Archive for November, 2010


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 1)

Greetings, readers! All five of you. I have finally made a decision to go back in time for these juicy retro episodes of Saturday Night Live after a 3-week absence. I thought I was going to take a longer break, but I decided to go back to it now and begin to delve into the third season of the long-running comedy show. So what is new? What is the same? What can we expect?

Essentially, nothing has changed from the end of the second season to the start of the third. The entire cast is still in tact and now with a fresh start, Bill Murray can start his own legacy rather than continue with his moniker as “Chevy Chase’s replacement. The rest of the cast are back in full force and the only major changes have to do with some of the writers being snipped from the show. That is to say that castmembers Belushi and Murray are no longer credited as actual writers on the show.

Headlining the season premiere is cast and crew favourite Steve Martin. After two good episodes last season and superb performances by Martin, he makes his return at the beginning of the third season most likely because he is loved at 8H and because everyone wanted someone easy to work with at the start of the new year. Martin was a consummate professional during anything he did (at least back in the seventies), always proving to be on the brink of something new and outrageous but giving the whole situation a self-referential wink at the same time.

Joining Steve is a first-time musical guest in the form of country-rock sensation, Jackson Browne. Throughout the years, Browne would be known for his many hits like “Runnin’ On Empty” but mostly because he has had the SAME haircut for THIRTY FREAKIN’ YEARS. In all seriousness, I’ve always enjoyed his music so this should be a fun combination.

Season 3 – GO!

The Show:

1. National Express (1:43)

Saying goodbye to political disgrace Bert Lance (Belushi), President Carter (Aykroyd) gets weepy and walks away, leaving Lance to advertise for National Express “because a lot of people don’t recognize my face.” This really threw me for a loop as I expected a lengthy topical opening here that delved into a silly credit card spoof. Still, not a bad way to start the season although slightly underwhelming. B-

2. Monologue (4:38)

After doing a positively quirky bit involving a classic Bobby Darin song (“Oh, the shark bites!”), Steve-O talks about being a ramblin’ guy and how he goes from town to town starting a new family and then dumps them when he moves on. One of his best jokes involves Farrah Fawcett-Majors and some relatively blue humour that I am surprised made it into the show.  Martin is on an absolute roll with his monologue though, as he requests a pair of cat handcuffs and makes a number of bad feline-related puns. A

3. Royal Deluxe II (1:30)

The newest 1978 model is such a smooth, safe ride that the spokesman (Aykroyd) for this product offers a sensational example: he has a rabbi perform a circumcision in the backseat while they drive down a particularly bumpy road. It’s a classic commercial parody. A+

4. Festrunk Brothers (6:46)

Yes, it’s the debut of the wild and swingin’ Czechoslovakian brothers! In the first edition, Georg (Martin) and Yortuk (Aykroyd) crash a ping-pong game with two “foxy American babes” (Curtin & Radner) in the basement of their new apartment building. This is where the recurring sketch gets its start; from the broken english, the misuse of grammar, and their terrible attempt at trying to impress the girls by playing ping-pong themselves. You can tell that Gilda is pretty close to cracking during the sketch, but everyone manages to keep their composure in this amusing introduction to the two characters. B+

5. Jackson Browne sings “Runnin’ On Empty” (4:15)

Donning his seventies haircut (in the 70s, so I guess its okay), Jackson sings his biggest hit to date about a musician’s life on the road. Jackson is a talented crooner and this is a really enjoyable song. He doesn’t have the most charisma in the world, but it’s still a good performance. B+

6. Weekend Update with Dan Aykroyd & Jane Curtin (11:14)

Danny joins the Update team to give us the first solo anchors for the segment. Danny does well, talking about a story linking fire and third-degree burns. Laraine Newman is our first guest, discussing her trip to China to celebrate Rashashana and her merchandise from the funeral of Chairman Mao. It’s more than a little cruel, but it’s still amusing. The weather promises the pits as far as the air quality goes and firestorms later in the week in a funny bit, but then Bill Murray shows up and hits a home run with his first movie review. This week, Bill reviews The Deep and after showing a very quick clip of the film, decides that he is giving it a negative review after running down the actors in it. Bill throws it right over to Garrett, who discusses Muhammad Ali defending his title and says that Ali will win. The real moment from Garrett though comes from a Hank Aaron record-breaking moment as a baseball player from the Tokyo Giants gives his victory speech. The subtitles are clearly written by Garrett as they disparage the young Asian athlete and paint him as a very lucky individual. Finally, John Belushi comes by to talk about his trip to Durango, Mexico to talk about his journey to find a worthy student to award a scholarship to. Of course, in Mexico, he was persuaded by something else that a “student” was able to provide. It’s a funny bit by Belushi, but he looks a little “out of it.” There’s also a great closing joke involving a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. Great commentaries and lots of good jokes result in a strong first edition of Update. A

7. Mike McMack, Defense Lawyer (5:09)

During a sexual harassment court case, criminal lawyer extraordinaire Mike McMack (Martin) lambastes the victim (Radner) on the stand by bringing up meaningless past sexual experiences to try and paint her as a woman of ill repute. Steve’s performance is what stands out in this hilarious character piece as Murray provides good foil for our host as the opposing lawyer. McMack hitting on the poor woman afterwards makes the whole sketch that much funnier. A-

8. Keypunch Confession (3:31)

After not having made a confession for several years, one man (Morris) notices the tremendous advancements in technology when returning to the church. The priest (Aykroyd) introduces the Trinity 3000, which tells the confessor how he can pay for his sins or if his so-called sins are actually sin-worthy. The twist at the end is good too making for an amusing sketch. B

9. Great Moments In Rock & Roll (5:54)

A young junkie, Alice Sloan (Newman), tells the story of her relationship with Roy Orbison (Belushi), a singer who always stood perfectly still when he sang and always wore dark glasses. Laraine is good in her role as a 1960s hippie and Belushi does a pretty good Roy Orbison (especially when he sings) with the joke essentially being that Orbison is so still and wooden that he repeatedly falls over and needs to be held up by his manager (Murray). Still funny, though. B

10. The Franken & Davis Show (9:26)

Hosted by the famously homophobic Anita Bryant (Curtin), Franken & Davis present a beauty pageant if it was composed entirely of men. The two finalists are Mr. California (Davis) and Mr. Arkansas (Franken), who participate in a number of ridiculous contests to determine the winner between them. The rest of the cast participate as various other contestants and Mr. Martin himself shows up as “last year’s winner,” Craig Rasmussen. This sketch is spot-on in its satire from the hilarious interpretive dance by Mr. California to the Hollywood-phony answers provided for questions from Ms. Bryant. A-

11. Jackson Browne sings “The Pretender” (5:36)

It’s time for song #2 from JB, which ends up sounding quite a bit different from the first. This one’s more of a somber, slow-moving tune that has some excellent lyrics and showcases Jackson’s voice a bit more. All in all, it’s about on par with the first tune. B+

12. Kromega III (1:43)

Introducing… the new watch that’s so complicated to operate it will actually take 2-3 people just to make it work. Ridiculous commercial parodies like this are always so delightful. This one’s no exception. B+

Steve thanks Jackson and everyone in attendance before slow-dancing with Danny for a few seconds. Aykroyd then steps off the stage while the rest of the cast wave goodnight to everyone.

This was a pretty strong premiere. There were a few top-level sketches and not a bad one to be found thanks to a newly-energized cast and a strong ringleader in Steve “arrow-through-the-head” Martin, despite his lack of appearances tonight. Besides his leading role in the Festrunk Brothers sketch and as Mike McMack, Martin was absent in a number of sketches and the cast stood front and center. Of course, that may have been intentional on Lorne’s part so as to make the cast the stars of the show and make sure the premiere featured them as much as possible as the show was gaining more and more momentum.

Jackson Browne provided ample sound on this episode and was a good addition. There’s not much to say about Jackson that I haven’t already said except for his STUPID HAIRCUT and his talented crooning.

Notes:

It was funny how the Festrunks were talking about “big American breasts” to Jane & Gilda, both of not-particularly-large mammaries.

“Nick Nolte, you look like a Denver cop.” “Robert Shaw, you disturb me.”

“How do you feel about playing Anita Bryant?” “Not only am I a great fan of hers, but we’re also ex-lovers.”

“Kromega III: It’s like asking a stranger for the time.”

I think this was a stronger premiere than last year’s. Not one sketch was bad.

This episode starts a short-lived trend of all the Update commentators meeting at the desk just before Weekend Update begins.

Host Rating: A

Musical Guest Rating: B+

Show Rating: B+

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by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 7)

In Year 34, SNL had another huge breakthrough and became even more culturally relevant. This was due (in part) to the 2008 Presidential Election that had everyone stirring over Sarah Palin, John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton to name the four biggest political players. This comedic institution took over and reigned supreme like they usually do when they’re in the midst of election season. That season also was one of the more cameo-heavy years in the history of the show and featured a large number of good to great episodes that far exceeded Years 29 and 30 (two of the worst recent years in my opinion).

One of the most effective hosts during that season was Anne Hathaway. Her hosting stint was a wonderful first-timer appearance with Anne appearing in a number of different roles, most memorably her ode to Julie Andrews in the delightfully cruel Mary Poppins sketch about the true meaning of supercalifragelisticespialidocious. Anne also served as the “straight” character in a bunch of sketches and was never a host that tried to hog the spotlight for herself. She was also accompanied by a willing and energetic cast so both of those qualities melded together to create one of the more entertaining shows that year. It also seemed like pretty much everyone had a moment in the sun.

Hathaway returning was a gimmie and it was just a matter of how long it would be before her second hosting appearance. Joining Anne is Florence + The Machine, a band I am fairly unfamiliar with but a lot of people seem to be stoked about seeing so I’ll leave my judgment until I watch her perform. The cast is also in a really good position this season so let’s see what they’re able to cook up.

Program start!

1. The Rachel Maddow Show (5:13)

It’s the second appearance of Abby’s spot-on Rachel Maddow impression as she interviews John Boehner (Hader), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Wiig), and Charles Rangel (Thompson). Boehner makes vague allusions to what “the American people” want, Pelosi makes the same vain expression of muted anger like “someone forgot to use a coaster,” and Charles Rangel mentions that he is an unethical person but not a criminal. Kenan’s Rangle impression is humourous as are the others which, combined with the smart writing, makes this an amusing cold open. B+

2. Monologue (3:11)

Anne talks about her newest movie in which she gets naked (why haven’t I bought my ticket yet?) and is then interrupted by several male castmembers (Moynihan, Samberg, & Thompson specifically) who inform her that being naked in their respective sketches would make it funnier. She is only too willing to participate but the trick is on them once Kristen shows up. Cute monologue, but nothing special. B-

3. Transportation Security Administration (1:11)

Due to the new regulations for airport security, the TSA now operate a late-night steamy commercial advertising their sexy pat-downs. They also poke fun at the way in which sex line commercials advertise extremely attractive young girls but deliver something far from that. Pretty hilarious piece. A

4. The Miley Cyrus Show (5:32)

Yay, it’s back! This time, Miley (Bayer) introduces her puppet Smiley in her “comedy monologue” and Billy Ray (Sudeikis) ups the creepy level this time with hilarious payoff. Miley’s guest this time is Katie Holmes (an unexpectedly great impression from our host) and it results in another great clip featuring Hannah Montana herself auditioning to be in the new Batman film. This sketch had so many funny lines and a great moment featuring Miley showing so-called “sexy pictures” of herself that people have deemed controversial, which just points out how ridiculous they are in real life. Another home-run for Bayer with this sketch. A

5. Free Thanksgiving Dinner (4:59)

It’s time for a long-awaited appearance from Penelope (Wiig), who this time helps out at a soup kitchen making thanksgiving dinner for homeless people. Anne plays the counterpart to Penelope’s madcap one-upsmanship and this recurring character gets a bit of a jump-start. The visual gags in this Penelope sketch are top-notch and I would actually say this is my favourite bit of hers. Hathaway even gets more of a character to work with than most hosts who play off Penelope and shows off her wonderful hosting talent. A-

6. Royal Engagement (4:30)

The marriage of Prince William (Samberg) and Kate Middleton (Anne) is the subject here as the soon-to-wed couple meet with the Queen (Armisen) and Philip (Hader) to announce their wedding plans. Once William steps out of the room though, the real voices of the royal couple come out as disgusting-sounding cockney. It sounds one-note, but it was a very amusing sketch from the humourous “real accents” to the threats to the fight at the conclusion of the sketch between Liz and Phil. B+

7. Florence + The Machine sing “Dog Days Are Over” (3:56)

Flo and the band sing a melodious tune that really proves how wonderful her voice is and the amazing heights it can reach. The song itself seems to be split in two distinct parts and it results in one of the top performances so far this season. A+

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

The highlight of Update this week is a segment called “C’mon, Dictionary!” in which Seth attacks Oxford for naming “refutiate” the word of the year. Meyers is relentless in his attack on the English language for whoring itself out to this terrible mash-up of reputiate with an ‘f’ instead of a ‘p’ and it results in one of the funnier commentaries in recent memory. The guests this week include Guy Fieri (Moynihan), who introduces some alcohol-heavy recipes while obnoxiously making a fool of himself. Moynihan is usually funny, but I’m not a huge fan of this impression and the segment was pretty much the same joke over and over again. Also joining Seth is the creator of the alcoholic caffeinated drink, Four Loko, Chris Hunter (Sudeikis). This segment works a lot better as Jason often works well with these spokesman-type characters. Finally, Jay Pharaoh stops by to show what Thanksiving songs would sound like from people like Jay-Z, Drake, and Biggie Smalls. The only one I really know is Jay-Z but it works anyway due to Pharaoh’s charisma. Solid Update. A-

9. The Essentials (4:40)

Robert Osbourne (Sudeikis) introduces some “lost scenes” from The Wizard of Oz, which include the introduction of a new character in the form of a weather vane (Armisen). The actor playing him is very stereotypically Jewish though and often complains about some miniscule problems they encounter. There’s not much to say here. Anne plays the Dorothy role while Killam, Hader, and Samberg are the Tin Man, Lion, and the Scarecrow respectively but they don’t get much of an opportunity to do stuff. It was a pretty one-note sketch and while Armisen put forth a lot of effort, this didn’t really work. C+

10. WXPD News New York (3:53)

After a grisly shootout, veteran reporter Herb Welch (Hader) goes to the scene and interviews the family about what they witnessed. This is a revelation for Bill as he plays a great senile old man who has clearly waited way too long for retirement. Jason Sudeikis as the in-studio news anchor plays off him well also as the perplexed youngster. Welch eventually starts using the microphone as an unintentional weapon and Hader’s physical comedy really gets to shine here. This sketch had me laughing out loud during its entire duration. I think it was a combination of Hader’s ridiculous old man, Hathaway’s amusing Brooklyn housewife character, and Sudeikis’ deadpan performance. A

11. Mega-Mart (2:07)

Featuring a ridiculous sale by a Wal-Mart knockoff gets more and more ludicrous with the removal of security guards, a lineup to the store sponsored by Four Loko (along with ANOTHER hilarious performance by Hathaway), and Kirk Douglas being hid somewhere in the store for people to find and get an autographed copy of his book. Bobby Moynihan works wonders as the crazed spokesman and the announcer is also a high point of this piece. A

12. Camel Tame (1:14)

Camel toe got you down? One friend (Pedrad) tells another (Wiig) about a great new product known as Camel Tame that will easily get rid of your unsightly groinal shape. Instead, it juts out like a big groin pouch. Another humourous commercial parody. B+

13. Florence + The Machine sing “You’ve Got The Love” (2:54)

The second song features some great violin work and, of course, some more tremendous vocals from Florence. Is that a giant harp in the background? Either way, this is another exercise in voice work as Florence stretches her vocal muscles to the extreme. A

14. Horse Play (2:47)

Much like the “Bunny Business” sketch from last season, this time it’s an advertisement for the soundtrack for a cartoon movie about horse baseball players. Joining the fun here is Randy Newman (Armisen) once again, the lead singer (Wiig) of the Cranberries, Alanis Morisette (Anne), Robert Smith (Samberg) of The Cure, Cee Lo (Thompson), and Adam Lambert (Sudeikis) in a hilariously brief bit. I loved this just as much as the aforementioned “Bunny Business” bit. A-

Anne looks absolutely elated to be on-stage and thanks absolutely everybody that she can before delivering hugs en masse.

Well that was a step up from last week’s slightly-above-average broadcast. If you thought Scarlett was fun, Anne was a revelation in that she delivered on an even grander scale than her last hosting stint and was seemingly up for anything. From donning a British accent and playing Kate Middleton to doing a spot-on impression of Mrs. Tom Cruise, Anne was on top of her game and looked like she was having a ball at the same time without getting too giddy and appearing unprofessional or anything. I sincerely hope she becomes a five-timer.

Florence + The Machine were very welcome in the musical department of things tonight. Flo proved that she has a heckuva voice and a terrific live presence with a mere two performances on the show. They were both full of heart and determination. It’s so nice to see a host/musical guest combo where both parties are so willing and excited to be there.

The cast was also great this week and just like Anne’s last episode, it seemed like everyone was well-represented outside of maybe Paul Brittain (of whom I’m anxious to see repeat his Ed Vincent character). It’s hard to pick the best sketch of the night but I am really loving the Miley Cyrus Show as a recurring bit so I would probably go with that one. It’s also a good example of Vanessa Bayer’s strong comedic talent.

Notes:

“And that’s what Thanksgiving is all about…”

“Dad, shnock it off.”

That dig at The Princess Diaries was cute.

“Oxford Dictionary, please stop RAFING the English language.”

“Keep that away from Guy Fieri.”

I also have to wonder why Jay was wearing a “Jay Pharaoh” shirt…

Host Rating: A+

Musical Guest Rating: A

Show Rating: A


by Brendan Wahl

Nicole Kidman as… Anna
Cameron Bright as… Sean
Danny Huston as… Joseph
Anne Heche as… Clara

Wow, it’s been a while since I did one of these. Instead of focusing on a more recent film or a big Hollywood blockbuster, I decided to take a look at a little independant film that caused quite a stir in the media about six years ago and even enraged some festival attendees. The film I’m speaking of is Birth, a film which stars Nicole Kidman, Danny Huston, Lauren Bacall, Peter Stormare, Anne Heche, and most importantly… a 10-year old actor named Cameron Bright. What inspired such controversy and, in some cases, hatred from the most liberal of viewers? Maybe a further explanation of the plot will bring this to light.

The film involves a young widowed woman (Kidman) who, after ten years of being without her husband, has moved on and gotten engaged to a handsome young wealthy man named Joseph (Huston). As her life has seemingly changed for the better, an odd thing occurs. At her engagement party, she is approached by a young boy (Bright) claiming to be her long-dead husband Sean reincarnated as a child. At first, Kidman is hesitant and thinks the whole thing to be ludicrous but it appears increasingly so that this boy knows way too much information than would be possible for him to know. This inspires Nicole to become suspicious of the whole situation and as she investigates the matter further, it affects the people around her as they attempt to understand the situation.

When I discovered the film and heard of the plot, I had wanted to see it but I suppose it was just lost in the must-watch shuffle for the past six years. The controversy surrounding the film should be apparent now. People feared the worst when they found out that Kidman’s character would have to end up sharing very tender scenes with a young actor on-screen. There is one “bath scene” and a kiss that they share that really ramped up the controversy and caused the film to receive a wave of boos at the Venice Film Festival, where it debuted. These scenes are blown way out of proportion. The director has asserted that both Kidman and Bright were never naked together on-screen during the bath scene and that the kiss they had was ever so brief that it’s a wonder people found it objectionable.

But rather than just discuss the controversial nature of the film for the entire review, I’d like to focus this REVIEW on… well, you know… whether the movie is good or not. It’s rare for a director to have such a strong debut like Jonathan Glazer did with Sexy Beast (2000), but he managed to show some great promise with that film and it allowed him to explore some darker territory with his second movie. In my opinion, he succeeds.

The acting is a good place to start. I have always liked Nicole Kidman. She’s an actress who can take a nothing role and really inject some life into it no matter how boring the part may look on paper. This is not to say that this role is nothing on paper, but Nicole Kidman is wonderful and perfectly cast in the title role of Anna. She exudes a certain kind of vulnerability but strength at the same time that is rarely seen in a lot of working actresses today and this film gives her a very good opportunity to do so. As far as the acting in the film goes though, Cameron Bright is also quite good as a possible reincarnated version of Anna’s late husband. Cameron is a child actor who doesn’t use cuteness as a replacement for acting and is amazingly versatile for his age. As far as the rest of the actors go, they are generally pretty good but Anne Heche makes the biggest impression out of the supporting cast.

The script itself is also quite wonderful and doesn’t feel heavy-handed or hammy in the least. This film tells its story with intrigue and class and doesn’t build to stupid plot points and have the characters act in unconvicing ways in reaction to the events occurring around them. The direction also helps the story in a huge way, particularly in one haunting yet revealing scene taking place in the audience at an opera where the camera rests on a close-up of Kidman’s face for a good 2-3 minutes while she weighs in on the young boy’s revelation.

Overall, this film was much more than I expected it to be. It’s a good example of not believing critics’ opinions before actually witnessing a film for yourself. This film is definitely worth peepin’.

8/10


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 6)

This season has been about half-and-half of returning hosts and SNL virgins. While the season’s hosts have been steadfast and, at some points, excellent (Jon Hamm & Emma Stone), this is the first time I was a little weary of a returning host. Now, let’s get this out of the way first. Scarlett Johansson is a fantastic young actress, she’s super-hot, and she’s clearly close to Woody Allen, which means she has made a bundle of quality films. When she hosted for the first time in 2006, she was jittery, awkward and just came off as unprepared for the experience that was SNL. Her second time hosting was a similar affair. So when I heard the announcement that she’d be hosting the show for a third go-around, I wasn’t really highly anticipating the event.

Arcade Fire, on the other hand, I was totally anticipating. The band appeared about three years ago in a terrific episode with host Rainn Wilson and the idea of them coming back was a wonderful notion. The band is also quite unique in their style; I love the big-band style they bring to the table and the fact that they all have various jobs throughout that they seemingly rotate with throughout the band.

In the words of Brian Fellow, let’s get goin’!

The Show:

1. Chinese Press Conference (6:26)

In what is essentially a rehash of the cold open from Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Dave Matthews Band from last season, President Obama (Armisen) meets with Hu Jintao (Hader), while his interpreter (Pedrad) humourously translates for him. Although it is pretty much the same sketch, there are some differences in the subject matter and Jintao goes even more over-the-top this time. After the meeting between the two heads of state, Jintao constantly brings up the fact that the US still owes China tons of money and makes a few sexual allusions. B+

2. Monologue (3:50)

Scar-Jo remarks at the celebrities who are bombarded by the paparazzi and how they can avoid this before she is joined by Dina Lohan (Wiig) and Ke$ha (Elliott) to perform a number about how women aren’t classy anymore. It’s nice to see Abby get some solid screentime, but this thing felt thrown together. At least Scarlett looked very reserved and calm on the stage. Might have something to do with her recent Tony nomination. C+

3. Maternity Television (1:24)

MTV has transformed into a network full of shows containing pregnant people including My Super Sweet 16 and Pregnant with one rich pregnant girl (Johansson), Pregnant Dance Crew, Wild’n Out with insults directed towards a baby by Nick Cannon (Pharaoh), and my favourite was Cribs. Snooki (Moynihan) makes another appearance too! Very accurate parody. B

4. Millionaire Matchmaker (3:19)

In a parody of the Bravo programme, the host (Johansson) of the vapid reality show tries to help mousy lawyer Candice (Bayer) find her true love. Only problem is that the host of the show is an uncaring, rude, and a generally horrible human being. I’ve never seen the source material, but the sketch is still pretty funny and moves along at a very quick pace. Also, Taran Killam shines in a brief role as one of the eligible bachelors. B+

5. the Manuel Ortiz Show (4:30)

I’ve never been a fan of this dancing talk show but this time they tweaked the sketch and it succeeds because the direction is changed somewhat. Scarlett is game here as a guest who isn’t quite sure who her baby’s daddy is and thus must figure out if it’s her husband’s (Samberg) or lover’s (Hader). Bill Hader’s facial expressions are definitely the highlight of this sketch, but Manuel Ortiz (Armisen) is a fun character and just like the last sketch, it moves along at a rapid-fire pace. A-

6. Unstoppable (2:08)

The trailer for the new Denzel Washington (Pharaoh)/Chris Pine (Killam) vehicle sees them making ridiculous youngster and old age jokes at each other’s expense as they bond. Piling up on those great moments though is the constant commentary by the dispatcher (Johansson) comparing everything to the Chrysler Building. It’s a great mish-mash of impressions, satire, and another fun performance by Johansson. A

7. Hollywood Dish (4:24)

Brady (Hader) and Anastacia (Wiig) are back, this time interviewing Scarlett Johansson and providing the usual distractions on their end, which of course derails the interview. The same antics take place but much like Manuel Ortiz, they throw enough changes in there to tweak the sketch and make for some hilarious moments. Bill semi-cracks up, but it only adds to this great installment of the recurring gossip show. A-

8. Arcade Fire performs “We Used to Wait” (4:25)

With a unique set design behind them, Arcade Fire belt out an enjoyable tune with some terrific instrumental accompaniment as per their usual modus operandi. B+

9. Weekend Update (8:37)

Seth’s jokes are good as per usual this week with some talk of the Cindy & John McCain arguments over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” but my favourite had to be the Pamela Anderson bit about fur hats no matter how crude it may have been. Blaming A Prairie Home Companion for all those car accidents was well-deserved and a nice bit as well. George W. (Sudeikis) and Kanye West (yet ANOTHER great impression by Pharaoh) show up to reconcile their differences and speak of their newfound friendship in a hilarious segment, while two survivors from the carnival cruise ship Splendor, Frank (Armisen) and Gladys Madden (Bayer) show up to speak about their not-so-horrifying ordeal. It’s not as good of a segment, but it’s still pretty amusing. It’s a pretty solid edition of Update this week. B+

10. St. Kat’s Middle (4:49)

Shown on the Disney Channel, St. Kat’s Middle features a group of inspirational students (Johansson, Samberg, Wiig, Brittain, & Wiig) try to coach their wheelchair-bound friend, Marvin (Thompson), out of his chair and on his feet. Kenan’s indignation while laying face-down on the floor is amusing, but it grows thin and the sketch wears out its welcome after a short amount of time. C

11. Film: Model UN (2:30)

This week’s digital short features a presentation by the Model UN and its speaker (Samberg), presenting their opinion on world history. Essentially the song boils down to a rant against everything followed by a variation of “what was THAT all about?!” It sounds one-note and it kind of is, but Samberg really sells it and then once Arcade Fire comes out, it really goes over-the-top and hits the right notes. B+

12. A Treat from Paula Deen’s Kitchen (2:41)

Cooking expert Paula Deen (Wiig) introduces a big 8-ply roll of paper towel so they can soak up all the excessive amounts of butter and oil she makes with her dishes. I give credit to Wiig for really trying here but this sketch felt pretty flat and didn’t really go anywhere. C-

13. Arcade Fire performs “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” (5:01)

The second number has the chick in the band on lead vocals (don’t know her name!) and she has a nice set of pipes. Aside from that, she’s also kind of cute in a weird Bjork way. Plus, streamers! Everyone loves streamers! All in all, it’s a better song than the first one and brings them home in a big way. A-

14. Stars of Tomorrow (4:57)

A new series on TLC features a talent scout (Moynihan) telling the tale of Laura Parsons (Bayer), a little girl who does auditions for plays based on films that are way too adult for kids to perform. She gets huge until she is challenged by Amanda Starr (Johansson), who also does some similar auditions. The sketch is high on laughs and pretty conceptual, which makes this the best sketch of the night and the most well-written one also. A

15. Mike’s Busteria (2:12)

Ah yes, I knew they were going to bring this back! This time, Mike (Armisen) and his daughter Lexi (Johansson) sing the praises of ceramic busts. While this sketch usually works for me, this time it just felt a little off. I don’t know if they were nervous because the show was running long, but Fred seems a little off-kilter and Johansson tries to hold her own. C

Scarlett thanks Arcade Fire, cast, and crew before waving goodnight to one and all.

Scarlett Johansson was so much more relaxed in this episode! Colour me surprised. Where her last two stints had her giving off a nervous and jittery vibe, Scarlett managed to keep it together for the entire span of the episode and her comic timing also seems to have improved. I hereby take back any reservations I have for Johansson hosting the show. I’d actually like to see her come back again and even become a five-timer.

Arcade Fire was as great as I expected them to be. Where their first number was strictly by-the-books, their second one was bouncy fun with a lot of terrific instrumental work. And streamers! The band was cool enough to make a hilarious appearance in the digital short as well (much like the last time they were the musical guest) and were clearly very glad and willing to be a part of the broadcast.

There was a good effort by everyone involved tonight; however, we have ourselves a good, but not great, episode. The first half (sans the monologue) was pretty strong, but the second portion of the show faltered a bit due to three sketches that fell as flat as Kenan did in the Disney Channel sketch. Those notwithstanding, it was still an enjoyable show and Scarlett was a delight this time out.

Notes:

I prefer Forte, but Bill Hader more than held his own in the cold open as Hu Jintao. Pedrad is also fun in the interpreter role (“I like to have the lights on when SOMEONE IS DOING SEX TO ME!”)

“Use a mirror. They’re like cameras… that forget.”

“Girls today wouldn’t know class if it tried to kiss them and puked in their mouth.”

“Whoa, our moms are here!”

Bill and Kristen almost cracking up in the Hollywood Dish sketch was too funny.

Oops! Kenan got up a bit too quickly.

Host Rating: B+

Musical Guest Rating: A-

Show Rating: B

SNL Season 2 Year-End Awards

Posted: November 6, 2010 by Brendan Wahl in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

by Brendan Wahl

Without any further ado, here they are:

Best Episode: Candice Bergen/Frank Zappa (12/11/76)
– Runner-Up: Buck Henry/The Band (10/30/76)
– Runner-Up: Eric Idle/Joe Cocker, Stuff (10/2/76)

Best Host: Steve Martin
– Runner-Up: Buck Henry
– Runner-Up: Eric Idle

Best Musical Guest: The Band
– Runner-Up: Frank Zappa
– Runner-Up: The McGarrigle Sisters

Worst Episode: Ruth Gordon/Chuck Berry (1/22/77)
– Runner-Up: Jodie Foster/Brian Wilson (11/27/76)
– Runner-Up: Dick Cavett/Ry Cooder (11/13/76)

Worst Host: Ruth Gordon
– Runner-Up: Jodie Foster
– Runner-Up: Fran Tarkenton

Worst Musical Guest: Brian Wilson
– Runner-Up: Richard Baskin
– Runner-Up: Leo Sayer

Most Memorable Moments:

10. Eric Idle’s first stint is a Monty Python-style absurdity-filled fun time (10/2/76)
9. John Belushi sure can act! (3/12/77)
8. Bill Murray starts to come into his own (3/19/77)
7. Frank Zappa’s performances include actual slime and a surprise appearance by the Samurai (12/11/76)
6. Ralph Nader: “Not tonight, I have a yeast infection!” (1/15/77)
5. Exit Stage Left, Chevy Chase (10/30/76)
4. Introducing… Bill Murray! (1/15/77)
3. Brian Wilson’s slow descent (11/27/76)
2. Julian Bond: “Light-skinned blacks are smarter than dark-skinned blacks.” (4/9/77)
1. Oops! Belushi cuts Buck Henry during a Samurai sketch (10/30/76)

Season 3 will start up… sometime. I may take a break before tackling that one!

Again, credit goes to HelloStuart from TV.com for the format.

What was YOUR favourite episode?


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 2, Episode 22)

Well, this is it. After an exciting season filled with highs and some lows, we come to the end of it with another reliable host in Buck Henry. What can be said about the second season? While it was definitely more consistent than the debut year for Saturday Night Live, it still wasn’t at its peak for this cast yet. The second season was filled with many memorable moments/sketches/musical guests and the cast was more than up for it despite some brief downtime after losing Chevy Chase. Bill Murray’s time on the show had a shaky beginning but it was just starting to gain some momentum at this point and this is his last shot before the season ends to really make his impact.

Going with a reliable go-to host, Lorne hired Buck Henry for this episode (and would do so for every other season finale during the first five years). Buck was a man who was game for pretty much anything and that was pretty evident when looking at his past hosting appearances earlier in Year 2 and his two appearances in Year 1. However, his willingness to participate would become even more evident in future episodes, but that’s another story. Anyway, I digress. Buck is one of the great hosts on the show and one of the easiest to work with so its plain to see why they would want him back again and again.

Joining Mr. Henry are two musical guests, although performing as a duo. Jennifer Warnes, who would be best known for her duet with Joe Cocker of “Up Where We Belong,” joins Kenny Vance on the show. Vance, who is somewhat of an unknown to me, would return to the show during the infamous Doumanian era to become musical director and managed to acquire acts like Aretha Franklin, Prince, and James Brown. Not too shabby. Warnes has a heck of a voice but having no knowledge of Vance, I have no idea what to expect from this guy.

For the final time this season, START!

The Show:

1. A Fireside Chat (3:06)

The energy shortage was a major issue during President Carter’s regime and this sketch highlights that fact in a humourous fashion as members of the Presidential family must keep pedaling a bike that is powering the White House energy. Jimmy (Aykroyd) and Rosalyn (Newman) have no problem switching off between manually running the generator, but when poor Lillian (Radner)  has her turn, it’s an entirely different story. It’s a clever sight gag and one that makes this brief opening a classic. A

2. Monologue (3:11)

Buck announces that he wanted to do something different this time and so, having the clout and being cleared to do anything by NBC, he invites a lady on-stage to perform a live sex act. Unfortunately, a rather burly man somehow misinterprets Buck’s invite and manhandles the host onto the bed he has carefully set up. Buck’s monologues are usually wonderful and this was funny as well. B+

3. Samurai B.M.O.C. (7:04)

After discussing semantics with a black revolutionary leader (Morris), the Dean (Henry) of the university meets with Samurai Futaba (Belushi), who is being halted from graduating. Like always, Henry has terrific chemistry with Belushi’s Samurai and they switch it up enough every time to keep the recurring character from becoming stale.  The sketch is like poetry and though the Samurai works with Buck-less sketches as well, Mr. Henry always brings out the best in him. A-

4. Jennifer Warnes sings “Right Time of the Night” (2:50)

Sporting some glasses that immediately give away the decade she’s from, Warnes belts out a tune that manages to entertain and have some pretty good lyrics as well. Warnes looks high, though, by her body language that she exudes during this performance. Either way, it’s solid. B+

5. In The Shower (3:42)

Spastic and entertaining Richard Herkiman (Murray) turns a shower with his wife (Radner) into a variety-style show with songs and guests including the man she’s cheating on him with. As her secret lover (Henry) enters the shower, he and Richie’s wife are all hugs and kisses while he talks about how hurt he is in a very off-putting smarmy way. Much like Nick the Lounge Singer, this character plays to Murray’s strengths and is another breakout moment for him during the second season. B+

6. Return Of The Coneheads (9:49)

This time, Beldar (Aykroyd) and Prymaat (Curtin) welcome Dr. Ray Bondish (Henry), who brings a large pyramid with strange writing on it. It is interpreted as an urgent message from Remulak and the family finally explains their origins much to the delight of their visitor. After ejecting him, the Coneheads plan to drive away so they can return home in a hilarious filmed portion of the sketch. There, we get to meet another Conehead (Morris) and the High Master of Remulak (Belushi) who is set to have an arranged marriage with Connie (Newman). Unfortunately, she is not the virgin bride he expected. This sketch really pushes the absurdity of these characters, but it’s fantastic and the best of their appearances so far. A+

7. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (7:03)

Commenting on the Frost/Nixon interviews, Curtin announces that Tricky Dick has also committed petty crimes like robbing liquor stores in the Washington area. There’s also an amusing piece involving a microphone being attached to Seattle Slew and his jockey (with the voices done by Chevy Chase!) as they bump along during the race. Emily Litella (Radner) interviews Bella Abzug (the real McCoy), who apparently has a huge announcement to make but Litella fumbles the introduction up so much so Bella just stops the interview with “nevermind.” Even our host stops by to deliver Jane an award for Outstanding Television Journalist for the 1976-77 season, but begins to regret it and take it back after he realizes that Curtin won’t sleep with him for it. B+

8. Rhonda’s Bridal Shower (5:30)

Another appearance by the Jewish New Yawker (Radner) sees her gathering with friends and has the same response for every gift she receives from her friends. The sketch basically consists of a bunch of typical New York gals talking about all things New York. There’s not a whole lot of substance to this sketch and though the performances are fine, the piece is kind of stale. The sketch is a little too long as well and just doesn’t feel like it really has a point. C

9. How Your Children Grow (3:37)

Jane hosts a show featuring a scientist (Henry) showing off his recent experiments of one girl (Radner) who has to enunciate the punctuation in his speech. The second girl (Newman) rings a bell and then Jane gets a cookie. The twist of the sketch is really funny and that’s mainly where the humour comes out of. Don’t get me wrong, though. This is a very cleverly constructed one-joke sketch. A-

10. Film: Dog In Bed (:43)

A film by Bill Wegman rather than the Weis man this week features his dog taking a snooze in bed until the alarm clock wakes him up. That’s literally the entire sketch. I don’t even know how to rate that. So I won’t.

11. Kenny Vance sings “The Performer” (3:58)

A rollicking little tune by Vance, who looks really, really tired. It’s got a bit of a mariachi sound to it as well and that only adds to the enjoyability. Not as great as Warnes’ tune, but still pretty solid. B

12. Lucky Lindy (6:12)

Charles Lindbergh (Henry) attempts his flight from New York to Paris despite the distractions of a narrator (Aykroyd) and his pornographic magazines. Every time he drifts off to sleep or becomes distracted, he gets very close to the Atlantic Ocean and eventually is visited by a certain shark (Chevy Chase!) that can live on land. It’s a pretty big surprise and a funny one at that which is a great way to finish off the sketches for the year. A-

13. The SNL Band performs “Departure Lounge” (3:50)

With a piece written by Howard Shore, the Saturday Night band performs the instrumental piece and despite the fact that Howard freakin’ Shore wrote this and it’s obviously going to be a good ballad, it kind of takes some of the momentum away from the show. Still, it’s a good tune. B

14. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir (2:12)

Mr. Mike makes his return as an impressionist and this time, his big act is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (the cast & writers)… if they had large steel needles shoved into their eyes. It’s essentially a repeat of the last two times he did “needles-in-the-eyes” impressions, but it’s still odd and darkly amusing. B+

Buck thanks the shark, who then promptly “eats” him. Chevy then pops out to say hello and everyone else waves goodbye for the summer.

And that, my friend, is that.

So what can be said about the second season of Saturday Night Live? I think I’ve said everything I’ve really wanted to say about the season already and have nothing too much to add. This episode, while certainly not the best one this season, was a solid one and held up as another fine set of performances from Buck Henry. Buck proved once again that he was a most qualified host and that he doesn’t even need to be the center of attention to be funny. He provided the cast with a shot of adrenaline like he usually did.

Jennifer Warnes proved to be a pretty good musical guest as did Kenny Vance, but both performers really only did one song each so it’s hard to get a good grasp on how either would be were they to be the solo guest. However, judging from this episode, they were both apt and performed well. The SNL Band acted as a sort of unofficial third musical guest and while I’m not a huge fan of that type of music, their performance was fairly good as well.

I will post my year-end awards/demerits for Season 2 in a few days.

Notes:

Pretty clever bit of business was Buck Henry referencing the monologue at the beginning of Samurai B.M.O.C. Speaking of that sketch, why did it have such a long build-up to the Samurai’s entrance?

Buck Henry was still wet from the shower sketch during his brief appearance in the Coneheads bit. Pretty funny to see, but I don’t know why.

I think those people that were in New York during the filmed Coneheads portion did not have a clue what was going on.

How Your Children Grow: “The doctors removed half his colon.” “Semi-colon.”
“As far as we know, she’s just some dumbo who likes to ring a bell and point to her right.”

“Unexpected turbulence suddenly jerked the plane off… course.”

Host Rating: A

Musical Guest Rating – Jennifer Warnes: B+

Musical Guest Rating – Kenny Vance: B

Show Rating: B+


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 5)

It’s a wonderful thing when SNL finds a host that they enjoy working with and one slowly sees them morph into a go-to host and one that is invited back almost every season to command the reigns of the show. One of these hosts is Jon Hamm. After making his hosting debut two seasons ago on another Halloween episode, Hamm solidified a good reputation as a host who was more than willing to go the distance in his performances and also to step aside and not have to be the center of attention in a sketch at all times. It is nice to see a host worshipped every now and then, but it is an absolute delight when the host becomes an honourary castmember for the night.

Joining Hamm is a two-time musical guest, Rihanna. While her first appearance was mid-way through the last season, she was fairly entertaining in that particular underrated Blake Lively/Rihanna episode (I know, I’m in the minority of people who liked it). This time, she promotes her upcoming album “Loud” and brings her usual strong-willed, Chris Brown-dumping self to the stage. Rihanna is an odd one for me; at times, I really dig her stuff but then sometimes I just want to turn off the TV and be sure she is done singing before turning it back on.

Program START!

The Show:

1. A Message from the Vice President (3:25)

The beloved Joe Biden (Sudeikis) makes one last-ditch attempt to save the Democrats during the mid-term elections, but declares it “dead in the water” anyway. What really makes this work though is Biden comparing the state of the economy to the Chilean miners and declares since they dealt with that fine, no one else should have any right to complain about the economy. Biden’s test related to this is funny and whenever Sudeikis does the impression, it’s almost always gold. B+

2. Monologue (3:46)

After doing Mad Men for four seasons so far, the “Hammer” thinks himself a master at developing ad campaigns on the spot. To test this newfound talent, Hamm takes product suggestions from the audience including one near-stumper from a particularly weird gentleman (Samberg) of 9-volt batteries. Jon is such a relaxed and laid-back host that this whole thing just works very naturally for him. B+

3. Digital Short: Ronnie & Clyde (2:53)

It’s the return of Shy Ronnie (Samberg)! This time, Rihanna refers to her “Bonnie & Clyde ’03” hit and initiates a bank heist with her very unhelpful accomplice. This time it’s even better than their first digital short together even though a lot of it was fairly predictable after having seen the original. Oh and our host? He plays a customer who is probably getting lucky with our musical guest. Another fun piece. B+

4. Vincent Price’s Halloween Special (5:32)

One of my favourite recurring sketches makes its return as Vincent Price (Hader) welcomes the usual technical difficulties and difficult-to-deal-with guests. This time, he welcomes a pilled-up Judy Garland (Wiig) and Senator John F. Kennedy (Hamm) and his campaign manager/prostitute, Candy (Pedrad). Liberace (Armisen) is introduced in a terrific way and this time, the gay jokes are even more plentiful than usual. All the same, it’s more good fun from Vincent and the gang. A-

5. Back To The Future 25th Anniversary DVD (2:31)

With the release of the new BTTF DVD, some auditions for the major roles in the movie are shown. This sketch is mainly here to highlight the impressions from the cast and there are tons of good ones from Al Pacino (Hader) auditioning for Doc to Robin Williams (fun impression by Hamm) vying for the same role as well but getting carried away by his wacky improv. We also get another bang-on impression by Jay Pharaoh, this time of Eddie Murphy. A

6. Audition (4:40)

During an audition for a local play, the director grants time for actress Lizette Barnes (Wiig), who basically spends her time explaining what she will show and do and what she will absolutely not do. What starts as a seemingly gross-out sketch develops into much more than that when her husband (Hamm) enters the room and evokes an impassioned speech about his wife’s talent, dating back to a dog commercial. The performances of Hamm and Wiig are what really carry this well-written sketch, but Sudeikis provides terrific straight-man foil as well. A-

7. Back To The Future 25th Anniversary DVD (2:46)

More auditions! Much like the Star Wars Auditions sketch from Kevin Spacey/Beck back in 1997, they make this one a two-parter. This time, Samberg shows off his Nicolas Cage impression but once again Bill Hader dominates the sketch, this time with a wonderful impression of Alan Alda. We see a few that we’ve already seen before like Bill Cosby (Thompson), Joan Cusack (Elliott), and Prince (Armisen), but it turns out that Killam does a funny impression of Gilbert Gottfried and Pee Wee Herman as well. A

8. Rihanna sings “What’s My Name?” (3:50)

Taking a page out of Kanye’s playbook, Rihanna revamps the stage and douses it in a beautiful red glow second only to the beauty of Rihanna herself. With low-to-no expectations, Rihanna does a pretty decent job with this first song and her outfit is nothing to sneeze at either. B

9. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (11:02)

Seth’s guests this week are James Carville (more fun with Bill Hader!), who comments on the mid-term elections with the usual clever metaphors that he likes to throw out, and Garth & Kat who come by to sing some “planned” Halloween songs from their new concert tour. Of course, it’s just as slapped together as their songs usually are and that only adds to the charm. Seth’s jokes are just as consistently good as usual like a funny bit involving a new Trick or Treat app on the iPhone and also one involving China’s wonderful air quality saving a boy’s life. The one involving the miners was pretty slick too. A-

10. I Didn’t Ask For This (5:38)

A talk-show featuring an unwilling Youtube celebrity (Moynihan) talking to fellow Youtubians as they all try to figure out why people make fun of their unfortunate mishaps that just so happened to be captured on camera and posted to the eponymous website. One guest (Wiig) was accidentally hit with a hammer, while the other (Hamm) was caught crying as his son finally confessed his love for him. Hamm actually sends the host and Wiig into a fit of laughter because, well, his crying noise is too much not to make fun of. This sketch was a pretty clever commentary on the media, actually. A

11. Highway Cops (5:11)

A 70s show on NBC features two cops, Randy (Hamm) and Cutter (Sudeikis) drive their boss crazy with their constant distractions preventing them from doing drug busts or catching criminals in general. The distraction involves their bike rides together which eventually develops into a, you guessed it, a man-on-man kiss. However, it’s not played for gross-out quality and the whole thing is a pretty funny throwback to cheesy cop shows. B+

12. Darlique & Barney (4:54)

Lounge act Darlique (Wiig) & Barney (Hamm) start their show off with a little joke and a fake fight. This is one of those sketches much like the “Bjelland Brothers” one from Cranston/West that features some terrible lounge singers and an even worse act. However, unlike the aforementioned sketch, this one is not nearly as good and it really drags for most of its duration. Hamm really tries though and he and Wiig have good chemistry. C+

13. Rihanna sings “Only Girl (In The World)” (3:44)

The umbrella girl’s second number has a lot more flash than the first but in the rare instance that this happens, style actually creates more substance with this performance. B+

14. Cartoon: Dog in Purse (1:30)

A cartoon from former writer Fred Wolf! Simplistic animation aside, Dog in Purse features David Spade doing the voice of a dog making snide remarks about celebrities and the media in general. It works perfectly because of Spade’s voice perfectly fitting the cartoon character, but overall its a pretty quick sketch. B

Jon thanks everyone and wishes everyone a happy Halloweeeeeeeeeen!

Jon Hamm is the new Steve Martin. There, I said it. In terms of new SNL hosts in the past ten years, no one has stepped up to the plate quite like Don Draper himself. He can easily carry a show like he did during his first gig but then he can also step aside and sometimes he blends in so well that you’d think he was a castmember. If Hamm doesn’t become a five-timer in the next two years, there is no justice in the world.

Rihanna was surprisingly entertaining as the musical guest and her contribution to the digital short was appreciated as well.

The main highlights in the cast this week were Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, who actually got to anchor a number of sketches more than he is usually allowed.

Notes:

Constantly referring to Bill Hader as “ma’am” in the monologue was hilarious.

“1.21 Jigawatts? Great, Scott!”

Sudeikis jumping out the ground floor window was a great sight gag.

Alda: “I want in. Who do I have to f*ck?”

Not to sound perverted or anything, but holy god has Rihanna got some nice gams or what?!

Hader sure has fun playing James Carville. I’m glad he brings it back so often… (“I look like a mean peanut!”)

I think I heard Jason cracking up off-screen at Kenan answering the phone really quickly.

Kenan’s subplot with his wife in that “Highway Cops” sketch almost stole the entire scene.

Host Rating: A+

Musical Guest Rating: B+

Show Rating: B+/A-