by Brendan Wahl
1. New York Sports Now (4:33)
A number of sportscasters (Hader, Thompson, Pharoah, & Killam) are caught up in the hysteria of basketball player Jeremy Lin and “Linsanity” that they keep resorting to making puns about how much they love the guy while one caster (Killam) goes a little too far with the racial epiphets.
- I’ll be honest: I don’t follow sports at all so I was a little confused when this sketch started. However, I soon realized what the joke was here and suffice to say, I was definitely along for the ride.
- Once again, Taran was the highlight here. His over-the-top racial comments were hilarious as were Kenan and Jay’s annoyed reactions. The real bite to these comments came from the fact that the Jeremy Lin comments were already borderline-racist, harmless as they may appear.
- The New York Post really said “Amasian”? Wow.
- The Jackie Robinson tribute video was hilarious too with the “Tolerant” line at the end and the gong hit by Pharoah following the segment.
- The absolute best part here though was definitely Bill Hader dubbing an interview with Jeremy Lin.
Rating: **** 1/2
2. Monologue (4:38)
Maya talks about all her lovin’ with the cast when she was on the show and then spends the rest of the monologue singing around the studio while finding all her former flings, including Lorne, Paul Simon (!!!), & Stefon (Hader).
- Much better monologue than I was expecting from Maya and you just KNEW she was going to sing.
- It looks like there was a technical glitch there where Maya was supposed to wink after seeing Stefon but the sound effect only came in just after she left. Still, it was great to see Lorne, Paul, and Stefon all standing together. What a funny visual!
- Having all the dancers on-stage at the beginning reminded me of the beginning of Melissa McCarthy’s monologue (before Kristen replaced the female dancers) earlier this season.
- The gong playing for Seth Meyers was so strange but funny nonetheless.
3. Bronx Beat (8:08)
Betty (Amy Poehler!) and Jodi (Rudolph) host another edition of their catty talk show after a “15-month hiatus.” After making some chit-chat about Valentine’s Day and their personal lives, they welcome their guests, two members of the crew (Justin Timberlake! Samberg!), that resemble the hosts quite a bit.
- I usually don’t care for this sketch at all but it was nice to see it again after a long hiatus and it was a bit more creative than usual, especially when it came to the guests themselves.
- I actually really enjoyed the pre-guest banter between Maya and Amy this time with the highlights being the discussion about “Hoarders,” Jennifer Lopez dating a younger guy, and the fake-out with Maya explaining what romantic things her husband did for her.
- Looks like they both had a bit of a crack-up at one point.
- The appearance by Justin Timberlake was completely unexpected and it was pretty funny. Combining him with Samberg was a good idea.
Rating: *** 1/2
4. Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Laughs! (2:25)
Maya Angelou (Rudolph) hosts her own prank show much in the same style of Betty White’s new show in which she does “nasty” pranks on her friends like Morgan Freeman (Pharoah), Cornel West (Thompson), and Stephen King (Hader). Of course, after every one of these “harsh” pranks, Maya reveals herself and shares an emotional moment with her victims.
- This was pretty funny and I did enjoy Rudolph’s Maya Angelou impression, which was well-utilized here.
- Jay debuts another awesome impression here with Morgan Freeman.
- I thought for sure that Maya had done this impression on the show before but I was surprised to learn that she had not.
Rating: *** 1/2
5. Baby Blue Ivy (6:51)
Jay Z (Pharoah) and Beyonce (Rudolph) celebrate the birth of their new baby and receive visits from several celebrities including Prince (Armisen), Nicki Minaj (Pedrad), LL Cool J (Thompson), Taylor Swift (Wiig), Brad Pitt (Killam) & Angelina Jolie (Elliott), and Justin Vernon (Timberlake) of Bon Iver fame.
- I was not expecting this to evolve in a multi-impression sketch and as soon as Fred’s Prince impression showed up, I thought for sure that it would be framed much like the Prince Show sketches back a few years ago (they DID repeat the joke about Prince getting scared and hiding). Still, this was funny due to the performances involved.
- Andy as “white butler” was a funny joke.
- The Good: Rudolph/Beyonce; Pharoah/Jay Z; Armisen/Prince; Pedrad/Nicki Minaj; Killam/Brad Pitt; Elliott/Angelina Jolie; Timberlake/Justin Vernon
- The Average: Wiig/Taylor Swift
- The Bad: Kenan/LL Cool J
- So as you can see, I enjoyed most of the impressions. I’d say Pitt, Jolie, and Vernon were my ultimate favourites. This is the third time (I think) that the show has poked fun at a musical guest from the same season.
- The ending seemed miscued and awkward as Rudolph said “bye” twice.
Rating: *** 1/2
- Unique is the best word I can use to describe this performance but I don’t mean it in a bad way. Not a bad little tune though. I liked it.
7. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers & Amy Poehler (6:51)
- We get a Really!?! segment on the birth control hearing that did not have any women invited to the proceedings. The return of Amy was great and Seth & Amy had some pretty cutting remarks regarding the situation. The best one was the comment on Catholics.
- I like how Seth asked Amy to stick around and tell jokes.
- No guests this week? Surprising.
8. What Up With That? (7:28)
- I didn’t expect this to come back after the one last season seemed like the swan song. I do enjoy this sketch but I really felt like the one last year should’ve been the finale as it was awesome, had great cameos, and told more about the characters involved on the show. This was good but certainly not one of the better ones.
- Crazy to see Bill O’Reilly there. I don’t like him at all but he did a good enough job by just plugging his book and looking annoyed at Kenan’s interruptions. I don’t think he stuck around for the goodnights though.
- Oops, a rare line flub for Taran at the beginning there!
- Maya’s character was pretty good and I did like her silly accent. Also, what the heck was Abby Elliott doing?
9. Super Showcase (4:10)
- This was pretty terrible and reminded my of why I used to find Rudolph so damn grating back in the day. Combined with a hammy Wiig character, this died a slow death (and I like Wiig!).
- The only redeeming value of this sketch was Rudolph, Wiig, and Hader all cracking up throughout the sketch. Bayer came close as well.
Rating: * 1/2
10. The Obama Show (4:11)
In order to spread awareness of childhood obesity, Michelle Obama (Rudolph) presents a very Cosby-esque program revolving around the Obamas and the crazy misadventures they find themselves getting into.
- This was very silly but very funny and I especially liked the design of the opening credits with things like Joe Jamal-Biden dancing around. Much like the Beyonce/Jay Z sketch, they swerved me again though as I thought this was just going to be a Michelle Obama-addresses-the-nation opening rather than the full-fledged sketch we got here.
- Fred doing his Obama voice like Theo Huxtable was terrific and it breathed some life into the impression.
- Sudeikis as Joe Biden was the highlight here, especially when he showed up and took the blame for the hoagie in exchange for borrowing the car.
- Loved the “next week preview” with Amy returning as Hillary Clinton.
- The vocals seemed to be mixed pretty low for this performance but otherwise, it was just as good as the first.
12. How’s He Doing? (4:54)
The host (Thompson) of an African-American political discussion show fields questions to his two guests (Rudolph & Pharoah) about how Barack Obama is doing as the president and what it would take for them to not vote for him in the upcoming election.
- A fairly funny concept with a good performance from Pharoah in particular.
- The best part was the “what would it take?” segment with Maya and Jay consistently backing Barack Obama no matter what he did including a love affair with Ke$ha.
Rating: *** 1/2
OVERALL: Way better than any Maya Rudolph-hosted show had any right to be. She didn’t annoy me at all tonight except for maybe the gameshow sketch but the corpsing prevented that a bit anyway. There was some really good writing tonight and even Bronx Beat was good, which is definitely a great sign of an enjoyable episode! As for the cast, I have to give it up to Jay Pharoah for doing an awesome job tonight and he even managed to get some solid airtime with cameos out the ying-yang on top of that.
HOST: MAYA RUDOLPH – 8 segments (Monologue; Bronx Beat; Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Laughs!; Baby Blue Ivy; What Up With That?; Super Showcase; The Obama Show; How’s He Doing?)
CAMEOS: BILL O’REILLY – 1 segment (What Up With That?)
AMY POEHLER – 3 segments (Bronx Beat; Weekend Update; The Obama Show)
PAUL SIMON – 1 segment (Monologue)
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE – 2 segments (Bronx Beat; Baby Blue Ivy)
KATE UPTON – 1 segment (What Up With That?)
FRED ARMISEN – 4 segments (Monologue; Baby Blue Ivy; What Up With That?; The Obama Show)
ABBY ELLIOTT – 2 segments (Baby Blue Ivy; What Up With That?)
BILL HADER – 5 segments (New York Sports Now; Monologue; Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Laughs!; What Up With That?; Super Showcase)
SETH MEYERS – 2 segments (Monologue; Weekend Update)
BOBBY MOYNIHAN – 1 segment (What Up With That?)
NASIM PEDRAD – 2 segments (Baby Blue Ivy; What Up With That?)
ANDY SAMBERG – 4 segments (Monologue; Bronx Beat; Baby Blue Ivy; What Up With That?)
JASON SUDEIKIS – 3 segments (Monologue; What Up With That?; The Obama Show)
KENAN THOMPSON – 6 segments (New York Sports Now; Monologue; Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Laughs!; Baby Blue Ivy; What Up With That?; How’s He Doing?)
KRISTEN WIIG – 3 segments (Monologue; Baby Blue Ivy; Super Showcase)
VANESSA BAYER – 2 segments (What Up With That?; Super Showcase)
TARAN KILLAM – 4 segments (New York Sports Now; Baby Blue Ivy; What Up With That?; The Obama Show)
JAY PHAROAH – 5 segments (New York Sports Now; Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Laughs!; Baby Blue Ivy; What Up With That?; How’s He Doing?)
EPISODE MVP: Jay Pharoah