Thoughts and Concerns for the new season:
Nothing much to say here, really, since the cast will be the EXACT same as last year. This disappoints me a bit. While I thought last year was the best season in a while, I still would’ve liked to see a couple of changes made in the cast. The less said about Maya’s return, the better. Just that I’m completely surprised and disappointed about it.
I can’t believe no new castmembers are coming in, for the second year in a row. Seeing whoever the newbies are is usually one of the reasons to look forward to the season premiere. I guess we can still hold out for the possibility of a new castmember(s) joining a few episodes into the season (ala Wiig in 05-06), especially a female castmember since this might be both Amy and Maya’s last season and we can’t have Kristen being the only returning female next year. And no new black male being hired raises the question of who will play Obama in the political sketches this season? Supposedly, Kenan has been losing weight to fit the role (figuratively and literally), but I don’t care how much weight he loses, he looks NOTHING like Obama and he sucks at impressions anyway (except for Cosby and Sharpton). But even more ridiculous sounding is people suggesting that Maya dress in drag as Obama. No. Just...no. Maybe funny as a one-time joke or something, but definitely shouldn’t be a weekly thing. If they have to go within the current cast for an Obama impression, just get Armisen. His skin tone is close enough, he’s played some black people before, and he can usually do decent impressions.
***** = Brilliant, a possible future classic
**** = Great, but not quite perfect
*** = Average
** = Meh, but not complete crap
* = How'd this get past dress?
Cold Opening - All-But-Certain-to-Be-Next-President Hillary Clinton
• I had a strange feeling before the show even started that Amy would be the one to say the first LFNY of this season. Looks like I was right.
• I don’t really think Amy sounds anything like Hillary and was kinda hoping that Kristen would take over the impression this season. Oh, well.
• Also, why does Amy always wear that prosthetic nose when playing Hillary? I never noticed Hillary having a big nose before.
• Hammond getting in his token Bill Clinton appearance of the season was okay, nothing special and nothing new. The thumbs-up before leaving got a good laugh, though. They could’ve done much more with him, especially if they’re still trying to convince us that Hammond is actually valuable to the show. This also turned out to be his only appearance of the night, no surprise there.
• This sketch was about on-par with most of the political openings from last season - a little too lengthy, mostly just light chuckles all around and not enough of a huge laugh-getter moment to make this memorable. At least this was better than the last season premiere’s awful cold opening.
• No changes at all from last year, except that the host/musical guest’s pictures are now in black-and-white.
• Was Don Pardo asleep for the first 20 seconds, or was his mike just not working? We didn’t hear his voice at all in almost the entire first half until Seth’s part came up. Also, it sounded like you could hear technicians mumbling something to each other around Maya’s part. Not a good way to start off the season.
Monologue - Lebron James
• Lebron reprising his characters from those Nike commercials was decent, and I laughed a lot at the Eddie Murphy comment. The cut back to Lebron onstage finishing a lecture about the health care system was a funny ending.
• I was surprised by how short this was. I thought he would do something similar to the Bobby Brown parody from the ESPY’s. But maybe I should be happy he didn’t since I’m sick of musical monologues.
Commercial - Angry Dog
• A great commercial to kick off the season. This was a clever parody of the Michael Vick controversy. The different types of dogs they showed was the best part, as was Forte getting bleeped out.
Sketch - Penelope at the Children’s Hope Foundation
• Everyone just loved this character the first 2 times, but I knew it was going to get old soon since the character is one-joke and her appearances are too close together. First appeared in the Peyton Manning episode, then back only 3 episodes later with Molly Shannon, and then appears again right on the season premiere.
• She still had a few funny comments tonight like the Aretha Franklin and Thanksgiving parts, but the whole thing is clearly starting to wear thin. It’s not something like the 2 A-Holes where they’re able to keep the same formula equally funny every single time. If you’re going to use Penelope again, wait at least until towards the end of the season, or shake up the premise of the sketch a bit.
Sketch - High School Musical 3
• I was wondering when SNL would make fun of High School Musical.
• Ha, so much for Kenan losing weight over the summer. He looks as huge as ever.
• The funniest part was Fred. He was just hilarious in this.
• Lebron’s delivery and singing was pretty funny.
• I saw the Vanessa Hudgens scene coming from a mile away.
Digital Short - Iran So Far
• The Lonely Island does it again with another brilliant musical short. This whole thing was hilarious; everything from Armisen as Mahmoud with the frozen smile and his dancing and him in the dress, to Samberg’s singing, to the priceless Jake Gyllenhaal cameo at the end. Even the Maroon 5 guy was good in this, although I would’ve found it funnier if they’d have gotten Timberlake or something.
• I also have to give credit to the cinematography in the short. Some of the background shots and scenery looked really cool, especially when Samberg played the piano next to the moving train.
• Didn’t Hader play Mahmoud at one time last season? Armisen’s better suited for the part, anyway, plus he’s always great at pulling off non-speaking roles like this.
• This may or may not become an instant classic like Lazy Sunday and Dick in a Box, but for now, I’d say it’s pretty damn close to that level.
Sketch - NBA Read to Achieve
• I’m surprised that the Mike Underballs/boom mike guy sketch from last season’s JLD show has been brought back. The first version wasn’t bad and Sudeikis and Hader were great in it, but I didn’t think it was something that would be done again.
• The first few minutes of tonight’s version were decent even though it started out exactly the same as the JLD one, and the Dwayne Wade line was a good burn to Lebron, but it got really good towards the end with the tournament between Lebron and Jason, and Jason getting beaten in the face. Great ending.
• I always love Hader’s angry delivery of “Jeeeefff!!!”
Sketch - The Lyle Kane Show
• I remember this character from the prom sketch in last season’s finale and found him hilarious. Good to see him in his own sketch, although this wasn’t as funny as I hoped it would be. They could’ve picked a much better setting than the old “public access show” format, but this was still not bad at all. Forte was funny again, and Hader was good as the bandleader. I always thought Forte and Hader should be paired up more often. Am I the only one who thinks they kinda look like they could pass for brothers in real life?
• Hilarious seeing Lebron talking and acting like Forte and Hader’s characters. He pulled the bit off pretty well.
• Lebron’s line about who Forte had to give a BJ to was great, as was Forte actually answering the question.
Weekend Update - Poehler & Meyers, featuring O.J. Simpson, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad & translator
• Not really liking Amy’s new hairstyle.
• The jokes started out very slow, but got much better as it went along.
• Best jokes - Crossword proposal, chimpanzees, Native American shoe, swastika handbag
• As soon as Amy started introducing the O.J. segment before he showed up, I thought to myself “oh, god, here comes Kenan”, and sure enough, there he was. His impression was just as terrible as expected, and the segment went absolutely nowhere. The only funny part was the way Seth just said “No…” and smiled when Amy asked if he understood what O.J. was saying.
• Funny seeing Armisen as Mahmoud again, after the digital short and everything. The Update segment was okay and Armisen again stole it with his facial expression. Maya wasn’t needed. They could’ve just used subtitles on the bottom of the screen to translate what Fred was saying and it would’ve been just as funny, if not funnier.
Sketch - Best of Solid Gold
• The wraparounds with Kenan were the usual annoying stuff from him, with him basically just playing a variation of his Deep House Dish character. His “If you’re not like me, you’re probably straight” line at the end got a laugh out of me, though.
• The rest of the sketch with the solid gold dancers had its moments. Lebron, Amy, and Kristen were the funniest dancers, and the interview part was pretty funny.
• Seeing Amy, Maya, and Kristen dressed like that brought back memories of Body Fuzion, for some reason.
TV Funhouse - The Ambiguously Gay Duo
• Holy crap, talk about a surprise! It’s been ages since we’ve seen an AGD cartoon on an SNL episode (the TV Funhouse compilation special from 2006 doesn’t count). Don’t know what made Smigel break them out again all of a sudden this week, but I’m happy.
• Also, nice to see Colbert and Carell still doing the voices for these characters.
• This was the usual funny AGD stuff, especially the charades part, the phallic-shaped food, and the twist ending. Nice to know that Smigel hasn’t lost his touch with these characters.
• Why in the world did they show Maya’s face during the ending credits? She wasn’t even one of the voices in the cartoon.
Sketch - 106 & Park
• All the Kanye clips were hilarious and it was great seeing Kanye parody himself like that. He did a nice job in this sketch, and had me laughing so much. The funniest videos were the Nobel peace and pumpkin ones.
• Lorne and Lebron’s scene was funny, too.
• Sudeikis looked hilarious as the guy from Drake & Josh.
• In the pumpkin scene, Forte looked like he was reprising his Bush impression with that wig he had on.
Sketch - Great Moments in Guidance Counseling
• A bit slow, although that’s to be expected for the 10-to-1 sketch. Otherwise, not too bad.
• Sudeikis was very good as the guidance counselor and had several funny lines. The funniest part was the revelation of Forte being his officemate and Sudeikis constantly shutting him up when he would try to say something.
• VERY sloppy camera work during this sketch. I mean, what was going on? The camera would keep showing a close-up of people a few seconds too late, or it would cut over to Sudeikis for no apparent reason when Lebron began talking, and then later in the sketch, the camera showed a close-up of Forte when he didn’t say or do anything. And when Sudeikis was about to take down the diploma from the wall, the camera went entirely black for about 2 seconds. Then when the light came back on, the camera was on Forte again while he was doing nothing. Very strange.
• Another odd thing happened at the end, with the awkward silence right after the sketch ended. I guess the applause sign wasn’t cued in time.
• Digital Short
• 106 & Park
• TV Funhouse
• Angry Dog
• Fred in the High School Musical sketch
• NBA Read to Achieve
• Kenan as O.J.
• The Best of Solid Gold
Best Performer(s) of the Night
• Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis
Not bad at all really, for the season premiere. Most of the sketches were average, but there was barely any real lousy material and a few of the sketches were great. Although with the unchanged cast and mostly-unchanged writing staff, this episode felt like it could be any show from last season.
As expected, Lebron James was better than the usual sports host, although not quite as good as Peyton Manning last season. Lebron was given a few too many typical “athlete-host roles” of playing the straight man which made him come off as a little stiff at times, but he did just fine in the funny roles he was given (Solid Gold, Lyle Kane Show, Read to Achieve).
Overall Grade: ***
CASTMEMBER COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 5 sketches (Angry Dog, Penelope, High School Musical, Mahmoud, Update)
FORTE: 6 sketches (Angry Dog, High School Musical, Lyle Kane, Solid Gold, 106 & Park, Guidance Counseling)
HADER: 7 sketches (Angry Dog, Penelope, High School Musical, Read to Achieve, Lyle Kane, TV Funhouse, 106 & Park)
HAMMOND: 1 sketch (Hillary Clinton)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
POEHLER: 5 sketches (Hillary Clinton, Penelope, Update, Solid Gold, 106 & Park)
RUDOLPH: 6 sketches (Penelope, High School Musical, Lyle Kane, Update, Solid Gold, 106 & Park)
SAMBERG: 2 sketches (High School Musical, Mahmoud)
SUDEIKIS: 4 sketches (High School Musical, Read to Achieve, 106 & Park, Guidance Counseling)
THOMPSON: 4 sketches (High School Musical, Update, Solid Gold, 106 & Park)
WIIG: 3 sketches (Angry Dog, Penelope, Solid Gold)
LEBRON JAMES: 8 sketches (Monologue, Penelope, High School Musical, Read to Achieve, Lyle Kane, Solid Gold, 106 & Park, Guidance Counseling)