Archive for October, 2010


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 2, Episode 21)

As we approach the end of the season very soon, one has to look back at this point and decide what this season managed to accomplish for the cast and crew of Saturday Night Live. The Chevy era of Season 2 was a fairly solid period while the transition to Bill Murray as a replacement was a little shaky. The show did manage to have a great recovery after that though despite a few bumps in the road. Since then, there has yet to be one castmember that really comes through as Chevy’s replacement as the go-to guy. This is because the show was starting to mature. They didn’t need one guy to rely on for great comedy because they had people like the Not Ready For Primetime Players that were more than up for the task, despite certain members being underused from time to time.

Anyway, I will discuss that more in the next episode review but right now we come to one hosted by Olive Oyl herself, Ms. Shelley Duvall. You might also know her as Mrs. Torrance, the poor woman who is trying to escape her deranged and cabin fever-stricken husband in The Shining. Just before this episode however, she would have been the star of a little movie called 3 Women and she also had a part in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall that came out about a month prior to this episode. Shelley has been known for her very unique features in that her face looks like a mouse. That’s not even a particularly negative thing, but it is quite obvious that her look is very different from the average Hollywood actress.

Accompanying Ms. Duvall is Joan Armatrading on the musical end of things. This British singer/songwriter was perhaps best-known for never actually covering anyone else’s songs and instead using her own material 100% of the time. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is a moot point, but it makes Ms. Armatrading stand out from the rest as an original. Her biggest hit at the time was definitely the Top 10 hit, “Love & Affection,” so there is a pretty good chance she will play it.

Start!

The Show:

1. Programming Change (3:46)

Due to the high cost incurred by NBC because of the one-minute Norton/Bobick fight (note: Norton DECIMATED him), the network is forced to re-air the fight before every program starts. Unfortunately for Belushi, this means the Flight of the Bumblebee sketch is cut. Afterwards, the ladies (and the host) argue cattily in the dressing room and even make a crack about Shelley’s cartoon mouse face while Belushi yells the opening line on a TV in the background. This was a pretty neat idea and a funny way to make fun of the boxing match. B+

2. Video Vixens (4:07)

Instead of the traditional monologue, Shelley and the girls sing a pop-punk number about dominating television in a sort-of aggressive ballad. There’s lots of funny lines here and the whole thing brings the girls together in a solidarity against traditional comedic presences like Helen Hayes, Carol Burnett, etc. This is basically the show’s way of saying that they are tired of that old, banal type of comedy and this is now their generation! At least that’s what I got out of it. Did I look too much into it? A-

3. Bank Robber Disguises (5:06)

One man in an insect costume (Aykroyd) initiates a nasty bank heist with his associates (Belushi, Morris, & Radner) but all the teller notices (Duvall) is the shoddy job that the gang leader did with his costume, especially when compared to his colleagues. The funny thing is even his partners-in-crime get more concerned about his appearance as well while completely ignoring the job they’re doing. The whole thing eventually gets turned into a costume-judging contest as well in a ridiculous, but funny conclusion. A-

4. Joan Armatrading sings “Love & Affection” (4:20)

Joan has an amazing voice, which is the first thing that really sticks out for me here. She also plays a mean guitar and has a knack for writing some absolutely heartbreaking lyrics. This is definitely a very fine performance. A+

5. Continental Men (5:20)

In a classy joint, Ricardo Montalban, Cesar Romero, and Fernando Lamas (Aykroyd, Belushi, & Murray) interrupt a trio of ladies (Duvall, Newman, & Radner) and ask them to help figure out which one of them is which because they are so damn similar. The same joke is repeated several times throughout the sketch about different trios of celebrities that are similar to each other, but it’s all for naught. The sketch is somewhat banal, but at least it was kept short. C

6. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (Part I) (Total: 5:26)

After an amusing phone conversation, Jane discusses a contract that Duane Bobick signed with NBC… seconds before the Norton fight. More Patty Hearst goodness this week as well mostly for the picture they chose to show while Curtin told her joke. The material this week isn’t the strongest, but Jane tries her darndest especially with the bit on Watergate conspirators becoming members of the Mickey Mouse Club.

7. Black Educational Conference (1:13)

As footage is shown of the Bobick/Norton fight, Duane himself (writer Tom Davis) voices his opinion on getting more education for blacks for the sole reason being so that they stop beating up on white folks. Another funny piece related to the fight. A-

8. Weekend Update (Part II)

Mr. Fire Extinguisher will take care of those defective Mr. Coffees but no refund, of course! Jane gets around to introducing Emily Litella, but she’s nowhere to be found so our newswoman calls her up. The answering machine bit that follows is a clever play on the usual Litella routine. Update was decent this week. B-

9. Viva Las Vegas II (5:36)

While attempting to make a comeback, Elvis Presley (Belushi) does a different type of movie moreso because of the advice from his agent, the Colonel (Murray). The scene being filmed includes some rich sleazeball (Aykroyd) on a date with a pretty little thing (Duvall). Of course, his advances are interrupted by the King playing a busboy but instead of busting a move, he performs a scene from Hamlet. Unlike the “Continental Men” sketch, this didn’t pound the same joke into the ground but unfortunately the sketch moved at a slow pace and didn’t really seem to go anywhere other than offering the odd juxtaposition of Elvis doing Shakespeare. C+

10. Baba Wawa At Large (4:03)

The woman with the “adowable” speech impediment, Baba Wawa (Radner), returns with her usual egotistical self and this time, she interviews stage actor Richard Burton (Murray) who has an odd speech impediment of his own. Burton mentions his return from rehabilitation and lashes out at the reporters printing out negative stories regarding him and his reputation as a Hollywood partyboy. Of course, the subject switches to Liz Taylor and Burton breaks down so badly that he loses his accent. Well, this was an improvement over the previous sketch. B

11. Film: Brides (2:53)

Spalding Gray narrates a film by Sharon Sacks regarding the innate subtleties of brides and what the true meaning of marriage is. It’s hard to explain the contents of the film without giving away a lot of information, but let’s just say that the types of weddings that Gray discusses is probably my favourite part of this intelligent short. A

12. Bad Ballet (4:41)

This week, Mr. Pinth-Garnell (Aykroyd) looks at a Soviet ballet that was written by two people who collaborated… by mail. The ballet, entitled “Swan,” features some really terrible choreography and a scary image of Garrett Morris in a tutu. This is the one and only time Garnell joins in on the fun too and he performs as a mailman. Duvall was a rather small part of this sketch, but she has still been in almost everything tonight. Another hit for Leonard and his parade of poop. B+

13. Night of the Moonies (6:00)

Echoing the plot of Night of the Living Dead, Sun Myung Moon (Belushi) and his gang of moonies attempt to infiltrate a remote cabin where a number of deprogrammers (Aykroyd & Morris) attempt to convert one moonie (Duvall) back to normal. The whole thing is more clever than outright hilarious, but Aykroyd’s transformation into a moonie is the highlight and Duvall makes a convincing moonie as well. B+

14. Joan Armatrading sings “Down To Zero” (3:18)

Still in her Moonies makeup, Duvall introduces Armatrading for another number. This one sounds very different from her first and has a nice twang sound that comes through around the middle of the song. More soulful lyrics and more wonderful singing from our musical guest. A

15. Van Arguments (7:38)

A Miller piece to close the show? I’m down. As a couple (Duvall & Aykroyd) pile food items onto their trays, the argument starts to flow from the wife regarding her husband’s knack for caring more about his van than any other thing in his life, including his own spouse. All she really wants is the soundtrack for A Star is Born, but all Aykroyd can talk about is his van and his design ideas for it, thus confirming her accusations. It’s more than that though because it all stems from their trodden-down lives that she’s looking to change. B+

The goodnights are fairly short this week as the show was running long, so all Shelley has time for is to say that she really enjoyed it before the cast surrounds her with adoration.

Well that was a lot better than expected. While Duvall never really stretched or played any difficult roles, she was a capable host that was willing to roll with the punches despite a couple of below-average sketches where she basically had nothing much to do. Her most impressive showing was probably in the “Night of the Moonies” sketch or the performance during the opening “Video Vixens” number. Duvall is one of those hosts that comes by, does some good enough work, and is probably not invited back afterwards.

Joan Armatrading, on the other hand, was far from above average. She brought a certain powerhouse quality to her performances and much like the McGarrigle Sisters, Armatrading’s music was like poetry and was extremely bittersweet and touching. It seems like there was a tradition on the show where if the musical guest was not a major act, they really struggled to make a great impression on their first (and unfortunately, usually only) appearance on the program.

Overall, this was not the classic like the last couple of weeks brought forth for the show, but it was a solid episode with a masterful array of performances by Dan Aykroyd in particular, as he appeared in pretty much everything on this night.

Notes:

“Baba Wawa makes you feew so good!”

How did Aykroyd read the cue cards in that bug costume? He had oranges almost directly above his eyes.

Hey, Chevy Chase was in the audience!

I bet it wasn’t hard for Aykroyd to act so devastated about losing his power tools in the Night of the Moonies sketch. That guy is a total gearhead. In a good way, of course.

Host Rating: B

Musical Guest Rating: A

Show Rating: B/B+


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 4)

Let me just start off by saying that I watched this episode last night but I don’t really remember too much of it so this is going to be my attempt at analyzing the show while I watch the tape from last night’s program. A first on Hot Off The Press!

Anyway… our host this week is the lovely future Mrs. Wahl, Emma Stone. Not just a fox and someone who’s super easy on the eyes, Emma is a talented thespian and has proven her acting credentials in films like Zombieland, Superbad, and ESPECIALLY Easy A. So it came as no shock that Emma would eventually be pegged to host the long-running comedy series that we all know and admire so much.

Joining Ms. Stone is Kings of Leon, a musical act based out of Tennessee that specializes in southern blues & rock. While I’m not wholly familiar with the act, their last appearance on the show was the highlight of an otherwise subpar episode featuring an awkward Rosario Dawson. I don’t have too much more to say…

Worst. Preamble. Ever.

The Show:

1. Reid Rally (4:04)

In an attempt to overcome his Republican opponent Sharron Angle, Harry Reid (Brittain) has a rally and attempts to put distance between himself and President Obama (Armisen), who is somewhat unpopular in Nevada. After listing off things like double-crossing Obama “if that’s what’s best for Nevada,” his strategy seems to work against him as he reveals himself to be a double-crossing politician who can’t be trusted. B+

2. Monologue (4:06)

Emma points out all the movies she does where she ends up making out with a nerd and of course is interrupted by several of them in the audience, who make the same point. Their requests for make-out sessions are denied however, which in turn eventually sparks a similar one by her Superbad castmates Jonah Hill (Moynihan) and Michael Cera (a spot-on impression by Killam). Bill Hader’s powerpoint presentation is the highlight of this otherwise run-of-the-mill monologue. B-

3. Baby Spanx (1:06)

Feeling self-conscious about your fat baby? Now you can hide it with Baby Spanx, elastic shapewear that makes the baby look like a chiseled one. The way they satirize some parents here is pretty funny and once again, if you have Sudeikis in a spokesperson role, he usually sells it with vigour. B+

4. Dream Home Extreme (5:49)

In a rehash from Brian Williams/Feist from Year 33, one lucky lady (Stone) receives a new home and her reaction is slightly less than enthusiastic. Wiig’s spastic anxiety works wonderfully against Stone’s stoic demeanour as she stands idly by and watches her lose it. The footage of previous winners (Hader, Pedrad, & Pharaoh) was hilarious, particularly Hader’s reaction. The ending of this sketch was also funnier than the first time they did this sketch and it all adds up to a funny piece. A-

5. WXPD Channel 9 News (3:25)

Spoofing those news stories that seem to petrify parents with tales of teenage fads that are questionably accurate in the first place, this news channel features a reporter (Hader) asking an everyday teenager (Stone) about “souping” (drinking expired soup can contents to get high) and other ridiculous things much to her disbelief. “Trampolining” is probably the most ridiculous one and the quick switch from colour to black-and-white with the ominous music is dead-on. A+

6. Digital Short: Sign My Cast (2:10)

The traditional girl-with-a-cast (Stone) at a high school gets people to sign it of course but keeps slipping in the dreaded grape jelly (Samberg) and gets in increasingly worse shape. This sounds absolutely ridiculous but her singing was pretty funny as were the lyrics along with the very dark ending. Another classic digital short for sure. A+

7. The View (4:10)

Haven’t seen this one in a while. Continuing with the trend of “Hot Topics,” the gang welcome Lindsay Lohan (Stone) taking a break from rehab to discuss reasons why she can’t go to jail. The chemistry between the four castmembers doing their impressions is great as usual and Stone’s performance as LiLo is infectious fun. Also, they smartly kept this sketch short and it allowed the jokes to hit at a rapid-fire pace and deliver for the most part. This show is on a roll. B+

8. Wrangler Open Fly Jeans (1:08)

Spoofing that d*ck picture that Brett Favre (Sudeikis) sent to some cheerleader, the retired-not retired-retired football player plays spokesman to the new open fly jeans. I dislike Favre for being a douchebag and the recent picture-messaging incident just proved my point, so this was like icing on the cake. A

9. Kings of Leon sing “Radioactive” (3:23)

Taking a rock-blues approach as usual, KOL delivers a number that is pleasant to listen to vocally and with some great instrumental sections. This band has proved they can deliver in a live setting before so this should come as no surprise that their first song is a success. B+

10. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (14:39)

Seth’s rant against Virginia Thomas and her delayed reaction to ask for an apology from Anita Hill for claiming that Clarence Thomas sexually assaulted her was due. That rant was particularly funny but “The More You Know” graphic at the end really sold it. A dig at KFC and a rise in stink bug populations was also quite funny. Joining in as guests on Update this week are Jimmy McMillan (Thompson), the representative for The Rent Is Too Damn High party (this is legitimate) responding to accusations that he himself hasn’t paid rent since the 1980s for his apartment, staff writer John Mulaney commenting on things that he loves in another hilarious commentary from the man (why isn’t he a castmember yet?), and city correspondent Stefon (Hader) comes by to talk about the hot spots around town but of course has a hard time getting through it without laughing (I don’t blame him). A pretty lengthy edition of Update this week but of course, another great one. A+

11. Les Jeunes de Paris (3:20)

In a take of stereotypical french programming, one man (Killam) attempts to seduce a young lady (Stone) at a cafe with some dancing and of course, a dance-off ensues. Soon enough, their friends (Elliott, Moynihan, Brittain, & Pedrad) join in on it as well. I don’t even know what this sketch was realy trying to be but by God, it’s another absurdly entertaining sketch that this season seems to excel in thus far. A

12. My Brother Knows Everything (3:58)

Recorded live from her older brother’s (Samberg) bedroom, Morgan (Pedrad) praises her bro with her best friend Meredith (Stone), who is also super-attracted to him. The various segments within the show are pretty hilarious especially using her brother’s weirded-out facial expressions as a rating system. This is another fun character from Pedrad and Stone provides lots of funny moments as well. B+

13. “Sex” Ed Vincent’s Sex Symposium (2:34)

Bringing a character over from iO Chicago, Brittain excels as odd sex ed teacher Ed Vincent describing sexual acts. His descriptions are quite funny because his character is quite understated. I don’t even know how I can fully explain why I enjoyed this so much but it had a lot to do with Paul Brittain’s performance and the whole premise of this commercial piece. A+

14. Kings of Leon sing “Pyro” (4:02)

Another tune from KOL; another success. Though not quite as good as the first, this was another enjoyable tune that had a bit more of a slower pace. B+

15. Googie Rene’s Partially Damaged Halloween Costume Discount Basement (3:01)

It’s the second appearance of Googie Rene (Thompson). This time, Emma Stone plays sexy assistant to the crazed shopowner and his weird method of swearing without completing the words. Everything worked here from Thompson’s crazed manner of speaking, the aforementioned incomplete cursing, and the strange complaints from his customers. A

Emma looks elated to have been on the show this week and thanks everyone before the show cuts prior to credits starting up.

I heard some people worry that Emma Stone might be another Ellen Page-like host (great actress/nervous and bumbling host) but she excelled this week with a fun performance throughout the entire episode and never faltered or even broke character once. She was a delight to look at as well and when you have the talent and the looks combined, big things are in the future. Emma has a big career ahead of her, I do believe.

Kings of Leon rocked the house again with a pair of good performances. They weren’t anything outstanding like Kanye or anything, but they provided plenty of entertainment value for the night.

The cast was generally given a lot to do tonight especially Paul and Taran out of the featured players. Brittain in particular excelled with the debut of his new character Ed Vincent in a hilarious piece and also did really well playing Harry Reid in the cold open. Taran on the other hand showed off some talent of his own as well with a killer Michael Cera impression during the monologue and also rocked the house with some fancy dancing in that ridiculously awesome french sketch. All in all, we got a superb episode this week for sure and definitely the best one so far this season. Yes, I am giving this one full marks.

Notes:

If Emma had my last name and kept hers, her name would be Emma Stone-Wahl. It’s meant to be.

In that Dream Home Extreme sketch, I loved that the bag of chips Emma was eating out of just simply said “Potato Chips.” Also loved the little dig at Two and a Half Men.

Teens are taking turns hiding Osama Bin Laden so they can give him oral sex in exchange for lip gloss? I knew something was up.

Gotta agree with Stu about the NPR story. So true.

Stefon’s segment had so many great lines. “Look over there! Is that Mick Jagger? No, it’s just a fat kid on a Slip’n Slide.”

My God, the Emma Stone bumpers were HOTTTTT.

I seriously went back and re-watched that Paris sketch like five times. Looooved it. Also, it made me realize how tiny Paul Brittain is. He is quickly becoming my favourite newbie.

Host Rating: A

Musical Guest Rating: B+

Show Rating: A+


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 2, Episode 20)

Hosts that are invited back usually means at least two things: A) They were a lot of fun the last time they were there and got along great with the cast & crew and B) They provided for some great laughs and captained a good episode. It should come as no surprise then that Monty Python alum Eric Idle was invited back to the stage for some more laughs at the expense of no one. Idle’s first appearance was a fantastic episode filled with memorable sketches and a wonderful moment where John Belushi mimed Joe Cocker side-by-side with the man himself. Not to mention that Idle was a perfect fit for the madcap goings-on by the Not Ready For Primetime Players and found himself almost becoming an honourary castmember that night (incidentally, Sid Caesar would be awarded a trophy that actually SAID he was an honourary castmember in Year 8).

Joining the Pythoner would be someone else who is pretty familiar with the British troupe. While Neil Innes was best known as playing a member of the Rutles, he was also well-established as having helped the Python crew write quite a few of their songs and sketches during the Flying Circus television show. It doesn’t happen so much anymore, but this is clearly a case of the musical guest being chosen based on which celebrity is running the show as the host. Along with Innes, the main musical guest is Alan Price. 

Price, another British musician, was best known for playing the organ for The Animals, who were responsible for hits like House of the Rising Sun. Price would also have some success with a solo career with songs like “I Put a Spell On You,” “Don’t Stop the Carnival,” and a few others. By this point in time, he wasn’t doing a whole heck of a lot though as most of his fame centered in the 1960s.

Will this all equate to another home-run episode from Idle?

Time to investigate!

The Show:

1. Irish Interrogation (1:57)

As the last straw during the interrogation of an Irish terrorist (Murray), a British military man (Idle) threatens to turn his potatoes into french fries. Murray looks like he is about to break character for the entire sketch but that doesn’t take away from this amusing little cold open. It’s one of the rare instances (well, at least now) of an opening sketch that is not political in the least. The way they got to the opening line was pretty clever too. B+

2. Monologue (4:55)

Instead of the traditional monologue, Eric comes out to introduce Queen Elizabeth (impressionist Jeanette Charles, who also played the queen in The Naked Gun) and the Save Great Britain telethon because they are lacking in funds and seek the necessary reparations. His reasoning? The American people using a language that the British invented and not having to pay any royalties in regards to doing so. Idle also introduces the ‘Kick a Canadian’ contest involving a volunteer constable (Aykroyd), who is kicked by her majesty in the grand opening. This monologue was sheer brilliance. A+

3. American Dope Growers Union (1:15)

Supporting the poor American drug dealer who has to compete with Mexican smugglers, several spokespeople (Curtin, Morris, Murray, Newman, & Radner) sing about looking for the union label when buying your cannabis. This was clearly a parody of something, but regardess it was a funny, quick commercial piece. A

4. The Nixon Interviews (8:59)

Spoofing the infamous Frost/Nixon interview where the former president revealed some intriguing details, this sketch features some brilliant interplay between Idle as Frost and Aykroyd as Nixon. Tricky Dick is portrayed as that of a detailed storyteller of the mundane including some riveting tales of breakfast and Papa Nixon shaving his face in 1921. There is so much brilliant material in this sketch that it’s impossible to go over it all. To say the least, the performances by both our host and Danny are fantastic and there are a couple of amusing side performances like Gilda as Julie Nixon and Curtin as his disillusioned wife, Pat. When the subject of Watergate comes up, there is a huge revelation explained by Nixon but of course they lose the sound and nothing is revealed to the American public. This is an absolute classic sketch. A+

5. Alan Price sings “Poor People” (1:45)

After a quick update on the Save Britain telethon, it’s time for Alan Price. It’s a pretty good little tune that is fast-paced and enjoyable. I don’t really have too much to say about this performance really other than to say that Price is a welcome addition to the show thus far and this song is very, very short. B+

6. Film: Body Language (2:26)

The best film that Gary Weis has ever done. To be fair, Eric Idle can be credited with being half the reason this rules. In this piece, the art of body language is discussed with ridiculous, exaggerated examples from Idle himself, Innes, as well as Garrett, Billy, Laraine, and Gilda. My favourite has to be Eric’s explanation of a prostitute’s body language (“I am available for sophisticated sexual activity at a reasonable rate to be determined by mutual free exchange open-market bargaining”), but this is yet another classic piece. A+

7. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (Part I) (Total: 7:24)

After announcing Update’s win for a Pullitzer Prize in journalism, Curtin announces a story so ridiculously false to completely off-set it. Another funny piece for Jane is a story regarding Roots author Alex Haley being accused of plaigarism, which happened to interrupt his writing of his next classic work of literature, Moby Dick. Commenting on the ruling that declared that the spanking of children in school is constitutional, Bill Murray goes from funny to creepy and back to funny in a hilarious commentary. Murray reverts back to traumatic childhood memories while getting unreasonably excited over the spanking of little girls.

8. Oxxon (1:14)

Spoofing Exxon of course, an announcer (Don Pardo) comments on how expensive the commercial was to make and that it can be used as a reason as to why gas prices are so expensive. Pretty clever little parody actually. A-

9. Weekend Update (Part II)

Emily Litella (Radner) stops by to do a commentary on “air solution,” but can’t contain herself due to her joke being one of the worst ones ever. When sharing her preoccupation with the man in her life, Jane learns that her love is Tom Snyder of the Tomorrow show. Litella then butchers “I Will Follow Him” and is interrupted by Jane of course, but without the little added snide remarks by our newscaster at the end. Another really solid edition of Update this week; even Litella was bearable. A-

10. Heavy Wit Championship (6:12)

Introducing a boxing match of a different sort! Aykroyd plays ring announcer to a battle of comedic timing between British funnyman Ray Grimley (Idle) and the Undisputed Champion Mohammed Stallion (Belushi). Instead of punching each other, they trade barbs to see which one will crack. Aykroyd and Murray then play announcers and call the thing just like the typical boxing contest along with strategy and a blow-by-blow analysis. It’s a fun sketch with some amusing moments, but overall it kind of falls short. C+

11. “Ron Nasty” (Neil Innes) sings “Cheese and Onions” (1:21)

As the number to save Britain flashes on the screen, Innes sings a funny ditty as his John Lennon-like personality from the Rutles. This isn’t a laugh-out-loud song but it is quite fun to listen to in all of its homage glory to the Beatles. B

12. The Battle of Britain (8:17)

Due to budget cutbacks and to illustrate the fact that the British still need financial help, the Battle of Britain is a series created on a $900 budget that features most of its “action” through a letter read by a possible war-time widow (Radner) from her beau, Rodney (Aykroyd). The constant flashbacks to Rodney and his wife in happier times started out amusing but became quite hilarious when additional characters are added only making the entire situation even more ridiculous. Idle has a fairly small role in this bit actually, playing one of Rodney’s airmen along with Billy. Absurd gold. A

13. Neil Innes sings “Shangri-La” (3:18)

Sporting a glittery suit and some big, fake ears, Innes sings a fun bouncy tune named after the perfect society known as Shangri-La. During this performance, there’s lots of colourful background images like some odd cardboard cutouts and some back-up singers in bright costumes. Very inventive. A

14. Plain Talk (1:47)

This one takes the cake for the absurd. Eric hosts a talk show where he and his guest (Aykroyd) simply carry on the tone of a normal conversation using words that absolutely don’t fit in at all. It’s quite a marvel to watch both performers run through this sketch without faltering once despite saying all this nonsense at a machine gun-pace. A+

15. Trans Eastern Airlines (3:53)

Sherry Norwalk (Newman) has no problem doing anything for the passengers in first class due to their tendency to threaten her with a gun before making their requests. This sketch works for reasons unknown as it essentially consists of people pointing guns in a valley girl’s face and making simple requests. It also may be because all of their requests are common complaints one would make on an airline and its fun to see the passengers finally get the upper hand. What also works is that Newman sells this life-threatening act as a pretty harmless thing. A-

16. Alan Price sings “In Times Like These” (2:35)

A much different song from his previous one, this is more akin to Innes’ second song. It’s catchy, bouncy and has an infectious spirit that makes it very enjoyable. Also, the lyrics are quite good and it doesn’t hurt that Price has a good voice on him as well. A

17. Save Great Britain Telethon (1:17)

Unfortunately, the telethon has actually LOST twenty dollars so Bill Murray makes a last-ditch effort to save Britain by chugging a bottle of grape juice. Murray makes it about halfway through before giving up and Idle chases him off in anger. B+

All of a sudden, the phones are ringing off the hook when the show comes back for the goodnights as the queen herself has been sold… to Exxon. I love the fact that the total includes John Belushi’s vest. Idle then comically fumbles the announcement for Daylight Savings Time before the cast joins him onstage for the traditional goodnight waves and hugs.

Eric Idle came back in full force! After a superb first showing, Idle delivered again this time with a superb performance as host, particularly in bits like “The Nixon Interviews” and “Plain Talk.” Idle is a perfect mesh for the cast and also doesn’t mind serving a sketch while not always having to be the center of attention as could be seen in the brilliant “Battle of Britain” piece. Idle’s Monty Python sensibilities also help when it comes to Dan Aykroyd in particular as those two seem to have the best chemistry together throughout this entire episode.

As for Eric’s guests, Price and Innes, both men were constantly entertaining during their appearances. While Innes extended his appearances to a couple of roles in the fantastic Gary Weis film (!), Alan Price was limited to his musical performances. While “Poor People” was good, his second song was even better and had a much more enjoyable and rollicking tune. Neil Innes was in the same boat. While his performance as Ron Nasty was certainly not a throwaway, “Shangri-La” was loaded with lots of entertaining stage direction, lyrics, costumes, and some good singing on the Brit’s part.

The cast was more than game for this week, but Dan Aykroyd shined in particular here mostly starring opposite Eric Idle. He more than dominated the episode but even so, this time it appears the other castmembers got quite a bit of screentime for the most part.

Notes:

Runners are rare in most episodes of Saturday Night Live, but the “Save Great Britain” pieces are the cream of the crop.

The apple doesn’t fall too far from the Monty Python tree. Michael Palin would later prove to be well-suited for the show as well.

The Frost/Nixon sketch isn’t just a great sketch. It may be one of the best ever on the show. I know that’s a pretty bold statement, but I stand by it.

Unfortunately, I don’t see Shelley Duvall continuing this winning streak of episodes into next week, but I’ve been surprised before.

Host Rating: A

Musical Guest Rating – Alan Price: A-

Musical Guest Rating – Neil Innes – A

Show Rating: A


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 2, Episode 19)

As we start to near the end of the second season of Saturday Night Live, it allows us to ponder a few things. Will the season slowly peter out to a finish due to the exhaustion by a cast that had been through so many things during the span of the 1976-1977 season? Would there be a sudden surge of energy (of course, that would definitely not be a chemically-enhanced form of energy…) for the last four episodes? Will Bill Murray finally show off his talent that ultimately made him one of the great castmembers on the show? Well before we find out the answers to those questions, let’s take a look at a more direct one: will this episode deliver?

After the relatively left-field hosting choices involving Julian Bond, Jack Burns, and Broderick Crawford in the last three weeks, this time Lorne decided to settle with a much safer choice. That of Elliott Gould. By this point, Elliott had already hosted two stellar episodes (one in particular was the best episode of the first season, in my opinion) and had proved himself a willing ringmaster to hang with the cast and crew. While his first show featured a romantic running joke involving Gilda and himself, the second episode he took over had classics like Shirley Temple making world peace between an American and a dictator and of course the fantastic, epic Star Trek sketch with Gould playing network executive Herb Goodman.

Joining Elliott are the McGarrigle Sisters (I know…who?) and Roslyn Kind (the apparent aunt to Elliott’s son). Real star power this week in terms of musical guests, huh? While I don’t have too much to say about these obscure guests, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by obscure choices on this show before (Jack Burns notwithstanding).

Here we go with the fourth last episode of the season!

The Show:

1. Brezhnev Deal (3:19)

Herb Goodman (Gould) and his associate (Murray) meet with Leonid Brezhnev (Belushi) and his associates (Aykroyd & Radner) in an attempt to get an NBC deal inked for the Soviet Communist to appear on television. At first, it appears that Mr. Brezhnev’s demands are met with NBC allowing the Moscow Olympics to be controlled but then he also wants to be on The Tonight Show (no guest hosts, he doesn’t want to be in the last fifiteen minutes of the show, and Clint Eastwood must be another guest). Very funny opening. A

2. Monologue (2:59)

Keeping with his tradition of a song-and-dance monologue, Elliott brings us the classic from A Gypsy Priest emanating from the main stage entitled “The Castration Walk.” Joining Elliott is John Belushi and Bill Murray and they perform a wonderful bit complete with some fantastic dancing and some great lyrics (“Officer, I’d like to report a jewel heist!”) One of the most un-monologuey monologues, but still lots of fun. A

3. The Coneheads At Home (7:10)

This time, our beloved pylon-shaped chrome domes are having 35 phones installed much to the confusion of the repairman (Gould). There’s lots of fun to be had here with the usual great performances by Aykroyd, Curtin, and Newman as the family. Elliott also provides a great turn as the straight man to all the ludicrous events going on around him. This Coneheads sketch also introduces Merkon (Morris), a commander from the home planet, who inquires as to why the family hasn’t warned the earth about its imminent destruction. Garrett is more than willing to act like a conehead to the best of his abilities. Elliott discovering the senso-rings and using them on Connie (Newman) is pretty hysterical too. A-

4. The McGarrigle Sisters sing “Kiss & Say Goodbye” (2:38)

Wow, pretty early for the first musical performance. Despite having no idea who these two are, they made a huge impression on me with this performance, which is a soulful and heart-wrenching ballad that is the best argument for folk rock being absolutely wonderful. Yeah, this performance blew me away. A+

5. You’ve Come A Long Way, Buddy (6:51)

With a title spoofing the slogan from Virginia Slim’s, a host (Gould) of a roundtable discussion show asks his guests to talk about their various men-inspired areas of expertise. Ted Meyers (Aykroyd) deals in art and music done completely by men, Bob Lewis (Morris) runs a community center for young African-American men (a triple negative, according to Lewis, because they’re all three things that get discriminated against), Roy Matthews (Murray) operates a bar that offers free drinks to women, and finally Sam Montgomery (Belushi) who offers a 24-hour rape hotline… for rapists. You see, rapists need the opportunity to talk to professionals because of their fear to go to the police and approach social stigmas. This is a delightful and extremely well-written sketch that flips the gender bias on its head. A+

6. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (10:40)

After a glitch and amusing ad-lib at the beginning, Jane talks about Phillip Wrigley’s remains being stuck to the bottom of a luncheonette counter and then laughs to herself about a Ford joke (“Ha-ha! He doesn’t even wear a hat…”). Bill Murray stops by to comment on the porn infestation in Times Square and in the process of his commentary, the descriptive words get more and more sexual in nature, causing Murray to have to stay put and read a few stories before he can get up and leave. Jane introduces a new cigarette model with a mouse at the end of it to capture all the cancer-causing agents before ingesting the smoke. The suicide of Howdy Doody leads into an interview with his widow Debbie (Radner) conducted by Laraine Newman. Debbie is upset but her activity would seem to indicate otherwise as she aimlessly moves around on strings. Finally, John Belushi stops by for a report on the weather, which soon develops into a crazy, rambling commentary on everything from tornados to monsoons to Indians’ refusal to eat cows. A

7. Nick Summers (5:39)

Bill Murray finally gets his first huge hit with the long-lasting recurring character, Nick the Lounge Singer. Paul Shaffer accompanies Nick on piano and almost makes the instrument a character of its own. In the first edition of Nick’s lounge act, he wishes an unwilling couple (Belushi & Radner) a happy anniversary, attempts to speak to a woman (Newman) in the audience with his good friend Skeeter (Gould), and then welcomes his Native American accomplice, Jimmy Joe Red Sky (Aykroyd) with the Catch of the Day. Nick really hammers home Murray’s smarmy personality that he would utilize in plenty of future sketches and commentaries as well as most of his comedy flicks. This was shorter than his lounge singer sketches would usually be, but it was a pretty fun introduction to this great character. A-

8. United Face Bank (2:15)

Joan Crawford (Curtin) acts as spokesperson for the United Face Bank, a place where people born without faces can acquire one that is closest to the one they desire. One client (Morris) humourously has the face of an 11-year old white girl and then continues to look through the fridge for a better face. A very absurd concept for a sketch but it was amusing, especially Curtin’s Crawford impression. B+

9. Gary Weis Film: Sports Fights (1:13)

So did Gary Weis attempt to ruin another episode again? Actually this time, this film is fairly entertaining and kept short. As Ray Charles sings the national anthem, footage is shown from some particularly brutal sports fights made to show that some athletes are still passionate about the sport. B

10. The McGarrigle Sisters sing “Heart Like a Wheel” (2:46)

Another tune from the Sisters, another wonderful performance. This time, it’s a quieter song where each girl takes their turn with the verses. All this results in another soulful folk song that manages to entertain and bring a tear to one’s eye. I can’t re-iterate enough how effective these girls are as the musical guests. A+

11. ATM Security Test (3:11)

Two men (Morris and Murray) go to a 24-hour bank machine to collect Garrett’s funds but first must pass an IQ Quiz and a driving exam before receiving the money from the dispenser. The twist at the end is really bizarre but it pays off in this trippy, entertaining quick sketch. A-

12. Natural Causes Restaurant (4:37)

Jason (Aykroyd) and Chloe (Newman) return after their hilarious sketch from Boyle/Jarreau in Year 1 to operate a restaurant that only serves animals that have died of natural causes. Again, Elliott plays straight man in this sketch along with Gilda but the man does it so damn well. The menu suggestions from J&C are quite hilarious (“there’s a sheep in the kitchen dying from anthrax”) and nearing the end of the sketch, it almost causes Elliott to crack up. The majority of the sketch is pretty hilarious, but the ending was a bit weak. B+

13. Roslyn Kind sings “I’m Not Anyone” (3:26)

Delivering a rather throaty performance, Roslyn doesn’t measure up to the McGarrigle Sisters but still delivers a decently entertaining performance worthy of this episode. B

14. Home Movie: Puppet Affair (1:26)

A man returns home to find his wife cheating on him with a puppet and thus, he dukes it out with the little guy and they have a fight scene that would make Steven Seagal blush. Just kidding. But seriously, it’s probably one of the best and one of the most well-made home movies. A-

15. Pilson’s Feedbag Dinners (2:45)

Repeat from 11/27/76. C+

Elliott doesn’t realize they’re back right away and paces back and forth for a bit before learning that they have about sixty seconds to kill. Aykroyd does so by making a plea for some tanks he needs for his motorcycle while Belushi sings Elliott’s praises as “the best host [they’ve] ever had.”

What a phenomenal episode. Elliott, despite not having as much to do comedically this time, delivered in all of the sketches he appeared in while also delivering one of the funniest monologues of the season doing “The Castration Walk.” It is no surprise that Gould was constantly invited back to do the show a number of times and that he ended up being one of the more consistent hosts during the show’s early years as well.

On the musical side of things, the McGarrigle Sisters were top-notch. With absolutely no expectations, the sisters sung their hearts out and complimented each other perfectly in two of the most awesome performances from the entire season. It’s almost a guarantee that these two will place in my year-end awards somewhere in the Top 3. The secondary musical guest, Roslyn Kind, also provided some dulcet tones and while she came nowhere near the sisters quality-wise, she still managed to deliver an entertaining performance of her own.

What’s most interesting about the cast this week is Garrett Morris’ appearances. With last week’s Julian Bond-helmed episode, it seemed obvious why Garrett was involved in a lot of stuff but this week with Elliott Gould, it seemed like things would go back to the norm. However, Garrett was in a lot of sketches this week (probably even more than last week) and did a pretty good job of it too. Bill Murray though is starting to get more recognition and the debut of one of his most beloved characters probably didn’t hurt either.

This was a terrific episode from top to bottom.

Notes:

Some might argue Elliott played mostly straight-man characters and was underused, but honestly, I think that’s what he excels at. He was the calm center for many sketches that killed this week.

Hmm, what exactly is a Protoid-Bowl?

This is one of those episodes where pretty much everything clicked. The repeat of the Pilson’s Feedbag Dinners commercial wasn’t all that, but that’s a moot point.

“You’ve Come A Long Way, Buddy” is one of the best sketches the original cast ever put together in my opinion.

Elliott not noticing that they were back from commercial right away when the goodnights began was pretty funny and spontaneous. I love little moments like that in the show. Also, Dan Aykroyd asking for motorcycle parts. That sounded legitimate.

Host Rating: A-

Musical Guest Rating – The McGarrigle Sisters: A+

Musical Guest Rating – Roslyn Kind: B

Show Rating: A


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 3)

While our first episode of the season was a cameo-filled homecoming of sorts that proved to be a rollicking good time, the second episode settled into the format of a regular episode a bit more and got the season off to a workman-like start. The premiere was entertaining, the second episode was almost as good, and now the third episode of the season promises a host that some members of the fan community have been suggesting for quite some time now. But before we discuss that, let’s discuss the show that our master of ceremonies emanates from.

Glee is a very popular show. VERY popular. And we all knew it was only a matter of time before someone from that show came to host. But I thank the lord that it was Sue Sylvester herself, Jane Lynch, rather than some prettyboy teen in the cast. At least with Lynch as our host, we have someone who comes from the improv world and one who has done a number of side-splitting roles in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Walk Hard, and Role Models (especially). Obviously, she was not going to get a chance to host based on a number of small roles in those film so if it takes Glee to get Ms. Lynch on the show, then it’s worth it.

Joining Jane is musician Bruno Mars. One would probably know Bruno best as the guy who provided musical assistance on the hit single, “Billionaire,” or perhaps as the man who was busted with cocaine about three weeks ago. “I’ve never done drugs before,” says Mars. Yes, we’ll see about that, Mr. Harmonic Voice. Bruno, of course, has a new album to promote though and thus here he is on SNL. Good luck following up the act from last week.

Start the program!

The Show:

1. Ask Gloria Allred (4:07)

Taking a long overdue jab at the money and fame-seeking leech known as Gloria Allred, Nasim Pedrad plays her as an unrelenting lawyer who reveals her obvious motivation in defending these poor, exploited people that she represents. What a wonderful woman Ms. Allred is. But back to the sketch, Nasim does a good job here carrying this sketch. The questions she receives though (specifically the one asking her if there has been a more disgusting creature than her that has walked the earth) are side-splitting and make for the third great cold open in a row. A-

2. Monologue (4:18)

Upset at the fact that she never gets an opportunity to sing on Glee with the kids, Jane went against the SNL writers’ wishes and wrote her own Glee theme song after downing some tequilla. With assistance from Fred Armisen on guitar, Lynch’s song is full of egotism involving her character Sue Sylvester being the star of the show and the only reason worth watching. It’s a lot of fun to watch unfold though. Another winner of a monologue. B+

3. damn it, my mom is on facebook filter (1:33)

The new program (for only $3.99) designed to protect your facebook wall/status from mommy dearest (Lynch). The highlight of this commercial piece was the editing of the pictures like a naked Samberg being replaced by a shirt that says “Moms Rock!” Hader and Killam are effective here as well. B

4. Glee (6:24)

Well, obviously this was going to happen. I have a feeling that I would find this funnier if I watched Glee, but I still find the jokes here pretty funny anyway. The highlight of the children is Samberg as the gay one and Bobby Moynihan as his overly-proud father. Sudeikis is aces as the teacher and of course Sue Sylvester (Lynch) stops by as well. Surprisingly though, she introduces a brand-new student in… Gilly. And for once, I am not annoyed by that fact. This time, Gilly is thrust into a much more enjoyable situation and her act is given a bit of a makeover. Plus, if I could ever think of something great for Gilly to do, blowing up the Glee kids would rank right up there. A

5. The New Boyfriend Talk Show (4:20)

Emanating from a broken home, young Zack (Samberg) does a Tonight Show-like program where he interviews his mother’s (Lynch) new boyfriends as they wake up after a night of hanky-panky. This sketch goes from amusing to brilliant with Samberg asking if he’s his new father and then announcing that this marks the 100th episode of his show. The Joaquin Phoenix joke was funny, but man oh man that Magic Johnson (Thompson) one was top notch. Sudeikis is brilliant with his reactions, Samberg makes for a funny child, and Lynch is on her A-game as the promiscuous mother. A+

6. Christine O’Donnell (1:24)

Running an ad promoting the fact that she’s not a witch, Christine O’Donnell (Wiig) has no problem using sentences like “being elected to the human senate,” talking about her roots in the black forests of Germany 3000 years ago, and then revealing her skeletal piano player. B+

7. Secret Word (5:10)

Another gameshow parody this week? Wow, the writers sure do watch a lot of GSN. This time, Mindy Gracin (Wiig) returns while the new contestant is a catskills comedian, Peggy Zellers (Lynch). Mindy is up to her usual hijinx, not quite getting the concept of the game, while Zellers just does her tired, old routine instead of helping her partner (Brittain). Along with the wonderful performances by our host and Wiig, Bill Hader is aces as the host and has the cadences of a 1960s game show host down-pat. A-

8. Digital Short: Relaxation Therapy (2:53)

A therapist (Lynch) tries to help her patient (Samberg) by causing him to go into a dream world, but constantly interjects herself into his mind in strange, sexually bizarre ways. Lynch cranks the weirdness here to a record high, but it is the kind of role she is wonderful in. A

9. Returns & Exchanges (4:15)

To prepare for a role in which he plays a retail salesman who receives a special microchip in a bag that is returned to him, Denzel Washington (Pharaoh) works in an actual returns department. The customer (Lynch) tries to return her bag, but Denzel makes it the most difficult process in the world much to the distress of one of the other employees (Moynihan). Another great impression for Pharaoh in a pretty amusing environment. B

10. Bruno Mars sings “Just The Way You Are” (3:39)

NOT the Billy Joel song. As soon as Bruno started singing the song, I realized I kind of DO know who he is. While I can’t see myself listening to this guy on a regular basis, I have to give him credit for being a pretty great live act. A-

11. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (8:36)

Seth pokes more fun at Christine O’Donnell’s complaints about the liberal media and then makes my night by announcing the start of the “Larry Brown Gets Caught With A Male Escort Countdown” after Brown made some homophobic comments in an e-mail. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Samberg) stops by as well to point out some obvious things like the fact that he invented the social networking phenomenon just to meet girls and the fact that his donation to schools was clearly because of the fact that the movie made him look bad. The very fancy bedbugs at the Waldorf Astoria are pretty amusing, while the sex offenders Halloween bit was deliciously cruel. Seth’s second guest is Miguel Conjeros (Armisen) from the Mexican Board of Tourism who feigns a language barrier when quizzed about escalated drug activity and cartels and Mexican pirates but then talks a-plenty about the beaches. A-

12. The Suze Orman Show (5:02)

Making an appearance pretty late in the show this time, no? Anyway, financial advisor Suze Orman (Wiig) brings on a former roommate (Lynch) this time to seek advice regarding her charity, but Suze reads the obvious signs that her compadre is still a lesbian despite being married to a somewhat-flamboyant husband (Hader). The chemistry between Jane and Kristen is fantastic and yes, it makes for the best Suze Orman bit thus far. A-

13. Sunday Night Football (3:12)

Before Al Michaels (Sudeikis) and Cris Collinsworth (Hader) can call the NFL action, Faith Hill (Lynch) sings the insanely-long and equally-as-inane theme song. Before the game finally begins, Faith continues with the theme song and keeps going and going. Having seen the real song, I can say that this was a very fitting satirical look at the terrible intro to Sunday Night Football. Hader and Sudeikis were perfect straight men for the sketch too. A

14. Bruno Mars sings “Grenade” (4:18)

Another appearance by the soulful crooner, Mars does a tune that is schizophrenic in nature as it starts with one style, delves into another, but never falters once. Bruno clearly knew that Kanye’s performance last week would raise the expectations this week and he more than rose to the occasion. A

15. Tax Masters (2:13)

Patrick R. Cox (Sudeikis) stands in profile and does one of those lame Tax Masters commercials, but then he wants to do another with his little fetus brother on the side of his head much to the disgust of the crew. This felt like it was rushed at the end as Sudeikis did it so that Armisen could have his moment to shine as the little brother. Despite that, it was an amusingly creepy 10-to-1 sketch. B-

We get about ten seconds of goodnights as Jane thanks Bruno Mars and closes the show. The best part about the goodnights is the way Jason is facing the camera.

Well, that was the best show of the season thus far. With a very willing host in Jane Lynch, some wonderful singing from Bruno Mars and a cast that is far from being burned out after three shows in a row, this was a winning combination.

Jane in particular was probably one of the better female hosts in recent memory as well with her superb comic timing and a desire to do pretty much anything the writers threw at her. I was most surprised that Jane was involved in mostly everything, even counting the filmed commercial parody involving facebook at the top of the broadcast.

The cast rocked it this week as well with lots of highlights for most of them with the new kids still getting some exposure for the most part. Jay Pharaoh continues to dazzle people with his impressions, this time of Denzel Washington, but man, this was definitely Kristen Wiig’s highlight reel. No one can deny that she is one of the hardest-working female castmembers in a long while and she rose to the occasion this week with some choice material.

Notes:

I love Bayer’s line in the Glee sketch. “What are we gonna do, Mr. Shoe? Should I get pregnant again?”

“Women are kinda bad at noticing their own orgasms.”

I love the glitch at the end of the Tax Masters sketch (“How’s the sound?” “It’s good, it’s good!”)

Host Rating: A-

Musical Guest Rating: A-

Show Rating: A-


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 2, Episode 18)

Much like Ralph Nader, Julian Bond was a man who fought for the rights of the people but unlike Nader, Bond never ran for president and he was not a consumer advocate. Rather, Bond worked as a civil rights activist and a Democratic member of the Georgia House. After that ended in 1975, Julian became a member of the Georgia Senate and became even more involved in his activist work. Bond has always been a strict Democrat and eventually ended up becoming the chairman for the NAACP up until very recently. So with all of this in mind, Lorne Michaels must have thought that this definitely qualifies JB to be a comedian.

But seriously, it’s hard to figure out sometimes how Lorne and co. can predict that certain hosting choices won’t be absolute wash-outs on the show. Sure, there’s been enough people that had no right hosting the program (Louise Lasser, Robert DeNiro, and Nancy Kerrigan come to mind) but at least they didn’t completely blow up on the program and lose their cool. Julian Bond, being a big-time activist, clearly comes from an ability to engage in public speaking and debating with folks so that may have been a major factor in Michaels deciding that he would make for an apt host.

Joining Bond in this episode are two musical guests. The first is the jazz & funk ensemble known as Brick, who also emanate out of Georgia much like our host. Our other host, while not as fitting for Julian Bond, is the man with the voice that sounds like he just got his throat sanded down, Tom Waits. While I am not too familiar with Brick, I do know Tom Waits as “that gravelly-voiced weird guy from Mystery Men that works on cars.” Just kidding, I’m vaguely familiar with Waits’ body of work…. as an actor.

Start!

The Show:

1. Emily in Love (2:06)

SNL’s resident deaf grandma (Radner) gets quite an unexpected visit from Jane Curtin while swooning about her recent love. After informing the newswoman that she has no story for tonight’s Weekend Update, Emily talks about her new man and jumbles the lyrics to a song dedicated to their everlasting bond. This was essentially an Update piece disguised as a sketch and Emily is increasingly growing tired. C

2. Monologue (1:44)

Julian looks a little stiff and addresses the obvious question on people’s minds as to why in the world he would be chosen to host the show. Bond lists off his credentials and the possible reasons that he was chosen, but then realizes that the cast members and the producer had him come all the way from Atlanta “to be their chocolate easter bunny.” Well, that built to nothing. C

3. H&L Brock (1:52)

Another commercial from the Tax Fraud People as Lowell Brock (Belushi) talks about having the time to help people cheat on their taxes because he is, in fact, doing time. Not as classic as his first trio of appearances, but still an enjoyable sketch. B+

4. Black Perspective (3:28)

In the third appearance of Garrett’s recurring talk show, this week he sits down with our host, Mr. Bond. Appearing on the show to compare black IQ test results to those of white people, Bond lists all the obvious cultural disadvantages that blacks face while taking these tests. Then in the most shocking moment of the entire sketch, Julian tells everyone that the notion of whites being smarter than blacks descends from the fact that light-skinned blacks are smarter than dark-skinned blacks. A

5. An Oval Office (4:47)

After a conversation with his daughter (Newman) that mirrors the actual relationship with the people, President Carter (Aykroyd) welcomes suck-up Andrew Jackson (Morris) and Julian himself, there to speak for the human rights of his people in Georgia. Julian also asks Carter about why he hasn’t appointed more African-Americans or women to the cabinet, while the Prez keeps trying to distract him with various knick-knacks around the office. The beginning featuring Amy playing with stereotypical black dolls was pretty funny when considering what followed in the rest of  the piece. B+

6. Tom Waits sings “Eggs & Sausages” (3:51)

The gravelly-voiced crooner sings a song about breakfast I think. It’s hard to understand what it’s about because he’s all over the place and his jazz is very free-form and hard to lock down. Maybe one of the least mainstream mainstream artists, Waits has accompaniment from some great saxophone playing and it all adds up to an enjoyable performance. B+

7. Dr. X, Family Counselor (5:24)

One family meet with the strangest guidance counselor ever, Dr. X (Aykroyd). Then again, the only real reason he is strange is because of his silver mask and the hook he has instead of his right arm. When the family’s son (Belushi) constantly questions Dr. X’s strange attire, the counselor’s stories are interrupted by random outbursts of his own hysteria followed by a quick, “Oh, nothing.” This is one of the odder sketches I have encountered so far in the first two seasons of my reviews. But man oh man, it’s an absurd masterpiece. A+

8. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (Part I) (Total: 3:31)

Starting things off with a cruel (but justified) joke at the expense of Anita Bryant, declaring herself a “citrusexual,” Jane delivers a number of sharp barbs this week including a funny joke involving a young terrorist wanting to be packed in a box and mailed to Tatum O’Neal. The first segment is really short.

9. Right On Afro Lustre (:32)

Spoofing those old Virginia Slim’s commercials, an afro-sportin’ mascot (Bond) shills for some hairspray for afros in particular (“you’ll know it because the bottle is shaped like a fist”). Very short, but silly bit. B

10. Weekend Update (Part II)

The Tamponski looks to be the first disposable rocket for the Russians and High Chairman Mao has taken over Beijing. While trying to deliver a story about the Concorde flight, the plane flies overhead and obscures most of Curtin’s speech. And that’s it. That may have been the shortest Update of the season thus far. Pretty much everything worked though. A-

11. Great Moments In Motown (7:26)

At the Lilac Club in Detroit circa 1968, four jazz crooners practice for the owner (Bond). Unfortunately, their performance falls short of his expectations. The band all agree that they need vests instead of jackets, but the club owner requests various things from them like using their hands more and breathing in the right places. The dialogue between the four performers (Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, & Murray) is hilarious and Bond seems a bit looser in this sketch. In particular, Billy Murray acting as a sort of lackey for Belushi’s character is the highlight. B+

12. Creeley’s Soup (2:42)

As a little girl (Radner) eats her Creeley’s vegetable soup, an announcer (Murray) asks her if she would trade it in for various things, but gets more and more cruel with his various requests for her to do things with the soup like sticking the pieces in her nose for instance. A classic commercial piece. A

13. Bad Cinema (5:06)

The second appearance of Leonard Pinth-Garnell (Aykroyd) and this time, he welcomes a panel including Truman Capote (a wonderful impression by Belushi), Lina Wertmuller (Newman), and T. Lazlo de Wizzen (Bond), a critic of film noir and a teacher in bad lighting. The film in question is a ridiculously terrible bit called “Ooh La La! Les Legs!” with a badly-filmed dancing sequence. Of course, Garnell addresses its craptitude (“Terrible. That wasn’t so good, was it?”) while Capote addresses it as exquisitely bad, Wertmuller calls it nauseating, and Wizzen says that since his critique exclusively includes bad 3D fear films and thus, the film in question is one of the worst of those kinds of films. A better appearance than the first “Bad…” sketch. B+

14. Brick sings “Dazz” (3:06)

A fairly well-known number by sound rather than name, Brick performs their hearts out here and delivers an enjoyable toe-tapper with some really interesting instrumental accompaniment, particularly on the flute. A

15. Civil Rights Farbers (7:07)

Traveling the country to spread the word of civil rights to various homes, Julian Bond stops by the Farbers’ (Belushi & Radner) home because of the progressive nature of the couple. Not sexually, though. Larry makes a lot of inappropriate comments during Bond’s discussion of young African-Americans looking for employment or financial assistance. Once the Farbers’ guests arrive, the idea of some black neighbours joining their Backgammon club is quickly shot down by the very conservative and closet-racist guests. It’s biting satire at its finest and probably one of the better Farbers sketches. A-

16. Mr. Mike Meets Uncle Remus (3:14)

Straight out of Song of the South, Uncle Remus (Morris) welcomes Mr. Mike over to hear a least-loved bedtime tale involving Br’er Rabbit. Unlike the film, Br’er Rabbit is skinned alive rather than being thrown in the briar patch. To cap it all off, Mr. Mike presents Remus with the corpse of the bluebird of happiness he found on the ground while arriving to the log cabin. This is pure dark O’Donogue and its wonderful. A+

17. Gary Weis Film: Patti Smith (2:51)

Patti Smith, who appeared in the first season as a musical guest, talks about her appearance in April on the show and discusses censorship and how the show didn’t allow her and the group to sing certain lyrics. Patti rambles on and on and it gets kind of boring, but I understand what she’s trying to get across. B-

18. New South (2:14)

The notoriously backwards-thinking governor of Alabama, George Wallace (Belushi) speaks of his views against racism with things like bumper stickers warning people that they “brake for negroes.” Wallace announces that besides buses, African-Americans can now ride in the back of everything from jet planes to monorails. It’s a pretty good critique of a very conservative Democrat who supported segregation throughout much of his political career. B

Julian and the cast (sporting “Bond in ’76” shirts) wave goodnight to one and all after Mr. Bond thanks the cast, crew, his mother, etc. for helping him get through one of the strangest experiences in his life.

Julian Bond followed the usual protocol of politician-hosts. He came in, mostly played himself in the sketches except for a couple here and there, and the cast was mainly funny around him and covered up any weaknesses he may have. There’s not much to say about Bond. He was a fairly average, but stiff host who did a decent enough job as any politician-host would, I suppose. I still feel the strongest politician-host was John McCain.

The musical guests were fun. Tom Waits was a delight and even though I could barely understand what he was saying at times, I still enjoyed his piano-playin’ tune about the most important meal of the day. Brick performed a fairly well-known number and were also a nice addition to this episode, which felt fairly free of recurring characters and sketches. We had Mr. Mike, the Farbers, and Emily Litella.

The cast did a swell job this week of providing the funny and I gotta commend Garrett Morris in particular for coming out of this episode looking pretty damn good. Now if only he was this consistent. Bill Murray also got more stuff to do this week than the Burns/Santana episode, but he’s not QUITE there yet. As for everyone else, they were featured a lot except for Laraine Newman, who was unfortunately underused this week.

Rock-solid episode this week, yo.

Notes:

Julian Bond’s monologue was pretty disappointing. For political hosts, they usually come up with something a lot more clever/original due to the lack of acting talent on display.

I can’t believe that Disney won’t release Song of the South just because of the main character being a slave. The film doesn’t promote slavery at all. And at the time it was made, it was a completely different mindset. It’s still a wonderful film with a heart. Mini-rant over.

Wow, there wasn’t a recurring theme through this episode or anything, huh? While some of the ‘themed’ SNL episodes have been a bit grating at times, it doesn’t feel like race relations was one that was really rammed home despite being prevalent in about five different pieces.

This is somewhat of an underappreciated episode, I find.

Laraine Newman showing up late for the Bad Cinema sketch was pretty amusing. I wonder why she was late though. She wasn’t in a sketch right before that…

Host Rating: C+

Musical Guest Rating – Tom Waits: B+

Musical Guest Rating – Brick: A

Show Rating: B+

I know…

Posted: October 8, 2010 by Brendan Wahl in Uncategorized

I know I didn’t do my SNL Retro post on Wednesday. It’s been a bit of a hectic week. It will most definitely get posted tonight though…