The fourth season of AMC's critically-acclaimed Mad Men begins on Sunday with a new season set in the 1960s in New York City, but wouldn't you rather watch the current-day MA Men of Boston? They've got to figure out who will say "Time to make the donuts" in a new series of Dunkin' Donuts ads. Featuring Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block, Nate Corddry, Jamie Denbo, Jessica Chafin, Nat Faxon and Michaela Watkins. Fun fact: In one of my first articles for the Boston Herald in 2005, I made fun of NKOTB for their Super Bowl Halftime Show, and shortly afterward, got a call from one of Joey's relatives in Southie who wasn't happy and said so and then some. Fun facts! Joey is great in MA Men so now need to call. We all like it. Roll the clip!
If you thought that HBO's series, Hung, was a little odd for the premise of a series -- a guy who's otherwise down on his luck realizes he can make money becoming a male prostitute because of how he is "hung" -- then just imagine what it'd be like if the same story were told from a woman's perspective. That's what screenwriter Diablo Cody did, and with director Jill Soloway, they cast Michaela Watkins as the star of their version, called Tight.
Also features: Nick Kroll, John Bowie, Michael Hitchcock, Craig Anstett, Jordan Rubin, Jim Turner, Jamie Nakamura and Too Short. How come this isn't on the TV? Eggsactly. I mentioned the video is NSFW, right? Alrighty then, roll the clip.
If people ask me, "Are women funny?", I shall direct them to the CBS television network, which broadcasts a funny sitcom that features several funny women, called The New Adventures of Old Christine. It stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, with her character's best friend played by Wanda Sykes.
And I can report exclusively that Michaela Watkins, unfairly booted from SNL after less than a full season, returns to her recurring role as Matthew's ex-girlfriend, Lucy, on the Dec. 9 episode in a very memorable scene when she SPOILER ALERT. I don't want to say much more. But suffice it to say, she'll appear in future episodes. In the Dec. 9 show, meanwhile, Amy Sedaris also takes on a large guest-starring role as the SPOILER ALERT who interacts with Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Barb (Wanda Sykes) because she was a SPOILER ALERT. Sedaris steals pretty much all of her scenes. It's quite funny. How do I know all of this? Because I was at the taping.
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.
Or should I say, SNL #34.22 with Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Fallon, Susan Sarandon, Patricia Clarkson, Zachary Quinto, Chris Pine, Leonard Nimoy and Ciara? After some time away, Saturday Night Live returned with a flurry of celebrity cameos, as if to remind us that to be culturally relevant, you need to not only watch this show, but also appear upon it.
But first. We opened cold with politics (and considering everyone in politics and the press was in D.C. celebrating at the White House Correspondents Dinner, it may be a day or two before they pick up on any of this). Will Forte as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announces the feds decided to issue a written test to banks in addition to the "stress test," but had difficulties coming up with a fair grading system. The result may be obvious, but the writers had more fun with the false answers some of the banks penciled in for the 50-question test. Watch:
Now then...onto the show. Justin Timberlake took his third turn as SNL host, but if you think he has been on much more than that, well, you're right, because Timberlake has made multiple cameos in the past year. He is so, so comfortable there. So comfortable, in fact, that as he sang his opening monologue, he had a quick comeback for a fan's shout-out, and hopped into the lap of...who was that, again? Guy looked liked a cross between George Clooney and Jon Hamm, without being either of them. Weird. Moving on. I think the cast of SNL gets as excited for writing for and performing with Timberlake as he does for joining them. How does this excitement translate into comedy?
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!"
In case you missed it, last week's Saturday Night Live ended with a filmed parody of the Burger King "Whopper Virgins" campaign. The short film showed up online a little late this week on Hulu (and NBC.com), but it's worth another look. Especially when you compare it to the actual documentary film Burger King made for its ad campaign. You can see that SNL focused squarely on the Romanians, and when you see Michaela Watkins try to figure out how to handle the hamburgers, she's merely re-enacting what actually happened. The antics of Fred Armisen and Bobby Moynihan, on the other hand, resemble things that Americans could think would happen when "the West" introduces its culture to a shell-shocked sheltered community. But, hey, here are the two videos. Watch the parody and the real thing and judge for yourselves.
After the jump, the full-length Burger King documentary on Whopper Virgins. Some of it is more funny weird than funny ha-ha.
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.
Sunday's Arts section of The New York Times gives the full, fluffy profile treatment to Kristen Wiig, anointing her the new reigning female comedian of the moment on Saturday Night Live, with a quick sidebar glance at the other women on the show: Casey Wilson, Michaela Watkins and Abby Elliott, and how they're adjusting to their new roles in the cast.
So, the last new Saturday Night Live of 2008 is the 11th episode of the fall, and thinking back to 2007-2008, the shortened Writers Guild strike season only provided for 12 new SNLs, so they've done a lot just since September. SNL doesn't normally do produce this much new sketch work -- even in 2006-2007, the full September-May season only saw 20 shows say "Live, from New York, it's Saturday night!" By last night, many may have been looking forward to the holiday break. But this week looked to be a gimme. Hugh Laurie dazzled when he hosted previously, and musical guest Kanye West had poked fun at himself in sketches last year, with NBC promos this week promising more fun. Alas, alack, Kanye stuck to singing (yes, singing) this time around. What else did we see or not see this week?
SNL acquired so much buzz this year from mainstream culture, newsmakers and political talking heads because of their relentless satire on the presidential election. Tonight's cold open, however, carried a feeling in the air that they were poking fun at Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich more because they had to than because they wanted to. Certainly, Blagojevich's scandal looking to sell the vacant U.S. Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama was the big news story this week. And yet. This sketch imagining Blago's appearance before the Senate Banking Committee looking for a personal bailout lacked a certain, well, enjoyment to the proceedings. Jason Sudeikis played the profane-speaking, big-wig-wearing Blago for bleeping laughs, though the funniest thing was a visual of Abraham Lincoln's dead skeletal hand as Blago tried to see Honest Abe's wedding ring to the highest bidder. The Senators (Darrell Hammond as Dodd, Casey Wilson as Dole, Bobby Moynihan as Shelby, Will Forte as Bayh, and Bill Hader as Byrd) did little to write home about, save for Hader's old mumbling speech pattern and the fact that Moynihan's forehead mask crack was showing! Kristen Wiig also made an appearance as Blago's wife, looking for a seat on the board of NASA.
For Hugh Laurie's monologue, we were reminded that he is, in fact, British, because Dr. House doesn't talk like this. He wanted to go Oprah and give gifts to the audience, but said the suits wouldn't allow much more than him giving a tube of Chapstick to a single audience member. Cute. Laurie also performed a quick Christmas carol medley, so quick to avoid paying any royalties by performing more than three seconds of any one song. S'ok.
Did anyone else notice the complete lack of audience appreciation or applause for the return of Bronx Beat with former SNLer Maya Rudolph and final show SNLer Amy Poehler??!?!?! What gives, audience? Almost shocked me even more than the time earlier this season when the audience didn't even care that Cameron Diaz had made a surprise cameo. Anyhow. The sketch itself. The Bronx Beaters cracked jokes about the fatal Wal-Mart trampling in Long Island. Um. Hmm. After a few more wisecracks, this interchange summed it up. Amy: "That was good." Maya: "It was stupid, though." Their guest is the local British butcher shop owner (Laurie), and the sketch changes focus to the ladies finding his accent sexy. What kind of meat do you like? Eggsactly.
Things picked up after the first commercial break, as we return to a Christmas dinner setting, and it's a simple but fun look at how holiday dinners can be so darned uncomfortable. Or, the family that cannot talk together, still eats together. There are "F-yous!" for everyone. "Judith, sit down!" "No, no, no, no, no's!" instead of "Ho, ho ho's!" But they all bond together to sing "Silent Night." Silly, but silly works. Featuring Sudeikis, Laurie, Wilson, Forte and Wiig.
This is followed by an enjoyable sketch about a wedding reception that cannot have too many toasts. Or can it? The silent but happy couple is played by Abby Elliott and Andy Samberg. Sudeikis plays the emcee. Michaela Watkins opens things up as "crazy Aunt Joanie," and things get crazier from there, with Laurie as Bob, a friend of the bride's father for how long? How long? Fred Armisen plays the ex-boyfriend who shows up to remind everyone how great sex with the bride used to be. Wiig, uninvited to the wedding, shows up on a respirator, looking for a ride home. Moynihan jumps in just to exclaim: "What!?" Forte, in long blond hair and sunglasses, plays a white supremacist. You can watch and laugh here:
You ever go on vacation and think, when I get back to work, I'm going to be relaxed, refreshed, ready and rarin' to go with even more gusto then before, but then you get back to work and find a week's worth of emails and junk mail and meetings to plow through, and by Monday afternoon, you think, well, maybe I'll just try to endure? Do you suppose the folks at Saturday Night Live felt that way this post-Thanksgiving week? The most prevailing news of the week was, if you read the media, about media layoffs and unemployment generally and the financial markets still in crisis, and the Big Three automaking CEOs trying again in asking for billions in bailout money. That's not the recap for this week's SNL, mind you. In fact, I got the sense watching the show that this was the week for pitching all of the oddball ideas that couldn't make the cut earlier in the year -- and having John Malkovich host only gave the performers and writers a wider berth for pitching. That said...
Amy Poehler's back! "You thought I was gone, didn't you!" Poehler swiveled around her chair for the cold open, as potential Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and reminded us that "just like the South, vampires, and Britney Spears, we will rise again." Her jokes were about the Clintons. But twas nice seeing Poehler back, too, all the same. She never really did say goodbye, did she? No, alas, she did not. Although press reports said she had left for good, we've already witnessed plenty of episodes this season in which past cast members (Tina Fey, Chris Parnell, Maya Rudolph) came back home to roost when called upon. And, after giving birth to little Archie, Amy Poehler's next gig doesn't appear to be filming anytime soon. NBC announced its midseason schedule earlier in the week, and not only was The Office spinoff not given a debut date, but it also had a new name as The Untitled Amy Poehler Project. Shows you how important Poehler is, doesn't it? Darrell Hammond, meanwhile, made his first and only brief appearance of the night in the open as Bill Clinton. And away we go!
The writers gave John Malkovich a lengthier than usual monologue, welcoming some kids onstage for a special reading of Twas The Night Before Christmas. What an interesting outfit?! Malkovich has gotten old! But nonetheless still creepy in a funny way.
Ad spoof alert. Fred Armisen pretends to be the guy who invented Breathe Right strips to prevent snoring, adapting his invention for sleeping farts with larger Gas Right strips! Ah, fart jokes. The kids (and kids in all of us) still like fart jokes, right? That must be the thinking here.
Casey Wilson opens an office birthday sketch, in which the guys in the office (Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Kenan Thompson and Malkovich) just hope the sexy new gal shows up. She's played by...wait for it...Kristen Wiig. So not one of the actual sexy new gals in the cast. Instead, Wiig vamps it up in her best Marilyn Monroe voice and miracle bra (just saying Wiig hasn't shown that much cleavage in a sketch that I can recall), but the joke is in how unsexy Wiig's character is whenever attempting sexy things, such as blowing out candles, bending over to pick something up, singing, etc., etc., etc.
First of a few videos in this evening's production presents a jazzy cool riff of a message from President-elect Barack Obama (Armisen). His impersonation is getting there, but neither he nor the writers have figured out how to make any of it particularly funny. Which makes me wonder. As I mentioned to a friend earlier today, does SNL need to make fun of the president to remain relevant? You can be a funny, buzzworthy sketch comedy show without mocking the leader, or at least you'd think. I don't say this as a Democrat (always registered outside of the party system). I think it's just something we have become accustomed to seeing as viewers, because our recent presidents have provided us with so many follies to make funny about. If Obama isn't putting himself in awkward positions, must we find a reason in comedy for a pre-emptive strike? Just throwing the idea out there.