***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?
Cold Opening - Rahm Emanuel Steps Down
• I had to groan as soon as this started with the return of Fred’s Obama. I KNOW they don’t want to throw Jay Pharoah into such an important front-and-center role right away since he’s new, but since Fred’s Obama barely even uttered a word in this and didn’t say LFNY, why couldn’t they have used Jay instead? Also, if Jay being new is the reason they aren’t using him as Obama from the start, then they should just stop doing Obama openings altogether until Jay establishes himself. We shouldn’t have to suffer through another season Fred’s non-attempt at an Obama “impression” while waiting for Lorne to finally come to his senses.
• Anyway, this was a pretty good cold opening. Andy’s Rahm Emanuel is always good for some laughs, and I’m glad they didn’t just copy the same formula from his last appearance with him uttering a whole bunch of bleeped-out expletives. His advice to Pete Rouse had some funny lines.
• I couldn’t help but be distracted by Andy’s blatant cue-card staring. I don’t think he came close to making eye contact with Bobby a single time during his entire talk with him. And this is hardly the first sketch I noticed Andy doing this in. When it comes to the current cast, Andy’s one of the worst at hiding the fact that he’s reading off the cue cards. People give Bill Hader crap for having the same problem, but Andy’s not any better at it himself.
• I liked the terrified quivering expression on Bobby’s face throughout, as well as him crying “I wanna go hooooome!”
Monologue - Bryan Cranston
• He really DOES resemble Phil Hartman, don’t he? This is what I imagine Phil would look like in recent years if he were still with us.
• This monologue was the exact opposite of Amy Poehler’s from last week. Her monologue had a very weak start, then really took off with the awesome dream sequence. Whereas Cranston’s monologue started out amusing enough with the crack joke and the underwear pictures of him, then devolved into yet another damn musical monologue.
• Are you kidding me, SNL? You have Bryan freakin’ Cranston hosting, and you completely waste his comedic talents by having him do another one of your standard, unfunny, copy-and-paste song-and-dance monologues that you’ve already used before with 560 other hosts in recent years? The current state of SNL’s writing must be even worse than I thought.
• The song had pretty much NO redeeming qualities except for Nasim looking exceptionally attractive during her quick 2-second walk-on.
Commercial - Pepto-Bismol Ice
• This was cut from the season premiere and when I read this in Jamie Klein’s SNL Adventure report, I instantly thought to myself “This fake ad will most likely make it on the air in a future episode; I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it on this weekend’s show.” Called it.
• This was one of those commercials where I could tell how funny it would be from reading Jamie’s synopsis of it. In this case, I knew the commercial would be lame and have too thin a premise, and I was right. A waste of Nasim’s talents.
Sketch - The Miley Cyrus Show
• Now THIS was a surprise. Up until now, SNL has strangely stayed away from ever making fun of Miley Cyrus in the past, aside from an absolutely horrible impression by Ellen Page back in 08.
• When they showed the title at the beginning, I wondered to myself who in the cast would play Miley. I first thought Kristen because 1) it’s a simple fact she always gets every main female role, and 2) I recalled that Starfish sketch from last season’s finale and remembered Casey Killingsworth pointing out in his review how much Kristen resembled Miley in it. Then I figured Kristen would be too old for this role, so I guessed that Abby would play Miley in this sketch since she’s young enough and excels at doing celebrity impressions. Imagine my surprise when it instead turned out to be new girl Vanessa Bayer.
• And guess what? Vanessa actually did an excellent impression of her! It helps that she already has Miley’s teeth and smile, and she did a dead-on imitation of Miley’s voice. Overall, I was very impressed by Vanessa’s performance.
• Wow, and now Paul Brittain in a big role, too? The new kids are taking over SNL! Paul’s Johnny Depp was pretty decent.
• The sketch itself overall was good, not great. The writing wasn’t too bad, but I’m just tired of the overused talk show format and you can already tell that they’re probably grooming this to be the new Dakota Fanning Show. I guess the only thing that might keep this from being brought back is the fact that Bryan Cranston played the Billy Ray Cyrus/bandleader role.
Sketch - What Up With That? Back to School Edition
• Astute SNL viewers should be able to tell when an episode is going to have a What Up With That sketch just by watching the beginning of the host’s SNL monologue early in the episode. When they show the usual shot of the audience applauding after the host steps out on stage, you can clearly see the wall for the What Up With That set in the background. I noticed this in both the Zach Galifianakis episode and tonight’s episode. At least it allows me to get my “Aww, they’re doing THAT sketch again???” groaning out of the way early.
• And I don’t like whenever they do What Up With That with a great host like Cranston and Galifianakis, because that means they’ll just be wasted in a 20-second long walk-on role in the sketch. Though I did get a good laugh from Cranston as the white George Clinton lookalike, as well as Jay Pharoah’s Bootsy Collins-esque singer.
• They tried a half-assed attempt at changing the sketch up by doing a “back to school” edition and throwing some in some scattered school references throughout, but it did nothing to hide the fact that this was a 2,354,325th bland, carbon-copied rewrite of WUWT.
• I really don’t like how they replaced Will Forte’s announcer role with Taran Killam. And Taran’s running past the camera doing the robot/playing his leg as a guitar like Forte used to - PATHETIC. Why even bother showing the announcer anymore anyway? They should’ve just had Steve Higgins or someone do an unseen voice-over instead.
• At least WUWT’s special guest cameos are improving. Morgan Freeman and Ernest Borgnine! Amazing! And you gotta love the big smile on Borgnine’s face the entire time.
• Did I just see Michael Patrick O’Brien as one of the two silver dancing guys? Who was the second guy, another writer?
• Abby Elliott playing an older woman who’s in a relationship with a much younger boy? I can’t be the only one who sees the irony in this.
• Sudeikis makes his ONLY appearance of the entire episode, playing his recurring role as the silent, track suit-wearing, dancing white guy. So in other words, Jason had ZERO lines all night. Has anyone noticed that he’s been getting very little airtime this season so far? I’m getting a bad feeling that this will be his final year on the show. I really hope not because he has yet to wear out his welcome and definitely still has steam left in him for another season or two, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he parted ways next summer. It pisses me off that SNL never let Sudeikis become the star of the current cast. He’s proven time after time that he has what it takes to carry the show, so why the hell is he STILL struggling for airtime in his 6 ½th year as a castmember? Oh, that’s right, because his name isn’t Kristen Wiig. Silly me.
• Come to think of it, Bill Hader had no actual lines in this entire episode either (unless you count him singing in unison with other guys in the monologue). What the hell, SNL? Hader and Sudeikis are two of your biggest, funniest, reliable, most established talents on the current cast, and you treat them as background extras all night?
Sketch - “Sexy” Shana
• Okay, it’s official: they’re not even trying to showcase Bryan Cranston’s talents at all tonight. Up until now, they’ve already been wasting him in miniscule parts or roles that any host can play; now we have to watch him resort to playing straight man to a tired one-joke Kristen Wiig character? That being said, I did laugh at Cranston’s bizarre perverted facial reactions to Shana. That provided my only chuckles in this entire sketch, besides Andy’s deadpan “That was sexy to the power of nothing” one-liner.
• I just had to laugh when I saw Abby now taking over the “ignored girl” role that Jenny Slate played in the last Shana sketch. And even back THEN, it wasn’t an original role, as Casey Wilson played the role in the first Shana sketch. So every time they do this sketch, whoever plays the “ignored girl” gets fired from SNL at the end of that season. Be afraid, Abby... be VERY afraid (*cue suspenseful music*). People before have mentioned the “Hoda curse” on SNL with Michaela and Jenny; looks like we might have a new curse upon us.
• And yay, Taran Killam’s taking over ANOTHER Will Forte role tonight! Whoopee! Ugh, seriously, what’s with the way SNL uses this guy? Last week in his debut, Taran Killam played a gay character in every single one of his appearances, and now tonight he’s being used as a Forte stand-in during every single one of his appearances. I’m not liking this trend. Taran could be extremely talented for all we know, but SNL sure isn’t letting us see it so far.
• I’d be crazy if I didn’t point out how this was surprisingly Kristen’s ONLY appearance of the night. Unlike how I bitched and moaned about Jason and Bill barely being used in this episode, I certainly have no problem with the lack of Wiig. Not that it improved the quality of the rest of tonight’s episode, though... Interestingly, the last episode that Kristen only appeared in one sketch in was Taylor Lautner/Bon Jovi, and that episode sucked ass.
Digital Short - 911 App
• This took quite a long time to get to the punchline, but in the end, this was pretty decent overall if nothing outstanding.
• Besides the ending, my biggest laughs came from Andy accidentally ordering 99 movie tickets, and when the two robbers saw the pizza delivery guy and said “Let’s shoot this mother(bleep)” and killed him.
Weekend Update - Seth Meyers, featuring Anthony Crispino, Cathy
• Best jokes: Obama backyard chats, World War I reparation
• Seth was even MORE off than usual tonight. A lot of his jokes this time were purely dreadful and had me shaking my head in disbelief at how lame they were, especially the Howard Stern and Law and Order UK jokes. And didn’t Seth use that same wacky “chase sequence” music on Update before?
• The second-hand news correspondent again? I like Bobby’s delivery as this character and you can tell he’s trying his best with the material, but this bit is as one-joke and bland as they come. We already got the point in this character’s first appearance last season. Tonight’s commentary offered nothing different and ran empty on laughs.
• Cathy??? Ugh. I knew SNL couldn’t resist having Andy play her one last time after the recent news about her comic strip ending. I always find Andy’s Cathy incredibly annoying and unfunny, and tonight did nothing to change that. The only amusing part was the “clip show montage” lasting only 2 seconds before cutting back to Andy and Seth staring at the camera stone-faced. The rest of the commentary was a waste of time.
• And has anyone noticed that Seth’s interaction with Cathy (how he calls her “the apple of my eye”, says loving things about her, asks her to never change) is VERY similar to his interaction with Bobby’s Snooki? Seth says the exact same things to both Cathy and Snooki. And of course, both involve men in drag. So Seth’s attracted to that? Well, this certainly does nothing to dispel the gay rumors about him...
• Overall, terrible Update; one of Seth’s absolute worst. Usually, you can depend on at least ONE guest commentary to save Seth’s latest Updates, but even that fell through tonight as both guests were nothing original and nothing funny. Bring Jay Pharoah back with another impression!
Sketch - Kid Smartz
• Oh, do I REALLY have to review this garbage? I could not have hated this sketch more.
• At first, I thought this was going to be a take-off on that infamous gameshow clip from the early 80’s with the host taking pleasure out of kissing and flirting with his prepubescent female contestants (which doesn’t need a parody; the real clip is creepy enough on its own). But nope, it just turned into yet another sketch where the whole premise is guys kissing each other on the lips over and over. Ah, gay jokes - the current SNL writers’ favorite crutch.
• I’m almost surprised Fred didn’t play Andy’s role; Lord knows Fred sure likes kissing other dudes in sketches.
• I don’t know what was worse in this sketch - the unfunny repeated man-on-man kissing or Kenan doing his unfunny, tired “sassy black female” routine for the 3,495,350,585th time. Either way, this sketch was 100% unwatchable.
Sketch - The Bjelland Brothers
• And tonight’s episode gets worse and worse...
• I could tell right away that this was going to be a boring, overlong, laughless sketch I wouldn’t like. But I kept patiently waiting and waiting and waiting for a punchline that just never came. The closest semblance to a punchline was Fred saying at the very end “This is the only song we’re doing tonight”. Uh-huh, THAT’S the big joke right there, folks. This episode is horrible.
• They certainly succeeded in getting that stupid song stuck in my head all day, though. Thanks a lot, SNL...
Sketch - Training Henry
• I always used to say before that Nasim has some similarities to Rachel Dratch. Here’s another one: they both seem to specialize in playing little boys.
• After the horrible last few sketches, I had some expectations in this one and was hoping for Nasim to save tonight’s show. To an extent, Nasim kinda did, even though the sketch itself wasn’t that great. But her nerdy character gave me some pretty good laughs. Her voice was goofy yet still amusing, and her way of putting herself down while describing her flawed fighting techniques got a few laughs.
• My problem with the sketch itself is that it failed to really go anywhere and got too repetitive and predictable after a while. Bryan punching Nasim out stopped being funny after the first time, yet they repeated it, what, 3-4 times?
• Overall, this was slightly more watchable than most of tonight’s sketches, but this still felt like it could’ve been improved a lot.
• I couldn’t help but notice that something about Nasim’s wig, glasses, and facial expressions made her kinda resemble Tina Fey. It’s probably just me, because I remember saying the same thing about Nasim in the first Bedilia sketch (which actually had Tina Fey in it).
Commercial - i-Sleep Pro
• I’m not quite sure what to think of this commercial. I found the idea behind it to be lame, cliched, stereotypical humor. But on the other hand, this did showcase the voice of Jay Pharoah doing a whole bunch of impressions, and he’s just amazing to watch when he’s impersonating anyone. In this case, we only HEARD him as they were unseen vocal impressions, but I was easily able to identify him after a while, especially when he got to the “Friday” bit - we’ve already seen that he can do Chris Tucker, but his Ice Cube is absolutely dead-on, too.
• The premise was still pretty dumb, and this commercial didn’t give me as many as laughs it was intended to.
• Rahm Emanuel Steps Down
• The Miley Cyrus Show
• Morgan Freeman and Ernest Borgnine on What Up With That, as well as the two singers played by Bryan Cranston and Jay Pharoah
• Kid Smartz
• The Bjelland Brothers
• “Sexy” Shana
• Pepto-Bismol Ice
• Weekend Update
• the rest of What Up With That?
Best Performer of the Night:
• Vanessa Bayer, I guess. I know that sounds strange considering this is only her second episode, but nobody in this episode really stood out to me in a positive way. I was gonna give “Best Performer” to Andy Samberg because he had a big night, but bringing back Cathy ruined it... not to mention that cliched man-on-man kissing nonsense in Kid Smartz.
Anyway, I gave it to Vanessa Bayer simply because of her fantastic Miley Cyrus impression, and because she already seems to be fitting in better than Jenny Slate and Casey Wilson (and for the record, I actually LIKED Casey on SNL... even two seasons later, I still kinda miss Casey’s presence). Vanessa’s certainly showing promise so far.
Yikes. I thought last week’s season premiere was mediocre, but that episode seems almost classic compared to tonight’s dud. This episode started out decently enough with a funny cold opening and the Miley Cyrus Show sketch... sadly, things were all downhill from there. For almost the entire rest of the show, we were just given an endless string of sketches ranging from “meh” to “downright horrible”, with the Digital Short and i-Sleep Pro commercial being the only things closely approaching any real humor. Tonight’s episode actually felt depressing with how many consecutive bad sketches there were. It’s sad when I can count on one hand the number of times I laughed in the entire second half of the show. And even the better sketches in this episode weren’t great... nothing in this episode got above a ***½ star rating, and I doubt anyone will remember any of the content in this episode years down the road.
This episode also felt very strange with a lot of the veterans in the cast barely appearing on the show and most of them having no lines at all. Hader, Sudeikis, Wiig... obviously I’m not complaining about that last one, but still, all of this combined together made the episode feel even more “off”.
And Bryan Cranston... I had such high hopes for him when it was announced he was hosting, but he sadly fell victim to the declining quality of SNL’s writing. Cranston was given lots of lousy roles and material to work with all night, but you can tell he tried hard to make the best of it. In particular, I noticed his efforts to save that awful Shana sketch and I have to give him props for that. Oh, and no Breaking Bad parody at all tonight? Seriously? Are these writers even TRYING anymore?
So far, this season is 0 for 2 in good episodes. I’m REALLY not liking the direction the 2010-11 season is taking.
Even though Jane Lynch certainly has potential to be a good host, I’m iffy about how her episode next week will turn out. Not just because of my unhappiness with the current state of SNL’s quality, but also because it’s the third show of the season... I’ve noticed that lately, there’s been sort of this “curse” of the third show of each recent season being very bad. The Drew Barrymore episode of 09, the Anna Faris episode of 08, the Jon Bon Jovi episode of 07, the John C. Reilly episode of 06... all stinkers. You could probably go back even farther than that - from what I remember, the Catherine Zeta Jones episode of 05 wasn’t too funny, and I can barely recall any actual sketches from the Jude Law episode of 04 but that’s the one with the infamous Ashlee Simpson lipsyncing disaster - 'nuff said. And the Halle Berry episode of 03 was absolutely HORRIBLE… to this day, I still consider that one of the all-time worst SNL episodes EVER. I guess 2003 is as far back as the “third show of the season” curse goes, because 2002-03’s third show was the John McCain episode which was actually very funny.
Anyway, after reading all that, some people may be saying “But Jane Lynch is so funny! There’s no way HER episode will disappoint!” Well, everyone was saying the same thing about Bryan Cranston and look how his episode turned out.
CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 4 sketches (Rahm Emanuel, What Up With That, Digital Short, Bjelland Brothers)
ELLIOTT: 4 sketches (Monologue, What Up With That, Shana, Kid Smartz)
HADER: 2 sketches (Monologue, What Up With That)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
MOYNIHAN: 5 sketches (Rahm Emanuel, Monologue, Miley Cyrus, Digital Short, Update)
SAMBERG: 7 sketches (Rahm Emanuel, Pepto-Bismol Ice, Miley Cyrus, Shana, Digital Short, Update, Kid Smartz)
SUDEIKIS: 1 sketch (What Up With That)
THOMPSON: 6 sketches (Monologue, What Up With That, Shana, Digital Short, Kid Smartz, i-Sleep Pro)
WIIG: 1 sketch (Shana)
BAYER: 3 sketches (Miley Cyrus, What Up With That, Kid Smartz)
BRITTAIN: 2 sketches (Miley Cyrus, What Up With That)
KILLAM: 4 sketches (Monologue, Pepto-Bismol Ice, What Up With That, Shana)
PEDRAD: 4 sketches (Monologue, Pepto-Bismol Ice, What Up With That, Training Henry)
PHAROAH: 1 sketch (What Up With That)
BRYAN CRANSTON: 7 sketches (Monologue, Miley Cyrus, What Up With That, Shana, Kid Smartz, Bjelland Brothers, Training Henry)