As I announced in my review of the season finale back in May, I will be retiring from reviewing after this season ends. I've been doing these SNL reviews every year since way back in 2000, and this will be my 14th consecutive season. Wow, even I'm shocked that I've been doing it that long. It's definitely been a fun ride for the most part, but lately, reviewing has started to take its toll on me. Over the past two seasons, it's gotten to the point where doing these reviews has begun to feel like a real chore for me. When I came to that realization last season, it really bothered me. These reviews are supposed to be fun for me to do, and when the fun of it has gone away, what's the point of forcing myself to continue? That's when I came to terms with the fact that it's time for me to hang it up. So that's why I've decided this will be my final season.
My diminished interest in reviewing doesn't reflect how I feel about SNL itself. I always look forward to watching the show every week, and I can't imagine myself ever giving up SNL, not even for a brief period. It's just that after I retire from reviewing, I'm looking even more forward to being able to sit back and watch SNL as just a pure viewer, and not a reviewer where I have to worry about taking notes during every sketch, jotting down which castmembers appear in a sketch, thinking about what I'm going to say in my review of a sketch I'm watching, etc. The last time I was able to watch a new regular SNL episode without having to worry about all that reviewing stuff was way back at the beginning of the 2000-01 season! I still remember what that feeling was like, and I'm itching to go back to that feeling again after this season.
In my review of the Affleck season finale back in May, I also announced that I will be doing something special in my reviews this season to make my final season a significant one. What I'm going to do is, each week at the beginning of my reviews this season, before I review the actual episode, I will be doing a weekly "look back" on one of my all-time favorite sketches from the seasons that I've reviewed, by re-posting the original review I wrote for the selected sketch back when it originally aired. Each week will focus on a different sketch, spanning from 2000-2013. To kick things off, tonight's look back will be at a brilliant installment of The Falconer from the Kevin Spacey/Nelly Furtado season finale (May 20, 2006). Here's the original review I wrote for the sketch:
[SKETCH] The Falconer
-- Good lord, this was absolutely insane and off-the-wall and I was laughing my ass off at every second it. I love the Falconer sketches, but it was good to see them do something completely different with it, and seeing castmember after castmember playing the Falconer was just a riot (Kenan had me laughing the hardest).
-- I wish they put Tina in this since her absence prevented this from being a full-cast sketch, and it’s not everyday you see a full-cast sketch when you have as many as 16 freaking castmembers, so that would’ve been amazing to see. Plus, you’d figure she would want to be in a sketch for her last show.
-- I wonder if this means this is the last Falconer sketch. Nice to retire a sketch before it gets stale, I suppose. I highly doubt this means Will himself is leaving like others are speculating, though, because why would he leave after only 4 seasons?
***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?
Cold Opening - President Obama on the Affordable Care Act
• They're still doing those tired "Next on C-Span..." intro bits at the beginning of these cold openings? I was hoping that went out the door with Downey.
• Why does Jay always stumble over a line every time he plays Obama?
• An okay cold opening, with most of the walk-ons being pretty good and some of them being really funny. I especially loved Taran as Ted Cruz, Bobby as the father berating his son (Beck Bennett), and Aaron Paul cameo #1.
• Cecily's bit was completely forgettable, and I really could've done without Kenan's lame appearance.
• Not surprised that this ended up being Jay's only appearance of the night. I agree with those who are predicting that now that we have such a huge overstuffed cast, Jay probably will mostly just be used for only Obama and very little else this season. Hell, that already started happening late last season, where Jay got no significant roles at all in the last three episodes.
• I'm disappointed and a bit surprised that the montage hasn't changed. I know they introduced this montage just a year ago, but I was hoping that with all the big cast changes and the "new era" feeling that this season will hopefully have, that they would use a brand-new opening montage. Personally, I don't care for this current montage at all. I got bored with it really quickly last season and I want to see moving shots of the castmembers, not boring still photos.
• I did notice that Cecily's picture is different this season. I think Kenan changed his pic, too. I've always felt that whenever SNL uses the same opening montage from the preceding season, they should at least change all of the castmembers' pictures, like they did in the 1996-97 and 1982-83 seasons.
• It feels odd but refreshing seeing the first castmember in the montage be someone OTHER than Fred Armisen. Up until now, he's been the first one announced in the opening montage since way back in 2004!
• I'm kinda surprised they promoted Aidy already, considering she didn't get much airtime last season, but I guess they want the six new castmembers to be the only featured players this season, which I can understand. Feels strange seeing Aidy so early in the credits, though.
Monologue - Tina Fey
• I liked the opening bit with Tina showing pictures of her non-existent recurring characters, especially when they showed "Lady with No Theme Song"'s opening sequence.
• When Tina was showing clips of herself dancing behind various hosts in their monologues, where did that Bernie Mac clip come from? It certainly wasn't from the live show, because that didn't happen at all in Mac's monologue or anywhere else in his episode. His monologue in the live show was just him doing stand-up comedy, not singing & dancing with the female cast. I'm guessing that clip was from dress rehearsal and they must've re-written his monologue between dress and air.
• This was a very unexpected and unique way to introduce the new castmembers, and it turned out to be fun. Before tonight, I figured the most we would get would be Tina running into the newbies backstage and saying something to them quickly, ala Mariel Hemingway's monologue from 95-96 or Jack Black's 03-04 monologue where he briefly introduced Kenan and Finesse Mitchell.
• I didn't realize until now that Brooks Wheelan is so tall. He looked average height to me in the stand-up videos I've seen of him.
• I'm surprised by how young-faced John Milhiser looks on the show. I can already tell that he will probably be the go-to guy for every little kid/teenager role the writers come up with.
• Speaking of John Milhiser, was him having trouble tearing off his breakaway pants an intentional joke or a real blooper? I'm gonna guess the latter.
• Out of all the newbies' dancing, Beck Bennett amused me the most. He seemed REALLY into it.
• I found it odd that despite the fact that this monologue was all about introducing the newbies, Tina never mentioned any of their names not once.
Commercial - Girls
• I have to admit that I've never actually watched this show (and from what I hear, I'm not missing much) so I probably didn't enjoy this commercial quite as much as someone more familiar with the show would've. That being said, I still found this commercial to be pretty good. It came off well-written, well-acted, and Tina's character was funny with lots of amusing lines.
• Even without having watched the show, I can still tell that Noel Wells did a dead-on Lena Dunham, knowing how strong of an impressionist she is. From what I've seen of Noel's pre-SNL work, she seems like she's going to be a really fun castmember on SNL. She's one of the newbies I'm looking most forward to.
• Taran made me laugh in his small appearance.
Sketch - Airport Passenger Boarding
• A simple but decent sketch that, like the cold opening, featured several funny walk-ons from the cast. My favorites were Aidy as the clapper, Kenan with the oversized luggage, and of course Bobby, who stole the whole sketch by just slowly walking by with that creepy frozen grin.
• Only one sketch in, and I see SNL's already getting mileage out of Brooks Wheelan's tallness and John Milhiser's shortness.
• Whoops, I blinked and almost missed Nasim's brief 2-second walk-on as a foreigner. Seriously, they might as well have just given that role to an extra.
Sketch - New Cast Member or Arcade Fire?
• Wow, another segment tonight centered on the new castmembers playing themselves? Cool. SNL's really rolling out the red carpet for these guys tonight, which is very nice to see.
• When they showed the set for this sketch during the commercial break, I knew it would be a gameshow and I wondered who would play the host now that SNL's resident gameshow host-player (Bill Hader) is gone. I figured it would be Beck Bennett, who you can tell is going to be the new go-to guy for straight man/TV show host/commercial pitchman/father figure/voice-over roles that Hader and Sudeikis used to fill. But nope - to my surprise, Kenan showed up as the host. The only other time Kenan ever played a gameshow host was in the "What’s that Bitch Talkin’ About?" sketch, which coincidentally was ALSO in a Tina Fey-hosted episode.
• I always enjoy when SNL does meta-sketches, and this one did not disappoint. The premise was fun, and I liked Tina's descriptions of each featured player/Arcade Fire member. She especially had some funny descriptions of Win Butler ("hipster Paul Bunyan", "Serbian basketball player").
• Much to my surprise, Kenan actually did a strong job in this gameshow host role. And I loved his humbled reaction after Lorne simply referred to him as "the black one".
• Similar to my earlier question about John Milhiser's breakaway pants in the monologue, was Kyle Mooney walking the wrong way at first when he made his exit in this sketch intentional or a mistake?
• Remember when I joked about blinking and missing Nasim's brief appearance in the Airport sketch and how they should've gotten an extra to play that part? Wash, rinse, repeat. She (and Cecily) made a VERY brief appearance in this sketch playing a gameshow model handing Noel Wells and the Arcade Fire girl (sorry, I don't know her name) some instruments. Nasim didn't even have any lines, and this ended up being the last we saw of her all night. Honestly, why did SNL even bother bringing her back this season? She already seemed to be getting less-and-less airtime with each passing season, and now this season with such a giant cast and 6 females, I feel like she's going to get even more lost in the shuffle. If the way she was used tonight is a harbinger of things to come for her this year, then SHE. IS. SCREWED.
Commercial - emeth
• A decent commercial. I felt it had potential to be a little funnier than it turned out, but it was still fine.
• Taran as the main testimonial was good. I laughed at his deadpan blank facial expression after smoking the meth, him yanking his own tooth out to show how white it is, and his referring to smoking meth as getting "gakked up on woop chicken".
• What was with Kenan's mustache-less beard? It looked strange.
• The chase scene between Kenan and a naked Brooks Wheelan made me laugh.
• Aaron Paul cameo #2 was perfect, especially the obligatory "bitch" line.
Weekend Update - Meyers & Strong, featuring Tina Fey, Bruce Chandling, Drunk Uncle & his meth nephew
• The new opening Update sequence was a nice change.
• Best jokes (by default): Kindle Fire/nook
• When I initially heard that Cecily would be Seth's new co-anchor, I figured she'd do fine even though she certainly wouldn't have been my first choice for new Update anchor (if we were choosing within the cast, I'd pick Beck Bennett - he seems like he'd be a natural behind the desk). But man, was I disappointed by Cecily tonight. I didn't enjoy her Update debut AT ALL. Her delivery was way too forced and unnatural, she looked badly out-of-place paired up with Seth, and her jokes were all weak and some of them downright cringeworthy (sushi, John Stamos). I know this was just her first night at Update and hopefully she'll improve over time, but she honestly gave me the same bad vibes that I got from Amy Poehler when she was added as Tina Fey's new Update co-anchor in 04-05 - and that is not a good thing, as I HATED the Fey/Poehler era of Update. Amy was really bad at Update back then and she didn't start finding her groove until Seth became her new co-anchor in '06.
• I had a feeling they'd do something on Update tonight with Tina welcoming Cecily to the desk and giving her some advice. Tina's bit was okay but nothing special; it felt too cliched and like something we've seen Tina do a million times before. I did, however, like her false entrances at the beginning when she kept thinking Cecily was about to mention her name.
• Initially, I was happy to see Kyle Mooney get to do his Bruce Chandling character on Update in his first episode, but his appearance tonight ended up being kinda underwhelming. The character didn't work as well here as it usually does outside of the show, and his commentary tonight honestly came off too much like a bad Fred Armisen character. And what was with the part with him getting all depressed and talking about how he gets turned down at auditions a lot? That part really fell flat and went nowhere.
• Is it just me or does it seem like Seth tells at least one "dog shoots man" joke per season?
• Drunk Uncle was Drunk Uncle. I don't really know what else to say about him anymore these days. He had a few funny comments tonight (I particularly liked "Hey, SOMEONE'S gotta watch the white sports...") and SNL got their very first twerking mention out of the way ("Nowadays, everyone's just twerking 9 to 5"), but a majority of his lines tonight were unmemorable and overall, this was not one of his better appearances. This did get redeemed somewhat by Aaron Paul cameo #3, who did another good job here. Man, he's appearing more tonight than some of the actual cast!
Sketch - Cinema Classics
• Didn't care for this at all. In fact, I thought it was really stupid. The taxidermy premise was too weak to base a whole sketch on, and I barely got any laughs from this overall.
• My only chuckles came from Kenan's comments about his wife's weight, and the squirrel holding a basketball.
• The way Kenan has been used in tonight's episode is strange; several of his parts were the same type of roles that Hader and Sudeikis would usually get. And as much as I hate to admit it, Kenan actually did a surprisingly good job in some of them.
Sketch/Commercial - "Cars" for Sale
• Two old-timey sketches in a row? And strangely enough, both involved a car (was it the same one?).
• I liked the idea behind this sketch a lot and Tina did a great job as the demented wife; she had one funny one-liner after another (my favorite was the one about her giving all her babies to the well). However, Mike O'Brien's awkward performance hurt the sketch a bit. His delivery was too stilted and you'd think he was reading these lines for the very first time with no rehearsals beforehand. Normally, I would cut a new castmember some slack for coming off awkward on their first night, but O'Brien's no stranger to performing on SNL - he had already been in various sketches over the last few seasons when he was just a writer and I certainly don't remember his delivery coming off as bad as it did in this sketch.
• Despite his weak performance, I did like the running gag with O'Brien's lists only having one item ("Model T.....", "seats......").
Sketch - Manolo Blahnik
• These ex-porn stars sketches still make me laugh and everything, but the concept and freshness is starting to get worn out and tonight's installment has to be the weakest one by default. I understand why they continue to do these sketches, but they need to space them out more. They don't need to be on so frequently; they already used these characters in the season finale.
• There were still several lines that made me laugh, although not quite as many as usual. The best ones tonight were Cecily's story about being locked in a trunk, and Vanessa's story about the rapping gerbils from the Kia commercials.
• The Old Country Buffet bit was... weird, but I thought it was cute and it was something we don't usually see these two characters doing.
• I was wondering how they would work Tina into this since the previous installments were all with male hosts. Her character ended up being nothing special, although I loved her House Hunters comment.
• Did you notice that the six new castmembers were standing front-and-center onstage (behind Tina and Arcade Fire, of course), while the repertory players were all shoved somewhere in the back? I really like the special treatment the newbies have received tonight, and hopefully this is a sign that SNL has a lot of faith in them and that we'll be seeing plenty of them & their fresh ideas over the season.
• Also, how nice was it to see Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney gleefully hugging each other while jumping up and down in joy for getting through their first episode together?
• New Cast Member or Arcade Fire?
• Aaron Paul's appearances
• Cinema Classics
• portions of Weekend Update
Best Performer of the Night:
• Aaron Paul
CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
BAYER: 2 sketches (Girls, Manolo Blahnik)
BRYANT: 3 sketches (President Obama, Airport, Cinema Classics)
KILLAM: 5 sketches (President Obama, Girls, Airport, emeth, Cinema Classics)
MCKINNON: 4 sketches (President Obama, Girls, Airport, emeth)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
MOYNIHAN: 3 sketches (President Obama, Airport, Update)
PEDRAD: 2 sketches (Airport, New Cast/Arcade Fire)
PHAROAH: 1 sketch (President Obama)
STRONG: 5 sketches (President Obama, Girls, New Cast/Arcade Fire, Update, Manolo Blahnik)
THOMPSON: 5 sketches (President Obama, Airport, New Cast/Arcade Fire, emeth, Cinema Classics)
BENNETT: 3 sketches (President Obama, Monologue, Airport)
MILHISER: 2 sketches (Monologue, Airport)
MOONEY: 3 sketches (Monologue, New Cast/Arcade Fire, Update)
O'BRIEN: 3 sketches (Monologue, New Cast/Arcade Fire, Cars)
WELLS: 3 sketches (Monologue, Girls, New Cast/Arcade Fire)
WHEELAN: 3 sketches (Monologue, Airport, emeth)
TINA FEY: 8 sketches (Monologue, Girls, Airport, New Cast/Arcade Fire, Update, Cinema Classics, Cars, Manolo Blahnik)