by Brendan Wahl
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.
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