***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?
Cold Opening - The Rachel Maddow Show
• So Lorne finally decided to throw Abby a bone and let her reprise her Rachel Maddow impression after a year and a half. The last time she played Maddow, it was back in January ’09 very shortly after she first joined SNL. Who would’ve guessed that two years later, Abby’s airtime and growth on the show would show absolutely ZERO progress? Sad, isn’t it?
• Abby’s Rachel Maddow impression also thankfully improved over time (the first time Abby played her, she was basically doing an impression of Drew Barrymore doing an impression of Rachel Maddow, if that makes any sense), although it’s still not one of her best impressions.
• Bill did a fine Boehner impression as expected, but they really should’ve emphasized the bronzer on his skin much more. Where’s Bobby’s Snooki make-up when you need it?
• Nancy Pelosi still remains one of the very few tolerable Kristen Wiig roles left these days, so she didn’t bring this sketch down for me. The line about her always looking like someone’s not using a coaster was really clever.
• Overall, a solid cold opening. Nothing amazing, but it was certainly enjoyable and thankfully not a repeat like the cold opening they inflicted upon us last week.
Monologue - Anne Hathaway
• Anne’s genuine joy and enthusiasm for hosting the show is very infectious and encouraging.
• A monologue WITHOUT the host singing or taking questions from the audience? Has hell frozen over?
• While this was a welcome change of pace, this monologue was still one-joke and became very predictable. You immediately got the whole joke about 30 seconds in.
• My biggest laugh came from the Highlights magazine cover.
• Andy receiving applause from the audience when he appeared was no surprise, but Kristen receiving zero applause when she made her walk-on certainly WAS. And you know what? It sure made me smile. And I had to laugh at how she actually paused after she came on as if she was waiting for a response from the audience, yet she got nothin’. See, Lorne, you can’t force everyone to fall in love with this girl. What does it tell you when BOBBY FREAKIN’ MOYNIHAN got applause and Kristen Wiig didn’t? Seriously, Lorne - the Wiig Backlash will just continue to grow and grow the more you try to obnoxiously and unnecessarily shove her down our throats.
• Although I must say, my joy in Wiig’s lack of audience applause was ruined by her staring down/mugging the camera for absolutely no reason as she walked off at the end. She did that same thing when she danced her way off the screen in Amy Poehler’s monologue. Friggin’ camera hog.
Commercial - TSA
• This was very funny and the way they played this off like a sexy late-night phone chat line ad was hilarious. Overall, very well-done and timely.
Sketch - The Miley Cyrus Show
• Even though I liked the first installment, I was kinda hoping this wouldn’t return. And if they were going to bring it back, did they HAVE to copy pretty much the exact same formula from the first installment, down to the same banter between Miley and Billy Ray, and Miley showing a clip from a movie she’s in where she rambles endlessly? There needs to be more variety in this sketch.
• That being said, I still enjoyed tonight’s installment and Vanessa does a fantastic job with this impression. And I got some good laughs from the “sexy” picture montage. But if this sketch keeps using the same formulaic format each time, then it’s only 2 more installments away from becoming one of those recurring sketches that makes us groan every time it appears. Why not use Vanessa’s Miley in OTHER scenarios? Are ya listenin’, SNL writers?
• At first, I figured the only reason this sketch returned tonight is because Miley turns 18 in just a couple of days, yet this sketch DIDN’T EVEN MENTION IT! What the hell? There were other missed opportunities here, too. Why didn’t they mention Miley’s parents getting divorced, or make any reference to the Demi Lovato controversy currently going on? The writers actually had a chance to make some clever topical references and they blew it.
• Is it just me, or did Jason’s Billy Ray Cyrus look more like Keith Urban?
• Anne’s Katie Holmes impression stole the sketch. She was so dead-on and hilarious, and I love how she didn’t even finish her last sentence.
Sketch - Penelope
• Yep, I saw this coming as soon as the sketch started. How, you ask? Because EVERY Penelope sketch starts out with people at a gathering speaking to each other and looking as if they’re waiting for someone to arrive.
• Notice how despite being a long-established recurring character and being played by “the #1 star of SNL”, Penelope got barely ANY applause at all when she made her entrance tonight? The Wiig Backlash is a revolution and it’s taking over! Okay, okay, that’s a bit over-the-top and you know I don’t even really hate Kristen THAT much. But all of her recurring characters need to be gathered together in one sketch so they can collectively be thrown in a big fire to die. That’s guaranteed to be the most entertaining sketch of the whole season.
• It’s probably just me, but does anyone else think Anne Hathaway and Nasim Pedrad kinda resemble each other facially? It’s particularly noticeable when they both smile. SNL should’ve had them play sisters in a sketch or something. Probably would’ve been more entertaining than this one-note Penelope tripe, at least.
• One positive thing I’ll say is that I loved the screen transition at the very end where the camera pulled back from Kristen in the “celery boat” and revealed that she was laying on a greenscreen on the homebase stage.
Sketch - Royal Engagement
• This sketch had an interesting premise that was executed decently, although it felt like it could’ve been funnier. And I’m glad the whole joke wasn’t just Fred being in drag. Overall, nothing too outstanding, but the sketch was fine.
• The Fergie comment got the biggest laugh from me.
Weekend Update - Seth Meyers, featuring Guy Fieri, Chris Hunter, Jay Pharoah
• Best jokes: Quiddich World Cup
• The “Come On, Dictionary” segment was just yet another sad, thinly-veiled attempt at a variation of “Really”, which itself is long past its prime. Seth Meyers has gotten so bland and uninspired these days, it’s depressing.
• Bobby’s Guy Fieri impression is always enjoyable, but this commentary didn’t really work and got boring after a while. This impression is definitely something that works more as a supporting role in a sketch rather than the main attraction.
• Jason’s commentary as the fratboy was okay and it was yet another Will Ferrell-esque role that Jason was able to pull off just fine (remember the Randy Graves fratboy character Ferrell once did on Update?). When will Lorne fully realize that Jason is the closest this current cast will ever get to a Will Ferrell, and stop underusing him so much?
• Anyway, I liked Jason’s line about his coke dealer and how the drink tastes like Satan’s piss. And while his various recipes for a new drink seemed too similar to the premise of Bobby’s earlier Guy Fieri commentary (Seth even made an ad-lib about that after Jason left), Jason executed it in a funnier way.
• Yay, Jay Pharoah! Sorry, I’m just always very excited for this guy. It was interesting seeing him do a commentary as himself for once, especially since I don’t even think I’ve heard his real voice until now. I loved his commentary tonight about hip-hop songs for Thanksgiving. The “Thank you for being a friend” bit at the beginning was funny, and all of his rapper impressions during the song medley were dead-on as usual. His Biggie in particular had me on the floor. Did this whole commentary of Jay’s remind anyone else of when Jimmy Fallon would do guitar songs on Update where he would do impressions of various singers’ voices and do variations of their songs? In fact, Jay gave off a “young Eddie Murphy/Jimmy Fallon hybrid” vibe during this whole commentary and I like that.
• Speaking of the Jay/Eddie comparison, I agree with Lazenby in the Live Discussion thread that this may be the closest we young viewers will get to experiencing how SNL viewers back in 1980-81 felt witnessing an unknown Eddie Murphy slowly rise from a bit-part extra to a superstar.
• A quote from my season premiere review: “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.” Well, we got to see his Denzel twice in his own sketches since the time I first wrote this, and now we finally get his Jay-Z although not in its own sketch, but I’m still grateful. Thank you for listening, SNL.
Sketch - The Essentials with Robert Osborne: The Wizard of Oz
• Wasn’t this cut from a recent episode, with Abby in the Dorothy role that Anne Hathaway ended up playing tonight? Oh, well, it fits more with Hathaway anyway, especially considering the Mary Poppins sketch from her last episode.
• Too bad this was nowhere near as great as the Mary Poppins sketch. While it was at least refreshing to see Fred doing a character that didn’t feel like “same old same old” for once, he didn’t exactly get many laughs from me either, and his character’s schtick got boring fast.
• Most of my laughs actually came from whenever the camera would cut back to Jason. It made me laugh because he would just have this frozen big grin on his face for a few seconds every time the camera cut to him, and something about it cracked me up. His grin was very Phil Hartman-esque. Yes, I just compared Jason Sudeikis to both Will Ferrell and Phil Hartman in this same review. Call me crazy if you want, but I think more people would agree with those comparisons if SNL had made Jason the star/leader of the cast like I expected back in 2006 (I never would’ve expected back then that it would be Wiig who’d end up as their go-to performer).
• I can overlook the decision to cast Bill instead of Bobby as the Cowardly Lion, because Bill did a dead-on Bert Lahr. We’ve already seen how horrible Bobby is at most impressions (Guy Fieri notwithstanding), so we should be glad he didn’t get the chance to butcher yet another one.
• Hey, thinking about if Bobby played the Cowardly Lion reminded me of his Snagglepuss impression, and made me wonder what if Bobby played Snagglepuss as the Cowardly Lion in this sketch? In fact, the whole sketch could’ve gone a similar route, with the Scarecrow and Tin Man also being in the form of a famous Hanna-Barbera cartoon character. How about that, everyone? Huh? Well, it seemed like a good idea to ME anyway...
Sketch - WXPD News
• Awesome, Jason starring in another sketch! I’m so glad they’re giving him a lot of airtime tonight, considering how invisible he’s been most of this season.
• Wasn’t WXPD the same station name they used in that news sketch from the Emma Stone episode?
• I’m pretty sure this sketch was supposed to be a take-off of that hilarious news video on YouTube with an anchorman arguing with a cranky old reporter who used to be his boss. SNL seems to like doing sketches like this whenever Anne Hathaway hosts; remember in her last episode, there was that “Most YouTubed News Team” sketch that also made fun of news bloopers on YouTube?
• Bill did a great job as the senile old reporter, and we rarely ever get to see him play characters like this. The “microphone tapping” bit got worn out a little thin, but Bill kept the whole thing funny with his performance. And I liked the end with him “dying”, then suddenly coming back to life and calling Jason’s character a bastard.
• Poor Paul Brittain. Out of all the new featured players, he’s clearly struggling the most and making the least impact on the show. And yes, he still seems very awkward on camera. The only noteworthy thing Paul has done so far that’s shown promise was the Sex Ed Vincent piece, but that was pre-taped. I’m not gonna write Paul off as a bust yet; there’s still hope. Remember 5 years ago when Andy Samberg went through this exact same thing during his first few months on the show? Andy was really struggling compared to the other newbies around him that year (Sudeikis, Hader, and Wiig), he looked awkward and amateurish on camera, and everybody on the SNL forums were already predicting that Andy was going to end up getting “Rob Riggled” and last only one season (the same way people are now predicting Paul Brittain’s gonna get “Jenny Slated”), then a certain little piece called “Lazy Sunday” suddenly came along and made Andy a star overnight. Paul Brittain needs something dynamic like that to save him. I really want him to succeed on the show.
Commercial - Black Friday at Mega-Mart
• Wow, this is Bobby Moynihan’s night. He’s EVERYWHERE in this episode.
• This had a very similar vibe to the excellent Underground Rock Festival commercial from last season, with some shades of the Guantanamo Bay Going-Out-of-Business Sale commercial with Jason Sudeikis & Rosario Dawson. While this Black Friday ad wasn’t quite as great as either of those, this still worked and got some big laughs out of me.
• Bobby’s energetic performance was fantastic and really sold this fake ad (“This is happening! THIS IS HAPPENING!!!”), and there were lots of other funny parts throughout, such as the coked-up rooster, the “catch and touch Kirk Douglas” contest, the 'DJ playing music so loud that nobody can hear you scream' bit, and Anne’s performance as the hyper customer in the line outside the store.
Commercial - Camel Tame
• They came back from a commercial break at 12:45 just to show a pre-taped fake ad (second one in a row tonight), then they immediately went BACK to another commercial break? WTF? Something must’ve went wrong in the studio that caused a live sketch to get cut at the last minute, because I doubt the episode was scheduled this way.
• This got cut after dress last week and it clearly should’ve stayed that way. This fake ad was as lame and dull as they come. No laughs at all here.
• And why was Bill playing the same role he played in the Tiny Hats sketch? That WAS supposed to be the same character, right?
• Only positive thing I can say about this commercial is that Nasim looked really attractive during the close-ups of her face.
Sketch - Horse Play
• (Spade mode) Yeah, I liked this sketch the first time... when it was called Bunny Business! Hey, SNL writers, it’s called an original premise - look into it. (/Spade mode off)
• That being said, while this was a definite step down from the superior Bunny Business, tonight’s sketch was still decent overall and I still liked it. What can I say, I’m automatically drawn to sketches showcasing the whole cast doing impressions.
• Having Fred’s Randy Newman start the sketch off AGAIN was just lazy, but most of the rest of the scenes were okay, with the parody of Cee Lo’s “Fuck You” song standing out as a particular highlight.
• Speaking of the Cee Lo parody, something about that scene served as a nice reminder of how much weight Kenan’s been losing lately. Dude seems to be getting thinner and thinner by the month.
• As piss-poor as Jason’s Adam Lambert impression usually is, you HAD to laugh at his scene here with him only singing one high-pitched screechy note, then just smiling at the camera and that’s the end of the whole scene. Hilarious! Perfectly summed up Adam Lambert’s singing “range”.
• Okay, SNL - you have Bill Hader, Jay Pharoah, Taran Killam, and Abby Elliott, arguably the four best impressionists in this current cast. So where the hell were they in this sketch???
• Jay Pharoah’s commentary on Weekend Update
• Black Friday at Mega-Mart
• Anne Hathaway’s Katie Holmes impression
• WXPD News
• The Rachel Maddow Show
• the Seth portions of Weekend Update
• Camel Tame
• The Wizard of Oz
Best Performer of the Night:
• Anne Hathaway / Jason Sudeikis
By far the best episode of the season... and that’s sad. Why, you ask? Because the episode was merely just average overall. If this same episode aired in the strong 08-09 season, it would’ve been considered just a middle-of-the-road episode for that year’s standards and the episode would’ve been forgotten after a few weeks. And when you look at Anne Hathaway’s first episode from 2008, tonight’s episode definitely pales in comparison.
But when you compare tonight’s episode to the rest of this current weak season, it easily stands out in a positive way. While there was nothing classic here, this episode had the most consistently decent material of the year and the dud sketches were kept to a minimum. This was the first episode all season that I can classify as “good”. But this just shows you how far SNL has fallen this season when THIS becomes the episode of the year to rave about. Reminds me a lot of the 2004-05 season where even the better episodes of that year like Luke Wilson, Paul Giamatti, and Will Ferrell weren’t all that great overall. We do NOT need a repeat of that season; 04-05 was hell to sit through.
Anyway, Anne Hathaway brought the goods again as host and gave fantastic performances all night. She definitely has “future Five-Timer” written all over her.
CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 3 sketches (Royal Engagement, Wizard of Oz, Horse Play)
ELLIOTT: 3 sketches (Rachel Maddow, TSA, Camel Tame)
HADER: 7 sketches (Rachel Maddow, TSA, Penelope, Royal Engagement, Wizard of Oz, WXPD News, Camel Tame)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
MOYNIHAN: 8 sketches (Monologue, TSA, Miley Cyrus, Penelope, Update, Wizard of Oz, Black Friday, Camel Tame)
SAMBERG: 4 sketches (Monologue, Royal Engagement, Wizard of Oz, Horse Play)
SUDEIKIS: 5 sketches (Miley Cyrus, Update, Wizard of Oz, WXPD News, Horse Play)
THOMPSON: 5 sketches (Rachel Maddow, Monologue, TSA, Penelope, Horse Play)
WIIG: 6 sketches (Rachel Maddow, Monologue, TSA, Penelope, Camel Tame, Horse Play)
BAYER: 2 sketches (Miley Cyrus, Camel Tame)
BRITTAIN: 2 sketches (WXPD News, Camel Tame)
KILLAM: 4 sketches (Miley Cyrus, Royal Engagement, Wizard of Oz, Camel Tame)
PEDRAD: 4 sketches (TSA, Penelope, WXPD News, Camel Tame)
PHAROAH: 1 sketch (Update)
ANNE HATHAWAY: 8 sketches (Monologue, Miley Cyrus, Penelope, Royal Engagement, Wizard of Oz, WXPD News, Black Friday, Horse Play)