***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?
Cold Opening - President Obama on Health Care Reform
• I was hoping for an opening tonight that was non-political and featured Zach Galifianakis, but I guess it's too much to ask SNL for two non-political openings in a row, after last week's We Are the World parody.
• This was even worse than your usual standard boring Obama sketch. There were no laughs at all to be found here. SNL's political writing has been so uninspired this season. Actually, that same sentence would also make sense if you took out the word “political”, but I digress...
• The material here was horrible, Fred's Obama “impression” continues to suck, Kristen's Pelosi - which is actually one of the very few things Kristen Wiig does that I still find okay - had absolutely nothing to work with here, and Will just stood there and nodded the whole time. Plus, he flubbed his only line of the whole sketch. What a disaster this opening was.
• Did anyone else notice how much Will looked like a gray-haired Steve Higgins (SNL producer and the announcer on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) in this sketch?
Monologue - Zach Galifianakis
• This was fantastic as expected, and was by far SNL's best monologue in probably years. Every single thing that came out of Zach's mouth had me cracking up, right from the beginning when he yelled “Stop clapping!” to the very end when he said “We have a great show, Hoobastank is here”. This whole monologue was just classic Zach.
• My favorite parts were his Wayans Brothers comment, the Kilometers Davis joke, and the O'Douls bit.
Sketch - The Kissing Family
• This was the first real sign that tonight's episode was going to be a disappointment (the cold opening doesn't count). Actually, the first sign was at the very beginning of Zach's monologue... nothing to do with Zach or the monologue itself, of course, but... I'll explain it later during my review of What Up With That.
• Anyway, I could not believe it when I realized that not only were they dragging the unfunny Kissing Family out AGAIN, but with Zach Galifianakis of all people hosting. And he didn't even show up until halfway through the sketch, and even then, he still was barely given anything do! What the hell? I did get a laugh, though, out of seeing him dressed like a priest, as well as his name: Father Yankovic.
• Seeing Bobby Moynihan get involved in this mess tonight made me realize that there now isn't a single male castmember currently on the show who hasn't kissed another guy in a sketch. I was about to say Jason Sudeikis, but then I just now remembered that quick peck on the lips he and Bill shared in the Roommate sketch last season with Anne Hathaway.
• Not to nitpick, but if Will was playing the same grandfather from the last Kissing Family sketch, then where was Nasim? She played his wife last time, so wouldn't she be at his funeral?
• I still can't believe Bill himself supposedly writes these lame sketches. I respect him too much to accept that fact. I have to admit, though, him and the dog licking each other in tonight's installment was unexpected and did get a decent reaction from me. Unfortunately, that was the only real laugh in the whole sketch.
• The rest was the usual stuff we always see in these sketches, and they STILL keep missing the boat on giving us a girl-on-girl kiss. I know a girl-girl kiss might not be funny (then again, neither is anything else in this sketch), but seeing Jenny make out with Kristen, or especially Abby making out with Nasim, or whatever, would at least entertain me more than watching the usual standard guy-guy, guy-girl nonsense in these sketches.
Sketch - Bidet Freaks
• This sketch was very one-note and I could see half the lines coming from a mile away, but there were still a few laughs, mostly due to Zach's unique delivery. This probably would've bombed badly if most normal hosts had played his role here. Is it true that they were originally supposed to do this with Ferrell last May?
• Kristen seemed almost like she was playing Penelope. A couple of times during this sketch, she kept tugging down on her hair in a similar way she does in the Penelope sketches.
• The ending was odd, and why do they keep doing sketches that close with the same exterior shot of a building that the sketch also opened with? It always comes off as so awkward. The Twilight Fangirls sketch from the Taylor Lautner episode ended the same way.
• My biggest laughs in this sketch actually came from Andy as the straight man; something about his deadpan facial reactions kept me amused throughout the sketch. I'm starting to realize lately that Andy's actually very good at playing straight characters who try to look oblivious/unphased by the weirdness going on in front of him. His straight man in the Ashton Kutcher slave boy/grapes sketch is another example of that.
• Speaking of Andy, this was his ONLY appearance all night. He barely appeared last week either, even when the rest of the cast (minus Forte) was utilized a lot that night. What's going on with him lately?
Film - Zach Drops By the Set
• Yes! As soon as this started, I knew this would be awesome and it did not disappoint. This is exactly the kind of humor I was hoping to see on SNL tonight with Zach hosting. Too bad the rest of the sketches in this episode couldn't have been like this.
• By the time they cut to an Eddie Murphy-era SNL episode hosted by Robin Williams, I was on the floor! Then they showed Zach in the SNL audience as a little kid with a full-grown beard and I literally couldn't stop laughing. That was the perfect ending to a brilliant film.
• My local NBC affiliate went to a blank screen briefly during the birthday party home video part, and when the picture came back, the sound wasn't working until the Law and Order scene began. Did that happen to anyone else?
• I wonder who made this film, by the way. There wasn't the usual “An SNL Digital Short” title card shown before it, so I have a feeling it was filmed by someone who doesn't work at SNL.
Sketch - Today
• Aaaaaand the momentum gained from the preceding short died immediately as soon as this sketch appeared.
• As disappointed as I was earlier tonight when the show began with the Kissing Family, I was even more pissed here when THIS showed up again. How the hell is SNL gonna break out tired, lame shit like this in a Zach Galifianakis-hosted episode?!? I mean, Zach freakin Galifianakis is hosting, and you make us sit through another painful 7-8 minutes of Kristen Wiig mugging the camera and making unfunny jokes as Kathie Lee?! Seriously, SNL?! Are you fucking kidding me?
• No offense to Jenny Slate, but she's no Michaela Watkins when it comes to playing Hoda. I know it's just a straight role that any female can play, but Michaela added a certain professionalism and likableness to the role that made last season's Today sketches almost tolerable. Jenny's Hoda just isn't the same.
• The whole time, I kept waiting and waiting for Zach to appear as whatever character he would play so he could save this god-awful sketch. But this sketch seemed to go on FOREVER until Zach finally appeared. I mean, even longer than the usual Today sketches. I wasn't exaggerating when I said this literally WAS about 7-8 minutes long.
• When Zach finally did appear and I realized it was a continuation of the Zach Drops By the Set film, I was laughing so much. That was very clever, and felt like a throwback to that awesome Closet Organizer running joke in the Jon Hamm episode.
• I also enjoyed Zach declaring his love for Hoda and staring at her all creepily when he got in the studio. He singlehandedly made sitting through this overlong, unfunny sketch barely worth it.
Weekend Update - Seth Meyers, featuring Kenan Thompson in a dress, Will Forte
• Best jokes: Naked groups photo, man with longest hair, Monkey Rape
• As soon as Seth introduced the Mo'Nique segment, I groaned and knew we'd be seeing Kenan in drag for his 1,643,287,684th time. I'm pretty much never amused by any of Kenan's Update commentaries, ESPECIALLY when it involves him in a dress. And his Mo'Nique “impression” was pathetic and embarrassing. Has he even heard Mo'Nique speak before? Kenan just talked in his normal voice; couldn't he have been bothered to at least raise his pitch?
• I was excited to see Will showing up on Update, and I knew this meant we would get a new song from him. I think this is Will's first Update appearance all season, in fact; he usually appears much more often than that. He's pretty much the exact opposite of what I said above about Kenan's Update appearances in that I'm always happy when Will shows up on Update, ESPECIALLY when it involves him singing. His Update songs are always awesome, and tonight's “Herstory: Did You See What I Did There?” song did not disappoint. I especially liked the Helen Keller part.
• What was up with Seth recycling the “state flag” joke from just one episode ago? Bad enough that the rest of SNL has been recycling so many of the same recurring sketches this season, now Update's reusing the same jokes as well? What's going on?
• Seth's overall Updates are really beginning to feel tired and stale, to be honest. There hasn't been an all-around great Update in months.
Sketch - What Up With That?
• Speaking of SNL recycling the same recurring sketches...
• Okay, for those wondering what I meant earlier in the review when I said the very beginning of Zach's monologue was the first sign this episode would be a disappointment, I'll explain here. When Zach walked out on stage for his monologue and the camera cut to a shot of the audience applauding, I noticed the What Up With That set in the background and I immediately said to myself “Oh, here we go again... why the hell would they do that sketch when Zach's hosting?” (that should be the motto for tonight's episode, considering almost every sketch made me say that). Although by the time Weekend Update started and the What Up With That sketch had yet to appear tonight, I had a slight bit of hope that maybe it got cut after dress (yeah, like that would ever happen...), because What Up With That usually appears much earlier in the show than it did tonight. But of course, I was wrong...
• It's amazing how fast SNL managed to run this once-great sketch that should've remained a one-off into the ground. WUWT is completely played out now, and they're clearly running out of ideas for many parts of this sketch. For example, the part in each WUWT where Kenan goes into the studio audience while singing and there's a group of singers/dancers behind him in the crowd. Last time, it was funny with the little kids dressed up exactly like him, but tonight, they just had three guys dressed up like a barbershop quartet? How was that supposed to be funny?
• And the special guest cameos are getting lamer, too. That was usually one of the few things WUWT still had going for it, but tonight's guests were disappointing. I mean, Paul Rudd's awesome and everything, but compared to the last WUWT with Mike freakin Tyson as the first guest, having Rudd as the first guest tonight pales in comparison. And I don't even know who the hell that second guest tonight was. Am I the only one? Who was he? Apparently some newspaper columnist that I've never even heard of. I guess SNL couldn't get anybody from Parks & Recreation or Community to appear tonight, considering that in the last two WUWTs, the second guest was someone from a Thursday night NBC show (Mindy Kaling from The Office and Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock). I thought they would keep that tradition alive; it was one of the few interesting things still remaining in these sketches.
• Jason's dancing is still fantastic as usual, though. And I love how he jumps into the scene from off-camera higher and higher each time.
• I was anticipating the whole time what kind of bizarre musical character Zach would show up as, and he killed as expected. He looked hilarious in that costume and playing that extra-long flute. I also liked the shot of him with his foot propped up on Paul Rudd's chair and sticking his crotch towards Rudd's face. However, I wish Zach had more screen time in this; it seems like he was given less to do in this compared to Butler, Gordon-Levitt, and Franco in the previous WUWTs. I mean, at least those three spoke. Zach had no lines at all.
• Abby as a grown-up Baby Jessica standing in the well was kinda cute, but still not exactly funny.
Sketch - The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer
• Yet ANOTHER recurring sketch tonight, although this one isn't as bad since the content of this sketch is actually different each time and tonight's installment turned out to be decent. And Jason's Wolf Blitzer always cracks me up and he usually gets a few funny lines (“An exciting name for a boring man”).
• I feel like I'm saying this for the 100th time tonight, but it still needs to be said... WHY WASN'T ZACH GIVEN MORE TO DO HERE??? The video footage of him dancing and doing silly stuff was very funny and stole the whole sketch, but he appeared for a grand total of about 15 measly seconds of this whole sketch. Of course, those 15 seconds still got more laughs than anything else in this. But come on, this is Zach's THIRD sketch appearance in a row where he had no lines at all! What the hell is going on? This is ridiculous! Has an SNL host ever had this many non-speaking roles in a single episode before?
• This was another sketch where Nasim Pedrad reminded me of Rachel Dratch. Not just her voice this time, but the way she looked. Something about that wig and the unique way she was moving her lips while talking was very Dratch-esque. I've noticed in a few other sketches as well this season where certain wigs made Nasim look a little similar to Rachel, only Nasim's obviously a lot more attractive and cuter (although I personally have always found Dratch cute as well, in a more quirky, odd, unconventional way).
Sketch - Pageant Talk
• My first laugh in this sketch came right from the beginning when I saw a suddenly beard-less Zach. I had to do a double-take at first and told myself "Nah, that must be Bobby in a fake moustache", but then I realized that really was Zach.
• I guess Zach shaved quickly during the second musical performance? He may be the very first SNL host that started off the live show with a beard and shaved it off during the course of the episode. I think the only time Zach usually shaves is when he plays his brother, Seth Galifianakis. In fact, he almost seemed to be playing Seth in this sketch, although this was clearly supposed to be a different character, just a slight variation of Seth. I would've preferred him to actually play Seth here, but at this point, I was just happy to see Zach getting a lead role in a sketch for once, after being relegated to little “cameos” for the last several sketches.
• This sketch itself wasn't anything too special, but Zach's great performance helped a lot and he got the biggest laughs as usual. Bill's character was okay, too, and Jenny looked cute, at least.
• Speaking of someone playing a slight variation of another character, what the hell was with Kristen's appearance? She was clearly playing that same character from Biker Chick Chat, although they changed her name for some reason, as well as her clothes, and removed her constant use of the word “friggin” (for obvious reasons). But everything else was the same, from the wig, the accent, the cigarette hanging from the lips, and even down to repeating the ashtray-throwing. That character wasn't even funny the first time; what was the point of bringing her back in a completely unrelated sketch and trying to pass her off as a “new, different” character? It just emphasizes even more how ALL of Kristen Wiig's characters are exactly the same nowadays. Just like how she slipped into her Penelope character during the Bidet sketch earlier. And I'm still supposed to believe this woman is a supposedly “versatile” castmember????? Versatile, my ass.
• The biggest laugh of the sketch actually came from Zach losing it and cracking up after he almost flubbed a line. That kinda surprised me. You could also see Kristen smirking really fast afterwards and Bill almost completely lost it. Oddly enough, Jenny was the only one who didn't laugh, so she deserves credit for that.
• On a similar note to my earlier observations about Nasim having the same voice as Rachel Dratch, I've also noticed that Jenny Slate's voice sometimes sounds like Amy Poehler's. This sketch in particular, Jenny's voice and southern accent sounded just like whenever Amy would do a goofy southern accent back when she was on the show. Other sketches where Jenny's voice reminded me of Amy's were the infamous Biker Chick Chat sketch, the University of Westfield commercial, and at least one more sketch I can't remember right now. Strange how both new girls this season have practically the same voice as two former female castmembers from last decade.
• Zach Drops By the Set
• Zach's appearance in the Today sketch, and the crossover from the Drops By the Set film
• Will Forte's “Herstory” song
• a few parts of The Situation Room
• Everything else in the Today sketch
• Cold Opening
• The Kissing Family
• parts of Weekend Update, particularly Kenan's appearance
• What Up With That?
• Kristen's “new” character in Pageant Talk
• Zach being given too many small, non-verbal, walk-on roles
Best Performer of the Night:
• Zach Galifianakis
FINAL THOUGHTS (*warning, this is going to be very long*)
My expectations were quite high for this episode considering who the host was, but SNL disappoints once again this season. The monologue was excellent and the Zach Drops By the Set film was brilliant, but take those two away and what do you have? Nothing but YET ANOTHER damn episode this season overstuffed almost entirely with stale recurring sketches, which was exactly what I was afraid would happen with Zach hosting. Just like last week's episode with J.Lo, there were only TWO non-recurring sketches all night (Bidet Freaks and Pageant Talk) and even those weren't that great. Tonight's episode wasn't horrible in itself; the quality wasn't really any worse than the forgettable J.Lo episode, but tonight's came off looking worse considering they had a much funnier host to work with and like I mentioned, expectations were higher.
What a letdown. They had an actual comedian host for the first time in what feels like ages, and the writers STILL mostly blew it. Zach Galifianakis himself was fantastic tonight, though, and still gave it his all. Even in the smallest of roles, he still easily got the biggest laughs in almost every sketch, and the only two truly good segments of the night (monologue and Zach Drops By the Set film) featured just him and nobody else from the show.
There were so many missed opportunities in this episode. Where was Zach teaming up with Will Forte for a sure-to-be classic bizarre sketch of the night? Or the same thing with Zach and Fred Armisen? Where was our real Digital Short combining the inventive humor of Zach Galifianakis and the Lonely Island? How about a non-political cold opening featuring Zach and he could've said LFNY? No, we don't get any of that, but instead we get an episode filled with a horrible, unfunny Obama opening with Fred saying LFNY for his hundredth time this season alone, the billionth installments of Kissing Family, Today, and What Up with That (all three of which could be done with ANY generic host), and Zach being underused most of the night in small, non-speaking “cameos” in nearly every sketch. Absolutely ridiculous.
Up until now, I still had a little bit of hope left in 09-10. After all, they still did a strong show with Jon Hamm a few episodes ago and there was only ONE recurring sketch that night (Greg the Alien). I thought Zach Galifianakis would get that same treatment, but boy was I wrong. When the only two really funny segments all night (monologue and film) not only featured no SNL performers, but also were probably not even written by the current SNL writers, what does that tell you?
As of now, I have officially lost all my faith in the 2009-10 season. At this point, I don't understand how ANYONE can continue to defend this season. The simple, undeniable fact is the quality has been on a clear decline almost all year and it's becoming more and more obvious with each passing week; there is barely any creativity left. When they can't even give Zach Galifianakis a good show, you KNOW there are serious problems.
Like I've mentioned several times before, this season is exactly like the second half of the 1993-94 season to me, and the 2010-11 season will for sure be the new 94-95 if there aren't enough necessary changes made after this current season. (by the way, has anyone else noticed that the bad seasons of SNL always occur around anniversary years for the show? 1980, 1985, 1995, 2005, and now it looks like it'll probably happen in 2010)
And before anyone tells me again that 93-94 was better than this year, take another look at the second half of that season; there are a lot of similarities between the creative decline back then and the creative decline SNL is going through now. If you take away the shows hosted by Patrick Stewart, Helen Hunt, and John Goodman, what good episodes were there in the second half of 93-94? Emilio Estevez and Heather Locklear had some gems but were also weighed down a bit by some typical shitty material from that period, and all the rest of the episodes ranged from completely forgettable to absolutely terrible.
The first half of this current season wasn't that great, but it did have some quality episodes in Reynolds, Butler, Swift, Gordon-Levitt, and Lively. But after Blake Lively, there's been a long string of mediocre or forgettable episodes, minus Hamm and Barkley. The quality seems to have particularly gone downhill after the Hamm episode. So I still stand strongly by my 1993-94 comparison.
In order to avoid next season being an absolute disaster, SNL mainly needs to clean house with most of the writing staff. When you get to the point that SNL is currently in where almost every single episode is filled from beginning to end with tired, overplayed, stale recurring sketches that were barely funny the first time, there's clearly no creativity left in the writing. The writing staff needs to be almost completely revamped, keeping only a few of the newer, more promising writers (mainly John Mulaney... hell, just make him the new head writer). There are also a few castmembers who I think need to move on as well. I don't really feel like naming any specific names right now, but you can bet a certain castmember whose initials are KW is on the top of my list.
Sorry for the insanely long rant, but it needed to be said. SNL is in trouble right now and some big creative changes are needed in order for the quality to improve anytime soon, or else next season will get even worse.
CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 3 sketches (President Obama, Kissing Family, What Up With That?)
FORTE: 4 sketches (President Obama, Kissing Family, Update, What Up With That?)
HADER: 4 sketches (Kissing Family, What Up With That?, Situation Room, Pageant)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
SAMBERG: 1 sketch (Bidet)
SUDEIKIS: 2 sketches (What Up With That?, Situation Room)
THOMPSON: 3 sketches (Kissing Family, Update, What Up With That?)
WIIG: 6 sketches (President Obama, Kissing Family, Bidet, Today, Situation Room, Pageant)
ELLIOTT: 3 sketches (Kissing Family, Today, What Up With That?)
MOYNIHAN: 2 sketches (Kissing Family, Today)
PEDRAD: 2 sketches (What Up With That?, Situation Room)
SLATE: 4 sketches (Kissing Family, Today, What Up With That?, Pageant)
ZACH GALIFIANAKIS: 8 sketches (Monologue, Kissing Family, Bidet, Drops By the Set, Today, What Up With That?, Situation Room, Pageant)