Archive for December, 2010


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 10)

Well we’ve hit the break, folks. After ten episodes, it is time for the annual holiday break for Saturday Night Live cast and crew a like until January 3rd when they will prepare for the next episode when they return on the air. Oh, and that episode? Well, it’s set to be hosted by an actor named Jim Carrey. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Yes, that’s right. Jim freakin’ Carrey will be making his second hosting appearance on January 8th with musical guest the Black Keys. It promises to be an outstanding show. That is not to take away from the lineup being offered to us with this week’s episode.

The Dude himself, Jeff Bridges, seems like one of the most laid-back and amiable people working in Hollywood today. It’s somewhat of a surprise then that he’s only gotten the opportunity to host once before (in 1983, where he did a fairly good job) because he seems like a guy who would be up for pretty much anything. Bridges is here to promote two films: Tron: Legacy, which is already breaking records at the box office, and his upcoming Coen Brothers remake of True Grit, a film that holds a lot of promise, at least in my opinion.

Joining Bridges are two musical guests that are slightly less than laid-back. First up is Eminem, making his fifth appearance on the show ready to showcase his new meaner side that we aren’t so accustomed to. Joining him is Lil Wayne. After a banal performance during the season premiere two years ago, Wayne looks to redeem himself a bit this time and hopefully with the assistance of Eminem, he can pull it off.

CHRISTMAS START!

The Show:

1. Christmas Eve in Washington (2:40)
-Armisen, Samberg, Sudeikis, Thompson, Wiig, Bayer

Frosty the Snowman (Thompson) introduces a series of quick clips of several key members of the office looking out the window and dreaming about better headlines in the new year ahead. Whether it’s President Obama (Armisen) imagining lower unemployment and WikiLeaks telling everyone that John McCain is a Muslim, Hillary Clinton (Bayer) thinking about switching jobs with the pres, or Joe Biden (Sudeikis) beaming at the thought of trading jobs with Batman, it was a very funny short and sweet opening. A-

2. Monologue (5:09)

Jeff tries to separate his own personality from that of the Dude’s but of course, its way too similar. The real meat of the monologue though is the Starman bringing out SNL hopeful Cookie Monster to sing along with him to “Silver Bells.” It was a pretty cutesy segment but aw shucks, it was pretty amusing. B

3. Assange Attacks Mark Zuckerberg (2:10)
-Hader, Samberg

Before the Facebook founder himself (Samberg) can truly comment on how he feels being named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Hader) interrupts again to point out how ridiculous it is that Zuckerberg took that honour over himself. Assange has a point and the segment resulted in another funny piece by Hader. B+

4. The Miley Cyrus Show (4:50)
-Bridges, Moynihan, Sudeikis, Bayer, Brittain

In its third appearance, Miley (Bayer) does some more funny stuff including a segment in which she takes pictures of celebrities and puts them together to see if they had a baby (and that’s more-or-less what the segment is called). Cyrus of course discusses her “very serious five-minute drug problem” and then brings out Nick Nolte (Bridges) as her guest to discuss his own past drug abuse problems. Jeff doesn’t have to stretch too much to do the Nick Nolte impression, but it’s funny nonetheless. The sketch itself is pretty much settled into a formula now but there’s enough goofiness to keep it entertaining. B+

5. Film: I Just Had Sex (2:52)
-Samberg + Akon, Jessica Alba, Blake Lively, & John McEnroe

The Lonely Island’s latest opus has Andy and Jorma rapping about their most recent sexual encounter (with Blake Lively and Jessica Alba, respectively, no less) with the assistance of Akon. It’s hard to get into too many details here, but I don’t see where the criticism comes from here. Akon looks like he’s having a hell of a time and the crew create another fun, catchy song. B+

6. Larry King Live (4:48)
-Bridges, Armisen, Elliott, Thompson, Wiig

After taping his last show, Larry King (Armisen) returns for one more show with Jermaine Jackson (Thompson), the Judds (Elliott & Wiig), and Dog the Bounty Hunter (a hilarious Bridges). The usual stuff happens with King’s senility as he questions Jermaine if he has any siblings and also wants to know which of the Judds is the mother. There’s a few amusing things here as Dog cries in a very scary way and this acts as a great swan song for Armisen’s spot-on Larry King impression. Larry’s daily routine is a hoot as well. A-

7. Crunkmas Karnival! (2:37)
-Moynihan, Sudeikis, Pedrad, Pharoah

Following in the tradition of the Under Underground Records ad, DJ Super Soak (Sudeikis) and Lil Blaster (Pedrad) shill for their big Crunkmas three-day concert. Ass Dan (Moynihan) makes another hilarious appearance and then Pharoah shows up to do a funny bit as MC George Costanza. The most fun comes from all the random events and guests that will be at the event though. Quickly becoming one of my favourite recurring bits. A

8. Eminem & Lil Wayne sing “No Love” (4:59)

The two mega-stars rap with each other with a little “What Is Love” thrown in the background, which made me think: how great would it have been if Ferrell and Kattan interrupted as their Roxbury characters? Of course Em would never let that go down. All that aside, it’s still a good performance from both rappers. A-

9. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (9:25)
-Also: Fred Armisen, Abby Elliott, Bill Hader, Bobby Moynihan, Kenan Thompson, & Taran Killam

Seth’s Harvard joke is one of the highlights of this week’s so-so edition of Update. While the jokes were sharp and witty for the most part, the commentaries left a little to be desired. Michael Steele (Thompson) stops by to talk about running for a second term and his recent defection to the Tea Party in a segment that goes nowhere; likewise, Brad Pitt (Killam) becomes the new weatherman before he is joined by Angelina (Elliott) with another baby. It’s certainly not a great Brad Pitt impression, but it was amusing nonetheless mostly thanks to Killam’s performance abilities. It’s another segment that really doesn’t do much for me either though. Update ends on a high note though with an appearance by three regulars in Stefon (Hader), David Paterson (Armisen), and Snooki (Moynihan) singing “Oh Christmas Tree,” with some funny interaction in between the verses. B-

10. This You Call Wonderful Life?! (4:33)
-Bridges, Armisen, Elliott, Hader, Moynihan, Samberg, Sudeikis, Wiig, Bayer, Brittain, Killam, Pedrad

Presenting the original version of It’s A Wonderful Life, Ben Mankiewicz (Hader) shows the all-Jewish rendition of the film. It’s essentially another version of the Wizard of Oz sketch from the Anne Hathaway episode but this one works a lot better as for some reason, this mish-mash works a lot better with this film. Our host also stops by to make a funny appearance as the rabbi and gives ol’ George Bailey (Sudeikis) some much-needed advice. B+

11. Jeff’d (4:15)
-Bridges, Elliott, Samberg, Sudeikis, Thompson, Brittain, Killam

Spoofing Ashton Kutcher’s once-popular celebrity prank show, Bridges puts his laid-back persona on display as he performs some pretty light-hearted pranks on his old pals like Sam Elliott (Sudeikis), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Elliott), but the best one is Billy Bob Thornton (Samberg), who appears to have some other plans for our host. This was okay, but the sketch was a little too late to work as a Punk’d parody. Jeff was affable though. C+

12. Eminem sings “Won’t Back Down”; Lil Wayne sings “6’7” (6:14)

-Eminem runs through his hit single and tears the house down before switching off with Lil Wayne, so that the two-time guest can perform a hit of his own, although nothing as powerful as Em’s song. I’m impressed with Marshall’s new image and Wayne was a lot more impressive here than he was two years ago. B+

13. General Store (4:11)
-Bridges, Hader, Moynihan, Sudeikis, Wiig, Bayer

In the old West, two weirdos (Bridges & Wiig) have set up shop in the corner of a general store in order to gift-wrap presents for the customers. It’s an oddball sketch that is okay I guess, but the sketch really owes it to Jeff’s bizarre performance as the developmentally-challenged clerk. C

14. A Holiday Message from The Kardashians (1:54)
-Elliott, Bayer, Pedrad

Kim (Pedrad), Kourtney (Bayer), and Khloe (Elliott) wish everyone a happy holidays and gush over the fact that they’re famous for nothing. I enjoyed this much like their other appearance on Update a while back. B

Jeff waves goodbye and enthusiastically thanks everyone on stage for helpin’ him out tonight.

I really didn’t know how Jeff would do but it was obvious he wouldn’t be as stiff as, say, a Robert DeNiro type but I wasn’t sure if he would be a slam-bang great host. He was pretty darn good I’d say and he did better than most upper-echelon actors on the show normally perform. It’s hard to remember how good Bridges was in his previous hosting stint, but if I remember correctly he was good but somewhat restrained and limited. Here, he seemed to have a lot of fun hosting the Christmas show (and we got quite a large number of Christmas sketches too!) and seemed to be pretty open for anything.

Eminem and Lil Wayne were quite surprising to me, but moreso in the case of the latter performer. Where Wayne’s first stint was lazy and reeked of unpreparedness, he dazzled this time with a much more solid work ethic and some good ol’ fashioned rapping. Eminem was as good as you’d expect as he performed in what was probably his gloomiest appearance on the show and even though he slightly upstaged his partner, the duo had good chemistry and put Diddy Dirty-Money to shame.

All in all, it was a decent Christmas episode. Last week’s act was hard to follow up, but they tried their best this week and ended up with a handful of funny sketches and a couple of meh-worthy ones. Thanks to a willing host, a good musical guest combination, and mostly no cast burnout, we got a pretty entertaining show this week and a good way to end the first half of the season.

I’m not sure if I’ll be back every week to review retro SNLs. I’ll be doing one this Thursday but then after that I may take a break until after the Holidays. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Joyous Kwanzaa everybody!

Host Rating: B+
Musical Guest Rating – Eminem: A-
Musical Guest Rating – Lil Wayne: B+
Show Rating: B/B+

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by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 4)

Why do we love Saturday Night Live? Is it because every show is different? Is it because every episode has a magical wacky twist that makes each individual sketch entirely original every single night? No, hardly. It’s because every show has the same basic set-up, maybe screws with the format every once in a while, usually tosses in at least a couple of recurring sketches/characters, and tops it off with a couple of musical performances. It’s a tried-and-true formula that has stood the test of time and has proven that people like repetition, as much as we’d like to deny that fact. This episode, however, stands out because it takes the regular formula of the show and jiggles it a bit to get something slightly different.

Charles Grodin did not do well on talk shows. He was always thought of as someone who was easily annoyed, was very fidgety, and always looked like he would have rather been somewhere else. However, this was all an act by Grodin as he was pulling Borat-like stunts on the audience before Borat was even a teenager. Grodin was also known for being in the film Rosemary’s Baby at the time.

Joining Chuck is SNL favourite Paul Simon, making his second appearance as musical guest (he pulled double duty in Season 2 and he was technically just the “host” in Season 1). Simon would appear on the show somewhat frequently during the years (although his next appearance wouldn’t be until Season 5) and was a very good friend of Lorne Michaels, so he was a sort of go-to guest that Lorne could have on the show. Paul would also get to join in on the experiment that is Charles Grodin, but more on that later.

GO!

The Show:

1. Unprepared Host (3:05)
-Grodin, Belushi, Morris, Radner

As John paces around, Gilda tries to calm him down while they await the arrival of their tardy host. When Chuck eventually shows up, he brings some gifts for the cast and is dumbfounded by the announcement by Belushi that he needs to have a monologue prepared. Clearly, Grodin is not at all ready for the show as he is not even aware that the program is live and that there is a studio audience. The fun begins as John is exasperated at Chuck’s unprofessional behaviour and begrudgingly opens the show. B+

2. Monologue (1:21)

Like a deer in headlights, Grodin stumbles through his monologue and admits to having never seen the show, but says he heard it’s “a really cute show.” There’s not much more to this, but it does set up a running theme for the show. B

3. Update Promo (:41)
-Aykroyd

A serious newsman like Dan Aykroyd is ready to constantly be on the lookout for news stories 24 hours a day and 7 days a week whether he has paper in his typewriter or not. B

4. Return Of The Coneheads (5:03)
-Aykroyd, Curtin, Murray, Newman, Radner

The sixth appearance of the Coneheads sees them participating in Halloween festivities including Connie’s (Newman) attempt to convince her parents (Aykroyd & Curtin) to allow her to go apple-bobbing. Before Connie can leave though, the Coneheads’ neighbours/block parents (Murray & Radner) come over to the house to inquire as to why the family from France was giving out beer and eggs to trick-or-treaters. More goofy fun from the pointy-headed family and the sketch was relatively short for a Coneheads piece. A-

5. Chuck’s Film (2:10)
-Grodin

Grodin plans to promote his new heist flick, but takes way too long to introduce it and thus, he only gets to show about five seconds of the film. Grodin asks if he can sing his song, but Lorne Michaels’ voice comes over the PA and he asks Grodin to speed it along and just introduce the musical guest, so he obliges. This is another funny continuation of the Grodin storyline thanks to a very convincingly bad performance from our host. B+

6. Paul Simon sings “Slip Slidin’ Away” (4:27)

The always-reliable Simon strums away on one of his top hits. Simon also gets some accompaniment from The Persuasions, who perform ample support to Paul’s dazzling tune. A

7. Consumer Probe (4:39)
-Aykroyd, Curtin

An absolute classic. Joan Face (Curtin) welcomes sleazeball extraordinaire Irwin Mainway (Aykroyd) to demonstrate his line of unsafe Halloween costumes. Aykroyd is on top of his game here as Mainway, the ultimate unlikeable character, seemingly uncaring of any criticisms he has received but is also quick to defend himself with ridiculous reasons. There are some classic costumes like Invisible Pedestrian and Johnny Combat Action Costume (with a real, working rifle), but the best is Johnny Human Torch (a bag of oily rags and a lighter). Curtin is perfect foil for Danny in this near-perfect sketch that acts as a companion piece to the Irwin Mainway sketch from last year with Candice Bergen. A+

8. Anyone Can Host (1:42)
-Murray

This week, it’s Bill Murray’s turn to hype the Anyone Can Host contest while Mr. Mike tears up some postcards in the background for silly reasons like “uneven margins” and “unattractive stamp.” This week, we get a bit more of a jokey sketch involving the contest and Mr. Mike provides a few funny zingers. B+

9. Samurai Dry Cleaners (2:38)
-Grodin, Belushi, Radner

Chuck finally shows up in a proper sketch as he and Gilda arrive to pick up their dry cleaning from Futaba (Belushi). They run through the usual motions with the character, but the sketch is thrown for a loop when Charles breaks character several times and even reads the wrong lines at one point. Gilda signals for the sketch to end early as she and Charles leave the set and Belushi is visibly upset. A-

10. Weekend Update with Dan Aykroyd & Jane Curtin (8:53)
Also: Garrett Morris and Bill Murray

Another funny exchange with Don Pardo opens up this week’s edition of Weekend Update, followed by a funny piece on a so-called authentic Bigfoot film by Curtin. In fact, there’s lots of good jokes by both anchors this week including a picture of the Mona Lisa appearing during a story about Cher Bono and the FDA changing its name. The Dancing N stops by early on to drop off a bulletin (“No bulletin today. I just felt like dancing.”) Dan & Jane then join in on the fun briefly before Bill Murray stops by to give a negative review of one-man shows, dismissing them as being excuses for an actor’s ego trip. It’s another terrific performance from Murray with his smarmy Update commentaries and it’s a great ironic piece as well in tune with Bill’s delivery. We also get “News for the Silent Movie Buff,” which features Aykroyd telling a story with exaggerated gestures while words float by on the screen. It’s a simple little piece, but entertaining all the same. Also, Special Agent Willard Jackson (Morris) stops by to comment on the Jimmy Hoffa disappearance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really lead to any real evidence and in fact, all Jackson can provide is a number of bones from people like Amelia Earhart. It’s another terrific edition of Update. A

11. Simon & Garfunkel (5:57)
-Grodin, Simon, Art Garfunkel

Sitting on stage alongside Simon and donning a big orange wig, Charles croons along with the musical guest, singing “The Sounds of Silence.” Of course, Grodin doesn’t even know the words and has to slowly follow behind Simon’s singing. Paul’s deadpan performance here is perfect as he is offput by Charles’ terribly off-kilter performance. Paul eventually leaves Charles on stage, but this only causes our host to attempt to perform a solo, before he is interrupted by Art Garfunkel himself. Another classic segment. A+

12. The Killer Bees (7:51)
-Grodin, Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, Murray, Radner

This is the straw that breaks Belushi’s back. After earlier ruining his Samurai sketch, Grodin points out the interesting bee costumes and how their antennas are incredibly distracting while he tries to perform. And then Belushi snaps. Donned in his Eli Wallach-like apparel, Belushi delivers an impassioned speech about how Grodin has ruined the scene and that he is the “lamest host we’ve ever had.” It comes to the forefront that the host missed the dress rehearsal and the antennas flopping around makes the “serious” speech that much funnier. A

13. The Judy Miller Show (4:47)
-Curtin (voice), Radner

Gilda debuts her spastic child character Judy Miller, who is so bored by herself that she hosts her own variety show in her room, showcasing a number of different characters and skits, based on her childlike interpretation of various world events and pop culture. This is a highlight reel in itself for Gilda, who finds a balance between cuteness and hilarity that hits the perfect note. This is yet another perfect sketch in a series of them tonight. A+

14. Professional School Of Football (2:03)
-Morris

A spokesperson (Morris) advertises his new book that will help one become a football player so that they can date movie stars and be famous. I enjoyed how Morris kept going back to the constant groin injuries in football. B

15. Paul Simon sings “You’re Kind” (2:39)

More goodness from Paul here, as he sings a slower tune this time with the help of some backup harmonica and some good instrumental work from the Persuasions. It’s no wonder that Simon was a perennial favourite of the show. A

16. Hire The Incompetent (4:15)
-Grodin, Murray, Newman, Radner

Charles introduces a string of testimonies from several “incompetents,” who have lost their jobs because of prejudices against their stupid decisions. From Murray’s stint as a bag boy and putting eggs underneath heavy stuff, Newman not helping her pilot boyfriend as an air traffic controller, and Roseanne Rosannadanna (Radner) explaining that she got in trouble for putting hair in people’s burgers. It’s the debut for Roseanne and it’s a funny one too, as she would make lots of funny upcoming appearances. Charles almost gets suckered into admitting his poor hosting abilities, but catches on and finally gets to perform his song, a quick ode to life. It’s another great sketch to end the show. A

Even continuing the joke into the goodnights, Chuck & the cast seem distanced from each other after Grodin says that it was just a gag. He thanks the cast, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, and awkwardly waves goodnight.

Here’s the thing about this episode. Apparently, the truth is that Charles Grodin truly DIDN’T show up for a lot of the rehearsals. Rather than fighting it and having a mediocre show with an only somewhat-motivated host, the show went a much different, more unique route. Charles was instructed to ad-lib many of his lines and thus create a much more authentic atmosphere of a show gone horribly wrong in a live setting thanks to a completely unprepared host. In that regard, Charles was a very effective ringleader and turned in a very convincing performance as someone that had no business being in this environment.

Paul Simon was a fantastic musical guest and his one sketch with Grodin really showed his ability to do some deadpan acting as well. In fact, that moment with Simon & “Garfunkel” ranks up there as one of my favourite moments in the show’s history. The Persuasions also showed up to back Simon and they provided some ample support as well.

It’s difficult to single out the most effective player this time, but I’m going to narrow it down to two people: John Belushi and Gilda Radner. From Belushi’s performances in the show and his eventual meltdown in the “Killer Bees” piece, he really had a large part in the unique running theme and held it together well. Gilda acted as Grodin’s guide throughout the night, however, and also had a big part in this episode. She managed to debut her Judy Miller character as well and that in itself was probably the best performance of the night.

This episode was, quite frankly, a classic.

Notes:

“Hey Glenda! Hey Blunjy!”

“Invisible Pedestrian. Not for blind kids.”

I wonder how many people in the viewing audience totally bought into this hoax.

Host Rating: A-

Musical Guest Rating: A

Show Rating: A+

SNL Retros moved to Thursdays!

Posted: December 15, 2010 by Brendan Wahl in Uncategorized

Just like it says. I will now be doing my SNL Retro reviews every Thursday instead of Wednesday. See you tomorrow, kiddies!


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 9)

It seems like this season has gone by so fast. We’re already at just about the halfway mark of the year (assuming we’re going back to the traditional 20-episode season this time) and only one more episode left until the extended break for the holidays.

What better news to get than that not only would funnyman Paul Rudd be returning to host (after the fun episode he helmed in Year 34), but that the legendary Paul McCartney would be making his return as the musical guest? I’ll answer for you. An episode announcement doesn’t get much better than that. The best part of the announcement is that not only would McCartney serve as musical guest, but he also does not have a new CD to promote. Therefore, we are pretty much guaranteed a slew of old tunes that everyone knows and loves. Granted, they will probably be akin to more of his stuff with Wings, but who cares? It’s PAUL MCCARTNEY.

I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned the musical guest in great detail before discussing the host. But I digress. Paul Rudd was a very willing host for his first go-around and it seemed only a matter of time before he came back to host again. This time, he’s promoting an intriguing new romantic-dramedy directed by James L. Brooks and co-starring Owen Wilson called How Do You Know. Rudd is usually the straight man in his films with an element of droll humour that puts him at a higher plateau than most “straight” roles.

Time to go!

The Show:

1. Tax Package (3:30)
-Armisen

After the controversial ruling regarding the tax cuts for the rich, President Obama (Armisen) outlines the new plan before announcing that this is only happening because the Republican party LITERALLY held them hostage. Apparently the Stockholm Syndrome has affected El Presidente, causing him to act more like a Republican and has transformed him into something of a right-winger. This was a nice spin on old hat, especially the line about Obama denying his own American birthplace. B+

2. Monologue (2:11)
-Rudd, McCartney, Brittain

After discussing some of the excitement over “Paul” being on the show, the Role Model is then surprised when the Beatle himself joins him on stage to cause him to realize that the hype was surrounding McCartney. Paul Brittain briefly joins in on the action in a really funny walk-on, but Rudd and McCartney quickly cast him aside. Good start. B

3. Feline Culinary Creations (1:03)
-Elliott, Brittain, Pedrad

Introducing the new culinary dishes for cats, which of course, no matter how good they sound, all end up looking like crappy cat food. This was actually kinda clever. B+

4. Affectionate Family (4:42)
-Rudd, Armisen, Hader, Moynihan, Wiig, Bayer, Brittain, Pedrad

I guess Rudd must have had fun doing this sketch last time. The usual antics take place here with the way-too-affectionate Vogelcheck family, but they really up the ante this time. Austin’s (Rudd) brother (Hader) ends up feeling him up while they kiss and also grabs his mom’s can (Wiig) while he gives his dad a smooch. This sketch also introduces the Romanian Vogelcheck cousins (Brittain & Pedrad) and their odd way of expressing love. Bayer is good foil here as the creeped-out new girlfriend and the sketch is pretty much the same thing as it usually is with a few little twists. B

5. What’s That Name? (4:33)
-Rudd, Hader, Thompson, Wiig, Bayer

After what seems like a basic set-up (clues are given so that the contestants can guess which celebrities they are), the stakes are risen as a doorman (Thompson) and a maid (Wiig) ask the contestants to guess *their* name. The rich socialites (Rudd & Bayer) have trouble with this of course because they could care less in reality. There’s some pretty smart social commentary found within this sketch and it needs to be seen to be truly appreciated. A

6. Digital Short: Stumblin’ (2:07)
-Rudd, McCartney, Mario Batali, Armisen, Samberg, Bayer

One of the most fun digital shorts that Samberg and co. have come up with. This time, a young man (Samberg) “stumbles” through his entire day with his buddy (Rudd) as a catchy little tune plays alongside it. The greatest part about this? Paul McCartney showing up out of nowhere to add his own melodious voice as well as performing a tiny harmonica solo. Truly a season highlight. A+

7. Website Attacks (3:04)
-Hader, Pedrad

Interrupting an announcement from a MasterCard representative (Pedrad), Julian Assange (Hader) takes over the airwaves from his British prison cell and talks about how if he is not released within one day, he will mess with other websites. Assange promises to get rid of everyone’s ONE good photo on Facebook, force people to watch Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper: Season 4 on Netflix, and leave Farmville alone so it will continue to piss people off. I have to reiterate how perfect this impression is for Hader and he has a ball with this quick sketch. A-

8. Sexually Speaking (3:49)
-Rudd, Armisen, Elliott, Hader, Moynihan, Bayer, Pedrad

Roger Brush (Armisen) is back, once again substituting for an absent female host on a sensitive women’s issues show.  From a woman’s (Bayer) complaints about her husband’s (Moynihan) thin penis to one’s (Rudd) issues with his husband. Armisen’s reactions to each situation is pretty hilarious and for some reason, I never tire of this recurring talk show. B+

9. Paul McCartney sings “Jet” (4:11)

Honestly, I don’t know where people are getting this “McCartney ain’t got it anymore” thing, because I thoroughly enjoyed this performance and it’s not even CLOSE to one of my favourite McCartney songs. The mic volume seemed a bit low, but it was still a wonderful moment to see McCartney perform on the SNL stage after a seventeen-year absence. A-

10. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (8:45)
-Also: Paul McCartney and Bill Hader

After discussing how Democrats decided Obama has caved, Seth discusses the arrest of Julian Assange (“the bad man who wanted them to read”) and the great bit on Oprah denying any rumours of lesbianism. What comes next is an absolute delight as Seth and Paul McCartney himself do the voices of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker as they are pelted with garbage in a photo (“Ruffians!”). It’s simple, but hilarious all the same mainly because of Paul’s voice acting as Camilla. Seth then takes what would normally be a cheap bit and makes a great penis joke. Also joining him this week is Stefon (Hader), who talks about some great spots to visit during the holidays. And of course, Hader loses it. The Stefon segment is fantastic though, as per usual. A

11. Holiday Jam (4:46)
-Rudd, Thompson, Pharoah

The emcee (Rudd) of a school assembly/holiday event is interrupted by several startling announcements from an odd principal (Pharoah) and then an angry-as-hell gym teacher (Thompson). That the whole thing takes place at Booker T High School makes it all the more amusing. There’s not much to say about this other than it is a humourous little piece. B

12. Meryl Streep On Ice (1:24)
-Elliott, Sudeikis, Bayer, Brittain, Killam

Meryl Streep’s (Elliott) usual fun-loving personality is on display here as she takes to the ice rink and denies any extravagant talent she may have like she usually does. Great impression by Abby and a good vehicle for her to display it. B+

13. Paul McCartney sings “Band On The Run” (5:13)

This song sees McCartney’s vocals a bit more strained than the first song, but it’s still a great, classic song that essentially contains several different styles of music all rolled into one number. A-

14. Broadway Cares (3:52)
-Rudd, Hader, Sudeikis

Joining the multitude of stars performing their favourite Broadway numbers, Rudd decides to do a number from Cabaret but with no help from Jeff (Sudeikis) the stagehand. This is a showcase character for Suds as he excels in doing those obnoxious jackass characters without making them too one-note. His banter with Rudd is hilarious and this results in one of my favourite sketches all night. A

15. Paul McCartney sings “A Day in the Life” & “Give Peace a Chance” (5:11)

Paul decides to sing one of John Lennon’s old tunes as a tribute after the 30th anniversary of his death and then segues into his serenade to world peace. Another show-stopping moment from McCartney. The audience participation was a nice touch too. A+

16. Paul McCartney sings “Get Back” (1:45)

What starts off with the traditional goodnights quickly segues into a fourth performance from Mr. McCartney while the credits roll. Clearly, they don’t have time for the entire duration of the song but it’s enough to send the show out on a very, very high note. A+

What a wonderful show. All the way from a very capable host in Paul Rudd down to a magnificent musical guest in Sir Paul McCartney. Sure, we got a couple of recurring sketches. Sure, we got a few bits that weren’t perfect. But the whole show gelled together so beautifully. Rudd’s highlights would have to be the gameshow, the digital short, and his performance as a school emcee, while the cast was right there behind him putting on a number of stellar performances as well.

What else can be said about Paul McCartney? The man has been through it all. He has won awards, he has received criticism, he has been just about everywhere in the world, but everyone will always remember his legendary ability to perform. He may not ever be on the show as a musical guest ever again, but one will always remember his last hurrah on the show as a triumphant one.

Bill Hader is the cast MVP this week, appearing in more than anyone else and just being an all-around terrific performer. Surprisingly, Kristen was in barely anything this week and Taran Killam had one line in the entire episode.

Notes:

“…and the justified stoning of their daughter.”

“That is cartoon donkey.” “Mary. But Steve Zahn, you know.”

Roger Brush is hilarious. “I don’t wanna get too graphic but she’s got clear water coming out of her butt.” “You want Dr. Linda up here peein’ outta her ass?”

“A glimpse into Seth Meyers!”

Host Rating: A-
Musical Guest Rating: A+
Show Rating: A


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 3)

In December of 1953, the very first issue of Playboy Magazine was put on shelves and in mere moments, it was off the shelves. No, not because of some screwy censorship board that had it removed or some lobby group. The publication sold like hot cakes and people read the articles! The man behind this phenomenon was a fresh-faced 27-year old Chi-town resident named Hugh Hefner. He probably didn’t know it when he first got into the business but by this episode in 1977, Hefner was almost a household name just for being associated with the ever-popular Playboy brand. The mansion itself became the source of many wild stories and rumours and the only one who truly knows how many or if ANY are true is our host for this episode, Mr. Hugh Hefner.

The first non-actor host of the season is joined by musical guest Libby Titus. While only 28 at the time, Libby still never really found a whole lot of success in her career. She floundered around with a couple of decent hits but had nothing to set the world on fire and was never in talks for a Grammy or anything. She was still fresh at the time of this episode making for another fairly unknown musical talent that Saturday Night Live was willing to showcase and award some exposure to. 

There’s nothing much more to say except that maybe this will be the sexiest episode ever?

Commence!

The Show:

1. Playboy’s Party Jokes (:54)
-Newman

A relatively simple cold open starts this episode off with one Playboy bunny (Newman) attempting to make jokes in front of a crowd, but she is so dense that she can only remember the punchlines to a joke without the setup. It’s a role Newman was able to do well: air-head Valley girl-types, so this is kept rather brief and inoffensive. B-

2. Monologue (2:57)

Hef sports the bathrobe and pipe of course and seemingly takes a rather straight-forward approach to his monologue while cracking a couple of jokes here and there. However, he quickly segueways into a somewhat-creepy rendition of “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” while some text scrolls by on the screen describing Hefner’s fascination with girls in general. Not bad. C+

3. Angora Bouquet (1:15)
-Curtin, Murray

Another classic commercial parody. In this one, a housewife who is not too far removed from a Stepford Wife as she talks about how she is kept submissive and beautiful by the new soap product. Containing miniature tranquilizers, it “washes your brain as well as your face.” This is also a true showcase for Curtin, who really shines in this piece. A

4. Planet of the Men vs. Planet of the Women (4:14)
-Hefner, Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Morris, Newman, Radner

Well, this kind of sketch was expected. In the distant future, Captain Macho (Hefner), Corporal Hardin (Aykroyd), Lieutenant Testosterone (Belushi), and another corporal (Morris) take aim when they plan to collide with the ship containg the planet of the women and Captain Estrogena (Curtin), Lieutenant Areola (Newman), and Corporal Fellopia (Radner) . The shape of the ships takes an obvious shape but the sex jokes are still funny despite them being pretty cheap for the most part. I guess this is just a guilty pleasure sketch. B+

5. Libby Titus sings “Fool That I Am” (2:59)

As Hef proclaims Libby to be a future superstar, she does her best to prove her worth. Her performance is good. It’s definitely not a standout or anything, but it’s “good enough for government work.” B

6. Anyone Can Host (1:34)
-Morris

Garrett gets his turn at hyping up the Anyone Can Host contest and goes over the rules and regualtions as well. Much like last week, this isn’t really a comedy segment so I can’t lend a rating to it.

7. X-Police (3:03)
-Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Murray

After a tough study session, two lovers (Belushi & Curtin) decide to cut loose and smoke a joint but before they can get going, two men burst through their door claiming to be former police officers! The X-Police (Aykroyd & Murray) go way overboard in dishing out the punishment to these lawbreakers in humourous fashion. By the conclusion though, the sketch gets really dark and it results in a classic recurring bit. A

8. Circular Bed Sex Research (4:00)
-Hefner, Aykroyd, Curtin

Taking a break from his hectic work life, Hefner helps one of his Playboy bunnies (Curtin) with her research but the distractions keep piling up. Of course, this “research” involves two people having sex at various quadrants to see if they can achieve pi. The sketch gets even more fun as President Carter (Aykroyd) himself shows up to get some advice on headphones and ask if the Secret Service can use the Jaccuzzi. B+

9. Listening To Great Music (3:06)
-Belushi

John Belushi sits down in a classy office and prepares to discuss Ride of the Valkyries, a tune well-known for its impact in the film, Apocalypse Now. It’s a fairly simple premise as Belushi discusses the images that should appear in one’s mind while the song plays but he quickly gets off topic and delves into one of his Weekend Update rants and begins to trash the room. It was an interesting idea to try to make the Belushi rants into a sketch and because of John’s wonderful performance, it works very well. A-

10. Weekend Update with Dan Aykroyd & Jane Curtin (7:32)
-Also: Gilda Radner

A great exchange between Aykroyd and Don Pardo starts off this edition of Update and the laughs remain consistent because immediately after, Jane tells a great story involving a homosexual man throwing a pie in bigot Anita Bryant’s face. They even show the footage in a rare occurrence on Update for the time, but one that would be picked up by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler some-27 years later. During the broadcast, a tour is brought through the set in an oddball throwaway bit with writer Tom Schiller leading the way. No commentaries this week, but we do get “footage” of Nadia Comaneci (Radner) doing some of her trademark cartwheels and flips while looking oppressively adorable. Her little speech was pretty amusing too. The Dancing N also stops by to drop off a note that “cocaine and heroin don’t mix.” B

11. Sex In Cinema (3:00)
-Hefner, Murray, Newman

Hugh (playing himself yet again) presents a clip from an old Cary Grant (Murray) picture to show how censorship has changed over the years. The “one-foot-on-the-floor” rule is broken, making this very harmless movie clip a supposedly controversial one. The close-ups of their feet while the sounds of love-making can be heard is one of the more hilarious aspects of the entire piece. B+

12. 3 R’s (3:10)
-Belushi, Curtin, Radner

Jane hosts a talk show that highlights various aspects of the educational system in the US. Belushi plays a Greek father planning to sue the educational board because despite his daughter, Colleen (Radner), passing high school she is not allowed to attend college. The twist at the end of this sketch salvages it because the rest of it is fairly pointless. C

13. The Story Of H (3:05)
-Hefner

Our host narrates his life story through a quick succession of pictures and clips from his child and adulthood. The tone of it is playful and it seems like Hefner is being a bit sarcastic with his “woe is me” type comments. It’s a well-made piece and the style of which that is never seen on the show. B+

14. The Playboy Philosophy (3:09)
-Hefner, Belushi, Morris

Hef is thrust into a scene from over a thousand years ago as several philosophers ask him of his theories on life. This sketch drags more than the 3 R’s sketch despite its short runtime. It’s just a series of questions that set up some very obvious jokes. D

15. Funeral Magician (6:30)
-Hefner, Aykroyd, Murray, Radner

During a somber scene, a magician named Hartley Raymond (Murray) tries to liven things up with a cheerful magic show involving the deceased’s widow (Radner) and his friend, Gary (Hefner). Much like his lounge singer sketches, Bill Murray shines throughout this whole piece and really carries it on his back. Incredibly he makes this character extremely likeable despite the odd setting and the upbeat nature of his attitude in a completely inappropriate setting. Best sketch of the night. A+

16. Andy Kaufman (6:59)

One of the best special guests the show’s ever had, Kaufman brings his inventive brand of comedy to SNL for the sixth time. This time, he sings “Oklahoma” and a sing-along song with the audience before transforming into the king himself, Elvis Presley. It’s a spot-on impression and Andy absolutely delights the audience with it. This segment should be noted that it really doesn’t contain any jokes or punchlines. It’s just Andy being goofy and entertaining and it makes the whole segment work. A-

17. The Farbers at the Playboy Club (4:47)
-Hefner, Aykroyd, Belushi, Newman, Radner

America’s favourite conservative couple, Bobbi (Radner) and Larry Farber (Belushi) meet with a keyholder (Aykroyd) at the Playboy Club in the hopes to meet the founder of Playboy itself. Despite how uncomfortable Bobbi gets, Larry is only too anxious to pile on the questions for their inside guy, who offers incredulous answers. Of course, Hugh eventually shows up and in an ironic twist, he ends up courting Bobbi and walking her out of the club. It’s another amusing piece from the Farbers. B+

Hugh thanks everyone for such a wonderful time, blows everyone a kiss, and then exchanges hugs with Libby and the cast.

In theory, last week’s episode should have been better than this one. To go from an Oscar-nominated actress to a philanthropist of filth is a pretty big change in direction for the show and it proved that the quality of the host didn’t always dictate the quality of an episode. While Hefner wasn’t awful, he was a very limited host who was clearly happy to just play himself in every sketch or a very quiet man at a funeral. It was probably cool to hang out with the Playboy mogul for the week leading up to the show but he was no Steve Martin, that’s for sure.

Libby Titus only had one chance to shine much like Taj Mahal last week. She did a pretty decent job though and proved to be another pretty good musical guest. I don’t really have too much to say about Libby.

The standout of the cast this week is tough to mention because there were quite a few standouts by everyone this week (outside of poor Garrett Morris) and it all added up to a pretty good episode.

Notes:

For a second, I thought Laraine was actually naked in the cold open…

Wow, they went all out for Hef this week, even designing the main stage with a big Playboy logo.

“Hi, I’m beautiful and stupid.”

I love how they made the two X-Police victims sound like the nicest, most caring people in the world before the former coppers bursted in. “Another marijuana-related death!”

How come almost every single sketch was three minutes tonight?! That was odd.

It was strange to see Hef in that funeral sketch if only for the fact that he barely had any lines.

Host Rating: C

Musical Guest Rating: B

Show Rating: B+


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 8 )

Oh, I was not looking forward to this. I was not looking forward to this in the least. Perhaps the worst two-time host of all time, Robert DeNiro, graces us with his presence for a third time. I racked my brain all week trying to come up with a reason why this cue card-staring, wooden-acting, not-ready-for-live-television player would be invited back and I couldn’t come up with a single possible reason. Former director Beth McCarthy-Miller has stated that Robert was one of the most difficult hosts she has ever worked with, not so much because of an attitude or crazy behaviour, but more from his inability to emote in a live setting and make it look like he’s not reading cue cards. If they needed someone to promote Little Fockers, why not just forget their gripe with Ben Stiller and get him to host?

Joining DeNiro is an even more assinine choice in the form of Diddy-Dirty Money. Just who is Diddy-Dirty Money, you ask? Well, it’s P. Diddy and a couple of skanks. Yes, we will be treated to Sean Comb’s rapping “skills” while two hos dance alongside him. Wonderful. I really don’t have anything to say about this episode. I have pretty low expectations, so let’s see how it all plays out.

Let’s (sigh) start…

The Show:

1. WikiLeaks: TMZ (3:41)
-DeNiro, Armisen (x2), Hader, Moynihan, Samberg, Sudeikis, Thompson, Wiig, Bayer, Brittain, Pedrad, Pharoah

Well, this is a pleasant start. After the start of what seems like another Obama opening, the tape cuts out and we are treated to Julian Assange (Hader), the founder of WikiLeaks, showing a snippet of his new TMZ-style show with his crew catching various world leaders like Muammer Kaddafi (Armisen) with a nurse/prostitute (Wiig), Hamid Karzai (DeNiro!) getting caught in an obvious bribery scandal, and Hillary Clinton (Bayer) getting “Biden’ed.” This satire nailed the show on every aspect including the inane chatter between the crew and the usual dialogue that the cameramen spew out when they catch their target. A-

2. Monologue (2:33)

After gushing over how much he loves New York, Travis Bickle mentions a number of famous institutions around the city that are obviously incorrect. Despite some audience members’ objections to his ridiculous name-dropping, DeNiro shrugs it off because he’s ROBERT F’N DENIRO. DeNiro looked stiff and a bit uncomfortable in the monologue but he wasn’t awful. B-

3. The Abacus Countdown (1:11)
-DeNiro

Author Harlan Kane (DeNiro) brings a new book to the forefront after some of his other ridiculously-titled books like “The Godiva Gyroscope” and “The Pokemon Directive.” The satire here was pretty amusing and DeNiro got to be a little more relaxed because it’s a filmed piece. B

4. what up with that? (7:22)
-DeNiro, Robin Williams, Armisen, Hader, Samberg, Sudeikis, Thompson, Wiig, Bayer, Brittain, Killam, Pedrad

Marking the sixth occurrence of the recurring talk show sketch, Diondre Cole (Thompson) welcomes his guests in the form of DeNiro, ROBIN WILLIAMS, and of course… Lindsey Buckingham (Hader). The way Cole segways into one of the first huge musical numbers is new and inventive and freshened up the sketch a bit. Also, Shasta Taffy (Wiig) and a Devo-inspired assistant (Brittain) make an appearance along with Mothra (Samberg). I’m still not tired of this sketch; it freshens up a bit every time and manages to always be entertaining. B+

5. From The Garden (4:22)
-DeNiro, Samberg

Mr. Produce, Tony Sicilia (DeNiro), tries to host a show about how to prepare one’s produce but constantly finds bugs and other infestations because of his irresponsible son (Samberg) not taking care of them during his trip to The Today Show. Samberg is amusing, but DeNiro in a slow burn role is surprisingly not that bad. He does fumble a few lines throughout the sketch and he is still somewhat awkward, but he is still better than one would have expected him to be. B

6. Film: Party at Mr. Bernard’s (2:38)
-DeNiro, Hader, Moynihan, Samberg, Sudeikis, Wiig, Bayer, Brittain, Killam, Pedrad, Pharoah

Showing up to hang out in a palatial beach house, two dudes (Hader & Samberg) find their boss, Mr. Bernard (DeNiro) to be dead. It follows the plot of Weekend At Bernie’s as they pretend that Bernie is alive in front of all the partygoers, but unlike the film, no one is stupid and they realize that he’s living-challenged immediately! This is also followed by a somber courtroom scene but then it reverts back to the light-hearted tone of the original film in a moment’s notice. This is one of the top shorts I believe. A

7. Diddy-Dirty Money sing “Coming Home” (3:58)

Some inspirational lyrics here. No, not really. P. Diddy raps in an inane manner and his hos sing with him as well. Okay, well it’s not the most awful performance ever but his attempts to sound like Kanye West were really annoying. C

8. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (11:03)
-Also: Abby Elliott, Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, Vanessa Bayer, & Nasim Pedrad

After a pointed jab at New York’s LaGuardia airport, Seth introduces the Kardashians: Kim the pretty one (Pedrad), Kourtney the smart one (Bayer), and Khloe (Elliott). The large prosteriored sisters talk about the products that they’ve removed their names from like the Kardashian Birth Control Pills (“they were Skittles”) in an amusing segment. Seth declares Dreidelpalooza the WORST palooza ever in a funny bit and then brings on an actor (hanging upside down) from the Spider-Man musical, Ryan Christopher (Samberg). The production is plagued with problems and besides describing some new villains for the show, he also has a funny bit where he keeps trying to flip but the cue is not working. After a trio of funny jokes involving a man marrying his dog in Australia, Seth brings out his final guest in the form of Janet Judy Tran (Wiig), a 1992 video fitness instructor to talk about her role in Michelle Obama’s initiative against childhood obesity. What seemed like a stock Wiig character at first turned out to be a pretty accurate interpretation of those video fitness instructors. Solid Update as per usual. B+

9. Little Fockers (3:41)
-DeNiro, Ben Stiller, Hader, Moynihan, Sudeikis, Thompson, Brittain, Pedrad

Remember that hockey sketch from Cooper/TV on the Radio with the overexcited Keith (Moynihan) glossing over his favourite players except for the star, who was ignored the whole time? I always thought that was a fun sketch and now Keith is back. This time, he’s on the set of Little Fockers and after getting overexcited over the director, a REAL camera, and the craft services guy, he could really care less about DeNiro himself showing up to the set. He had so many good lines in this sketch and the surprise appearance from Ben Stiller was terrific as well. B+

10. Blizzard Man (4:37)
-DeNiro, P. Diddy, Samberg, Sudeikis, Thompson, Wiig

Never thought Blizzy B (Samberg) would be back, but this time P. Diddy recruits him for his latest album cut. We get the usual fun antics and ridiculous lyrics from the Vanilla Ice wannabe, but this time the sketch gets a dose of life with Blizzard Man’s mother (DeNiro) showing up. The image of Diddy trying to get all up in his bidness was really a sight to see but the sketch was definitely not as good as his last appearance. Despite some good moments, it’s a step down. C+

11. La Rivista Della Televisione (4:33)
-DeNiro, Armisen, Hader, Moynihan, Brittain

Pretty late in the show to air this recurring sketch. This one is a guilty pleasure for me from Vinny’s (Hader) terrible Italian to the general awkwardness usually shown in his interviews to the ridiculous sketches he usually has planned for his guests. This one’s pretty amusing as Vinny has Robert do an impression of himself, brings out his infant  son (Moynihan) who is on a drunken bender, and then brings out the deer from The Deer Hunter. There’s also another great moment as Vinny tricks DeNiro into saying a line from Taxi Driver. B+

12. Bosley Hair Restoration (1:30)
-Armisen, Moynihan, Sudeikis, Wiig, Pedrad

Repeat from Poehler/Perry (9/25/10). B+

13. Diddy-Dirty Money (feat. Swizz Beatz) sing “Ass on the Floor” (3:48)

P. Diddy sits with some chicks while his two ladies and Swizz Beatz take over the singing and dancing necessary for the song. This was one of the most patheric displays by a musical guest ever. So Diddy sits in a chair surrounded by women for most of the song while this Swizz Beatz loser sings along with the two girls in the band. When Diddy finally joins in, he does nothing of note. Awful. Just awful. F

14. Sex For Beer (3:33)
-DeNiro, Ben Stiller, Samberg, Sudeikis, Killam

“Who do I have to screw to get a drink around here?” Everyone has heard this figure of speech before and the answer is finally given: the one you have to screw is an old wizard-looking guy (DeNiro) in a closet in the bar. This bizarre sketch works thanks mostly due to Sudeikis and his way of selling any situation, no matter how strange. There’s also another great cameo from Ben Stiller as another old man in the closet who’s getting his licks in as well. B+

15. Cartoon: American America: I, Hippie (:41)
-Dana Carvey

After months of deliberation, we finally get the Fred Wolf-penned cartoon with the voice of Dana Carvey as a hippie talking about great stories. The final reveal is pretty damn funny and despite this being a very, very short piece it’s pretty good for what it was. A-

Robin Williams shouts out really loud before DeNiro thanks everyone and the inevitable hugs are exchanged between cast and guests alike.

Another pleasant surprise much like Johansson was a few weeks ago. This time, it’s not due to the host really proving something though. DeNiro was still stiff. He was still awkward. He still looked like he was reading from cue cards. But this time, he seemed to loosen up a little bit more. The writers also tended to know how to use DeNiro a lot better this time as well. Rather than give him too many outlandish characters or impressions that he would have to perfect, they limited him to playing himself in three different sketches, giving him that one crazy role in the Blizzard Man sketch, and having him appear in a number of filmed pieces (and in one of which, he played a corpse). I would like to applaud the writers for utilizing DeNiro in a very intelligent way.

Diddy-Dirty Money was one of the worst musical guests in recent memory. Sure, he was serviceable in his sketch appearance and it was a hilarious visual to see Combs hit on Rob in drag, the music aspect of this show definitely bit the big one, particularly the second song. I make this plea: for the love of all things holy, please do not let this man perform on the show again. Thank you.

The cast really had to work hard this week with a sorta-weak host and they managed to pull out all the stops, particularly Bill Hader who continues to be a very consistent performer. Sure, he flubbed a bit in the cold open but Hader still delivers most of the time and this episode was a good example of his abilities.

All this added up to a pretty solid show.

Notes:

Robin Williams and Ben Stiller mark the first cameos this season since the premiere. Side note: was Robin texting in the middle of “what up with that?”

I love that they parodied Weekend At Bernie’s 20+ years after its release. Seriously. That was pretty awesome.

That was a pretty decent Kanye West impression by P. Diddy, I guess. Seriously though, ugh.

“This week, American diplomacy accidentally hit ‘Reply All.'”

“He is dead.”

“Kinda like a neighbour coming over to borrow a cup of sugar. It just makes sense.”

“I’m gonna need WAY more eye contact.”

Host Rating: C+

Musical Guest Rating: D

Show Rating: B+


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 2)

Back in the first season, there were a number of hosts who had some delightful episodes but it was never really expected that they would be invited back. Anthony Perkins did a wonderful job helming a really fun episode with a great Psycho parody and several other memorable sketches in which he essentially played the same role, but still had fun with it all the same. Desi Arnaz also had a memorable episode with lots of odes to his beloved I Love Lucy and The Untouchables while participating in a number of musical performances and entertaining sketches with the cast. Madeline Kahn was another host that season who had a really fun episode. While she was not a legend like Desi or Perkins, she still had her well-established fame by that point and did some really fun bits like the Bride of Frankenstein musical number, a sharp turn as Pat Nixon, and a well-written sketch involving the discussion of sex among her and the female castmembers.

It comes as somewhat of a surprise that Kahn was invited back but its a pleasant surprise at that and its one that the cast was probably satisfied with as well, particularly Gilda, who seemed to click the most with her. Kahn definitely has the vocal talent as well that will no doubt come into play with this episode much like it did with the previous one.

Joining Kahn is singer Taj Mahal, a well-known blues singer from the 60s and 70s predominantly. Mahal is somewhat obscure by today’s standards though and is our first oddball musical guest (but definitely not the last) of the third season. Taj was also known for changing the blues and mixing it with Caribbean and South Pacific influences to give it more of a unique sound rather than the same old tired strain of Miles Davis et al.

Go! Go! Go!

The Show:

1. The Trial of Lee Harry Oswald (1:26)
-Aykroyd, Belushi, Murray

In September 1977, ABC aired a controversial mini-series regarding a what-if situation revolving around Lee Harvey Oswald’s trial had he not been shot by Jack Ruby. Hence our cold opening this week acts as a spoof with “Lee Harry Oswald” (Murray) being led down in front of the press (after shooting John F. Curry). Oswald is then attacked with a pie! Yes, that was the whole thing. C

2. Monologue (1:41)

Madeline keeps it rather simple this time by saying she has no idea what to expect from this crazy rag-tag group of Not Ready For Primetime Players and the only sure thing is that everyone will die. She throws in a couple of semi-amusing barbs but this is a pretty pointless monologue. C

3. Swill (1:19)
-Murray, Newman

A classic commercial parody. The spokesman (Murray) for a brand-new mineral water introduces one that comes directly “from the lake to you.” The reveal of the water slowly pouring into his glass is a work of comedic brilliance and Murray really helps sell this over the top. A+

4. Bad Opera (3:39)
-Kahn, Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, Murray, Newman, Radner

Opportunity #1 for Madeline to sing tonight. This time, Leonard Pinth-Garnell (Aykroyd) introduces an eternally awful German opera. The quirk this time is that the note that one woman (Kahn) gets to sing is so terrible that it causes larynx lock and forces the singer to continuously sing that very note without being able to stop. This is not one of the better “Bad…” sketches, but Kahn is game here as she pretends to be taken over by a dreaded affliction and is taken away by EMTs. C+

5. Anyone Can Host (2:13)

Lorne Michaels himself announces a new contest where anyone can host Saturday Night Live and if they win, they will be selected to host the show’s Christmas episode. Lorne amusingly stumbles through some of this non-comedy bit here but I can’t really rate this.

6. Bianca Jagger And Three Or Four Of Her Close Personal Friends (5:29)
-Kahn, Belushi, Curtin, Murray, Newman

Bianca (Kahn), best known for being the wife-at-the-time of rock star Mick Jagger, hosts a dinner party in her “home” (a TV studio) with three other quirky celebrities in the form of Truman Capote (Belushi), Margaret Trudeau (Newman), and Princess Grace (Curtin). They exchange strange and awkward conversation regarding strange sayings from Bianca herself. They discuss their significant others’ talents and odds and ends as well, which makes for a bizarre sketch that didn’t really do a whole lot for me despite Bill Murray’s amusing deadpan introductions and Curtin’s turn as Princess Grace. C+

7. Taj Mahal sings “Queen Bee” (3:48)

Wearing some tribal get-up, Taj belts out a very interesting and unique tune that I can barely even attempt to describe. Let’s just say that it’s an entertaining song that almost doesn’t fit into a genre in particular. Well-done. B+

8. Schiller’s Reel: The Acid Generation – Where Are They Now? (1:14)

The debut of Tom Schiller’s films is a humourous trip down memory lane as we get a number of interviews with children of the 60s (who all look about eighty years old now), who all talk about the number of drugs and activities they partook in during that wild hippie movement. It’s a pretty quick film, but it’s a nice change of pace from Weis. B

9. Weekend Update with Dan Aykroyd & Jane Curtin (10:39)
-also: Bill Murray

Dan Aykroyd was fairly good in his Update debut last week but man oh man, does he ever mess up this week and he really seems very uncomfortable. At first, he misses his cue to start the program and then goofs up several other cues to keep reading stories and almost throws over to Jane. Still, he manages to get a few good jabs in, particularly a nasty one involving President Carter and a young  African-American girl. After the revelation is revealed that “violence in real life makes for more violence on television,” Jane reveals a deep secret about herself in an amusing moment. We also have the first appearance of the Dancing N with an urgent bulletin regarding a medical saying that has been changed. Dan gets caught doing a voiceover for an old film showing the launch of Sputnik in another amusing moment. Finally, Bill Murray stops by to do a commentary on Marie Osmond and in his typical smarmy fashion, Bill gives Marie some career advice that basically boils down to this: stop dressing like Cher and go back to normal. Overall, despite Danny’s slip-ups this is still a fun edition of Update. B+

10. Silver Balls & Golden Pins (5:11)
-Kahn, Murray

A pastor (Murray) narrates a story of a bowler while making some biblical allusions as well, not to mention while a singer (that’s two times for Kahn now) sings a tune complete with bowling references while standing atop of a trophy-like structure. It’s a strange sketch that doesn’t quite play for laughs, but this O’Donoghue-penned piece (I think) is well-written and one of my guilty pleasures. A-

11. Reverse Discrimination (4:42)
-Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Morris, Murray

The setting is a dean’s office and two students (Belushi & Morris) await a committee’s decision on which of the two will be accepted into law school. The poor, blind African-American has worse grades but it is also pointed out that his Art Appreciation grades probably brought him down. The ending of this sketch is what saves it from being one-note and predictable and Garrett’s performance is inspired. B-

12. Gary Weis Film: Autumn in New York (2:13)
-Kahn

Our host skips and prances around the city, singing about fall with the accompaniment of a harmonica. She proceeds to sing to some construction workers and in one case, just appears in the middle of a crowd. The placement of Kahn in the different settings is amusing and makes this Weis film better than I anticipated than it would be. B+

13. The Pink Box (1:14)
-Newman, Radner

Spoofing those women’s products commercials, two women (Newman & Radner) discuss the Pink Box, a new product that’s so personal even they don’t know what it is. A-

14. Hercules Dub (3:43)
-Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, Murray, Radner

Inside a recording studio, a legendary dubbing master (Aykroyd) works on the newest European picture in the form of a silly Hercules film from Italy. There’s not much to this sketch even though Aykroyd’s effort is there and his goofy voiceover is pretty amusing. Belushi, Morris, and Radner put forth a fun effort too as the actors starring in the foreign film in question, but everything just doesn’t add up to an entertaining sketch for some reason. C

15. Guest Performance: Dame Edna Everage (4:50)
-Kahn, Barry Humphries

Popular comedian from Australia, Barry Humphries, stops by in drag as one of his most popular character performed during his stand-up act. This segment mainly serves as a plateau for Barry’s collection of sex jokes and inappropriate humour. Clearly Kahn is very uncomfortable during this whole segment as Edna cracks stupid quips and a couple of clever puns to a mostly dead audience reaction. C+

16. Pocket Pal (1:02)
-Aykroyd

Introducing the newest product for those with a fear of flying. The Pocket Pal lets you know seconds before of your impending doom. There’s nothing you can do about it, but it’s nice to know beforehand I guess. Another fine commercial parody. B+

17. Phone Call (7:52)
-Kahn, Radner

Continuing a semi-tradition from the first few years on the show, we close with a really intelligent slice-of-life piece involving a young woman (Radner) waiting for a phone call from a man she met. Her doubts grow though as the hours tick by and the Vodka & Tabs pile up. Despite this, her best friend (Kahn) attempts to keep her spirits up with anecdotes and several conclusions that she comes to based on the philosophical theories this mystery man came to when discussing The Patty Duke Show. Another Marilyn Suzanne Miller classic. A

Madeline doesn’t get much time to say goodbye and only manages to thank Barry Humphries before the credits appear and the music begins.

Well, that was underwhelming. After a really strong showing in Year 1, Madeline was a bit more listless this time out as she coasted from sketch to sketch without really making much of a change in her performance or ever really giving 110% in the sketches she appeared in. I will give her credit for at least being a competent host but when compared to her first hosting stint, she was somewhat disappointing. She was also given the opportunity to sing on three different occasions and that was a little distracting in itself. Taj Mahal was a welcome addition as the musical guest and even though he only got one song (why?!), he more than proved his worth and showed his multitude of talent for the impressed NYC crowd.

The episode as a whole can be classified as uneven as there were several pieces that worked really well (Swill, Phone Call, most of Update) but a lot of stuff was just very unnecessary like the overlong Bianca Jagger sketch or the odd Hercules dubbing piece. Still, throughout it all, Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray proved to be the dominant players this week with a number of strong performances in some very mediocre sketches.

Notes:

Belushi looked full of flop sweat in this episode. It was hard to see; he didn’t look too good.

I really wanted to see Taj Mahal get another performance. Could’ve cut the Jagger sketch.

“Having it solves the problem of being without it.”

Host Rating: B

Musical Guest Rating: B+

Show Rating: C+