by Brendan Wahl
There are some people who are the last ones you’d expect to get an opportunity to host Saturday Night Live. One of those guys is Bryan Cranston. Back in his Malcolm in the Middle days, I thought that would have been his only opportunity for a shot at hosting, but alas the show ended and Bryan had nary a stint. In fact, no one from that show got to host at any point although it is forgiven that no one ever had to sit through an episode hosted by Frankie Muniz. Getting back on track, Bryan is on a new, SLIGHTLY more adult show now called Breaking Bad where he makes meth. So you could say that Cranston has made a career change of sorts even though he is still doing television, which is where he excels.
Cranston hosting brought a smile to my face but then with the addition of tonight’s musical guest, things are looking up even more. Despite the minor disaster that was his performance in the Christmas show two years ago, Kanye West makes his return to the SNL stage and here’s hoping that the brutality of his meltdown last time was just a freak accident and we can go back to the usual dependable Kanye who wows everyone with his stage presence and performance ability.
There’s not much else to say in the pre-amble to this week’s episode, just that this was a line-up I was really looking forward to. Will it deliver?
1. Press Conference (4:28)
President Obama (Armisen) presides over the conference to officially announce Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s (Samberg) resignation and good ol’ “Rahm-bo” is given the task to brief new Chief Peter Rouse (Moynihan). What follows is a calming, soothing speech signifying the end of his era. Not. Instead, Rahm scares the hell out of his mousy replacement and his advice reeks of prison-type rules as he describes what to do on your very first day as Chief of Staff. “You stab him in the neck with a pencil!” This is a great example of Samberg’s talent coming through in his great impression of the Hulk-like Emanuel accompanied by some fun writing. A
2. Monologue (3:12)
Bryan looks elated to be there and is quick to tell people exactly who he is while making a “crack” at New York City (pun most definitely intended). Just to drive home to the audience who he is, Cranston is joined by a barbershop quartet (Hader, Moynihan, Thompson, Killam) who also have trouble with his name at first. The image of two additional models (Elliott & Pedrad) walking over with a photo of Bill Paxton and a sign with “Brian Crandon” respectively had me rolling. B+
3. Pepto-Bismol Ice (:55)
It’s the slightly-alcoholic drink for the clubhoppers that feel a little uneasy down in the bowel region. Our spokesperson (Pedrad) finds great success with it, especially with a closeby hunk (Samberg). B
4. The Miley Cyrus Show (4:25)
The big debut for a Vanessa Bayer sketch! Here, VB plays Miley herself with her own Jay Leno-like talk show complete with her house band consisting of Billy Ray (Cranston) and her guest Johnny Depp (Brittain with a great impression). Cyrus’ (Bayer) attempt to converse with Depp is pretty funny as her interview consists of sayings like “that’s pretty cool!” and eighty questions in a row at a rapid-fire pace. Cyrus running a clip from her own movie is quite funny too. This sketch was all up to the featured players and the host for the most part and it was a test of their talent. They pass with flying colours. B+
5. what up with that? (7:36)
Oh man, I have been waiting for this for ages! This time, Diondre Cole (Thompson) welcomes guests Morgan Freeman (!!) and Ernest Borgnine (!!!!) with Lindsey Buckingham (Hader) in tow of course. This sketch is all about Jason’s dancing, the lyrics, and the random dancing guests. This time, we get Doo Doo Man (Cranston) and Squiggy (Pharaoh) to teach children about literacy. Doo Doo Man is Bryan in drag with a bulge in his drawers and Squiggy is essentially a clone of T-Pain. We also get the teacher (Elliott) and her student (Brittain) with that creepy relationship they shared. This is another home-run for this recurring sketch. A-
6. Shana the Cheerleader (6:27)
Kristen brings back her sexy, but ultimately disgusting sexpot Shana, this time as a possible cheerleader for the high school basketball team. The coach (Cranston) is smitten, but of course the three boys (Samberg, Thompson, & Killam) are disgusted with her burping, her method of swishing a drink around and the coach’s assistant (Elliott) feels ignored. Cranston does what he can with a thankless straight-man role, but this has to be one of the better Shana sketches. B+
7. Digital Short: Rescue Dogs 3D (2:27)
In the midst of a home invasion, one man (Samberg) attempts to dial 911 for help on his iPhone, but is halted by an advertisement for Rescue Dogs 3D (starring Helen Mirren!) and in the process, he accidentally orders 99 child tickets for the film and some Pizza Hut. The sketch pokes fun at the inanity of kids movies being released lately as well as the stupid iPhone advertisements that keep coming up when attempting to do something else. It’s a hilarious biting satire. A
8. Kanye West sings “Power” (4:47)
Draping the entire set in a big white sheet and a huge number of models/dancers, Kanye sings a rock-solid power ballad about, well, power. Speechus Interruptus more than makes up for his last SNL appearance with an amazing showing here and a return to his roots after that embarrassing “pop art” phase. A+
9. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (8:24)
My favourite joke this week is easily the “Backyard Chats” one with Obama, but there’s lots of fun stuff from Seth this week, including a couple of visits from second-hand news correspondent Anthony Crispino (Moynihan) who butchers the news from the summer in a funny piece and then Cathy (Samberg) makes her final appearance before the comic strip is discontinued. Cathy continues to be a funny tribute by Andy Samberg and speaking of tributes, Seth shows a very short but fitting tribute to the comic strip character with her appearances on the show. More fun with Seth includes a pretty hilarious/cruel joke regarding the Germans paying war reparations and some poking fun at a broken-down David Hasselhoff. A-
10. Kid Smartz (4:00)
The host (Cranston) of a kids gameshow from the 70s brings the creep factor to a new high, but it doesn’t work on one of the contestants, Janelle (Thompson). It’s a good parody of that creepy guy that most people have seen on YouTube, but there wasn’t a whole lot else to this besides Kenan’s threats towards the host when he makes his attempts to kiss and hug her much like he does his other contestants. C+ (Edit: I definitely underrated this. It’s probably more like a B or a B+)
11. Biennan Brothers Concert (4:31)
Two terribly unoriginal singers (Cranston & Armisen) “delight” the crowd at the Target Center by continuously singing about a sparkling apple juice bottle with brief interludes about how much they love their audience and how their pathetic dog-and-pony show is only going to feature the one song. This sketch was odd; at first, I thought it was ultimately pointless, but the dialogue between the two singers is so absurd and ridiculous that it makes it almost brilliant because of that. The story of the origins of their song is also one of the highlights of this piece. I’m gonna get flak for this, but I give it an A.
12. Kanye West (feat. Pusha T) sings “Runaway” (4:46)
With Kanye’s protege Pusha T accompanying him, Kanye takes to the white sheet-covered stage and sings a very different tune from his first one. Okay, the guy is a huge douchebag and a pretentious ass, but man he delivers the goods 90% of the time he appears on the program. A
13. Henry’s Self-Defense Lesson (3:42)
Pipsqueak Henry (Pedrad) learns from his ex-Green Beret father (Cranston) how to defend himself while taking a break from painting his unicorn mural. In a hilarious sight gag, pops knocks his nerdy son out with one solid punch to the face. Pedrad has this weird talent for taking characters that would otherwise be grating and whiny and gives them an ounce of credibility and charm. This was good at first, but it got a little repetitive. Thankfully, it wasn’t stretched out though. B
14. i-Sleep Pro (1:10)
An advertisement for a device that allows one to hear black noise instead of white noise with things like “muffled Tyler Perry sitcoms,” “the movie Friday,” and other stereotypical African-American characteristics. Not bad, if a little obvious. B-
Bryan says goodnight and thanks every single person that he can while Kanye stands by with crown and bling looking as smug as ever.
So how was the show? Well, I don’t know that it was on the level of the season premiere, but then again some of the material was slightly more original. It certainly had its ups and downs with a lot more of the former. Cranston was a formidable host but probably not one who will be invited back anytime soon. He more than held up his end of the duties though and wasn’t afraid to do something different in most of the sketches he was involved in.
Kanye West made for an outstanding musical guest and his two numbers were full of energy and focus from the man who likes to cut people off. If the guy was untalented, it would be much easier to brush this egomaniac off but he makes it harder and harder to hate him each time he opens his mouth and lyrics flow out.
The cast was given lots to do this week and as far as I could see, everyone had their time in the sun and had at least one sketch where they got to show off their talent, specifically Vanessa Bayer in her dead-on Miley Cyrus impression and Andy Samberg in his last hurrah as Rahm Emanuel.
Jay Pharaoh took a bit of a step back this week, but at least he didn’t have to play straight man to any of the vets from the cast.
I’m glad Tiger Woods divorced Ellen DeGeneres. It was never gonna work with her being Lebanese.
I have to side with Stu. Snooki can write?
If a cop said, “Drop your gun and put your hands above your delicious brains,” I would shoot them too.
Yes, Kanye, you smug bastard, you entertained us again. I wish you weren’t so damn talented. By the way, did anyone catch him dropping the a-hole bomb in his second song? He censored himself once but not the second time. Naughty, naughty.
Bobby was so funny in the cold open and he almost got Samberg cracking up twice.
Here’s a link to the inspiration for that gameshow sketch. Beware: it’s really creepy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cM2n4DPuDX0
Host Rating: B
Musical Guest Rating: A+
Show Rating: B/B+