***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?
Cold Opening - Christine O’Donnell at RNC Headquarters
• Now here I was, hoping that SNL would give the Christine O’Donnell impression to Abby Elliott. This could’ve been the breakout role that Abby desperately needs. But - surprise surprise - they gave the impression to Kristen Wiig instead. Oh, joy. I can see we’re in for yet another damn season of Kristen hogging all the main female roles while Abby just takes up space all year. Way to show progress, SNL.
• The writing for this actually was decent for the first several minutes, and I liked Bill and Jason as the straight men.
• The details about Christine O’Donnell’s masturbation habits, the “3 ½ minutes later” title screen, and the dog fights revelation were all pretty funny. However, the problem is that the sketch was stretched out a little too long and lost steam in the last two minutes.
• The over-the-top flying witch ending also fell flat with me.
• Is it sad that I already miss Will Forte’s presence?
• Seeing Abby now as a repertory player and seeing her so early in the opening montage doesn’t feel right. I guess they HAD to promote her simply because it’s rare nowadays for someone to stay a featured player for three seasons, but this promotion just doesn’t feel well-deserved for someone who does practically nothing aside from the odd celebrity impression every few months. I mean, I guess Abby’s marginally better than Jenny Slate, but is that really saying much? Nasim mops the floor with both of them anyway. Oh, and for anyone who wants to know my thoughts about Jenny Slate being fired, all I have to say is “Good riddance, Jenny”. I actually gave her an open-minded chance in the first half of last season unlike SOME people, but ultimately it became painfully obvious that she just wasn’t right for SNL. My review of the Taylor Lautner/Bon Jovi episode looks awfully embarrassing now in retrospect (I devoted so much space in that review to defending Jenny and saying all this crap about how she will overcome her awkward start and can potentially become a successful castmember... *cringe*).
• On the other hand, I was definitely happy to see Bobby as a regular castmember now. His promotion was long overdue.
• The new castmembers’ shots all look pretty decent, with Jay Pharoah’s clip being my favorite. But let me just say what I’m sure a lot of people noticed: why in the world was Taran Killam credited AFTER Nasim Pedrad??? Last time I checked, K comes before P. Someone behind the scenes at SNL must have never learned their ABCs.
• Maybe it’s just me, but Don Pardo’s voice just doesn’t sound the same taped as it does live. You can definitely tell the difference. I miss the raw enthusiasm in his voice when he used to announce live.
Monologue - Amy Poehler
• I was interested and curious before the show about what they’d do for Amy’s monologue.
• This started out pretty slow, and the Nick Jonas/Taylor Lautner reference just made me groan and was obviously an excuse to have teen girls in the audience cheer out loud.
• However, this really picked up with the whole dream sequence. It may have been a thinly-veiled never-ending cavalcade of cameo appearances, but at least their apperances were entertaining, the writing was very strong, and the monologue overall was really fun.
• My favorite part was Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon returning to take over Update and bossing Amy around. And I always like seeing Rachel Dratch on SNL; she’s so underrated it’s insane.
• The bit with Nasim as Amy’s Kaitlin character amused me, too. I don’t even like that character, but Nasim did a pretty good impression of her and it was cute.
• The only parts I didn’t care for was the weak ending with the spinning top, and Kristen mugging in front of the camera as she slowly danced away.
• Did anyone notice at the very beginning of the dream sequence when they showed random images, one of them was a photo of Amy from that Big Wigs sketch (from the Jaime Pressly episode in ‘06)? I wonder why they’d want to remind anyone of that disastrous sketch.
Sketch - Bronx Beat
• Ugh. I was definitely expecting this to return tonight and, of course, it HAS to be the first sketch of the episode.
• At first, I was surprised they didn’t include Maya Rudolph among all the cameos in the monologue, but then I realized they probably didn’t want to spoil the “great” surprise of there being a Bronx Beat later on.
• People complain that Amy cameos on the show so much that it feels like she never even left the cast, but you can say the exact same thing about Maya. And I’d take Amy over her any day of the week. At least I actually like Amy for the most part and can tolerate her cameos; Maya... well, I’m sure you know my thoughts about her, and it seems like her cameo appearances always come as an annoying recurring character of hers or in some singing sketch (or even worse, as a singing recurring character of hers). I sure hope Maya never gets the opportunity to host SNL, because boy will I despise that episode.
• Most of this was the usual laughless Bronx Beat dreck. And am I the only one who has a hard time understanding most of Maya’s lines? She always talks way too fast as this character.
• Katy Perry’s outfit was a nice subtle jab at her Sesame Street controversy from earlier this week, and the interview segment with her had potential but it didn’t go anywhere after the initial set-up. However, I did get a laugh from Amy’s response to Katy’s cleavage-revealing top: “Today’s episode is brought to you by the number 38 and the letter Double D”.
Commercial - Bosley Hair Restoration
• An entire fake ad about pubic hair wigs? Are you serious?
• And of course, the studio audience ate it up as if this was cutting edge comedy to them. I’m getting the feeling that the audience really WAS filled with teens like I mentioned in the monologue.
• Why do the season premiere commercials always go for the obvious and cheap joke instead of actual clever and creative satire? This was done in a very similar style as that Bladdivan commercial from last year’s premiere, but at least THAT one had a few laughs. Tonight’s commercial was completely lame and had no laughs to speak of.
Sketch - Maternity Matters
• Yeah... this premise has officially been run into the ground.
• I loved the first time they did this with Woman-to-Woman and felt it was one of Fred’s few truly great moments from last season, and the second installment with Teen Talk was a lazy re-write and a big step down but still had a few funny moments. By tonight’s third installment, I’m just completely sick of the entire routine and it’s not a good thing when I’m able to accurately predict 90% of Fred’s lines right before he even says them. How many times are we supposed to find Fred repeatedly asking his guests to speak up and him constantly saying “Well, honey, I dunno what to tell ya” funny?
• The only things in this I really liked was Fred’s complaint about his water bill and him questioning why Amy would want to feel pretty and advising her to simply put on a dress and tell her husband “Sorry, this is what you get”.
• Was there any particular reason why Amy’s character was named Terry Facials?
Commercial - Mosque at Ground Zero
• This actually had a really creative idea loaded with potential, but it was ruined by the writers once again taking the cheap, easy road by centering it around a gay wedding. Why does SNL go to the gay well for laughs so often these days? It’s so tired, I can’t even chuckle at it anymore.
• It’s too bad, because this ad actually could’ve been a near-classic if they’d found a better core punchline than a gay wedding.
• Loved Bill’s performance as the enthusiastic pitchman, and his wry delivery of the line “It’s nothin’ to worry about” at the end reminded me of Phil Hartman for some reason (always a good thing).
• The “IT COULD HAPPEN” screen at the end and the “paid for by the RNC...and 70% of the DNC” disclaimer was a funny ending.
Weekend Update - Seth Meyers with guest co-anchor Amy Poehler, featuring Will Smith, Gov. David Paterson and Gov. David Paterson
• Best jokes: Blockbuster video, Subway app, new American Idol judges
• Only three jokes in, and they’re already doing a “Really” segment? We all knew this segment was inevitable tonight anyway considering our host, but at least keep us in anticipation of the segment. Don’t just abruptly jump right into it instantly.
• And I hate to say it, but “Really” is beginning to lose its bite. Tonight’s segment was pretty disappointing and almost entirely forgettable. After a while, it just devolved into more of those gay jokes that the current SNL writers love so much. The only comment I remember actually laughing at was the one about Lady Gaga of all people trying to be the voice of reason.
• And now Amy’s telling news jokes for the rest of tonight’s Update? Normally I might actually be a little relieved by this since it gives us a break from bland Seth and his tired smugness, but all it did was just remind me of how out-of-her-element Amy used to be as an Update anchor. A poster on another SNL forum mentioned recently how Amy always had to tell cutesy, cheesy-type jokes during her years on Update... that stupid “Kim Jong Not-Ill” joke tonight was a perfect example.
• Update really picked up with newbie Jay Pharoah debuting his Will Smith impression. I was so happy to see it tonight, and it was a great way for Jay to breakout on his first SNL episode. His Will Smith is so eerily dead-on and funny; I’ve seen other people attempt an impression of Will before but Jay’s is the only one who came even close. He kept cracking me up throughout this commentary and he had several funny lines; my favorites were how he named his pet “Will.i.am.a.dog” and him saying at the end “I just punched a hurricane, WHOO!” I can’t wait to see more from Jay’s arsenal of impressions. They’ve GOTTA find a way to use his Denzel and Jay Z in their own sketches.
• The parrot 911 call was just a carbon-copy of a previous parrot bit Seth and Amy did before (I think in the James Franco episode from ‘08), even down to Amy singing “Happy birthday to you” again and admitting afterwards that the voices were done by her. Nothing new here, folks. Although Seth saying at the end that the third voice was from Jesus was unexpected and made me chuckle.
• The David Paterson bit... ugh, I don’t even want to waste time reviewing this. I couldn’t have been bored by this segment more. But let me rant anyway... Fred’s Paterson is long past its expiration date at this point and they’re not even trying anymore with the New Jersey slams they write. Then to kill this segment even further, they dragged the real David Paterson out there. Were we REALLY supposed to find this funny? I’m so sick of the forced, stale “real celebrity confronts the castmember impersonating them” gimmick. To say it’s been done to death would be an understatement. And the real Paterson’s commentary was way too damn long and a complete snoozefest. His little SNL bashing comment was done before by other politicians who appeared on the show (Giuliani comes to mind), and what was with his preachy, long-winded serious speech about his accomplishments as governor? Last time I checked, this is supposed to be a comedy show, not a soapbox.
• The only interesting thing about the whole Paterson segment was seeing how much he and Fred really do look very similar to each other. The resemblance was almost scary. If Fred didn’t have the beard, I almost wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between them.
• Overall, I can see this is gonna be another rough season for Update. Seth really needs to step the hell down and let someone new take over the desk. I’m sure the only reason some reviewers are saying Seth didn’t seem quite as bad tonight is because he had Amy to play off of, and they’ve always had great chemistry together. Don’t worry, Seth will be back to his usual boring unlikeable self next week.
Sketch - The Lean Years
• The opening scene with ladies from various Showtime series fell completely flat, although I kinda liked Nasim as Nurse Jackie. Kristen’s Mary Louise Parker, on the other hand, could not have been any farther off. It’s sad when you remember how great of an impressionist Kristen used to be in 2005-2007, and how lousy and half-assed her impressions have become nowadays.
• Amber the one-legged farting character? No. No! Nooooo! How did I not see this coming tonight?
• I really have nothing positive to say about this awful sketch... at all. The writers weren’t even trying; this was even unfunnier than the usual Amber sketches. And the last thing SNL needs right now is more fart humor. I STILL haven’t gotten over that embarrassing Grace Kelly sketch from last year.
Digital Short - Boogerman Theme
• This was one of those digital shorts that I just don’t know what to make of, even after several viewings (the last short like that was Cherry Battle).
• Very bizarre and I’m still not quite sure what the point was, but I did get a few good laughs out of this.
• Bill was excellent during his scenes as a presenter.
• I liked some of the quick Boogerman clips of various castmembers; my biggest laughs came from the clip of Fred as the villain and Jay Pharoah as the rastafarian.
• New castmember Paul Brittain looked just like Will Forte in his clip as the scientist. I almost thought that actually WAS Forte at first.
• Who was that playing Boogerman in that quick movie clip (where he dramatically states “I was born the Boogerman and I will die the Boogerman!”)? It didn’t look like any of the castmembers and I get the feeling it was someone famous. A poster in the Live Discussion thread (strummer, I believe) asked if it was Peter Sarsgaard, but to me it looked more like Neil Patrick Harris even though he was shown earlier in a stock footage shot as one of the celebrities in the audience.
Sketch - Tiny Hat Rivalry
• A ridiculously moronic and unfunny sketch. Various tiny hats and close-ups of Kristen Wiig mugging while stuffing food inside her mouth just aren’t my idea of comedy.
• The restaurant’s name constantly changing throughout the sketch also fell flat.
• The only thing I found even remotely humorous was Bill pointing to Kristen and crying “It should’ve been you!” after Amy’s character allegedly died.
Mini-Sketch - Actor II Actor
• Surprisingly, this was pretty damn funny. Yes, it was insanely short and essentially pointless, but that’s actually what made it work. I laughed harder at this than I did at most of tonight’s sketches.
• In the Live Discussion thread, lordcrom made this comment about the sketch: “You get in, get the laugh, and get out. Short and funny”. Someone needs to tell the current writers to adopt that style of writing more often.
Sketch/Commercial - The Unwatchables
• I’m always a sucker for impression-showcase sketches with most of the cast, and this definitely delivered.
• My favorite bits were from Bill as Steven Seagal, Jay Pharoah as Chris Tucker, Andy as Bridgitte Nielsen, Abby as Brooke Hogan with her father’s facial hair, Bobby as Hurley from Lost (you just know Bobby must’ve been dying to finally use this impression on SNL), and Taran Killam as Steven Slater.
• The only part I didn’t like was Kenan as Tracy Chapman. Why do they keep sticking Kenan in out-of-place roles in these types of sketches? They did the same thing where he played Jennifer Hudson in last season’s “Bunny Business” sketch. And with a new and actual talented black guy in the cast, I can tell I’m gonna be even more intolerant of Kenan than EVER this season. Definitely time for him to get the hell out.
• I hope I’m not the only one who realized that Bobby has spoken only a measly two quick lines in this entire show, in what’s supposed to be his first night as a repertory castmember. They’d better use him more in the future. Even Abby and some of the newbies got more airtime than him tonight.
• For the record, this is actually the THIRD gay role Taran Killam has had in tonight’s episode alone. In the Ground Zero commercial, he was shown in a photo as a gay soldier getting married (Paul Brittain was the other soldier), he made a very brief appearance as a lispy gay guy during one of the clips in the Boogerman short, and now he played Steven Slater. I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come from Taran, or it looks like Fred’s gonna have some serious competition in the “typecasted in gay roles” department.
• The announcer’s line “Starts filming tomorrow... which means it’ll come out this Friday” was a great ending.
• Jay Pharoah’s Will Smith commentary on Weekend Update
• The Unwatchables
• Actor II Actor
• The Lean Years
• Bosley Hair Restoration
• Tiny Hat Rivalry
• Bronx Beat
• the rest of Weekend Update
• Maternity Matters
Best Performer of the Night:
• Bill Hader
Well, I can see things haven’t improved from last season. Overall, a season premiere that I was mostly unimpressed by. The monologue was the definite best moment and the show did end on a good note with the solid final two sketches. And having various new castmembers debut tonight gave the show a feeling of excitement, although Jay Pharoah was the only newbie to leave a real impression on viewers so far (seriously, this kid is loaded with so much potential... I just hope Lorne realizes this). But for the most part, this episode suffered from the exact same things that plagued the 09-10 season: lazy uninspired writing, overreliance on carbon-copied recurring sketches that didn’t need to return, overuse of Kristen Wiig, an overlong mediocre Weekend Update, and an excess of gay jokes and fart humor. Nothing has changed.
Obviously, it’s way too early to judge this season yet and the season premieres lately are usually never strong anyway, but tonight’s episode has done nothing to dispel my fears/predictions of this season becoming the new 94-95. If the show doesn’t want to continue the downhill slide that started in 09-10, then they’ve got a long way to go. Sorry, but the 3 or 4 new writers they hired over the summer is not enough to cut it. They need almost a COMPLETE overhaul of the writing staff, clearing out all the dead weight and people who’ve been there for way too long (did ya’ll see the SIZE of that writers list during the goodnights?). For example, Paula Pell - this is, what, her 16th season as writer on the show? Absolutely ridiculous. And don’t get me started on Seth Meyers.
The cast needs more tuning as well. They took a small step in the right direction by hiring 4 new castmembers, but there’s still a number of returning players who have no reason to be on and have already done everything that they can on the show.
CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 6 sketches (Monologue, Bosley Hair Restoration, Maternity Matters, Ground Zero, Digital Short, Unwatchables)
ELLIOTT: 5 sketches (Maternity Matters, Ground Zero, Lean Years, Tiny Hats, Unwatchables)
HADER: 6 sketches (Christine O’Donnell, Maternity Matters, Ground Zero, Digital Short, Tiny Hats, Unwatchables)
MEYERS: 2 sketches (Monologue, Update)
MOYNIHAN: 4 sketches (Bosley Hair Restoration, Ground Zero, Digital Short, Unwatchables)
SAMBERG: 6 sketches (Maternity Matters, Ground Zero, Lean Years, Digital Short, Actor II Actor, Unwatchables)
SUDEIKIS: 5 sketches (Christine O’Donnell, Bosley Hair Restoration, Ground Zero, Digital Short, Unwatchables)
THOMPSON: 4 sketches (Monologue, Ground Zero, Digital Short, Unwatchables)
WIIG: 7 sketches (Christine O’Donnell, Monologue, Bosley Hair Restoration, Maternity Matters, Lean Years, Digital Short, Tiny Hats)
BAYER: 5 sketches (Christine O’Donnell, Monologue, Maternity Matters, Ground Zero, Tiny Hats)
BRITTAIN: 5 sketches (Monologue, Bosley Hair Restoration, Ground Zero, Lean Years, Digital Short)
PEDRAD: 4 sketches (Monologue, Bosley Hair Restoration, Ground Zero, Lean Years)
KILLAM: 4 sketches (Monologue, Ground Zero, Digital Short, Unwatchables)
PHAROAH: 5 sketches (Monologue, Ground Zero, Update, Digital Short, Unwatchables)
AMY POEHLER: 9 sketches (Monologue, Bronx Beat, Maternity Matters, Ground Zero, Update, Lean Years, Digital Short, Tiny Hats, Unwatchables)