Season finales of Saturday Night Live can be sketchy sometimes especially where the cast is finally wearing down after a whole buttload of work throughout the year and their motivation has worn down considerably since September. Really, they just want to do a passable show and get the hell out for four months. Sometimes they have a wild card as a host for the finale, but it is usually much preferred to have someone more dependable like a Kevin Spacey or Steve Carell or Steve Martin.
Or this man. Alec Baldwin.
Making this his fifteenth time hosting (an all-time record tied with Steve Martin), Alec has always been one of the perennial go-to hosts and even though he’s had a few lackluster episodes, his performance is always up to par and he proves to be a great foil for the rest of the cast.
Baldwin is joined this week by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, who are making their slightly-less-impressive eighth appearance (which nearly reaches Paul Simon’s record). I have always been a fan of Petty and co. and to see them reach a plateau of eight appearances thus far is a joy to behold. Their new album is slightly more folk-inspired rock but retains that great Heartbreakers sound we all know and love.
Onto the program!
1. Oil Spill Press Conference
Representatives from British Petroleum (Hader), Transocean (Armisen), and Haliburton (Sudeikis) discuss the plans they have to eradicate the oil spill problem. After bringing up the failed plans they already put into effect, the reps discuss their new ideas like “Dolphins with Mops,” “Duct Tape,” and “The Back-Up Plan.” The dolphins idea was my favourite tied with the title of the aforementioned J.Lo film. It was brief but pretty damn funny. B+
Alec quickly notes that he has hosted “14 times more than Betty White” before bringing out his good friend Steve Martin on TV “live via satellite.” He mentions his honourary doctorate, distinguishing himself as Dr. Alec Baldwin OBGYN and then gives his Saturday Night Live commencement address. Balwin’s charm and wit make for an entertaining monologue. B
3. Digital Short: Great Day
A man (Samberg) strung out on coke spends his day jumping around dancing and singing with the neighbourhood. Andy and co. do a terrific job here creating a delightfully dark, twisted, and zany short with some great visual jokes and a wonderful performance from Samberg himself. Even Alec and Tom Petty join in the fun for a brief moment. A+
4. Arizona Evenings
It’s the debut of another Kristen Wiig character. But unlike the Target lady, Gilly (who’s sort of grown on me), and Sue this character is not appealing at all. While filming a scene for the aforementioned soap opera, the new script supervisor, Starfish (Wiig) repeatedly interrupts to inform Morgan (Baldwin) that he is saying the wrong line among other less important factoids. C
5. Swim Team Awards
The Hudson Valley Swim Team’s coach, Coach Rooney (Baldwin) gives out awards for his ultimate loser team. While he gives out awards for things like participation and improvement, he also offers out snide comments and reveals secrets like a kid whose mom he is having an affair with. Good character and performance from Alec. B
6. Birthday Cookout
Social weirdo Bedelia (Pedrad) careens her way around her birthday cookout while hanging out with her father (Baldwin) on grill duty. Her awkward conversations with fellow teens at the party are the highlights of this wonderful character study. Bedelia is easily one of the most interesting characters of the most recent past as she goes from person to person while always maintaining a strange loyalty to her parents and never changing her personality to suit the end of the sketch. Another winner. A-
Sally Field (Elliott) warns all women that they will all experience bone loss because all women “are incredibly weak and fragile.” Hence, she advertises Preniva, which isn’t necessary but is there for women who are simply scared of falling apart. Another home-run impression by Elliott and a funny ad parody on top of that. B+
8. Grady Wilson’s Intimate & International
The fourth installment of Grady’s (Thompson) sex tapes this time involves his Greek friend Costas (Baldwin), who also shows some very strange and seemingly non-sexual moves to practice with one’s lady friend. I liked this bit when it first started but now it’s starting to get a bit old and repetitive. C+
9. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers sing “I Should Have Known It”
As I mentioned earlier, Petty & the ‘Breakers have turned their attention to a more folksy way of rockin’ out but it seems to have paid off in this enjoyable tune. B+
10. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers
Oh, Seth. No matter the quality of the episode, you are usually one of the highlights with your great smarmy delivery and great news bits. I especially loved his bit on the oil reps just naming things around the room to fix the problem with the spill “Usual Suspects style.” This week, Snooki (Moynihan) stops by to discuss her hideous orange skin and the prospects of the second season of the unfortunate hit series Jersey Shore. Stefon (Hader) also makes another bizarre appearance (another one of my favourite characters) and this time, Hader manages to keep his composure except for one very brief moment. Finally, Garth (Armisen) and Kat (Wiig) show up to promote their summer tour and again, sing a bunch of songs they make up as they go. Lots of fun on Update this week. A+
It’s a parody of those infomercials that air late at night…usually after shows like this. This time, it’s a microwave that instantly nukes your food because it depends on your remembering to send a frozen meal back in time so you could’ve eaten it in the first place. Of course, our hosts (Baldwin & Wiig) remind us that if you do not send the food back at the correct time, you could create one of those time-space paradoxes that destroys or alters life as we know it. This was full of clever sight gags (while also poking fun at “celebrity” endorsements) and probably my favourite live sketch of the night. A
12. Whistle If You Can
A one-joke sketch where a john (Baldwin) tries to help a young hooker (Slate) change her ways but there is a method to his madness. I can’t even say what it is without giving the joke away, but suffice to say it is worth the build-up. B+
Two snipers (Sudeikis & Thompson) maintain their sniper positions while taking orders from a less-than-intelligible general, who repeatedly tells them to “TAKE DA SHAW!” They of course have no idea what he’s talking about. This is another one-joke sketch, albeit slightly less successful. B-
14. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers sing “Jefferson Jericho Blues”
This tune has more of a bluesy sound to it as is probably quite obvious from the title of the song alone. Another goodie. B+
Alec, Tom and co, and the cast wave goodnight to one and all and close out another season of Saturday Night Live.
Well, for the finale, SNL basically went back to basics and got themselves a very dependable host to end the season with. Alec was great as usual and even helped to elevate the couple of sketches that were somewhat lacking in quality.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers debuted their new sound and consequently their new album with a bang and two good performances.
Host Rating: A-
Musical Guest Rating: B+
Show Rating: B/B+
PS: Sorry for only one picture this week, but I had to write this kind of fast. The year-end Saturday Night Live Best of/Worst of will be posted at some point tomorrow.