***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?
Cold Opening - Newt Gingrich, Moon President
• A breath of fresh air compared to the last two cold opening snoozefests with Santorum and Romney. While this still wasn’t anything great (and it should’ve been), it was nice to see them do something really creative and unexpected with their obligatory presidential candidate cold opening, and this was executed decently-enough. They’re taking a small step in the right direction.
• Incidentally, it was also nice to see Bobby’s Gingrich actually, you know, TALKING for once instead of just standing silently with a dopey grin. I’ve accepted the fact that Bobby’s impression will likely never be accurate; I can’t complain too much as long as they’re doing inventive things with the Gingrich impression like they’ve done in this sketch.
• Some other nice touches were Bill as the Ronald Reagan robot, and the “May divorce be with you” line.
• Okay, time for me to address the Paul Brittain situation. [Warning: this is going to be quite long because I have a lot to say about this] Just... WOW. I was absolutely floored when I read the news about Paul’s abrupt departure from the show. At first, I assumed that maybe he left on his own terms for personal reasons, like maybe something serious happened in his personal life that caused him to leave SNL. But then after reading the responses from other board members, the general consensus seems to be that he either got fired or he left on his own due to being unhappy about his relative lack of airtime. I really hope neither of those two theories is true. First off, Paul had actually slowly been getting more and more airtime recently, started to develop some fairly well-received recurring characters, started to finally gain appreciation from SNL viewers, and had really improved as a live performer. So why the hell would they suddenly fire him while he’s making good progress like that? Or why the hell would he leave on his own when he could see his stock was rising?
There’s so much about this whole thing that just baffles me. The thing that I’m especially curious about is: why mid-season??? Very rarely have any new featured players left on their own or gotten fired right in the middle of a season. This brings back memories of Jeff Richards’ abrupt disappearance in the middle of the 03-04 season. The biggest differences in that situation, however, were 1) Jeff wasn’t a featured player when he disappeared - he was a repertory player by that point, and 2) there was no announcement or press release AT ALL beforehand about Jeff’s departure. Everyone found out about it by watching the Megan Mullally/Clay Aiken episode and unexpectedly noticing that Jeff was suddenly removed from the opening credits and made no appearances at all during the episode. It came as a total surprise. I think it was about one week later when there finally was an NBC press release about it, stating something along the lines of Jeff “left the show amicably to pursue other projects”, just like they’re claiming about Paul now. I remember calling BS on that bogus press release about Jeff back in ‘04, and I’m calling BS on this press release about Paul now. There’s no way either of them left on their own to “pursue other projects” when they were still fairly new, had yet to become breakout performers, and were still unknown in the entertainment world outside of SNL. Not to mention, wouldn’t the contract prevent new castmembers from being able to just get up and leave mid-season like that?
This whole thing actually kinda pisses me off. God knows there is quite a number of current castmembers right now who have either long overstayed their welcome (Armisen, Meyers, Wiig, Thompson) or have had 3-4 years to become breakout performers on the show but have failed at it and just come off useless and dull (Elliott, Pedrad)... and instead of losing them, we lose Paul Brittain - an underrated but promising new performer who recently had been increasingly stepping it up in showing off his potential and seemed like he was developing into a pretty solid player. If Paul really was fired, this just proves that Lorne Michaels has no clue anymore these days. Does he have ANY idea what he’s even doing anymore?
Monologue - Channing Tatum
• A decent monologue. Nothing much else to say about it.
• I had to groan initially at the gay character being played by - who else? - Fred Armisen a.k.a. Chris Kattan v2.0, but there was a somewhat-funny unexpected twist with him passing out and Andy appearing as the doctor.
• Oh, and hey, how kind of you to actually show up this week, Andy!
Sketch - It’s Getting Freaky with Cee Lo Green
• Ha, only one sketch in and they’ve ALREADY had to replace a Paul Brittain character. He was originally one of the band members the first time they did this sketch, and now they simply replaced him with Fred Armisen, right down to having Fred wear the exact same wig Paul wore last time. Oh, well, I guess it’s no different from them having Vanessa replace Jenny Slate as “Backup Singer #2” in the What Up With That sketches.
• I liked this sketch the first time, but I’m not crazy about them making it recurring. The first installment was better. This is already starting to feel a little too “routine” and it’s suffering from the same thing that a lot of recurring sketches these days suffer from: not taking the sketch into an interesting/different-enough direction in subsequent installments.
• This still had its moments, though, and Bill’s Colonel Nasty character continues to crack me up every time.
• Tatum also showcased a pretty good Matthew McConaughey impression, although the writers failed to do anything interesting with it.
Commercial - Downton Abbey
• I’ve never seen or heard of this show before, so I probably didn’t appreciate this parody quite as much as someone more familiar with that show would. However, I did still get a couple of decent laughs from this, particularly the bits with the lady who resembles a chicken and the “Fancy Entourage” line at the end.
• I’m noticing a trend on SNL lately where they do fake ads that involve no performers at all - just stock footage and Andy Samberg as a voice-over (the ESPN Bowl Madness commercial and now this).
Sketch - NFL on NBC promo shoot
• At first, I thought this was going to be like that sketch where Taylor Lautner played a high school football player taping a headshot promo and he kept making stupid faces at the camera.
• This was taken into an amusing direction with the bizarre non-sequitur statements each guy would make before they all slowly looked up at the camera with those creepy grins. My favorite was Jay talking about his little brother who was born with no mouth.
• Some people are comparing this to the Song Memories sketches, but I think this was a little more similar to those “cider chat on the porch” sketches that Kristen used to do with the hosts back in the 06-07 season (with Jaime Pressly and Peyton Manning) where they would calmly reveal random disturbing facts about themselves right before taking sips of their drink. By the way, I remember really liking those porch sketches (and Kristen is always great at doing low-key roles like that), but I’m glad they stopped doing those sketches before they got run into the ground.
• Bill’s Cris Collinsworth impression has really improved from the last time he played him in the Jane Lynch episode.
• I’m surprised by how short this sketch was, but I can’t complain.
Sketch - Secret Word
• (sigh) No. Just... no.
Weekend Update - Seth Meyers, featuring Guy Fieri, Lana Del Rey
• Best jokes: blahhh... none of the jokes stood out to me
• The Guy Fieri commentary was a mess and pretty much just wasted time. No real laughs at all here. Bobby did a very similar Guy Fieri bit on Update last season, and from what I remember, that was also barely funny at all.
• Ah, the traditional tree frog joke that’s always interrupted by an unexpected guest.
• Hmm, so they got Kristen to do the Lana Del Rey impression. Will someone please remind me why Abby Elliott (who’s supposed to be the resident female impressionist) is still in the cast? Oh, and don’t give me that “Because she’s hot” nonsense. What kind of valid excuse is that? If that really is the reason why she’s lasted so long, then that’s just pathetic and inexcusable. Some people have said that SNL probably thinks having a resident hot chick like Abby in the cast might help the ratings... well, how the hell is that supposed to happen when the resident hot chick is RARELY EVER IN THE SHOW??? Makes no damn sense. Why not hire a new woman who’s hot AND funny AND would be useful in various sketches?
• Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised at first to see SNL parodying Lana Del Rey’s controversial appearance from the last episode and Kristen did a very good impression of her, but this segment ended up disappointing me. Instead of really skewering and making fun of her performance like I was expecting, they instead seemed to subliminally defend her. This commentary came off as a toothless, safe cop-out that was most likely written by Seth himself, and this was probably his way of whining about “those negative meanies on the internets”. Compare and contrast this whole thing to the episode right after Ashlee Simpson’s infamous 2004 musical guest gig, where SNL had absolutely no problem bashing the hell out of Ashlee throughout the night (particularly in the Osama Bin Laden cold opening and in the Elton John commentary on Update). So why were they afraid to do that here with Lana Del Rey? I swear, sometimes it seems like SNL’s current writing has no balls with Seth as the head writer. I notice some people saying this is the reason why Seth would be perfect as Regis Philbin’s replacement on Live with Regis and Kelly, but to me, Seth is actually more similar to Jay Leno - both Seth and Leno epitomize that type of bland, milquetoast, inoffensive comedy that America apparently can’t get enough of.
Sketch - Bat Mitzvah
• I know I already said it, but I’ll say it once again - why is Abby Elliott still in the cast?? So she can appear in only one sketch per week in a non-speaking role??? Absolutely ridiculous!
• This sketch wasn’t really bad or anything. However, my problem is that the premise felt too cliche and overused. I swear, I already saw this same “seemingly-innocent teens suddenly dance all sexually and explicitly in front of their family” premise used several times before. Not necessarily on SNL, but in comedy in general. It made this sketch feel too unoriginal and predictable. For some reason, it also reminded me a little of that Mr. Wizard’s World sketch Nasim did with Jesse Eisenberg last season.
• Normally, I would be happy that Nasim finally got a rare lead role this season, but I can’t even make myself get excited for that anymore. Nasim is just “whatever” to me - I find her boring and average-at-best. As much criticism as Kristen Wiig receives, you at least have to admit that Kristen’s always had a very vibrant and notable stage presence that’s helped her stand out right from day one when she first joined the show. I can’t say that about any of the other three women on the show. SNL really needs to revamp the whole female cast when Kristen finally leaves, because a female cast consisting of only Abby, Nasim, and Vanessa is going to backfire right in SNL’s face - there’s no way it would work and the media would probably give Lorne hell for it. There’s no potential star power among those three women.
Sketch - Tom Brady & Janet Peckinpaugh
• Now this was the point where tonight’s already-disappointing episode started REALLY getting rough...
• This sketch was a completely laughless waste of time, and I cannot stand it when Bobby plays intentionally-annoying characters like this. The thing with Bobby Moynihan is, there’s honestly a lot of talent and potential there - the man still has the ability to be a very good performer at times, but he makes some people forget that whenever he does unfunny nonsense like this sketch. He needs to stay clear away from stuff like this, because he’s much better than that.
• Making this even worse is the fact that I can already tell this’ll be a character that Bobby’s probably going to end up playing ad-nauseum. Expect Janet Peckinpaugh to come back later this season, folks.
• Wow, they really screwed up that freeze-frame ending. I guess they’ll fix that blooper when this episode is rerun.
Commercial - Go-Techs Flex
• What in the world was this? I’m serious, people - what WAS this, because it certainly wasn’t funny.
• This came off as a totally pointless filler segment with absolutely no laughs. Just a whole bunch of weak random gags aimlessly thrown together that didn’t work at all. The studio audience didn’t respond much, either.
Sketch - Bongo’s Clown Room
• Hmm... the first time they did this sketch in the Helen Mirren episode, it was Jason’s character’s final night at Bongo’s Clown Room. Then they bring the sketch back tonight and it’s... Jason’s character’s final night at Bongo’s Clown Room. Huh??? How can he have TWO final nights at the exact same strip club, months apart? I know I shouldn’t pick apart logic in what are simply just comedy sketches, but recurring sketches are supposed to have some sort of continuity from installment-to-installment. The current writers seem to always forget that.
• The laughs in this sketch all came from Jason and ONLY Jason, who had a few funny lines here and there, particularly “We found out my nephew does not have ADHD, he’s just a little dickhead” as well as his comment about “that Sandusky fella”. That all might not be much, but hey - after the last two dreadful sketches before this, I had almost forgotten what it’s like to actually LAUGH.
• Changing the strippers to male instead of female for this installment didn’t make it any funnier, and by this point, I was beyond tired of Channing Tatum dancing seductively and showing off his body in almost every single sketch tonight.
• I don’t like the way they wasted Taran Killam in tonight’s episode; he was practically a glorified extra tonight with almost nothing but lame non-speaking roles. I know he’s still just a featured player, but I had hoped that one upside to Paul Brittain’s departure meant that Taran would get even MORE exposure on the show. If they had given Taran some big roles tonight, maybe he could’ve helped save this snoozefest of an episode.
• Newt Gingrich, Moon President
• NFL on NBC promo shoot
• Secret Word
• Go-Techs Flex
• Tom Brady & Janet Peckinpaugh
• Weekend Update
Best Performer of the Night:
• Bill Hader
CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 3 sketches (Monologue, Getting Freaky, Bat Mitzvah)
ELLIOTT: 1 sketch (Bat Mitzvah)
HADER: 4 sketches (Newt Gingrich, Getting Freaky, NFL on NBC, Secret Word)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
MOYNIHAN: 6 sketches (Newt Gingrich, Getting Freaky, NFL on NBC, Update, Tom Brady, Clown Room)
PEDRAD: 4 sketches (Newt Gingrich, Getting Freaky, Secret Word, Bat Mitzvah)
SAMBERG: 3 sketches (Monologue, Secret Word, Bat Mitzvah)
SUDEIKIS: 3 sketches (Newt Gingrich, NFL on NBC, Clown Room)
THOMPSON: 5 sketches (Newt Gingrich, Monologue, Getting Freaky, NFL on NBC, Bat Mitzvah)
WIIG: 6 sketches (Newt Gingrich, Monologue, Secret Word, Update, Bat Mitzvah, Go-Techs)
BAYER: 3 sketches (Monologue, Getting Freaky, Bat Mitzvah)
KILLAM: 4 sketches (Newt Gingrich, Monologue, Bat Mitzvah, Clown Room)
PHAROAH: 5 sketches (Newt Gingrich, Getting Freaky, NFL on NBC, Tom Brady, Clown Room)
CHANNING TATUM: 8 sketches (Monologue, Getting Freaky, NFL on NBC, Secret Word, Bat Mitzvah, Tom Brady, Go-Techs, Clown Room)