***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?
Cold Opening - Senators Mark Sanford, John Ensign, and John Edwards Press Conference
• Ugh, yet ANOTHER political cold opening.
• Will as John Edwards is usually always funny and him mentioning his lovechild was humorous at first, but then they proceeded to run it into the ground by repeating it way too many times throughout the sketch.
• The only real funny part was when they were speculating Tiger Woods' race and then started talking about A-Rod suddenly.
• All-in-all, a weak and disappointing start to the show. They really need to take a break from these standard political press conference/address-the-nation cold openings; they're getting incredibly lazy, uninspired, and by-the-numbers. Open the show with something creative and unexpected for a change, SNL.
Monologue - Taylor Lautner
• Lautner's story at the beginning about being negative 18 years old when SNL started was pretty funny. Though what was the “talking to other babies in heaven” thing about? I didn't know you're in heaven BEFORE you're born...
• Kenan as Reba in the audience was a funny callback to that digital short.
• Is EVERY male host going to do backflips and other physical stunts in their monologue from now on? First Joseph Gordon-Levitt, now Taylor Lautner. James Franco sure has a lot to live up to for his monologue next week...
• In all seriousness, though, Lautner's moves were actually quite impressive and I certainly wasn't expecting that from him.
• The premise with Lautner talking to the mannequins of Kanye and Taylor Swift was original for a monologue, at least, and it turned out pretty well. Even though I don't understand why they had to revisit the Kanye/Taylor Swift VMAs incident when it's beyond old news by now. Hell, it was already old news when Swift herself hosted last month, and she took the high road by not doing a direct parody of it. Why couldn't SNL just leave it at that?
• My favorite part was Lautner kicking off the Kanye mannequin's head, which is something I know a lot of people would love to do to the real Kanye. But I don't understand why Lautner had to apologize and put the head back on afterwards. Just leave his head hanging off, dude...
Sketch - Football Taping
• How did Kenan get changed so fast between the end of the monologue and the beginning of this sketch? He only had like 20 seconds. That almost made me think at first that this sketch was pre-taped, but everything here appeared to be live.
• When this started with Bill as the director, I thought he was playing his Mike Underballs character and I thought this would be the return of Jason's asshole boommike guy. Jason was always hilarious in those sketches, but they haven't done it since ‘07 with Lebron James.
• Even though I complain A LOT about this season's annoying habit of bringing back way too many random recurring sketches, another boommike guy sketch with Sudeikis probably would've been funnier than whatever the hell this mess was supposed to be.
• This was a simple one-joke bit that got old FAST. Not even the studio audience seemed to know what to make of this, judging by their absolute dead silence.
• At one point, Bill said “D'ohh, boyyyyyy...” in this funny high-pitched voice; he did that exact same thing a few episodes ago in that Secret Word gameshow sketch in response to something Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character said.
• Lautner's various expressions throughout this sketch only emphasized to me what a weird-looking face this boy has. I can't believe so many girls are crazy about him.
• The ending with Andy made me laugh out loud, though.
Sketch - Surprise Sue
• OH, FUC... You know what, I'm not even gonna waste time ranting about this sketch or ranting about Kristen Wiig anymore at this point. It's not worth it anymore. I'll just give the sketch a failing grade and move the hell on.
Mini-Sketch - PGA Tour #1
• This was a good start to tonight's PGA trilogy. Jason did a great job as the uncomfortable spokesperson trying hard to hide his frustration. I also liked him nervously starting to take a sip from his flask of liquor towards the end.
• The sad list of “superstar” no-name golfers was pretty funny.
Sketch - Show Choir
• Will's character reminded me of a cross between his teacher in the Gilly sketches and the angry warden he played in that 50's Ent prison singers sketch the first time Ashton Kutcher hosted way back in 2003.
• Speaking of the Gilly sketches, was Lautner's foreign-accented character here supposed to be related to Zac Efron's German foreign-exchange student in that Gilly sketch from last season? They both even wore similar blonde wigs. Maybe both characters are brothers or cousins. Or maybe the SNL writers are just lazy...
• Jenny Slate as Hanukkah Elvis was so strange that it made me chuckle, and I also thought it was kinda cute. But the only real laughs I got in this whole sketch were all from Andy, with the quick way he kept running up on stage, his funny facial expressions, and his off-screen heckling, especially during the Hanukkah Elvis bit when he randomly yelled “Weird!” and “This is gay!” So far, this is the second bad sketch tonight that was saved by Andy.
• Oh, and speaking of Jenny Slate, I was worried her quick walk-on in the Football sketch earlier tonight would be her only appearance all night, but I see I was wrong so far.
Mini-Sketch - PGA Tour #2
• This one had a lot of good laughs, with Jason's more-disheveled appearance and demeanor, Madoff Investments and the movie “Old Dogs” being amongst the only sponsors left, Jason's line about driving through poor neighborhoods to find any big guy swinging a stick, and the new golf rules such as having to appear on Jersey Shore when you get a certain score.
Weekend Update - Seth Meyers, featuring Mistress Number Fifteen, Billy Smith
• Best jokes: Side Dishes, Copenhagen, Springsteen/Obama, Lady Gaga/Queen of England, General Mills, Gecko smuggler
• Nasim's only been on SNL for a few months, yet it already feels like she's a semi-regular commentator on WU. She gets to do a lot of stuff on Update. The Tiger Woods' mistress commentary was just okay; there wasn't really that much to say about it, and it was pretty short. The way she kept saying that one phrase made me laugh, though I couldn't tell exactly what that was she was saying (was it “for sure” or “Persia”?) Also, I was a bit struck by Nasim's voice once again, because her voice here sounded like the same odd voice she used as Kim Kardashian. Her voices are kinda confusing to me, but I'm starting to think that's just pretty much how Nasim sounds in real life. It's kinda like what I said before when I mentioned her similarities to Rachel Dratch. Dratch has a unique, distinctive, sort-of odd voice that seemed difficult for her to disguise no matter what character or impression she did, and Pedrad seems to be the same way. Not a big deal, though; we'll probably get used to it after a while like we did with Dratch's.
• Also, even in that huge weird wig, I still found Nasim so cute. I know I say that about her a lot, but... I can't help but like Nasim.
• When Seth was introducing the next commentary, as soon as he mentioned Native Americans, I figured we'd be seeing Fred showing up as one. Then Seth mentioned "stand-up comedian" and I immediately thought to myself "Billy Smith!" and then there he was.
• Wow, Fred hasn't played this character in literally AGES. When was his last WU appearance, in 2004? Hell, I think Fallon was still doing Update when Billy Smith last appeared, just to show you how long it's been. Actually, it might have been during Poehler's first season doing Update with Fey. Or maybe not, since I remember that was the same season Fred debuted other Andy Kaufman-esque characters on Update similar to Billy Smith, like the deaf stand-up comedian or that immigrant character Diego (I'm probably the only one who remembers Diego; he was a one-time character Fred played that interviewed people at Democracy Plaza who were going to vote in the Bush/Kerry elections). Come to think of it, both Fred and Will Forte were like the Kings of WU Commentaries back then in 04-05. Every week that season, you could always count on one of them to save the terrible Fey/Poehler Updates with a funny guest commentary.
• It was pretty nice seeing this character again after all these years, and he was still good tonight. I think they did a good thing by never overusing this character, because he very easily could've gone the same route of Nicholas Fehn if he appeared too often. A lot of Fred's side comments between his jokes tonight were funny, too, like “What else… what else…?” and “My time is up; I'm getting the flame”. I especially cracked up at his frozen goofy facial expressions after each punchline. I don't remember Fred doing that in his previous Billy Smith appearances. Nice to see him add some new aspects to the character.
• Now that I think about, that French comedian character Kenan plays (Jean K. Jean) seems almost kinda like a rip-off of Billy Smith. They both are stand-ups whose punchlines to their jokes use foreign terms that only people from their culture would understand. But of course, Fred does this much better.
Sketch - Ellie vs. Marianna
• The obligatory Twilight parody of the night. This wasn't as good as the Twilight/Frankenstein digital short with Taylor Swift since you could still laugh at that one even if, like me, you aren't too familiar with Twilight itself. This sketch, on the other hand, was so Twilight-centric that it went over my head a little too much for me to enjoy it.
• I was pleasantly surprised, though, to see Jenny not only in another sketch tonight, but actually in a co-starring role! And not a straight man role, either! Even though I wasn't crazy about this sketch itself, I did like her character alright and she did have a funny line or two.
• Bobby's astonished facial expression when they showed a close-up of him cracked me up. I notice that he always has some of the best facial reactions of this current cast.
• I don't know why, but I also kinda chuckled at Nasim's bored facial expression in the background. I'll spare everyone, though, from me going on once again about how cute I thought she looked here.
• Why did Jenny and Bill BOTH ask “What have I told you, Marianna?” when Lautner was making out with the book? Did anyone else catch that? Jenny sort-of mumbled it at first, but stopped and then Bill said the exact same line out loud. Was that supposed to be just Bill's line, but Jenny read the wrong line off the cue card? Yikes! Poor Jenny. I'll cut her some slack for that, since she's still new and probably not used to having so many lines in one episode.
• What the hell happened at the end? There was this long awkward pause between Bill's final line and the audience applauding. It felt like Bill accidentally skipped a line at the end or something. Hmm, this whole sketch seemed to have a lot of dialogue/timing screw-ups like that, along with Jenny reading the wrong line off the cue-card, and also Lautner stumbling over a few words throughout this sketch.
Mini-Sketch - PGA Tour #3
• This was a good payoff to the PGA trilogy. I laughed out loud right from the start of this one with a drunken Jason wearing that tie over his head and saying he's on suicide watch.
• I also loved the letter “Q” being their only sponsor left.
• This sorta reminded me of how they do the MacGruber shorts, with three segments per episode and how there's a build-up in each subsequent one until the main joke in the third one, just like how this had a build-up to the gradual breakdown of Jason's character.
Sketch - Connections
• This was a uniquely-structured sketch, and I actually liked Kenan here. His comments when sliding by on the moving platform each time were pretty funny, especially after Lautner and Abby had that one awkward exchange and all Kenan could say in the interlude afterwards was “Uh... I don't even...” while shrugging his shoulders. I also laughed when he fell off the platform, then got back on and left without even saying anything to the camera. Or when when Lautner was going on about his Lord of the Rings necklace and you hear Kenan yell "What?!" off-camera, then he poked his head on screen and just went “No!”
• Also, I have to say this about Kenan - even though I'm still not all that crazy about him most times and he's still way too hit-or-miss with me overall, I have to admit his “hit” ratio has been a lot higher than usual this season, with his performances in stuff like this sketch, What Up With That?, the Reba digital short, a few other stuff... and in general, not as many cringeworthy moments as he used to have with me. But of course, every time I think he's improving and making progress, he has to pull out crap like Virginiaca and make me hate him all over again.
Sketch - Doorbells and More
• Wow, Jenny Slate in yet ANOTHER sketch tonight??? And with the LEAD role in this one?!!?? All the while Kristen Wiig has only appeared in 1 sketch all night?? Has hell frozen over yet? I'm liking this!
• Bobby looked like an extra from the Sopranos in that shirt. Even in the smallest roles, he makes me smile, but I really wish they'd let him lead his own sketches more often.
• This sketch bordered on becoming very one-joke, but a few of the doorbell sounds did surprise me and make me laugh, especially the supposed fancy doorbell that just said “wine and cheese”. And the sketch was short enough that it didn't overstay its welcome. And I liked Jenny's performance in this. I felt she pulled the sketch off well and she made no screw-ups this time.
• This definitely feels like Jenny's breakout episode, and it's about time. I'm happy for her. I think Lorne and the NBC tightwads finally let go of the f-bomb incident, and are ready to give this girl a chance. I still can't fully form an opinion on Jenny yet and I still kinda don't know what to make of her. Some people are already so quick to harshly judge her and are already dismissing her as “terrible”, which I think is really jumping the gun. I admit, she does come off as shaky, green, and a bit lost at times (i.e. her slip-up in the Twilight sketch where she accidentally said Bill's line), but I still have an open mind about her, and her confident performance in this sketch gives me hope. I mean, come on, she's still new, and I can think of several castmembers who had a very awkward, rough start but eventually turned out to be great. Bill Murray is a great example. Or more recently, Andy Samberg in the first half of the 05-06 season before he started doing digital shorts. I remember LOTS of people quickly dismissing Samberg as “very awkward”, “amateurish”, and “a bust” after his first few months on the show before he surprised everyone with Lazy Sunday. So, you never know what's gonna happen with Jenny. Try to keep an open mind about her.
• PGA Tour ads
• parts of Weekend Update
• Andy's character in Show Choir
• Surprise Sue
• Football Taping
• Cold Opening
• several parts of Show Choir
• a few parts of Ellie vs. Marianna
Best Performer of the Night:
• Andy Samberg / Jason Sudeikis
A ho-hum episode overall. Nothing special at all. The first half of this episode was TERRIBLE, minus the first two PGA Tour ads and Lautner's monologue. But the quality did pick up with Weekend Update; the Twilight sketch was the only thing post-Update that I didn't really like. Overall, though, this episode isn't much to talk about and it was a disappointment. There were no sketches that stood out as truly great. The closest were Sudeikis' PGA ads and the Connections sketch, but those were missing just one extra spark to put it over-the-top as really great and memorable. And as for Taylor Lautner... whatever. He peaked early with his performance in the monologue, and that was it. Actually, he wasn't awful like I was worried he would be, so at least I can say that about him. At worst, he was just forgettable.
I think the fact that the featured player ladies got so much airtime (especially Jenny) while there was almost no Wiig at all was the most interesting and surprising thing you could say about this whole episode. With Nasim, it wasn't too much of a surprise, since she's been consistently getting good airtime all season (for newbie standards). But I definitely didn't expect to see so much of Abby, even though I still don't find her anything special at all when she's not doing celebrity impressions, which is obviously where her true strength lies. I never thought I'd see the day when any of the female featured players, much less ALL three of them, would be in so many more sketches than Kristen Wiig. I reiterate, has hell frozen over yet?
I'm still not sure where I stand with this season of SNL and I can't tell where it's going. I don't think this season is terrible like some others seem to think, but there is definitely a noticeable step-down in quality from the 08-09 season. The only two episodes this season I would call truly great so far are the Reynolds and Butler episodes. The Swift, Gordon-Levitt, and Lively episodes were good, but Swift and JGL's shows were bogged down by way too much reliance on lazy recurring material, which IMO is this season's biggest problem. The Fox, Barrymore, and Lautner episodes were mediocre & disappointing, and the January Jones episode was an epic disaster.
I think next week's Christmas episode with James Franco will finally make-or-break this season for me. If the episode turns out to be good, then I will continue having hope for this season and keeping a positive outlook. If the episode is bad, then that's when I'll start really worrying about the current state of SNL and start agreeing with others that some BIG changes need to be made.
CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 2 sketches (Update, Doorbells)
FORTE: 3 sketches (Press Conference, Sue, Show Choir)
HADER: 4 sketches (Press Conference, Football Taping, Sue, Ellie vs. Marianna)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
SAMBERG: 3 sketches (Football Taping, Show Choir, Ellie vs. Marianna)
SUDEIKIS: 5 sketches (Press Conference, Sue, PGA #1, PGA #2, PGA #3)
THOMPSON: 4 sketches (Monologue, Football Taping, Show Choir, Connections)
WIIG: 1 sketch (Sue)
ELLIOTT: 4 sketches (Sue, Show Choir, Connections, Doorbells)
MOYNIHAN: 4 sketches (PGA #1, PGA #2, Ellie vs. Marianna, Doorbells)
PEDRAD: 4 sketches (Sue, Update, Ellie vs. Marianna, Doorbells)
SLATE: 4 sketches (Football Taping, Show Choir, Ellie vs. Marianna, Doorbells)
TAYLOR LAUTNER: 7 sketches (Monologue, Football Taping, Sue, Show Choir, Ellie vs. Marianna, Connections, Doorbells)