***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?
Cold Opening - President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao
• Ugh… the return of Fred’s on-going non-attempt to sound remotely like Barack Obama. And would it kill them to do a cold opening that’s NOT political for a change?
• Will Forte playing a Chinese man is funny in itself. Obviously, if Fred wasn’t Obama (well, he definitely isn’t, but you know what I mean), you KNOW he would’ve played Will’s role as the Chinese president.
• Nasim didn’t look very convincing as a Chinese woman, either, but I guess she got the role since she’s certainly more ethnic-looking than the rest of the female castmembers. She still did fine with the accent.
• I’m starting to notice Nasim has a very... distinctive, naturally high-pitched voice that may be hard for her to disguise in-character. For example, when she played Barbara Walters and Kim Kardashian, who both have lower-pitched voices, she still made them both sound high-pitched. However, her voice is perfect for when she plays people like Kathy Griffin or Charlyne Yi.
• Will’s angry yelling when asking Fred to “do sex to him”, then leaning over was hilarious.
• I was wondering during the whole sketch if they would let Nasim deliver the LFNY since she was doing most of the talking here, and they did. Good for her. I was somewhat surprised since this is only her seventh episode and she’s just a featured player. But then I remembered Abby said LFNY last season in only her fifth episode (Neil Patrick Harris/Taylor Swift) after getting virtually no airtime her first four shows, so that was far more surprising. Nasim has already been getting consistently-decent airtime so far this season, so her getting the LFNY so early isn’t that shocking in retrospect. Now if Jenny Slate said it, I would’ve fell out of my chair...
Monologue - Joseph Gordon-Levitt
• The “If you haven’t seen that movie, don’t worry, your girlfriend/grandma has” bits at the beginning were funny.
• I was looking forward to this monologue from the start since I knew JGL would be good, but then as soon as he mentioned opening with a big number, I had to groan a little bit. And the musical number did start out a little slow at first. However, by the time he was carried to the next set and his energy really kicked in, I got really into this and his performance ended up blowing me away.
• JGL’s whole song-and-dance bit may not have been laugh-out-loud funny (the parts with Bobby hitting him out of nowhere were hilarious, however), but it was VERY entertaining, especially the backflips he did off the set walls. JGL went all out and gave this everything, and it payed off well.
• By the end of the monologue, I was like “January who?” Last week’s disastrous episode is already becoming a faint memory thanks to JGL’s fantastic performance here.
An SNL Movie Trailer Re-Cut - Palin 2012
• I was very surprised to see the “SNL trailer re-cut” segment return. They only did this once before, and it was all the way back in 2006 with the re-cut Apocalypto trailer in the Annette Bening episode. I’ve only seen that one once which was back in the original live airing, as NBC never re-aired that Annette Bening episode for some reason.
• I remember wondering back then in 06 if the “SNL Movie Trailer Re-Cut” thing would be a new recurring segment like the Digital Shorts. Why’d it take them 3 years to bring it back?
• This was really clever and turned out to be a lot more original and creative than the Apocalypto one (which just used Mel Gibson anti-Semitic quotes as subtitles for the characters in the real trailer - that was still pretty funny, though).
• The scene with “Vice President” Glenn Beck was great as well.
Sketch - Secret Word
• Ah, SNL sure seems to love doing retro-gameshow sketches these days. Not complaining, just making an observation.
• When I saw Jenny sitting at the table at first, I was hoping this would be a big comedic role for her, but it just ended up being yet another minor supporting character. I can’t help but wonder if Jenny’s feeling a little jealous of Nasim’s airtime yet.
• I was interested in this sketch at first, until Kristen Wiig walked on as yet ANOTHER new hammy, loud, wacky, annoying, attention-starved character that’s no different at all from any of her other 473,268 hammy, loud, wacky, annoying, attention-starved characters. Ugh... Funny that Kristen’s first line in this sketch was “Look at me!”, which is virtually what she’s yelling when she plays all her other recurring characters similar to this.
• As if we didn’t have enough proof that Kristen must be the lovechild of Mo Collins and Molly Shannon - Kristen’s character in this sketch reminded me A LOT of a god-awful character Molly played once, late in her tenure. It was when Charlie Sheen hosted in 2001, and the sketch took place on a soap opera set and Molly played an overly-hammy, hyperactive, loud, wacky, attention-starved theatrical actress with red hair. Sounds like a certain someone’s character in this Secret Word sketch, doesn’t it?
• At least JGL was funny as the Latin crooner with a few funny lines and Bill Hader got some good laughs as the host, like the Vietnam line at the beginning and the way he frustratingly said “Uh, I’ll... tell ya when to start...” to Kristen.
• The calm, deep, whispery voice-over announcing “The secret word is _____” amused me for some reason.
Digital Short - Andy & Reba
• Another musical/rap short with Andy.
• It was kinda strange seeing Kenan co-starring in a musical digital short, his very first one if I’m not mistaken. In fact, I can’t remember Kenan ever having a lead role in any digital short before, musical or not. But he actually made me laugh here and I liked him in this. The premise of Kenan being mistaken for Reba MacEntyre was silly enough that it actually worked, and his usual mugging and bug-eyed facial expressions actually fit in this short instead of detracting from the sketches he usually does those facial expressions in. His southern/country accent cracked me up as well.
• The lyrics were hilarious, with a couple of lines I’m surprised made it past the censors like “I’ll never leave your sweet balls blue” and “I made him suck my dirty c___”.
• Several parts of the tune were very catchy as well.
Sketch - The Mellow Show with Jack Johnson
• How random of them to bring this back. This was originally a forgettable post-WU sketch that was done in the Ashton Kutcher episode two seasons ago in 07-08.
• I wasn’t excited about seeing this again at first, but this ended up actually being a lot funnier than the first installment. Having Bill co-host as Dave Matthews this time helped as well (in the previous one, Hader-as-Matthews was just one of the guests instead of the co-host). He looked exactly like Dave Matthews from certain angles.
• Every time they do this sketch, I always easily picture Adam Sandler in this exact same bit if SNL ever did this sketch in the early 90’s. I think it’s because of the Sandler-esque wig Andy wears as Jack Johnson (also when he plays Kevin Federline), the guitar he carries, and the high falsetto, sing-songy voice he uses also reminds me of some of Sandler’s characters. I wonder if Andy can do an impression of Sandler himself.
• JGL did a good Jason Mraz impression and he sounded just like him when he sang that song. It was a lot better than Kutcher’s John Mayer impression in the previous installment.
• Andy and Bill’s “foot five” came out of nowhere and was priceless. You could tell Andy was trying not to laugh after that.
• Since Bill was playing Dave Matthews and Matthews himself was the musical guest tonight, I wondered who he would play in this sketch. Having him show up as Ozzy Osbourne was really clever, and he pulled off a perfect and hilarious impression of him. His insulting remarks to Hader-as-Matthews were funny as well.
• The parts with Andy showing pictures of his pets throughout the sketch are still kinda dumb, though. However, at least his pets didn’t die like in the first installment.
Sketch - What Up With That?
• Oh, geez... I loved this sketch the first time, but I was worried they would ruin it by making it recurring due to its popularity. However, I did not expect them to make it recurring THIS soon. They just did the sketch three episodes ago! If SNL had to bring this back, couldn’t they have waited until mid-season when the original installment wouldn’t have been so fresh in viewers’ minds?
• I’m very mixed on my feelings about this returning. On one hand, this wasn’t as great as the original sketch, which comes as no surprise to me. I mean, you can’t really replicate a sketch like the first What Up With That and just repeat most of the same jokes; the first installment worked because it was so random and unexpected and silly, and it stands better being left as a one-off. Bringing this back was almost as absurd as when they did Forte's hilarious original Dancing Coach sketch a second time. On the other hand, some of the repeated bits tonight were still somewhat entertaining and fun the second time around: Kenan’s manic energy, the catchy theme song, the random special guests, and of course, Jason Sudeikis dancing (however, the camera didn’t seem to linger on his hilarious dancing as much tonight).
• This also had a few funny new additions I liked, like the singing choir, Bobby as a tap-dancing Jake “The Snake” Roberts, JGL as the bizarre singer from the future (although he looked more like he was a singer from 1985), and Bill pretending to be pissed about his interview being bumped at the end, only to jokingly smile afterwards. Oh, and this one didn’t have Kristen Wiig, so there’s another plus!
• And hey, Nasim and Jenny can now proudly say they each have their first recurring character: uh, Background Singing Lady. I guess that’s SOMETHING for them to be happy about...
• So overall, they didn’t quite “ruin” What Up With That like I was expecting by doing a second one, but it still wasn’t really necessary. I hope they just leave it at this and don’t do anymore future installments, or if they do, at least wait until more than THREE episodes.
Stars: either **½ or ***, I can't decide yet
Weekend Update - Seth Meyers, featuring Al Gore
• Best jokes: Light smokers, Bush, subway sex abuse, turtle, Kosher soup kitchen, NYSE
• I was a bit surprised to see a second appearance from Al Gore tonight, but this was most likely the REAL reason he showed up in this episode in the first place, and his earlier appearance in What Up With That was probably just a last-minute addition.
• Gore’s appearances on SNL have always been funny and tonight’s commentary was alright. However, it reminded me a little too much of one of John McCain’s previous Update appearances. But Gore had some good lines tonight like the stuff about the popular vote, some of his out-crazy suggestions, and his line about having a bully pulpit on a fourth place network.
• Wow, that’s it? Shortest Update in the longest time I can remember. I liked that, though; it was refreshing. Ever since around the time Amy Poehler left midway through last season and Seth went solo, they started padding out each Update by cramming in three, sometimes even FOUR guest commentaries. And the commentaries are always so wildly hit-or-miss; a weak commentary or two will bring down the overall grade/rating of a Weekend Update, even if everything else on Update that night was great. They should go back to regularly doing more Updates like tonight: mostly just strong jokes from Seth and only 1-2 guest commentaries.
Sketch - Dysfunctional Thanksgiving Dinner
• Oh, you have got to be kidding me. I NEVER would have expected this once-great sketch from last Christmas with Hugh Laurie to be brought back again. Seriously, is there anything that SNL won’t make into a recurring sketch?
• This couldn’t hold a CANDLE to last season’s Dysfunctional Christmas Dinner sketch. Everything here was an inferior carbon copy from the first, right down to the forced harmonizing at the end (besides, who the hell sings on Thanksgiving - that’s a Christmas thing) and all the “Sit down, Judith!”s. The “sit down” thing with Kristen was funny in the first sketch because it was done the right number of times without getting old. But tonight, they literally repeated it every 15 damn seconds. Hmm, get that - Kristen Wiig being the focus of a joke that’s repeated over and over again until it gets annoying... wow, what else is new?
• And Abby reprising Casey’s original role as the head wife of the table just pissed me off. This is the second episode in a row with Abby doing a role that Casey originally did much better. I mean, it was bad enough having Abby take over as Joan Holloway from Mad Men last week when she doesn’t even have the body or curves to pull it off like Casey did, but it was still passable. But it’s hard for me to excuse this mess tonight. I mean, didn’t Casey co-write the first Dysfunctional Christmas Dinner sketch with Kristen? It seems kinda like a huge slap in Casey’s face for SNL to - even after her firing - continue doing a bit that she not only had a big part in penning the script of, but played the main female role in the sketch itself, and to just have someone else take over that same role like Casey never even existed.
• And I already mentioned in a previous review (I think the Taylor Swift one) that Abby needs to stop playing "characters" because it's NOT working for her. Celebrity impressions are clearly this girl's forte. Sarah McLachlan, Anna Faris, Joan Cusack, Christina Aguilera, Drew Barrymore... this is the type of stuff Abby actually excels in.
• So I finally got SNL's strategy figured out now: Abby will be given all of Casey Wilson’s old roles and Nasim & Jenny will be alternated in Michaela Watkins’ old roles. Brilliant, Lorne. Just pure brilliance. Seriously, what was the point of even firing Michaela and Casey if you’re still going to continue doing old sketches they played a prominent part in? This would be like if in 2001 after Jerry Minor got fired, Horatio Sanz would’ve continued doing those Rap Street sketches but with Dean Edwards taking over Jerry’s character. Or in 1996 if they continued doing those British Fops sketches after David Koechner’s firing and replaced his character with Chris Kattan. Or (and this is really going obscure) in 1992 after the firing of Siobhan Fallon and Beth Cahill, if they would’ve let Melanie Hutsell continue doing those Delta Delta Delta sketches by replacing the other... alright, alright, you get the point.
• I’m TRYING to get over Casey and Michaela’s firings, but it’s almost impossible to forget about those two when SNL keeps blatantly replacing their roles like this. Hell, at this point, I almost wouldn’t be surprised to eventually see Jenny take over as Michaela’s Bitch Pleeze blogger character, Nasim as the new Arianna Huffington, and Abby as the new Paraplegic Stripper.
Sketch - Woman to Woman
• The opening sequence/photos had me fooled into thinking this would be a sketch starring Nasim, which I was looking forward to seeing (while simultaneously feeling bad for Jenny), but I had to laugh out loud when the camera instead cut over to a bald, bearded, heavy Fred Armisen leaning back in a chair. They got me.
• I loved Fred as the guest host in this sketch; he was hilarious and I was glad to see him playing an original character like this. His lousy advice to the ladies, him barely being able to understand a word anyone was saying, and even just some of his mere facial expressions and physical demeanor all cracked me up.
• Before this sketch, I was starting to get a little worried about Fred lately. After having several strong performances in the season premiere, it seemed like all he played for the next few episodes that followed were Obama, Nicholas Fehn, and gay guys. I was worried that he was getting burned out with this being his 8th season. But this sketch proved me wrong. Fred’s still got it, and I could easily have pictured him doing this same sketch in his earlier seasons back when he frequently did original, funny characters like this all the time.
• JGL did another good job, too, as the stage manager and how he ended up giving the ladies better advice than Fred, the actual guest host.
• I just realized that this was the first sketch JGL was in all night where he didn’t sing at all. Before this, he sang at least once in every single sketch he was in tonight, including the monologue. Normally, that might bother me a little (I remember Forest Whitaker breaking out into song in almost every sketch when he hosted, and it bugged the hell out of me… and if you know me, you also know how I feel about Maya Rudolph’s constant need to sing whenever she’s on), but after a host like January youknowwho, I’m just happy to have a host this week who actually knows exactly how to perform on live TV and in front of an audience, even if that has to include some singing. He’s been doing an awesome job in everything tonight.
Sketch - Say Anything
• Kinda random for SNL to now do an entire sketch spoofing the famous boombox scene from this movie, but I didn’t mind because this parody worked and this was an original way to approach it. This turned out to be a strong closing sketch. Jason’s interruptions and comments to JGL were very funny.
• I did get a Family Guy-esque cutaway vibe from this, though. Just imagine Peter Griffin in Jason’s role and there's not much difference.
• When Jason said “Let me get my wife”, I had to groan a little because you just KNEW that meant Kristen would appear, despite the fact that SNL has three other ladies in the cast. Yeah, my growing dislike of Kristen Wiig has evolved further to the point where I’m now somewhat bothered by ANY walk-on she does, even as normal characters like this one. I’m sorry, but I just pretty much can’t stand Wiig anymore and I’m sick and tired of seeing her face in practically every single sketch every single week. She didn’t really do anything in particular to actually bring down this sketch, but I just don’t see why her small part was necessary at all; I was enjoying the sketch just fine with Jason and JGL as the only performers. I think SNL might be trying to drive me insane by including Wiig in every sketch I was perfectly enjoying. If that’s their goal, then they’re succeeding...
• Loved the ending with Jason also holding up a boombox of his own and saying to JGL “Genesis is back together!”
• Digital Short
• Palin 2012
• Say Anything
• Woman to Woman
• Weekend Update
• Dave Matthews as Ozzy Osbourne
• Kristen’s character in Secret Word
• Dysfunctional Thanksgiving Dinner
• Fred as Obama
• A few parts of What Up With That 2
Best Performer of the Night:
• Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Definitely an improvement over the trainwreck from last week. Several strong pieces throughout tonight’s show, but like the Taylor Swift episode from two weeks ago, this was also bogged down by an overabundance of recurring material, several of which shouldn’t have been recurred and only seemed to be recurred simply because it happened to work the first time. SNL needs to stop falling back on stuff like this so damn much.
I already had a feeling that Joseph Gordon-Levitt would end up being an impressive host, and he still ended up exceeding my expectations. Funny, likeable, versatile, PLENTY of enthusiasm, played all of his parts very well... In short, JGL was the exact opposite of January Jones, and he also gave the whole episode a high-energy vibe that was very refreshing. I hope we see him hosting again in the future.
CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 3 sketches (President Obama, What Up With That?, Woman to Woman)
FORTE: 5 sketches (President Obama, Secret Word, Digital Short, What Up With That?, Thanksgiving Dinner)
HADER: 3 sketches (Secret Word, Mellow Show, What Up With That?)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
SAMBERG: 3 sketches (Digital Short, Mellow Show, What Up With That?)
SUDEIKIS: 3 sketches (What Up With That?, Thanksgiving Dinner, Say Anything)
THOMPSON: 3 sketches (Digital Short, Mellow Show, What Up With That?)
WIIG: 4 sketches (Secret Word, Thanksgiving Dinner, Woman to Woman, Say Anything)
ELLIOTT: 2 sketches (Thanksgiving Dinner, Woman to Woman)
MOYNIHAN: 3 sketches (Monologue, Digital Short, What Up With That?)
PEDRAD: 3 sketches (President Obama, What Up With That?, Woman to Woman)
SLATE: 3 sketches (Secret Word, What Up With That?, Woman to Woman)
JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: 7 sketches (Monologue, Secret Word, Mellow Show, What Up With That?, Thanksgiving Dinner, Woman to Woman, Say Anything)