***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?
Cold Opening - A Message from Joe Biden
• Anyone notice Jason making a goofy out-of-character facial expression to the audience at the very beginning before realizing he was on camera?
• Always good to see Jason’s Biden impression. It’s kinda sad that SNL’s impression of the vice president is much funnier than their impression of the ACTUAL president.
• The premise seemed strangely thin, but Jason carried it very well and got enough laughs. Loved the “Joe Biden checklist” only having one question: “Are you above ground?”
• The elevator story was funny as well.
• Some interesting trivia: every SNL episode hosted by a Mad Men star has had Jason as Joe Biden in the cold opening. The January Jones episode and all three of Jon Hamm’s episodes (the 2008 Hamm show had the Joe Biden/John Murtha rally cold opening, and last season’s Hamm show had the State of the Union opening). Coincidence?
Monologue - Jon Hamm
• Okay... Hamm is hosting and they’re doing a freakin’ Q&A audience monologue? For the second week in a row??? Is it 1993-94 again, because I’m starting to get some serious flashbacks to that season right now, and that ain’t good.
• I don’t know which monologue crutch is more overused right now: song-and-dance or questions from the audience. I guess the fantastic Amy Poehler monologue was just a fluke since it’s the only one this season that doesn’t fit under either category.
• Despite my quibbles, I actually LIKED this monologue for the most part. And to be fair, it deviated a bit from the normal format that “questions from the audience” monologues have, so that’s a plus. Hamm was his usual awesome, snappy self, and he had several great lines throughout. My favorites were his calling himself “Hammer”, his slogan for a diaper commercial, and his whole interaction with Andy’s character.
Digital Short - Ronnie and Clyde
• A Digital Short right after the monologue? That’s only happened two times before: the Alec Baldwin episode from last season, and the Zach Braff episode from ‘07.
• Oh, I see, it’s a Shy Ronnie sequel. I guess they couldn’t wait to get this masterpiece out of the way tonight, right? I seem to be in the minority in those that didn’t even care for the first Shy Ronnie short (seriously, aside from Andy pissing his pants, what was so funny about that one?), so I wasn’t too thrilled to see a follow-up to it tonight.
• It also didn’t help that aside from the bank robbery setting, there was no actual difference in the script. You could see where everything in tonight’s short was going: Andy would mumble inaudibly whenever it was his turn to sing, then when Rihanna left the room, he’d bust out into a loud hardcore rap only to go back to quietly singing inaudibly when Rihanna would return.
• I will say this, though: Andy’s rap in tonight’s short was much better than his rap in the first Shy Ronnie short. He seemed much more into his rap tonight and I chuckled at it a couple of times, particularly his backflip with the obvious stunt double.
• The bit at the end with Rihanna randomly taking Hamm along was pretty funny, too.
• Vanessa Bayer makes her only appearance of the night in this short as one of the silent people in the bank being held up. So not only did she not have any lines tonight, but she made no live appearances at all in this episode. Poor Vanessa. Is it just me, or does it seem like after she wowed everyone with her Miley Cyrus impression, she’s gotten virtually NO airtime since? Why? I know I’m not alone in wanting to see more of this girl.
• Overall, I’d rather have had a Sergio sequel than this short. Not sure what else they could do with Sergio that they didn’t already do with him in the first short, but it surely would’ve been more deserving of a follow-up than Shy Ronnie.
Sketch - Vincent Price’s Halloween Special
• I usually love these sketches and I was excited to see it return tonight, but I can’t even begin to tell you how disappointed I was in tonight’s installment.
• First off, these Vincent Price sketches USED TO BE the only times these last 2 seasons where I can tolerate Kristen Wiig’s mugging and being over-the-top, but she actually managed to annoy the hell out of me in tonight’s sketch just like she does in most non-Vincent Price sketches. This shows just how much my ire towards Kristen is growing and growing over time.
• Also, have they already run out of classic female movie stars for Kristen to imitate? She used to play a new celebrity in each Vincent Price sketch, but for the last two installments they’ve just been recycling the same celebrities that she already played. Tonight, she was Judy Garland, which she originally did alongside Horatio Sanz as Alfred Hitchock in the very first Vincent Price sketch back in 2005. Ah, 2005 - the good ol’ days back when Kristen Wiig was new, fresh, underused, and actually tolerable! I wanna just cry when I think how far Kristen’s fallen these last 2 or 3 years, because she used to be great.
• My second beef with this installment is Fred as Liberace; that’s officially jumped the shark. The gay innuendoes with him used to be a riot each time, but since SNL in general has been so heavy in the “cliched gay humor” department these last 2 years, the Liberace jokes in these Vincent Price sketches now just feel like more of the same and have really lost their bite. I found myself groaning at Liberace’s jokes tonight instead of laughing at them.
• And thirdly, this whole sketch was way too heavy in the sexual innuendo department in general. The whole thing was basically just one sex pun after another and nothing else. Have the writers forgotten than the Vincent Price sketches used to have actual, you know, MATERIAL, VARIETY and JOKES?
• On the positive side, I did enjoy seeing Hamm as JFK again (he first played him in that Obama Variety Half-Hour sketch in 2008) and I laughed at Hader asking Hamm “Why is your hand still in there???” at the very end.
• By far the weakest Vincent Price installment and it’s just depressing when even this usually-reliable sketch can’t hit a homerun anymore. What’s going on?
Miscellaneous - Back to the Future Screen Tests #1
• Well now, this is interesting! It obviously brought flashbacks to the classic Star Wars Screen Tests sketch from ‘97 and the not-quite-classic-but-still-great Pulp Fiction Screen Tests sketch from ‘98. Tonight’s version had a high standard to live up to, and for the most part, this didn’t let me down. Like I always say, I’m a sucker for celebrity impression-showcase ensemble sketches with the cast, so I was already prepared to love this.
• Loved seeing Bill’s Al Pacino again, Hamm’s Robin Williams was dead-on and cracked me up, and Jay Pharoah’s Eddie Murphy absolutely stole this entire sketch. I was on the floor watching his impression of Eddie; I’ve seen his impression before in several YouTube videos and I’m so glad SNL let him use it. And I always love it when former SNL castmembers are imitated in a sketch.
• Only parts I didn’t like was Bobby as Sam Kinison and Kristen as Jennifer Tilly. Bobby’s attempt at a Kinison impression was absolutely HORRIBLE and embarrassing. Dude fell flat on his face. I like Bobby for the most part, but lately he’s been proving to be one of SNL’s worst impressionists ever. And as for the Jennifer Tilly bit, I’m not complaining about it just because of my dislike of Kristen Wiig; it’s because the lines she was given simply weren’t funny and her part felt unnecessary to the sketch. Also, I’m too lazy to check IMDB, but did Jennifer Tilly even have an acting career yet in 1984? I thought it wasn’t until the late 80’s/early 90’s when she started doing film and TV work.
• In addition to my pointing out how Vanessa Bayer’s only appearance all night was in a pre-recorded Digital Short, Jay Pharoah’s only appearance tonight was in this pre-recorded piece. C’mon, SNL! Jay and Vanessa seem to be the two most-liked new featured players among SNL fans; we want more of them! At least give them live appearances instead of having them sit in their dressing room all night until the goodnights.
Sketch - Audition
• Oh, my... Oh, my... You know, every time Kristen shows up as a hammy, over-the-top, goofy character these days, I initially groan but then I think “Maybe she’s just doing a quick walk-on and is just setting up the main character for the sketch!” before I soon realize that she IS the main character. I went through the exact same thing at the beginning of that idiotic Starfish sketch from last season’s finale.
• Honestly, I try and try and try to give these hammy Wiig sketches a chance, but ultimately they never fail to lead absolutely nowhere and disappoint me. Tonight’s sketch was just her rambling in an overlong, unfunny, non-stop speech about crap that she won’t do as an actress, then screaming in an annoying-as-hell loud voice when Jason told her she didn’t get the part. SNL is lucky I’m a devoted long-time fan of the show, or else I’d be fast-forwarding my DVR through nonsense like this.
• Abby Elliott continues to earn her SNL salary with her 2-second bit role as the secretary. Great performance, Ab!
• The sketch was slightly redeemed at the end. Hamm made me laugh after he returned by himself and I loved Jason slowly crawling out the window, jumping, revealing that they’re on the first floor, then just dusting himself off and casually walking away. That was a nice bizarre ending that should’ve been saved for an actual funny sketch.
Miscellaneous - Back to the Future Screen Tests #2
• I felt that the first one earlier tonight ended abruptly and I was hoping it would be a two-part segment they’d follow-up later tonight, so I was happy to see this.
• This was even better than the earlier segment. All the impressions in this one were just hit-after-hit and there were no Sam Kinisons or Jennifer Tillys to bring it down.
• LOVED the hell out of Bill’s Alan Alda! As soon as they flashed the “Alan Alda” screen test title, I hoped it would be Bill who would play him, and he did not disappoint. Absolutely fantastic impression and all of his lines were excellent.
• I mentioned in the first Screen Tests segment that I always love when they imitate former castmembers on SNL. Well, this second segment added two more to that: Gilbert Gottfried and Joan Cusack, although most non-SNL fans probably aren’t even aware that either of them were ever castmembers on SNL.
• Taran Killam’s Gilbert Gottfried was pretty funny even though I’ve seen far better Gottfried impressions before, but then Taran COMPLETELY wowed me with his excellent and hilarious Pee Wee Herman. The voice was eerily perfect; if I had my eyes closed, I’d think that was actually Pee Wee talking. More impressions from Taran, SNL!
• And hey, Abby Elliott was actually given something to do! I mean, it was only for a few seconds and in a pre-recorded bit, but still! You mean Lorne is actually aware of this girl’s existence? I always enjoy her Joan Cusack impression.
• Not even Kenan’s Bill Cosby could bother me; that’s always been the only accurate one of Kenan’s impressions because he’s been doing it since he was a kid on Nickelodeon.
Weekend Update - Seth Meyers, featuring James Carville, Garth and Kat
• Best jokes: none, for the second week in a row. Seth is just a complete joke himself nowadays. It’s sad.
• I used to love Bill’s James Carville appearances, but they’re now just feeling too “by-the-numbers”. They use it too often and it always follows the same pattern. Tonight’s installment wasn’t terrible by any means, but there were only two or three lines I laughed at; mostly the “weird uncles” analogy. Still better than anything else on tonight’s Update.
• Fucking Garth and Kat AGAIN... I’m not even gonna take up any space reviewing that time-wasting shit. There’s nothing that needs to be said.
Sketch - I Didn’t Ask For This
• Up until now, Bobby had been having a very disappointing season. He had yet to be given any lead roles in a sketch, he recycled that one-joke Second-Hand News correspondent, and he’d been going through a plethora of failed attempts at impressions like Verne Troyer, Jonah Hill, and Sam Kinison. Then this sketch thankfully came along and saved his ass. THIS is the stuff that Bobby excels at and the kind of performance that made him so well-liked back in his featured player days.
• While the plot reminded me of that sketch from the ‘07 Scarlett Johansson episode with
Kristen as Jane Pauley interviewing people who became famous from Viral Videos (another sketch that makes me wanna cry when I remember how funny and reliable Kristen Wiig used to be back then), this had its own original take and the overall sketch was pretty enjoyable.
• I thankfully have never encountered one of those “screamer” videos. Usually if I’m watching a video on YouTube and it’s just a frozen clip or picture for a very long time, I always click away immediately because I know a “screamer” is coming up. If I ever did encounter one, I’d probably literally shit my pants or pass out, because I’m VERY squeamish and easily scared by that kind of stuff. Laugh if you want, but I’ve been very cautious about sites/videos I click or watch online ever since a visit I made to rotten.com about 9 or 10 years ago that scarred me for life. The shit they have on that site is UNBELIEVABLE. I had nightmares for weeks after going there.
• Anyway, my favorite parts of this sketch were Bobby’s “Fat guy gets owned” line, the “serious cam” messages, and especially Hamm’s ridiculous crying. His crying had me on the floor, especially when they autotuned it. I also liked how everyone else on the show was trying not to laugh at him.
Sketch - Highway Cops
• It seems like almost every single sketch tonight has been set in an earlier decade. The Digital Short, Vincent Price Special, Back to the Future screen tests, and now this 70’s/CHiPS take-off.
• I thought this would be funny at first and just seeing Hamm and Sudeikis in those long wigs and fake moustaches cracked me up initially, but then as soon as they mentioned that Hamm would have to share Sudeikis’ motorcycle, I immediately saw where this was going. I knew the sketch would take a homoerotic turn and that there even might be a kiss involved. But I tried to give the SNL writers credit, so I assumed my prediction would be wrong and hoped the sketch would take a different, actual creative and funny route. But noooooooo!
• Oh, and regarding a post John George Peppers made in the Live Discussion thread: “*awaits the homophobia here where people write this off as another sketch of men kissing men*”... That is complete BULLSHIT and you know it. People have a problem with man-on-man kissing on SNL because it’s a completely overused crutch these days that’s been milked beyond dry, and pretty much the cheapest and most juvenile way ever to get laughs. In the last 2 years that have been dominated by sketches like multiple Kissing Family installments, Kid Smartz, just about any occurrence of Fred Armisen kissing the male host, and countless other examples, man-on-man kissing not only loses its shock value but also its comedic value. I and others have just gotten completely tired of it by now. To write people’s criticisms about that off as homophobia is just plain ignorant. If anything, the current SNL writing shows signs of homophobia because they seem to think ANYTHING involving gay people is automatically humorous in and of itself and deserves to be laughed at, especially if there’s kissing involved. Board member billbrasky put it in a better way: “The writing is starting to exhibit that annoying quality of '94'-'95 too where anything "gay" is considered hilarious (between this and the innuendos in the Vincent Price sketch)”.
• Anyway, the main point is, I didn’t laugh during most of this sketch. And it’s never a good thing when I can predict almost the entire outcome of a sketch long before it actually happens.
• One of my few laughs was an unintentional one during Paul Brittain and Taran Killam’s brief appearance. I didn’t realize until now just how tiny and gaunt of a build Paul Brittain has, and I couldn’t help but chuckle. I don’t mean to make fun of Paul’s physical appearance or anything, but DAMN, dude is short and skinny as hell. He looked like a little kid standing next to Taran Killam.
• Was that Nasim in both pictures as Kenan’s deceased wife and new girlfriend?
Sketch - Darlique and Barney
• Oh, come the hell on, SNL! Didn’t we already get our obligatory “New Annoying Wiig Character of the Week” out of the way earlier? And of all episodes for them to let Kristen go hogwild and turn SNL into “The Kristen Wiig Show”, why THIS one? I mean, Jon freakin’ Hamm is hosting! HAMM!!! Do the SNL writers not realize how honored they should be in having him back as host? Do they not realize that they’re supposed to bring their A-game for him? This is really sad.
• Some people are comparing this sketch to the Kulps, but I instead had flashbacks to that damn Charli Coffee lounge singer character Maya Rudolph used to do along with about 50 other annoying singing characters Maya did. The funny thing is, in my review of the Will Ferrell/Green Day episode from May 2009, while complaining about Maya’s cameo appearance in that Funeral sketch, I had this to say: “She ALMOST makes me sorry about anything bad I said about Kristen Wiig in this review. Maya’s annoying performance in this sketch makes Wiig look tolerable by comparison. At least Kristen doesn’t sing and talk in over-exaggerated regional accents in every single sketch she’s in.” That was May ‘09. Fast-forward to a year and half later in October 2010, and now I think it’s safe to say Kristen is now officially equal with Maya in consistently annoying the hell out of me. And when I think about it, Kristen’s case is even more upsetting then Maya’s for two reasons: 1) at least SNL never forced Maya down viewers’ throats as much as their shameless pimping of Kristen on a weekly basis nowadays, and 2) When Kristen was at her peak from 2005 to about early 2008, she was a far better and more valuable castmember than Maya ever was even at HER peak (which I’d say was 2001-2002), which makes it that much more depressing to watch Kristen go so horribly downhill like this.
• This sketch also kinda reminded me of that Bjelland Brothers sketch earlier this season from the Bryan Cranston episode. The repeated bits throughout this one with Hamm and Wiig’s “Or was it?” (*deep piano note*) reminded me of Cranston and Armisen repeating “Did ya get it?” This is an accurate comparison, especially since both sketches were equally unfunny to me and almost put me to sleep.
Miscellaneous - American America presents: “Dog in Purse”, with David Spade
• So this FINALLY makes it to air, after getting cut after dress multiple times. Actually, come to think of it, the cartoon that kept getting cut was another one with Dana Carvey as the voice of a hippie, wasn’t it? Either way, both cartoons are part of the same American America series.
• This cartoon was certainly an interesting change of pace for SNL, and of course, it was really cool hearing Spade on the show again. Though his voice sounded a bit strange this time, like it was deeper or something.
• While this wasn’t quite as hilarious as I thought it would be, it was still a pretty amusing segment and definitely welcome after the last two sketches that preceded this tonight. Spade’s lines about Willow Smith got some good laughs from me.
• Why do I get the feeling that Charlie Sheen joke was the main reason they finally let this cartoon air this week?
• Overall, while I liked this and would definitely like to see more, I don’t know if these Fred Wolf “American America” segments have the potential to fill the void left by TV Funhouse. For some reason, this reminds me more of those non-Smigel animated segments that aired in the late 90’s for a short time: Go Lords and MAAKIES (anyone remember those?)
• both Back to the Future Screen Test segments
• I Didn’t Ask For This
• Jason Sudeikis as Joe Biden
• Darlique and Barney
• Highway Cops
• Weekend Update, minus the James Carville segment
• Bobby Moynihan as Sam Kinison
Best Performer of the Night:
• Jon Hamm
*sigh* I didn’t think it would happen, but it did. An actual disappointing Jon Hamm episode. Hamm’s previous two episodes were both fantastic and among the best from each of those seasons and Hamm proved himself to be the new-era Young Alec Baldwin of SNL - so naturally, even though I’m not very satisfied with the current state of SNL’s writing, I had high expectations tonight for another great Hamm show and I thought his presence would snap the writers into shape like when he hosted last season. Boy, was I wrong. Tonight’s episode wasn’t terrible, but for Hamm show standards, it was definitely a letdown. A far cry from the Hamm masterpiece we’ve come to expect.
If you wanna know what the problem was, one of the main issues is that they treated tonight too much like a routine everyday episode and I just can’t understand why. I mean, Hamm was hosting! The writers went all out in his first two episodes and worked their asses off to give him outstanding, excellent material; why the hell didn’t that happen this week? If tonight’s episode is an example of them bringing their A-game, then it’s beyond undeniable that the current writing staff needs a serious overhaul. And there’s another big issue that hurt this episode, and I feel like I don’t even have to say it at this point... Let’s just say I’m referring to the continued reign of terror from a certain castmember who’s name rhymes with Tristen Tiig.
On the brighter, more positive side, I have to give credit to Jon Hamm for still doing an excellent hosting job as usual. He clearly put in 100% and gave it his all, even in laughless snoozefests like the lounge singers sketch or Highway Cops, and showed why he’s such a popular recurring host. And the Back to the Future Screen Test segments were all inspired and very funny and memorable; definitely among my favorite sketches of this season so far. THAT’S the kind of high-quality material that I thought this episode would have more of.
CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 3 sketches (Vincent Price, Screen Tests #2, Update)
ELLIOTT: 3 sketches (Audition, Screen Tests #2, I Didn’t Ask For This)
HADER: 6 sketches (Monologue, Vincent Price, Screen Tests #1, Screen Tests #2, Update, I Didn’t Ask For This)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
MOYNIHAN: 3 sketches (Digital Short, Screen Tests #1, I Didn’t Ask For This)
SAMBERG: 3 sketches (Monologue, Digital Short, Screen Tests #2)
SUDEIKIS: 3 sketches (Joe Biden, Audition, Highway Cops)
THOMPSON: 4 sketches (Monologue, Screen Tests #2, Highway Cops, Darlique and Barney)
WIIG: 6 sketches (Vincent Price, Screen Tests #1, Audition, Update, I Didn’t Ask For This, Darlique and Barney)
BAYER: 1 sketch (Digital Short)
BRITTAIN: 3 sketches (Digital Short, I Didn’t Ask For This, Highway Cops)
KILLAM: 4 sketches (Digital Short, Screen Tests #2, I Didn’t Ask For This, Highway Cops)
PEDRAD: 3 sketches (Monologue, Digital Short, Vincent Price)
PHAROAH: 1 sketch (Screen Tests #1)
JON HAMM: 8 sketches (Monologue, Digital Short, Vincent Price, Screen Tests #1, Audition, I Didn’t Ask For This, Highway Cops, Darlique and Barney)
Before I end this review, I have an announcement to make. My review of the next new episode is going to be special because it will officially be my 10 year anniversary of doing SNL episode reviews. My very first SNL review ever was on November 4, 2000 for the Charlize Theron/Paul Simon episode right after it originally aired, and I’ve been doing reviews for the show consecutively ever since then. Yep, it’s hard for even ME to believe that I’ve been reviewing for 10 years straight, but I have. It doesn’t feel like that long ago when I started these reviews, but when I think about exactly how long ago 2000 was, then that’s a pretty impressive record. I’m going to celebrate my 10 year anniversary in the next new episode’s review with a special look back: I’ll be posting excerpts from my very first review ever, highlights of my earliest reviews from the 2000-2001 season, and excerpts of my reviews for some of my favorite sketches from the past 10 years. Hope you’re looking forward to it.