Archive for April, 2011


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 9)

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, eh? With this week’s edition, we’re gonna see a whole new style of reviewing these episodes as I’ve been getting tired of using the letter grade system. My comments are getting somewhat repetitive as well, so I’ve decided to do my review in summary-and-point-form, much like my fellow reviewer over at Existentialist Weightlifting (check out his site on the Blogroll; his reviews of season seven are fantastic! I basically stole his reviewing style…). Also, I am going to rate musical guests as positive or negative with comments underneath but I am not going to nail it down with a rating this time (however, I will still figure out the best/worst musical guests of the season at the end!). Anyway, here is my new rating system (hardly original).

***** = Classic sketch
**** = Great; a really strong sketch
*** = Average piece
** = Not so good, but not absolutely terrible
* = A real stinker (aka the Melanie Hutsell Award)

This week’s episode features frequent host Steve Martin and two musical guests in the form of the (Nitty Gritty) Dirt Band and Randy Newman.

These pre-ambles are gonna be kept to a minimum or excised altogether as well.

The Show:

Prelude: “Bruce Jenner Wins The Javelin Catch” will not be seen tonight…

1. State of the Union 1978 (3:26)

President Carter (Aykroyd) discusses the State of the Union while Mondale (Murray) and Tip O’Neill (Belushi) get bored and keep themselves occupied behind him.

– This is the first of a series of “State of the Union” parodies that SNL would tackle and I always liked how they incorporated the real footage with the set where President Carter stood along with Vice-Prez Mondale and Speaker Tip O’Neil.
– I liked the little captions like the Secretary of Energy “wearing a new shirt” and the one concerning the amount of snow outside; it looks like it was there to comment on the dull nature of Carter’s speech.
– John and Bill made it amusing, but there otherwise wasn’t too much to this average opener.
– It should be noted that during the live show, the camera lingers on Danny for quite a while after he delivers the LFNY line.
***

2. Monologue (4:49)

Steve’s usual brand of stand-up comedy dominates the opening monologue.

– Steve’s joke about Randy Newman being small is probably my favourite bit, but Steve’s battle plan on how one can become a millionaire is a close second.
– The bit about Belushi stealing money from Steve wasn’t far off from the real going-ons behind the scenes. John was known as a bit of a rabble-rouser and things would go missing when he was around from time-to-time. It was also weird to see Belushi with a plaid shirt and overalls, but it would make sense for the next sketch.
– Stand-up monologues are the best and it was nice to let Steve do his thing for his hosting stints in the 70s.
– Even the cheap bits were done with aplomb like getting electrocuted by the microphone.
****

3. Swill (1:18)

– Repeat from Madeline Kahn/Taj Mahal (10/8/77).

4. The Mystery of Bigfoot (5:03)

A couple (Belushi & Radner) welcome a hunter (Martin) who is on the lookout for Bigfoot, yet he can’t seem to realize that the answer to the situation is right under his nose.

– This is a good example of a very simple premise being executed well by the solid acting and the fact that all three actors played it completely straight.
– I liked Steve’s constant name-dropping of the most ridiculous-sounding city names like Otter Valley and Moose Creek.
– Gilda received a wood stove in her stocking? Brilliant.
– I also liked how Steve was telling them how big the monster’s foot is right over Gilda’s huge shoe
– Steve also takes forever to break the window glass. That had to be intentional and the awkwardness of that moment is quite funny.
*** 1/2

5. Festrunk Brothers: Croatian Dates (7:27)

After their first appearance in the season premiere, the Festrunks (Martin & Aykroyd) are back and this time, they await the arrival of two foxes, but not before their friend Cliff comes over.

– I can’t emphasize how much I love these characters despite their obvious one-note nature. These two just have a fantastic amount of chemistry together and they also got a nice round of applause when the sketch began.
– Man, can Garrett ever get through a sketch without flubbing a line or two? Sometimes it seems like he’s not even trying, but he wasn’t too bad here and he actually had a few funny lines as well. He was on the verge of breaking character a couple of times too.
– This time, the Festrunks have a couple of Croatian girls come over, who basically act like the female versions of Martin and Aykroyd’s characters. Both Jane and Laraine do a good job of it too, as does Belushi who plays their wacky uncle.
– So Croatian chicks are really into black dudes? Alright, then.
– “Goodbye, Cliff. Enjoy your sex!”
**** 1/2

6. MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “On the Loose with the Blues” (4:30)

The Dirt Band performs their first tune.

– Steve announces that he’s known the band since they were “small,” an amusing reference to his stand-up material.
– This song had a kind of country blues-y type feel to it and for once, I mean that in the most positive way possible. Having never heard this song before, I can say that it was a fairly strong number.

7. The Body Floss (1:33)

A spokesperson (Martin) hypes the new rage in a long line of hygiene products, a body floss which “reaches spaces and places your washcloth just can’t go!”

– Good commercial parody of the hygiene obsession that is still relevant today.
– I usually like whenever the show does ads for these ridiculous products because you know that it’s not that far off from the truth.
– I sure hope Garrett had something on underneath that towel for poor Jane Curtin’s sake. That thing was falling off any second.
– Steve plays a great pitchman and he would do several pieces like that during his hosting stints.
*** 1/2

8. UPDATE TEASER w/Dan Aykroyd

– Economy bus service to Miami. Eh.

9. WEEKEND UPDATE w/Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin (7:42)
Guests: Gilda Radner

Best Bits: Silverman taking over NBC; Big Snow; Oral Roberts/Hustler; President Carter’s presidency outlined

– Aykroyd and Curtin have an unmistakeable chemistry together that is sometimes ignored by people who undermine Dan’s work ethic behind the desk. True, he was not always the sharpest anchor, but he did an admirable job most of the time once he got over his initial stage fright.
– The jokes are pretty good this week with the highlight being Jane’s outlining of President Carter’s presidential career up to that point.
– The first (and only) guest commentary comes from Roseanne Rosannadanna, who responds to a “Mr. Richard Feder.” It would always be the same name, except for one occassion I believe, as these letters were just there to set up an off-topic rant for Roseanne. This time, Feder asks what to do when one has no more heat in their apartment. Roseanne turns it into a story about enjoying some soup but finding a long hair in the bowl, which then segues into a story involving a hamburger and a toenail. This was the start of a winning streak for Gilda as this character was much more well-rounded than Emily Litella and her rants often changed enough to refrain from being stale.
– I liked how Dan interjected himself at the end of the rant and caused Gilda to crack up a bit.
****

10. MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “Short People,” “Rider In The Rain” (7:11)

Randy Newman starts off by playing his somewhat-controversial song, “Short People,” following it up with “Rider In The Rain,” all the while with the Dirt Band providing backing vocals. Newman also addresses the criticism he’s received towards “Short People” with a big, fat raspberry.

– Newman is a tour-de-force and its great to watch him at his musical prime here.
– Was it just me or did a couple members of the Dirt Band look a bit miffed at having to be Randy’s backup? I don’t know why they would, seeing as how they got two songs of their own to perform.
– For the second tune, one of the Dirt Band singers leaves and another grabs a guitar. It’s a completely different style of song, but it’s another classic tune.

11. Family Feud (7:47)

The long-running gameshow institution features the latest appearance of the Coneheads, who go head-to-head with the struggling Mel family, all while Richard Dawson (Murray) plays emcee.

– This has always been a favourite of mine in the realm of gameshow sketches from Murray’s entertaining Richard Dawson impression to the Mel family (it’s funnier that the Coneheads’ opponents are also funny), and the Coneheads of course.
– I also loved Dawson’s constant abuse of Joe Mel, Jr. (Belushi), due to his inanity at answering questions.
– This sketch also did a good job of mocking Dawson’s borderline-lecherous behaviour as the host on the show.
– The Coneheads were at their absolute best here as they each answered according to their individual personalities; I especially liked Connie (Newman) answering “the big one” to what people like to bite. Their constant mimicking of the buzzer sounds was also hilarious.
– “Old people are our greatest natural resource. So check in on one today and push ’em around the block.”
*****

12. What If? (5:37)

A panel of experts (Morris & Murray) discuss the question of what would have happened if Napoleon Bonaparte had a B-52 bomber during the Battle of Waterloo with the program’s host, Joan Cage (Curtin). During the dramatic representation, Napoleon (Belushi) is given the tour on his bomber by the pilot (Aykroyd).

– This is the start of a short run for this recurring sketch. The best one would be coming up in Season 4 where Superman is working for the Nazis.
– Martin plays a pretty small role in this sketch, playing a scared general who reports to Napoleon (Belushi). This just shows that Steve was willing to just gel with the cast and not always have to be the center of attention.
– Aykroyd also does a great job outlining the console and equipment on the Bomber and you can tell that he was really into this stuff throughout his career as Danny seemed to do a lot of sketches that had to do with the military or with engineering in general.
– I like how the whole panel is based on one seven-year-old boy’s question.
**** 1/2

13. GARY WEIS FILM: Hollywood Homes (2:43)

Steve cruises around L.A. to visit the homes of “close, personal friends” of his in the industry. Of course, no one will come out and see him though.

– This was pretty much the same joke over and over; Steve goes in front of different celebrity homes and of course, no one comes out at all despite Steve telling the camera that he knows them all well. Despite this, Steve still makes it work.
– I think it would’ve worked better if one celebrity had eventually come out of their house, but I liked the Rin-Tin-Tin ending anyway…
***

14. MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “White Russia” (2:32)

Steve and the Dirt Band perform an entirely instrumental piece with the aid of banjos, guitars, and a saxophone.

– It’d be unusual to see the host perform with the musical guest today, but it happened a couple of times this season with Mary Kay Place and now Steve Martin.
– It’s not as good as the previous tunes, but the Dirt Band do a very good job and of course, our host is quite adept at playing the banjo.

15. GOODNIGHTS & CREDITS

Steve thanks Newman, the Dirt Band, and the Not-Ready-For-Primetime Players before the credits quickly roll.

– Dan and John look awfully close already here and I think anyone would be able to tell they have tremndous chemistry together and would work closely in the future.
– Why did most of the cast walk off the stage halfway through the goodnights?

OVERALL: What a great, great show. This may be the strongest show of the third season thus far and that’s saying a lot in regards to the awesome season we’ve had so far. With not a single bad episode as of yet, SNL was on one of the strongest runs it would ever have in its entire 36-year span. Steve Martin carried his end of things as well as he usually did at that point in his career as a host and you also had two strong musical guests in Randy Newman and the Dirt Band (especially Newman!) bringing down the house with their performances. By the time this season began, you could really see the cast coming together as a unit, particularly because you could pretty much picture any castmember being in a sketch with any 0ther member of the cast and see it working well.

HOST & CAST APPEARANCES

HOST: STEVE MARTIN – 8 appearances (Monologue; The Mystery of Bigfoot; Festrunk Bros; The Body Floss; Family Feud; What If?; Hollywood Homes; “White Russia”)

MUSICAL GUESTS: THE DIRT BAND – 3 appearances (“On the Loose with the Blues,” “Short People” & “Rider In The Rain,” & “White Russia”)
RANDY NEWMAN – 1 (“Short People” & “Rider In The Rain”)

CAST:

DAN AYKROYD – 5 appearances (State of the Union 1978; Festrunk Bros; Weekend Update; Family Feud; What If?)
JOHN BELUSHI – 6 appearances (State of the Union 1978; Monologue; The Mystery of Bigfoot; Festrunk Bros; Family Feud; What If?)
JANE CURTIN – 5 appearances (Festrunk Bros; The Body Floss; Weekend Update; Family Feud; What If?)
GARRETT MORRIS – 3 appearances (Festrunk Bros; The Body Floss; What If?)
BILL MURRAY – 5 appearances (State of the Union 1978; Swill; The Body Floss; Family Feud; What If?)
LARAINE NEWMAN – 4 appearances (Swill; The Body Floss; Family Feud; What If?)
GILDA RADNER – 4 appearances (The Mystery of Bigfoot; The Body Floss; Weekend Update; Family Feud)

FEATURED PLAYERS:

TOM DAVIS – 1 appearance (State of the Union 1978 (voice-only))
AL FRANKEN – none


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 19)

I would like to apologize in advance if parts of this review come off as incoherent as I am very tired and in dire need of some shut-eye.

This week, we get our second British host in a row in the form of Helen Mirren but unlike our most recent royal host, Helen is an actress and will more than likely be a lot more at ease in sketches as well as refraining from playing herself in every single piece. Helen is probably best-known for her role as Queen Elizabeth and for being as far removed from that role as possible in reality. She was also a lot of fun in Red, which came out towards the end of last year. That role alone gives me hope that she has some comic ability to display for the world on New York’s stage of stages.

Joining Helen and making their sixth appearance is the Foo Fighters. I’ve got nothing but good words regarding this band and at least this time, they will get to perform their second song (damn you, Jon Bon Jovi! You egotistical rectal wart!). This also marks Dave Grohl’s tenth overall appearance as a musical guest, an honour that places him as the most frequent musical guest in the show’s history in an individual sense.

Beezel-pop, boo boo ca choo, cha fanny fanny ga zinga-blam!

(It was about here I realized I am way too tired for this and set a course for Snoozeland)

There we go. All refreshed.

Where am I?

By the way, I will be switching to a new rating system soon. I just haven’t figured out what yet…

The Show:

1. Presidential Address (2:59)
-Armisen

I know some people are tiring of Fred’s borderline-acceptable impression of El Presidente, but I, for one, am perfectly okay with it. Here, we get President Obama discussing the near-government shutdown before going into details regarding the budget and outlining how it has made virtually everyone unhappy. It’s been mentioned before but this seemed pretty hastily written, although I did like the jokes about Romney and McCain. C

2. Monologue (2:15)
-Mirren, Hader, Moynihan, Samberg, Thompson, Brittain, Killam

After making a cute joke about last week’s episode, Helen proves to the audience that she is the furthest thing removed from most of her acting roles. She is soon joined by some of the male castmembers in sailor outfits for one of your typical song-and-dance monologues. Despite a clever quick costume change by Mirren, this song wasn’t quite as enjoyable as the ones from Cranston/West or Cyrus/Strokes. I do like Andy getting chastised by the rest of the cast for ogling Mirren, though. B-

3. Mort Mort Feingold: Accountant For The Stars (3:39)
-Mirren, Armisen, Elliott, Hader, Samberg, Bayer, Brittain (x2), Killam, Pedrad, Pharoah

I never thought I’d see this again! Mort Mort (Samberg) welcomes more celebrity clients to discuss their income taxes, including James Franco (Brittain), the Kardashians (Elliott, Bayer, & Pedrad), and Tim Burton (Hader) & wife Helena (Mirren) among others. This was pretty straight-forward with Feingold going through the motions and making some funny one-liners with the various celebrities. I think my favourite impression was the return of James Franco, but I also really liked Taran’s take on Ricky Martin. B+

4. Digital Short: Helen Mirren’s Titties (2:16)
-Mirren, Dave Grohl, Moynihan, Samberg, Wiig, Pedrad

While Helen gets ready backstage, Nasim approaches her and, after grabbing a hold of her cans, is transported into a magical world where we are shown glimpses of ridiculous imagery like OJ, Brendan Fraser at an awards show, Bobby Moynihan in a bee costume, and others. Eventually she is transported to a heaven-like world with a gatekeeper (Samberg) and Dave Grohl. This was a really goofy short and one that could’ve been awful based on its simple premise, but it ended up being very enjoyable. B+

5. Fox and Friends (4:38)
-Mirren, Armisen, Moynihan, Bayer, Killam

In a very accurate take on those morons on FOX News, the three musketeers themselves (Moynihan, Bayer, & Killam) discuss the recent government shutdown and soon delve into their usual claptrap of insinuating that Obama is a communist and that Mexicans will be taking over everyone’s jobs. Mirren shows up as Sandy Blunt, a crazed right-wing nutjob who discusses the problem of anchor babies and reverse-anchor babies. The trio of actors playing the hosts really nail their cadences down to the fake style of acting and Moynihan shines as the dumbest of the three. A

6. Mary Shelley (3:54)
-Mirren, Armisen, Hader, Moynihan, Sudeikis, Wiig, Brittain

During a mini-celebration for Shelley’s (Mirren) success with Frankenstein, her landlord (Armisen) shows up that causes some to question where the inspiration for the novel came from. This was one of those sketches that depended on Armisen’s slightly-beleaguered attitude towards something, but this was one of the better ones. Certainly better than that sketch from Hathaway/F&TM where Fred played the Jewish weather vane. This one could’ve been so much worse but it was saved with good acting and a short running time. B

7. Foo Fighters perform “Rope” (4:40)

I haven’t heard anything new from the Foos in a long while, but this was definitely a worthwhile addition to their songbook. Grohl deserves his status of being a ten-timer on the show and he earns it again here with another great performance from the band. The swinging lights were a nice touch as well. A-

8. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (13:20)
-Also: Bill Hader, Kenan Thompson, & Kristen Wiig

Seth had a good joke involving Glenn Beck this week as well as a cute bit on Kate Middleton’s hairstylists dependant on Seth’s knowledge of Disney movies. Some other good bits from Seth include a story on a priest in an incestual relationship, Flava Flav’s Fried Chicken and hookers taking credit cards (no connection between the two previous stories). The commentaries were winners for the most part tonight as James Carville (Hader) stops by to comment on the budget plan and eventually delves into weird discussions involving Mambo No. 5, being raised by eels, and Gopher Day (“the nudity is not necessary but I prefer it”). Carville is obviously a favourite of Bill’s but it is also a favourite of mine and apparently, a good deal of audience members. Kristen Wiig shows up as a flight attendant that survived a Boeing 747 that developed a huge hole while in mid-flight. At first, it seems like it’s going to be one of those bizarre-for-the-sake-of-being-bizarre characters from Wiig, but this one was funny due to Kristen’s southern drawl with her delivery and the writing of the piece itself was amusing. Lastly, Jean K. Jean (Thompson) makes his seventh appearance and nothing is better or worse. I guess you either like or hate this character and I’m at ease with it just as long as Virginiaca doesn’t come back. Overall, a fairly solid edition of Update. B+

9. The Best of Both Worlds (4:39)
-Mirren, Moynihan, Samberg, Thompson, Killam

Hugh Jackman (Samberg) hosts a show in which he interviews other celebrities who seem to have two sides to them in terms of their film work. His guests include Gerard Butler (Killam), who comes out in full Spartan gear complete with a “Phantom of the Opera” mask, Ice Cube (Thompson), and Julie Andrews (Mirren) in perhaps the funniest bit of the sketch where she unleashes HER other side on her assistant (Moynihan). This was something of a gem. It may have been a simple talk show sketch but Samberg’s Hugh Jackman was hilarious and to be quite honest, everyone in this sketch was a lot of fun. That’s all it was: FUN. A-

10. Crunk-Ass Easter Festival (2:38)
-Mirren, Moynihan, Sudeikis, Pedrad, Pharoah

Another appearance from DJ Supersoak (Sudeikis) and Lil Blaster (Pedrad)? Cool with me! This sketch basically depends on how ridiculous the festivities are and whether Ass Dan (Moynihan) shows up again. I loved so many of the bits here from sending the Chilean miners back into the mine, Elian Gonzalez in a dunk tank, methed-out coyotes, and a screening of Juwanna Man. Entertaining stuff here. B+

11. The Roosevelts (3:04)
-Mirren, Armisen, Elliott, Hader, Moynihan, Thompson, Brittain, Killam

Yeah, I'm a pervert. So sue me.

Spoofing the historical inaccuracies found within the mini-series The Kennedys, the next family to be unfairly skewered is the Roosevelts including things that make absolutely no sense like a romance between Eleanor Roosevelt (Mirren) and Marilyn Monroe (Elliott), who would’ve been five at the time. Armisen was also very entertaining as the douchebag producer who put the show together. The absolute best part though is Kenan Thompson showing up as Teddy Roosevelt and directly addressing the camera. This was a classic. A+

12. Perspectives Photo Studios (2:06)
-Hader, Meyers, Moynihan, Sudeikis, Wiig, Brittain, Killam, Pedrad

Finally, a photo studio that will help your appearance when texting a picture of your penis to different women. This sketch marks yet more appearances from Paul and Taran, making it a pretty good night for the featured players tonight. Despite that this felt a bit dated, it was still a clever parody and I really liked Seth Meyers’ appearance (along with the fact that he was credited as “America’s Comedian”). B+

13. Foo Fighters perform “Walk” (4:22)

Another great song from the Foos that I had never heard before this show. And unlike Elton, this song actually sounds much different from their first song. I mean, I respect Elton and all but c’mon. He basically did the same song twice last week, despite them both being acceptable. Anyway, this gets a A.

14. Bongo’s Clown Room (6:11)
-Mirren, Dave Grohl, Elliott, Sudeikis, Wiig, Pedrad

On his last night at a strip joint (because of winning $9,200 on a scratch ticket), a DJ (Sudeikis) introduces the final gang of strippers while making some cheap jokes. This was a great character study when at first glance it seemed like a sketch that just didn’t get any laughs. I really enjoyed this upon second viewing and it was a tour-de-force for Sudeikis. I will miss that guy when he leaves. Mirren also deserves some credit for her role as an aging stripper, Dave Grohl for his amusing cameo, and Wiig for her wacky dance moves. Best sketch of the night. A+

Helen thanks the Foos, the cast, the writers, the lighting crew, the grips, “Mighty” Lorne, and pretty much everyone in the world before embracing them all on stage and waving goodnight.

This was a solid show and definitely a fairly large improvement over last week’s with Elton John pulling double-duty. Mirren was a very game host who was willing to do pretty much anything (including making out with Abby Elliott… damn), but it was her take on Julie Andrews that made me laugh the hardest. The Foos were rockin’ too with a couple of great songs and featuring a couple of funny bit performances from Dave Grohl, himself.

It should be noted that tonight was an awesome showing from the featured players, particularly Brittain and Killam.

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


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 18)

Well there haven’t been too many head-scratching choices for guests this season. The only real oddity was Miley Cyrus’ stint, but even then it turned out pretty cool (note: I actually didn’t realize what I was doing as I typed that). But when the announcement was made that Elton John would host and be the musical guest for an upcoming episode, I was a little perplexed. Sure, he can hold up his end of the music fine but has the man ever truly acted before? Then again, I went into this one with no real expectations except that I expected a lot from the musical performances.

There’s not much else to say. The announcement was made that Leon Russell would join Elton here but not as a scheduled musical guest. Okay then.

The Show:

1. The Lawrence Welk Show (4:29)
-John, Armisen, Elliott, Wiig, Bayer, Pedrad

Can you believe they’ve already done this sketch on five separate occasions? While I was never a huge fan of this from the beginning, it has its place, I suppose. This time, Lawrence (Armisen) welcomes the sisters from the Fingerlakes (Elliott, Bayer, & Pedrad) and of course the weird one, Dooneese (Wiig). This time, “confirmed bachelor” Frances Lynn Mulge (John) introduces them by playing the piano (gasp!). It should be noted that the first gay joke of the night comes at one minute and fifty-two seconds into the episode. Never a good sign. Kristen was good as usual with her creepy character and the sight gag of her popping out of the piano was amusing. Elton was also appropriately giddy, but the sketch was only middling. C

2. Monologue (4:18)

While I was surprised and a little disappointed that we didn’t get a song from Elton during this portion of the show, this was still a very funny bit of dialogue from our host. Basically, Elton just describes what he’s been doing for the past little while and how Lady Gaga is his child’s godmother (true story!). However, he does it with a good bit of comic timing and it results in a better monologue than it had any right to be. B+

3. KY Jelly Ladies Shot Put Championship 1985 (6:12)
-Carmello Anthony, Tom Hanks, Will Forte, Sudeikis, Wiig

Yes! It’s the return of those guilty pleasure ESPN sketches that I’ve missed a bit since Will Forte left the program last year. Pete Twinkle (Sudeikis) and Greg Stink (Forte!) commentate during a match between Charlotte Ft. Worth (Wiig) and Carmela St. Knix (Anthony with a cute name change) while making all the appropriate innuendo-laced jokes regarding the sponsor. Also surprising is Tom Hanks’ cameo as Greg’s equally moronic brother, Steve Stink. While Hanks’ and Forte’s cameo were a delight and it was nice to see this sketch return… well, I got nothing. This was great. A-

4. Knights of the Realm (5:49)
-John, Tom Hanks, Armisen, Hader, Moynihan, Samberg, Thompson, Wiig, Brittain, Killam

“Fancy a Jar, Do You?” (the most popular show in the history of Britain) is interrupted by a very special report from a BBC News reporter (Brittain) that a dragon has attacked England. After mentioning the collecting of all the honourary “knights” that will be assembled to battle the creature, we cut to the room where they are all gathered. From Elton himself to Michael Caine (Tom Hanks again with a great impression!), Richard Branson (Hader), Bono (Samberg), and of course Sir Mix-A-Lot (Thompson) just to name a few. This was quite an entertaining sketch from the stilted delivery on the part of Tom’s Caine impression to Branson’s crazy jet pack, Ringo’s (Armisen) random drum-playing, the crazy sitcom that is interrupted, and with the conclusion of Sting finally putting his tantric sex to good use when defeating the dragon. A

5. Digital Short: Laser Cats The Musical! (4:15)
-John, Carmelo Anthony, Tom Hanks, Lorne Michaels, Armisen, Hader, Samberg

After a lengthy chat with Lorne, Tom Hanks is the latest celebrity to be thrown into this mess as Bill and Andy attempt to get him to sell the idea of Laser Cats again. This time, they put it together as a musical along with a hilarious recurring appearance of Spider-Man. Elton also plays the evil Droz (who is revealingly taken from a Dr. Oz poster) in a funny bit. This was not the strongest edition of “Laser Cats,” but it was still quite entertaining with the usual intentionally bad acting/special effects. The Carmelo Anthony cameo was funny as well. B+

6. Elton John & Leon Russell sing “Hey Ahab” (4:18)

With a huge array of back-up singers, Elton and Leon sing a rockin’ tune. I don’t have too much to say about this. Leon looks like Santa Claus. They both sounded good as did the other singers. Good stuff. B+

7. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (15:01)
-Also: Jake Gyllenhaal, Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg, & Kenan Thompson

Seth jokes about the Libyan bombings and a great bit about the employment rate with a Gary Busey punchline. Seth brings forth another big rant this week; this time, it’s on Donald Trump’s “run” for president. In doing so, he compares the Republican candidates to contestants on Celebrity Apprentice. It was cute, but not one of his better ones. The best comparison was to Lil John, but the John Rich one was good too. Actually, the jokes were quite good for the most part this week, but its the commentaries that somewhat failed. The first was from Muammer Kaddafi (Armisen) who, while discussing the state of his country, drops dated references to In Living Color and MC Hammer. It seems like most of the other foreign people that Fred impersonates and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it was only okay. The second commentary featured Kenan as a zoo owner who lost the snake that got out of the Bronx. Kenan’s bit was funny at first when he realized that the snake was missing but then it got really silly when he started fighting it. Lastly, Jake Gyllenhaal (the real deal!) stops by to get interviewed by Nicolas Cage (Samberg) in a piece I expected to finally win me over, but it wasn’t all that either and it just played on the same ‘Nicolas Cage is crazy’ jokes that we’ve come to expect. It had its moments. This was a rather weak edition of Update sprinkled with some funny jokes from Seth but hampered by lifeless commentaries. C

8. Royal Engagement (4:54)
-John, Armisen, Hader, Samberg, Killam

Queen Elizabeth (Armisen) and Prince Philip (Hader) return from their first appearance in Hathaway/F&TM and this time, they chastise Elton John, who is scheduled to sing at William’s (Samberg) wedding. The banter between the queen and prince is good as per usual, but this just feels reheated and Elton’s blatant cue card-reading was more than a little distracting. This was serviceable. C+

9. The Silver Screen (4:11)
-John, Killam, Pedrad

Two nancies (John & Killam) host a movie discussion show and welcome their guest, Vanessa Hudgens (Pedrad). Not surprisingly, this sketch plays on the gay stereotypes that we all expected with this host and it was only moderately amusing. It was nice to see Taran and he obviously went all out and held nothing back while kissing his co-host (John), but this fell flatter than a pancake. I also have no idea if Nasim’s impression of Hudgens was anywhere close to the real thing. C-

10. Flamboyant Cowboy (4:15)
-John, Hader, Moynihan, Sudeikis, Wiig, Killam

Aaaaaand another gay-themed sketch. This time, a flamboyant older cowboy (who else?) shows up to town and shows his love for a burly criminal (Sudeikis) rather than the floozy (Wiig) that constantly hits on him. And that’s it. Elton just keeps using gay innuendos and the sketch doesn’t go anywhere. I did like Elton’s unicorn and the voice he used as well as his ad-lib when his hat fell, but that’s it. D

11. Elton John & Leon Russell sing “Monkey Suit” (3:35)

I’m really surprised Elton didn’t go with an oldie for his second song, but this was fine. It was similar to his first song in style, but that’s fine. B

Elton thanks each and every one of his guests… and then the goodnights are cut off. Of course.

To quote the great Leonard Pinth-Garnell, “well, that wasn’t very good now, was it?” To be fair, this episode had a pretty solid first half with only the cold open being the only downer. Once Weekend Update disappointed though, the show was all downhill from there and basically featured one sketch with Elton playing himself and two following that loaded with cheap gay jokes. Our host seemed more than game, but his performance got worse and worse throughout the night. He blatantly stared at cue cards and acted rather wooden, but on the music side of things he delivered.

While it was nice to see Tom Hanks and Will Forte, one wishes they could’ve been part of a better episode. This show was a strange beast; at first viewing, I found myself enjoying it (and even posting on the boards in response to all the negative nancies) but on closer inspection, it was definitely the worst episode of the season. While it wasn’t a total wash-out thanks to the quality of the aforementioned first half, it was by no means a very good episode and thus it is the first official clunker of the season.

Host Rating: C
Musical Guest Rating: B
Show Rating: C