***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?
Cold Opening - Booknotes
• Beforehand, I was expecting tonight's obligatory Petraeus cold opening to be good, but instead, they lazily went for the obvious with the jokes, and the resulting cold opening just didn't work at all. There were little-to-no laughs here.
• There's absolutely no doubt that Jim Downey wrote this, not only because he did the voice-over heard at the beginning and end, but also because this fits the "one person drones on and on for 5 long minutes" style his cold openings typically have nowadays. I honestly don't understand why SNL thinks opening the show with something like that is supposed to get audiences excited.
• The cutaways to everyone's facial reactions in the crowd was just standard predictable stuff (I'm surprised they didn't throw Kenan in there to do his trademark "bug-eyed shocked look"). I did like the bit at the end with Fred having a smile on his face, but even that was a fairly lazy joke, much like the rest of this opening.
• Unusual LFNY at the end; they don't often have LFNY being delivered by an unseen voice-over, but it has happened a few times in the past. I think the last time was in the Queen Latifah episode from 2003, where Chris Parnell as a voice-over said LFNY at the end of a "60 Minutes" cold opening.
Song-and-Danceologue - Jeremy Renner
• See what I did there? Yeah, I'll be calling each musical-themed monologue by that title for the time being, because they do these so frequently nowadays that it's become a rarity to NOT see the host singing and/or dancing in this portion of each episode. Out of the 8 episodes this season, only 2 monologues didn't involve dancing or singing (Daniel Craig and Louis C.K.). I'm just pointing out a fact; I'm not saying these monologues are automatically bad because it involves singing/dancing. I don't have much of a problem with it as long as the segment is funny, which is all that matters.
• As for tonight's song-and-danceologue, well... it WASN'T funny. The joke of Renner basing his movie theme songs on already-existing popular songs is already a tired premise that's been done many times before, but this was hampered even further by all the awkwardness. First off, Renner was clearly uncomfortable right from the start with his halting delivery and nervous loud chuckling (and what was with his "Once again, I cannot believe I agreed to do this" ad-lib as he sat down at the piano?), and then there of course was the embarrassing audio gaffe with the piano, which was pretty damn bad. I know this is live TV, but I can't remember the last technical error that screwed up a sketch as badly as this. To Renner's credit, he tried his best to improvise his way out of it, but it really threw off the rest of the monologue. I'm guessing they'll be showing the dress version of this in reruns.
• One line I kinda chuckled at was him shortening "Captain America" to "Captain Amer" just so it could rhyme with "there".
• Anyone else think Renner kinda looks like Peter Sarsgaard, particularly the eyes? I kinda noticed before, but the resemblance really stood out to me during tonight's episode.
Commercial - Your Hometown
• A fairly clever tourism ad parody that a lot of viewers can relate to.
• Some of the funniest parts included the line about watching "the deepest TV ever sold", the exotic destinations for smoking weed, and Taran planning to visit his old teachers before thinking "Why would I do this?" and then turning around.
• I also liked the brief bit with Tim Robinson as the former high school classmate, simply because the goofy gleeful smile on his face cracked me up.
Sketch - The Californians
• Anyone familiar with my reviews can guess what my reaction to this sketch popping up tonight was. I know this sketch is popular, but I JUST. DON'T. GET. IT.
• That being said, I got two chuckles out of tonight's installment: 1) the camera randomly zooming into the baby picture during one of the usual "dramatic close-up" sequences where the camera zooms into each of the characters' faces, and 2) Tim Robinson jumping up and down in the background during the final mirror shot so he could be seen in the reflection. That may only be two chuckles, but it's two more than I usually get watching these awful Californians sketches. We're taking baby steps here, people.
• I wish they had brought back Jason's thick-mustached character from the previous installment. He was funny to look at.
• I have to give them credit for attempting to add some dimension to Vanessa's maid character, which used to just be a throwaway bit role in the previous installments.
• Speaking of Vanessa's maid character, here's something I never understood: if one of the points of these Californians sketches is that all the characters talk in the same goofy California accents, then shouldn't the maid talk like that as well? Why give her a typical Mexican accent? Wouldn't it be "funnier" (allegedly) to have the Mexican maid speaking in the same California accent like the other characters?
Sketch - The Situation Room
• I had forgotten about Jason's Wolf Blitzer impression, as they haven't done a Situation Room sketch since the 2010-11 season. I notice tonight that they toned down the usual bit with Jason's Blitzer mumbling occasional words; I think they only had him do that once in tonight's sketch.
• A decent sketch overall. The joke of them manipulating the one clip of Jill Kelley because it's all they have was pretty funny, especially the re-enactment one with Tim dressed up as her.
• Renner's role was okay and I liked Jason's reactions to him, but the joke with Renner's character got a bit old after a while.
Film - The Stand Off
• Another great short film from this season. They're on a roll so far with these.
• This was a lot of fun to watch and the performances were all excellent. There were several hilarious parts; my favorites were the shower scene with them trying not to look at each other's bodies, the shot of them cramped in the back of a taxi while still holding their gun-pointing poses, and the urinal scene.
Weekend Update - Seth Meyers, featuring Katt Williams, Gov. Chris Christie
• Best jokes: Obama/Romney gifts
• Seth's Winners/Losers segment was decent tonight. He had some good comments here, especially the ones about Gen. John Allen using the scandal as a way to get out of Afghanistan, and that if the head of the CIA couldn't get away with having an affair in the digital age, there's no hope for the rest of us.
• Jay's Katt Williams impression was amazing; the voice was scarily dead-on. I'm surprised, though, that SNL even did this bit, considering they HAVE to be aware that their mostly-white target audience is probably not familiar at all with Katt Williams. Anyway, Jay's Katt Williams commentary had several funny jokes and Jay mimicked Katt's stand-up style perfectly. I particularly liked the opening comment about him not realizing that audiences came in white, as well as the multiple jokes about his own height.
• Chris Christie's cameo was certainly unexpected, as I'm sure most of us figured during Seth's introduction that Bobby's Christie impression would appear. Anyway, I was pretty impressed by Chris Christie's commentary; he had lots of amusing lines and he performed very well. In fact, he performed better here than tonight's host did all night, which is pretty sad considering Renner's the one who's an actual ACTOR.
• A surprisingly short Update, and overall, this was actually one of Seth's better Updates in quite a while.
Sketch - The Avengers
• For an Avengers parody, this was very disappointing. The premise revolving around Hawkeye not having a real superpower was lame and not strong enough to carry the whole sketch. On top of that, a majority of jokes here fell flat and didn't work.
• Along with not being all that funny, this sketch also came off very awkwardly executed with performances that felt off and pacing that was strange, especially whenever Bobby had a line - there was a noticeable long pause every time before he spoke, and the shots of him in the Hulk costume looked weird. Also, Taran started cracking up a bit towards the end of the sketch for whatever reason.
• The overall awkwardness of this sketch doesn't surprise me; I kinda guessed as soon as this started that it would be difficult to execute an Avengers parody with a live sketch, because SNL's live aspect would make it hard for them to pull off any action bits. This should've been pre-taped; it may not have made the sketch any funnier, but it would've been a lot less awkward since they would've been able to use tighter editing, appropriate special effects, and quicker pacing.
• The few laughs in this mostly came from Jason referring to Hawkeye as "Hunger Games", and Taran's line "And why would I need an arrow... I have this shield!"
Sketch - Movie Set
• "Wes Underballs"? Is this Bill's Mike Underballs character from those sketches with Jason as a dickish boom mike guy? If so, why did they change the first name of Bill's character to Wes?
• Surprisingly, Jason DIDN'T play his usual boom mike character in this, but instead played some kind of Vin Diesel knock-off, right down to the name (Dick Fuel).
• This sketch itself was stupid as hell and normally it would be considered a mostly-laughless waste of time, but Jason's performance really helped make this more tolerable for me. Something about the dopey voice he used and the way he delivered his lines cracked me up all throughout the whole sketch, even though most of his actual lines weren't funny.
• Thank goodness for Jason's performance skills, because script-wise, this looked like a leftover bad sketch that Horatio Sanz would've done in the 05-06 season, back when Horatio overstayed his welcome and his tired material started looking embarrassingly out-of-place with the new direction SNL was headed in that season. Hmm, doesn't what I just said about Horatio also describe a certain person in the current cast who's initials are F.A.?
• In one of the parts when they were filming the scene, Jason accidentally called Jeremy Renner's character "Jeremy" instead of "boss", then he corrected himself. Was that just part of the sketch or did Jason actually screw up? It seemed like a real screw-up to me, because if it was part of the sketch, why didn't Bill yell "cut"? Jason's usually a pro, so I'm surprised to see him mess up that badly.
• On a similar note, anyone notice that at the end, Renner mistakenly called Bill's character "Wonderballs" instead of "Underballs"?
• Lots of strange character-breaking in tonight's episode in general. This time, Bill started laughing for some reason during the discussion of Kim Kardashian's sex tape, then he had this "oops" look on his face like he knew he messed up. What's going on tonight, anyway? Seems to be a lot of screw-ups in every sketch.
Midnight Snack - Cool Drones
• The "Midnight Snack" name is pretty cool, and I like the intro sequence showing a monster watching TV & eating chips while a female voice-over says "And now, a Midnight Snack". It seems this can possibly become SNL's new TV Funhouse. I like the fact that they're looking for a new regular animated segment. Hopefully, this will be more successful than those weak Fred Wolf "American America" cartoons they aired two seasons ago.
• As refreshing a change of pace this was, tonight's cartoon wasn't as funny as I wanted it to be. I found the premise to be kinda disappointing, and there weren't enough funny jokes in it. Also, something about the first few scenes gave me a bit of a "The Go-Lords" vibe (remember that recurring puppet segment from the 97-98 season?).
• There were still a few parts that made me laugh, like the deep-voiced drone's constant mention of "booty", and the random massacre of the goat.
• If the Midnight Snack segment comes back, hopefully they have funnier cartoons in store for us.
Sketch - Coroner
• A hilarious 10-to-1 sketch that kept getting funnier and funnier as it went along. I loved this.
• Renner's performance was decent (for his standards), and Jason played an excellent straight man who's reactions made me laugh out loud. It cannot be said enough how much I'm enjoying Jason Sudeikis' performances this season. He's always been one of my favorites in the current cast, but he's been ESPECIALLY strong this season. If he really is leaving soon, the man is going out with a bang.
• Though as much as I loved Jason's performance here, I did notice that he kept stumbling over his lines in the first half of this sketch. It's funny that I pointed out Jeremy Renner's resemblance to Peter Sarsgaard earlier in this review, because much like tonight's episode, Sarsgaard's SNL episode from 2006 was filled with lots of awkward gaffes & tons of line-flubbing (i.e. remember the botched Hotel Room TV sketch he did with Rachel Dratch?).
• I loved the ad-libbed bit towards the end with Bill messing with Taran's face and playing drums on his chest. Also, kudos to Taran for managing to keep a straight face during that.
• The Stand Off
• portions of Weekend Update
• Cold Opening
• The Californians
• The Avengers
• the writing of Movie Set
Best Performer of the Night:
• Jason Sudeikis
CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 2 sketches (Booknotes, Californians)
BAYER: 3 sketches (Californians, Stand Off, Avengers)
HADER: 6 sketches (Booknotes, Your Hometown, Californians, Avengers, Movie Set, Coroner)
KILLAM: 5 sketches (Your Hometown, Californians, Stand Off, Avengers, Coroner)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
MOYNIHAN: 4 sketches (Your Hometown, Situation Room, Stand Off, Avengers)
PEDRAD: 1 sketch (Californians)
PHAROAH: 2 sketches (Update, Avengers)
SUDEIKIS: 4 sketches (Situation Room, Avengers, Movie Set, Coroner)
THOMPSON: 1 sketch (Californians)
BRYANT: 3 sketches (Booknotes, Your Hometown, Movie Set)
MCKINNON: 2 sketches (Booknotes, Avengers)
ROBINSON: 4 sketches (Your Hometown, Californians, Situation Room, Movie Set)
STRONG: 2 sketches (Booknotes, Situation Room)
JEREMY RENNER: 7 sketches (Songologue, Californians, Situation Room, Stand Off, Avengers, Movie Set, Coroner)