FIVE STAR RATINGS SYSTEM:
***** = Excellent, flawless
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Poor, with only a few highlights
* = Just plain terrible
[COLD OPENING] Anderson Cooper 360
-- This was basically just a Hardball sketch disguised as Anderson Cooper 360. I mean, it used the exact same format and everything. If they want a new version of Hardball, they gotta have a funny straight man host like Darrell’s Chris Matthews was. I mean, Seth just did that emotionless eyebrow-shrug thing every single time he reacted to a strange comment. That's it. BO-RING! He’s gotta work on his political-show-host-straight-man skills more and also needs funnier comments/insults in reactions to the crazy guests.
-- Finesse was surprisingly decent here for a change.
-- Amy’s Hillary Clinton impression is pretty weak, but she had a lot of good lines.
-- Darrell’s Jesse Jackson was the funniest thing in this. Even though I’m pretty tired of Darrell these days, I didn’t mind seeing this impression back since he hasn’t done Jesse in a long time and it always kills me.
-- “Featuring Bil--Kenan Thompson”??? For a second, I thought Kenan got fired or something. Don Pardo either needs glasses if he thinks Kenan Thompson looks like Bill Hader, or he thinks we're still in the 04-05 season (thank GOD we aren't) where Horatio was the last repertory player announced in the credits and Kenan was still just a featured player. I would’ve laughed my ass off if, instead of “Featuring Bil--Kenan Thompson”, Don's flub was “Featuring Rob Rig--Kenan Thompson”.
[MONOLOGUE] Peter Sarsgaard
-- The backstage clips of Sarsgaard creeping out castmembers were hilarious, especially Fred accidentally throwing hot coffee on himself and Kenan seeing Peter naked in his dressing room.
-- I couldn't help but find it kinda interesting that Fred of all people was the one defending Sarsgaard's creepiness, considering Fred's knack for playing creepy roles himself.
-- I’m noticing that Sarsgaard looks kinda like a sleepy-eyed Kiefer Sutherland, with a little Paul Rudd thrown in there as well.
-- The backstage clips ended up being the only time all night where Sarsgaard looked comfortable. I guess it’s because those clips weren’t live.
[COMMERCIAL] Nelson’s Baby Toupees
-- New commercial!
-- This was decent enough, and at least it gave Bill something to do after being given nothing lately but forgettable small roles. Baby Toupees was a pretty silly idea, but the execution of this helped it work.
-- The baby beards promo at the end was the best part
[SKETCH] Target Cashiers
-- Okay, first off, why the hell is this recurring now, and also, why the hell is this the first sketch of the night? SNL just completely baffles me with their choices for characters to bring back nowadays. This got basically no laughs the first time, and Kristen’s character is just an annoying Cheri Oteri/Mad TV/Mo Collins hybrid. Kristen started out pretty strong on the show during her first month back in November, but has been way too hit-and-miss lately and has not been impressing me very much anymore.
-- At least Dane Cook had a few funny lines in the first installment. This one just had Sarsgaard reminding us every damn 20 seconds that he’s on his break.
-- I don’t know why, but Amy seems out-of-place to me playing the straight man to Kristen.
-- Sad that this has to be the first recurring character from this season’s new castmembers. Suddenly, I’m longing for the return of Hader’s Italian Hotel guy character from the Catherine Zeta Jones episode....
[SKETCH] Pirate Convention
-- When this started, I got happy and started immediately laughing when I saw this was about pirates (c’mon, pirates are funny), but was disappointed it just turned out to be a lame excuse to say make fun of Sarsgaard’s name and say “arrrrrrrr” over and over again. You could literally tell the writers came up with this by thinking “Sarsgaard…Sarsgaard….Sarsgaard…Hey, that sounds like a name a PIRATE would say with all those r’s. I know - let’s write a whole 5 minute sketch based on JUST THAT without throwing in ANY semblance of clever writing!” Completely amateurish. They could’ve done so much more with this.
-- Andy's performance was really bad, IMO. Not convincing at all as a pirate. He came off amateurish compared to the rest of the performers in this.
-- Parnell was completely wasted here. Couldn’t they have given him at least one line, even if it was a lame one? Why isn’t he getting more roles after his popularity from Lazy Sunday like Samberg is?
-- At least some of the cast’s performances in this one was good (minus Samberg), and there were two good jokes with Fred’s non-pirate accent and Horatio writing down the URL of the dirty website.
[NEXT LIVE SHOW] February 4, 2006: Steve Martin / Prince!!!
-- All I have to say about Steve Martin’s long-awaited return as host after a 12-year absence is HELL YES, BABY!!!!!!!!!! Fucking awesome!!! I cannot wait for this. I’m so happy about this show, that I’m even excited about Prince being the musical guest, and I usually NEVER like the musical guest. This whole show just sounds like a classic in the makings. The writers cannot screw this up.
[SKETCH] Carol Needs to Die
-- Even before Horatio walked out as Carol, I knew where this was going (EVERY Carol sketch opens with the host, Amy, and Jason standing around talking before she comes out) and I tuned this sketch out and kept it on in the background while going to my computer to check my e-mail and see what people were saying at the SNL chatroom. I didn’t even pay attention to the damn sketch. I just looked over at the TV a few times only to see Sanz cracking up at himself, awkwardly pausing in the middle of one of his sentences (which is something I notice Horatio ALWAYS seems to have a bad habit of doing), and saying that usual line in a deep voice about "pushing one out" in the bathroom. In other words, nothing new. The usual shitty Sanz performance and Carol sketch.
[DIGITAL SHORT] Young Chuck Norris
-- Finally, another Digital Short, and this was excellent without having to replicate Lazy Sunday. This whole thing was hilariously bizarre and brilliant, especially Andy’s ridiculous make-up, his karate moves, and when he punched out Amy from out of nowhere. And Sudeikis as the singer and in that huge curly wig was awesome.
-- SNL has definitely hit a new goldmine with these Digital Shorts from the Lonely Island crew. Keep it up.
[SKETCH] Cat Fancy magazine
-- What the hell was this? Absolutely terrible and had no laughs. Was there even SUPPOSED to be a joke here?
-- If Seth wrote this sketch (which I'm assuming since he co-starred in it and he IS the show's writing supervisor), then his sketches that he stars in have really been going downhill lately, with the mediocre Smorgasbord and Tiny Submarine sketches last week, and then this horrible one (the Anderson Cooper cold opening was okay, but I don’t think he wrote that). It’s as if ever since he got his new position on the show as "writing supervisor", he’s been concentrating so much on supervising SNL's writing in general that he doesn’t have enough time to polish his OWN scripts. Speaking of Seth’s writing supervision job, word has it that he's actually been promoted to one of the Head Writers starting with this episode, but I didn't notice this myself because on my local NBC affiliate, the goodnights got cut off before the "Head Writers" credit.
-- Sarsgaard flubbing his lines left and right all throughout the sketch didn’t help any. I thought Seth was supposed to be the one who usually trips over his lines in sketches.
-- Did I just see a boom mike on screen for half a minute? And I swear I just saw stagehands placing some of the cats on the table. And why did the camera keep shaking up and down at the end? What the hell’s going on here??? Also, at the end right before the camera faded to black, was Sarsgaard muttering angrily to himself just part of the script or was he genuinely pissed about how much he kept screwing up his lines throughout the sketch? It looked like the latter to me. Geez, what a mess this overall sketch was.
[WEEKEND UPDATE] Fey & Poehler, Gore & Kerry, Barrymore
-- When not even the easily-amused studio audience is laughing very much at the Update jokes tonight, that's when you KNOW this Update is even worse than Fey/Poehler Updates usually are. There seriously was not a single joke I liked at all tonight.
-- I liked seeing Tina and Amy getting rocks thrown at them by the audience in that fake Iraqi clip, because the audience should do that to them in every Update as far as I’m concerned.
-- As great at Darrell and Seth’s Gore and Kerry impressions are, Gore-and-Kerry-lost-to-Bush jokes are pretty stale now. There was nothing really new here, but Seth and Darrell did have a few funny lines.
-- Amy's habit of always pointing out and laughing at every silly doctored Update picture (like last week’s Burger King/terrorist picture, and the Hillary-Clinton-in-cornrows picture tonight) is REALLY annoying. I mean, the audience isn’t blind. We can see how silly the pictures look on our own without your help, Amy.
-- Drew Barrymore’s cameo was silly and pretty predictable, but I did get a few laughs out of it. And was she drunk or something? How could she think Tina was Amy?
-- What was with Amy imitating Dennis Miller at the end by scribbling on the paper on the desk the same way Miller used to do after saying "That's the news and I... am... outta here"?
[SKETCH] Gays in Space
-- NO, NO, NO!!!! WHY?!!! I thought SNL left this trash back where it belongs, in the mediocre garbage dump known as the 04-05 season.
-- Damn, first Target Cashiers, then Carol, now Gays in Space. What is this, Worst Recurring Characters night? Are they gonna drag out Kaitlin or (shudder) Chubb Hotty later tonight?
-- I thought that Maya being on maternity leave would keep this sketch away for a while since she does the theme song, but unfortunately, they worked around it by having Will perform the theme song this time. And as much as I usually love me some Forte singing, this wasn’t really that much better than Maya’s version of the theme song.
-- What was Paula Pell doing there? I thought she left the writing staff. And if she’s the one who writes these Gays in Space sketches (I’m guessing either her or Fey, since they both seem obsessed with stereotypical gay humor), I wish she stayed away. With a repertoire of recurring sketches she wrote that includes Debbie Downer, Spartan Cheerleaders (one of the few things Will Ferrell did that I was never crazy about), Starkisha, and possibly Gays in Space, it’s hard to believe she kept her job as an SNL writer for 10 whole years.
[SKETCH] The Fairmount Suites Inn
-- This started off boring, and then came the most disastrous part of the whole night when Sarsgaard accidentally BROKE the TV screen by tapping it (BTW, what kind of cheap-ass TV set breaks when you simply tap it?), which completely ruined the whole point of the sketch about how Sarsgaard's character can’t shut off the TV. And what was with Rachel’s weird facial expressions during that part? It was like she didn’t expect the camera to cut over to her. After this blunder, Sarsgaard seemed to give up and just half-ass it for the rest of the sketch.
-- This sketch was also stagehand spotting #2 and #3 tonight, as you could see a technician rush on stage right past Sarsgaard to quickly fix the TV, and yet another stagehand handing Sarsgaard the remote control later in the sketch. Also, when the TV screen FINALLY came back on, you could see the “Video 1” thing on the screen for a few seconds, as if the TV was just turned on. I don’t usually complain about stuff like this since this IS a live show and occasional flubs are understandable, but this just shows how boring and amateurishly written & performed tonight’s show has been that little things like this irked me.
-- This did get funnier towards the end with Sarsgaard setting up Rachel’s repeated lines with inappropriate questions (“What did you say to your husband on your wedding night?” “Mmm, look at those shrimp!”), then him making out with her through the screen.
-- This could’ve actually been a good sketch had it not been so shoddily performed (like almost everything else tonight) and had a different host to work with. They’ll hopefully at least show the dress version in reruns, because that supposedly went over a lot better from what I heard.
[SKETCH] Phone Tapping
-- Started dragging until the 9/11 part, which I got a good laugh out of, and the White House plans at the end. As predictable as that probably was to some people (and predictability seems to be another bad theme tonight), I didn’t see that coming.
[SKETCH/COMMERCIAL] Peter Sarsgaard’s Sars Guards
-- Hmm, Sars Guards. I liked that joke the first time…when I came up with it in my head the very first time I heard this guy’s name (which was about 3 weeks ago, sadly). Seriously, how unoriginal can the writers get? This is sad.
-- What’s with all the sketches centered around Sarsgaard’s last name tonight? This sketch and the pirate one. I guess that’s what happens when you have a host as unknown as this guy. So where were the sketches making fun of Giamatti’s name when he hosted?
-- Oh, and Sarsgaard flubs yet another line near the end for his, what, 65th time tonight?
-- Young Chuck Norris
-- Anderson Cooper 360
-- Nelson’s Baby Toupees
-- The last two minutes of The Fairmount Suites Inn
-- Some parts of Phone Tapping
-- Cat Fancy magazine
-- Target Cashiers
-- Gays in Space
-- Peter Sarsgaard’s Sars Guards
-- Weekend Update
-- Peter Sarsgaard’s overall performance as the host
-- All the countless technical errors, especially the ones that ruined the potentially-decent Fairmount Suites Inn sketch
MOST NOTEWORTHY FUCK-UPS:
-- Don Pardo accidentally starting to announce "Featuring Bill Hader" when Kenan Thompson's picture came up during the opening credits, which seemed to throw Pardo off and caused him to be late in announcing the featured players' names.
-- Lots of stuff throughout the Cat Fancy sketch, especially the various visible stagehands, and Sarsgaard (seemingly) damning himself at the end over how much he kept messing up his lines.
-- Sarsgaard accidentally breaking the TV in the Fairmount Suites Inn sketch, which completely derailed the whole sketch (and not in the funny "Debbie Downer" way, either).
-- The decision to bring Gays in Space out of the mothballs after a year-long absence. What were the writers smoking???
OVERALL THOUGHTS: Horrible. Just horrible. I was hoping tonight would be a step up from last week’s boring Johansson show, but boy was I wrong. An awful, awful mess of an episode tonight, with the only funny segments all being non-sketches: the cold opening, monologue, and Digital Short. Every single one of the actual sketches ranged from mediocre to unwatchable, there were too many unnecessary recurring characters brought back that were never funny to begin with, and Update was even worse than usual which is really saying something.
Almost everything about tonight’s show felt half-assed, even the production values, as evidenced by the large number of boom mike and stagehand spottings. The less said about Peter Sarsgaard himself, the better. Completely forgettable host, and him messing up virtually every sketch sure didn’t help any. I’m not usually this negative, but seriously, this has to be one of the worst episodes in the last several years that I can remember. C’mon, SIX sketches with a one-star rating? Pathetic.
Whatever, it doesn’t even matter to me that the show’s been in a mini-slump after the December shows, because Steve freakin’ Martin is making his long-awaited return in the next show and that’s gotta get the show back on track. So I’ll excuse the shittiness of these last two weeks, because the writers better be saving their best material for February 4.
OVERALL RATING: *1/2
CASTMEMBER COUNT DOWN:
ARMISEN: 4 sketches [Monologue | Pirate Convention | Young Chuck Norris | Gays in Space]
DRATCH: 4 sketches [Monologue | Gays in Space | The Fairmount Suites Inn | Phone Tapping]
FEY: 3 sketches [Monologue | Weekend Update | Gays in Space]
FORTE: 2 sketches [Pirate Convention | Gays in Space]
HAMMOND: 2 sketches [Anderson Cooper 360 | Weekend Update]
MEYERS: 4 sketches [Anderson Cooper 360 | Cat Fancy magazine | Weekend Update | Gays in Space]
MITCHELL: 2 sketches [Anderson Cooper 360 | Gays in Space]
PARNELL: 3 sketches [Target Cashiers | Pirate Convention | Gays in Space]
POEHLER: 7 sketches [Anderson Cooper 360 | Monologue | Target Cashiers | Carol | Young Chuck Norris | Weekend Update | Phone Tapping]
RUDOLPH: 0 sketches
SANZ: 2 sketches [Pirate Convention | Carol]
THOMPSON: 3 sketches [Monologue | Target Cashiers | Gays in Space]
HADER: 4 sketches [Nelson’s Baby Toupees | Pirate Convention | Carol | Young Chuck Norris]
SAMBERG: 2 sketches [Pirate Convention | Young Chuck Norris]
SUDEIKIS: 6 sketches [Monologue | Pirate Convention | Carol | Young Chuck Norris | Gays in Space | Phone Tapping]
WIIG: 1 sketch [Target Cashiers]