Gifford), as well as portraying a celebrity gossip blogger (bitchpleeze!). She more than held her own, and letting her go now doesn't seem to make any sense!
Wilson's departure, on the other hand, may come as less of a surprise to her critics and fans. She already has been scheduled to perform Sept. 24 (two days before the SNL debut) in an Upright Citizens Brigade show in Hollywood. And she had trouble breaking out during her tenure. Either her sketches would get cut after the dress rehearsal, or delayed by weeks, or she'd end up playing second or third banana in a sketch. She did have a sense of humor about the situation this spring, when Wilson starred in a Funny or Die video in which she read what people had to say about her on the Internets.
Abby Elliott, meanwhile, will return. NBC even posted a clip of Elliott talking up the new season during this summer's press tour.
Darrell Hammond also may return in some capacity this season, even though it looked like the May finale was also going to be his. He told a local TV station in Rochester, N.Y., recently that he was in negotiations. He holds the record for longest tenure of any cast member, having been with SNL since 1995.
Announcer Don Pardo, however, has officially retired after being an SNL institution since the beginning.
As one source told me, while new hires get announced and/or introduced, people who get let go don't. They just aren't there the next day. I will update if/when I get additional information.
The 34th season of Saturday Night Live certainly brought a lot of buzz and attention back to the show, and Lorne Michaels and company celebrated the end of that year with a bang that included plenty of starpower and nostalgia, plus a heavily implied farewell to Darrell Hammond, who completed his record thirteenth season as a cast member by returning for multiple sketches. We got to see Hammond reprise Dick Cheney and Sean Connery one last time on the show, and it's only surprising that we didn't get to also see him pull out his Donald Trump as well -- considering how much Trump was in the news with a certain Miss California (who could have been played by newbie Abby Elliott). But with star and SNL veteran Will Ferrell hosting, we saw just how much Ferrell mattered to the show earlier this decade, as he dominated the finale's proceedings from beginning to end. Even with all of the celebrity cameos and returning SNLers. Did I mention them yet? OK. We saw (take a deep breath now): Tom Hanks, Norm MacDonald, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Anne Hathaway, Paul Rudd, Elisabeth Moss and Artie Lange. With all of this happening, the current cast had much less on their plates to worry about. Good? Bad? It'll almost all make sense soon enough.
But first, a cold open from an NBC studio, and in the makeup chair getting ready for Meet the Press is one disgraced newly former VP Dick Cheney (Hammond), with Abby Elliott playing the makeup specialist. Ferrell shows up as his now Tony-nominated caricature of George W. Bush, trying to surprise Cheney and confront him about his newfound desire for media attention. Surprise fails because W. whispers too loudly: "That is one of the many reason I am no friend to libraries." Zing. We get it. They also poke fun at the current administration when W. asks why Cheney couldn't have been more like VP Joe Biden, going out for burgers and saying dumb things in public to make him look smarter. W. implies he has been watching a lot of Dr. Phil with his free time this spring. An OK, utterly predictable sketch, held together by the performances of the leads.
Ferrell's monologue attempts to re-establish his cred as a dramatic actor with roots in the theater, also with predictably disastrous results. Again, it's only Ferrell's sheer persistence that sells it. "Line?"
Talk about nostalgia. Our ad spoof for the night goes deep into the vault (Season/episode #26.11) for an oldie in which Ferrell sells his services as Wade Blasingame, Esq., attorney at law. Blasingame has sued more than 2,000 dogs. Because would you let a human do the things dogs get away with every day? Chris Parnell simulates the dog in scenes with Hammond, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Tracy Morgan and Horatio Sanz. If you want to look for such things, you might even notice that the way Ferrell, in particular, delivers his lines can suggest that SNL knew how to deliver lines awkwardly before a certain Tim & Eric came along (instead of the other way around). Anyhow.
So Zac Efron hosted this week's edition of Saturday Night Live, and we knew there would be at least one if not more High School Musical references to be satirized, but what else could we look forward to? And yes, I ended my first question with a preposition. What of it? Let's get to the recap. By the way, if you're expecting Efron to distinguish himself or extinguish himself, then please do not place your bets. That's not to say all will be lost. Alrighty then!
We opened with Vice President Biden (Jason Sudeikis) acting all too comfy in the oval office. Sure, of course. Biden has been in the news. Why not give Biden an open. President Obama (Fred Armisen) returns from his European trip, but no gifts for Biden. I get what they're going for here, but, well, whatevs.
The monologue poked fun at Zac Efron's limited demographic appeal. First, his tween fangirls wouldn't be up this late. Second, a couple of his fans (Abby Elliott, Kristen Wiig) are in the crowd, along with a non-tween (Armisen), and they all want to show how much they lurve him. OK. Well. Yeah.
We get another look at the fourth hour of The Today Show on NBC, aka the crazy hour with Hoda Kotb (Michaela Watkins) and Kathie Lee Gifford (Wiig). Gifford had her first anniversary on the show this past week, so SNL skewers that, with Gifford and Kotb drinking (again), and a musical performance by Gifford's son, Cody (Efron). If you have watched this in real life, then you know that almost every segment is worth mocking. This effort is not quite as crazy, although it does give SNL a chance to offer up impersonations of celebs sending well-wishes to Gifford, including Penny Marshall (Armisen). OK. Just Marshall.
Please forgive me if my excitement was neither fast nor furious over the prospect of a second hosting gig for Seth Rogen at the helm of Saturday Night Live. I simply have not jumped on the bandwagon that everything Rogen (or, for that matter, the Judd Apatow crew) touches turns to comedy gold. And if, as you recall, Rogen/Apatow films don't exactly give women much of a role to play other than furthering the bromances, this might help guide you. So with expectations sufficiently diminished, perhaps I would be in for a treat this weekend...
And yet, the cold open did not start things on the right foot. We began with a message from President Barack Obama (Fred Armisen), and from the get-go, Armisen's vocal impersonation was not up to par. Not sure why. But it just wasn't there. The premise, that Obama taking a break from the European lovefest had to prove that the hands-on approach to the auto industry was not a fluke by announcing he'd make rulings on individual companies in every other industry, had merit. But what followed just seemed so random. Like a series of non sequiturs, with Armisen's Obama weighing in on major American companies in riding lawnmowers, air conditioners, blue jeans, coffee makers, light bulbs (GE alert!), reclining chairs, baseball gloves, toothpastes, frozen shrimp, ballpoint pens, trench coats, plastic vomit, window shades, mens underwear, colleges, NFL teams, stroke magazines, and soft drinks. A couple of chuckles, but just due to the randomness of it all.
The monologue gave Seth Rogen a chance to acknowledge his weight loss -- "For one thing, I lost about one million pounds" -- and also other things that had changed since the first time he hosted SNL. Rogen learned how to pronounce Lorne's name. The writers have stopped helping him write the monologue, which he used as the excuse to take questions from "the audience": Kristen Wiig mocked him for doing a mall cop movie right after Paul Blart, while Jason Sudeikis took the cue-card material to a higher level by outright mocking him, Bill Hader appeared as Rogen's angry pizza delivery guy (read: weed delivery guy), and Bobby Moynihan appeared as a guy angry because Rogen's weight loss ruined his game as a guy who impersonated Rogen to pick up the ladies (he had to switch it up to Jonah Hill to hit on Abby Elliott's audience member character).
Instead of a fake ad in this slot, we got a fake movie ad, and, hello, if you know anything about the movie canon of Seth Rogen, you know it's full of bromantic gayish without being gay comedies. So why not have Rogen and Andy Samberg act as if they're going to make out in a trailer for The Fast and The Bi-Curious, with Elliott on the sidelines as the hottie they're nottie interested in. Knowing these guys makes it less of a surprising choice, but does it lessen the comedic impact? I don't know.
We could call this the week that everything old is new again. Because it is! In a good way? Let's see in the SNL recap...(videos added when available)
COLD OPEN: Tracy Morgan on video describing the energy from being in Rockefeller Plaza on a Saturday night. He came in 12 years ago as a puppy and left as a man! "This is my building! This is my home!" Cue the problems getting into back into his home. As someone who recently watched Morgan host a TV special, I can see why they didn't even attempt to do this live -- for one thing, the building has so much activity going on during the day that'd it be tough to shoot; and for another, Morgan's opening speech probably took a couple of takes. That said, it's not a political sketch! We already have established an early victory tonight, and this is before anyone has said, "Live from New York, it's Saturday night!" OK. Where were we? In the NBC lobby/foyer/security area. Berserker! Tracy starts clobbering his way into the building, past security, past fans in the elevator, past the NBC page who's really SNL writer and humorous book author Simon Rich! But can he get past pro rassler John Cena? And...now we're live. Tina Fey cameo!?
Let's get this party started!
THE MONOLOGUE: "Thank you, white people!" Right off the bat, Morgan makes a so funny because it's true statement that reflects the surreality of the situation. In tonight's show, he'll likely appear in more sketches than he did during his seven-year run in the SNL cast! He clarifies his fish tank apartment fire, making fun of how the mainstream press portrayed his accident. Does this slideshow look ghetto? Morgan calls Lorne Michaels "my Obi-Wan Kenobi." Interesting to see both Michaels and Seth Meyers holding glasses of wine, because, well, isn't the show on the air right now? They just couldn't wait until 1 a.m., I suppose.
AD SPOOF -- CHEWABLE PAMPERS: They've recycled ads in past years, so it's not as if I can fault them for it now. Or can I? (No, I cannot) Stars Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis.
BRIAN FELLOW'S SAFARI PLANET: And one of Morgan's SNL characters gets first dibs tonight, with voiceover introduction from Darrell Hammond. Fellow's first guest is a baby cow (with Sudeikis as the calf's owner). Something about having live farm animals on live TV (and not on a talk-show with professional handlers) tends to led to unexpected funnies. A red-tailed halk (on Andy Samberg's arm) makes Fellow say his catchphrase: "That's crazy!" And some silly questions. Fellow gets distracted by imaginary conversations with animals. It all plays perhaps a bit funnier than before simply because Morgan has established such a reputation for crazy during his 30 Rock phase that we hear his line readings differently now. At least that's my first impression of it.
Saturday Night Live returned last night after two weeks off with a fresh case of spring fever and a ham sandwich of a host, and although I cannot say that any of the sketches are instant classics, I can say that the entire show was at least fairly funny from start to finish, and that is quite commendable. This also marks the first time that almost the entire show is available for viewing online. Wow. Let's get to recapping!
MONOLOGUE: The Rock's third time hosting, notes he has beaten Tony Danza, now tied with Rob Lowe. Jokes his nine-year transformation has gone so well, he didn't get cast in "The Wrestler." He breaks into song, singing how he's still tough. Flanked by Abby Elliott and Kristen Wiig in black lingerie. Kenan Thompson "hits" him with a chair, for a seductive chair dance. Fred Armisen plays his effiminate trainer/choreographer/roommate.
MACGRUBER: With MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson)! Wiig plays the assistant Vicky as always. Wait a second. Isn't this what they did in that Pepsi Super Bowl ad that got everyone riled up? Not quite. This time, it's an actual MacGruber sketch, as MacGyver as "new guy" waxes nostalgic in a flashback (10 seconds?!) to when he and his missus (Elliott) give birth to a boy in an abandoned hospital in December 1972. Jason Sudeikis plays the doc. And MacGyver names him MacGruber. MacGruber MacGyver. Plot twist! But wait, there's more. Michaela Watkins plays the assistant to MacGyver and...
Here comes easily the best scene that you knew was coming, almost.
If I had a time machine, I would go back a week to give the Saturday Night Live staff a head's up that they could really just go ahead and start their two-week vacation a week early. Because, really. We did not need to see that. Twas Valentine's Day, and any lovebirds would not be tuned to their TVs, and any singletons would need an escape, and where was SNL to be found? I think they took a page from the Lost plotbook, and not a wild and wacky page, either. The show seemed lost, flashing forward and backward through time -- even the Hulu.com page has fallen victim to this, adding old Alec Baldwin sketches and claiming they were part of the Feb. 14, 2009 show. Sir Mix-A-Lot, a female Perez Hilton, Vincent Price (I usually like the Vincent Price sketches, but still). What year are we? Help me, Doc Faraday! That's not even counting the bizarre ending to the show. Right from the cold open, we knew we were in for trouble, though...
Listen up, Saturday Night Live. You know, I know, we all know that the media and mainstream America began paying more attention to you this season because of how you handled the presidential election. We get it. That doesn't mean you need to try to play politics every week. It just doesn't. Which brings me to the cold open...(Note: I shall update with video clips once they become available either on Hulu.com or NBC.com)
This should have been so much better, shouldn't it? I'm sure more than a few people out there had high hopes for Steve Martin's 15th turn as host of Saturday Night Live, and yet, this morning, the only things I feel like talking about in this episode don't really have anything to do with him. Did SNL really agree to produce three real Pepsi ads? Looks that way. Did SNL really go after New York Gov. David Paterson's blindness? Yes, and also more on that front. Did Kristen Wiig have another "wacky" character? Sort of, yes. Where oh where is Darrell Hammond? You'll find out in a bit. Let's cleanse our comedy palates before digging into this week's recap. So what better way than with this classic Steve Martin SNL clip that just now became available on Hulu: King Tut!
Now. Onto the recap...
Don't know about you, but after Thursday's amazing "Miracle on the Hudson" plane crash and seeing several of the SNL crew in jovial spirits on Wednesday night, perhaps my expectations for this week's edition of Saturday Night Live were too high. Because I certainly expected more. That's not to say it was a complete dud, but compared to last week's show with NPH, well, it had a difficult time measuring up. Let's begin at the beginning, shall we? As I always let you know, if you cannot watch videos on Hulu, try NBC's online home for SNL. OK? OK!
The cold open -- ABC's Diane Sawyer (Kristen Wiig) gets the final interview with retiring Vice President Dick Cheney (Darrell Hammond) -- is a great sketch idea for two solid reasons: 1) It runs counter to all of the final days of Bush and his antics we've seen in the past week, which would be both too easy to duplicate and too difficult to top, and 2) We haven't seen hardly any of Darrell Hammond in recent SNL weeks, so hooray for that reminder. Although, checking my notes, this is also the only sketch for Hammond tonight. If this is not Lorne Michaels telling us to prepare to finally say goodbye to Hammond, I'm not sure what this is. Any regrets?
In Rosario Dawson's monologue, she tells us she grew up right here in the Lower East Side when it wasn't the trendy place to make your home, and that she also helped register Latinos to vote -- which gives SNL a reason to trot out Fericito, Fred Armisen's Venezuelan drummer and nightclub comedian character.
We then get a fake ad for North American Savings Bank, which, get this, puts your money under a mattress, and doesn't approve loans. Pretty safe, huh? Plenty of cast members get to take part in it, at least.
After the first break, it's an episode of Discovery Kids show, "Da Learnin' Train," hosted by Dawson, with Riznatch the Rabies Raccoon (Kenan Thompson) as her rapping sidekick, Bill Hader as the DJ, and Andy Samberg, Bobby Moynihan and Abby Elliott playing the kids. Forget RIF, kids. "You can dance on top of a book!" Thompson raps. Harry Connick Jr. (Jason Sudeikis) appears, why, I'm not sure, except to point out that these hip-hoppers are all quite dumb and illiterate. Fred Armisen appears as a mailman with a delivery from Alphabet City. It's the letter K (Will Forte), who also raps. It's a big, colorful set. But what's the joke, again? Hip-hoppers are dumb. Oh. I'd never be accused of being politically correct, so I'll refrain from typing what comes to my mind watching this.
A second fake ad, but this one is much better than the first. Jason Sudeikis plays a CIA agent overseeing the Camp Gitmo going out of business sale! This should have played earlier, maybe? "Git'Mo of everything you need!"
Nothing like a holiday break to get everyone back on the same page and ready with some funny sketches to open 2009's Saturday Night Live. Right? For the most part: Yes. What better way to start a new year, then, than by letting the new young kid in the cast, Abby Elliott, open the proceedings with a portrayal of MSNBC's fresh, new thing, Rachel Maddow. Although the sketch really isn't poking fun at Maddow so much as it's aiming squarely at the Blago scandal and his would-be, could-he-be U.S. Sen. Harold Burris (Kenan Thompson), with Blago (Jason Sudeikis) sporting even sillier hair than he had in his previous appearance. (Note to readers: If you cannot see the videos on Hulu, try going to NBC's SNL page.)
Your host this evening, Neil Patrick Harris, has proven himself quite the comic actor in recent years with his turns in Harold & Kumar and How I Met Your Mother. His monologue begins with a nice nod to his Doogie Howser child-actor years, revealing he almost hosted SNL in 1990 but got passed over for fellow child actor Fred Savage. But then his monologue gets hijacked by cast members making How I Met Your Mother jokes, which then itself gets hijacked by Andy Samberg's Mark Wahlberg impersonation...so he can say "Say hi to How I Met Your Mother for me?" OK. Trying too hard here. Let's get on with the show.
Is there a mandate from NBC Universal that SNL must help all of its network properties break out this year, or is just easier to poke fun at your own targets? Could be a bit of both. We opened with MSNBC, and here, we're on the set of NBC's fourth hour of Today, aka the crazed cacophony of comedy concoctions brought to you by Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford. If you haven't had the opportunity to bear witness to this hour, then perhaps you lead a stable, normal life. For you, I'd try to explain it simply as, anything The View can do, they can do crazier, upping the ante on the chit-chat, dancing, drinking and just plain weirdness from 10-11 a.m. weekdays. That said, SNL goes straight for Gifford (Kristen Wiig) and her camera-mugging tendencies, with Kotb (Michaela Watkins) forced to play off whatever Gifford says and does, with NPH appearing as a personal trainer for the F-list. Real-life Kotb must be pleased to see how this sketch ends, and I'm sure NBC viewers will hear all about this several times on Monday.