Archive for September, 2011


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 37, Episode 1)

SEASON PREMIERE BAY-BAY! This was the first episode in a long, long time that I actually didn’t watch live and had to wait until I could attain it through other means before I could post a review. Like a heroin junkie, I searched for the episode a mere five hours after it was complete and then came home to find 90% satisfaction. As I waited and counted down the seconds until the damn thing was all set up and ready to go, I salivated and started foaming at the mouth. The heroin was delicious.

After that, I watched the season premiere of Saturday Night Live.

The Show:

1. Either the 7th or 8th GOP Debate (11:05)

We are treated to a GOP debate moderated by Shepherd Smith (Hader) and featuring frontrunners Rick Perry (Baldwin) and Mitt Romney (Sudeikis) along with “candidates who can’t and won’t win,” including Michele Bachmann (Wiig), Newt Gingrich (Moynihan), John Huntsman (Killam), Ron Paul (Brittain), Herman Cain (Thompson), and Rick Santorum (Samberg).

– Very funny opening that clearly shows that the show hasn’t lost its sharp political writing. The only way I can really mention the aspects of this sketch is by going over each of the performers.
– I loved the fact that Alec was in the cold opening and he did a great take on Rick Perry with some pretty hilarious lines. I especially liked him not being able to talk for more than ten seconds without alienating some ethnic group or gender.
– Sudeikis’ bit comparing himself to the other candidates was hilarious especially him mentioning Herman Cain and silently mouthing, “I’m white.”
– Despite all these funny parts, my favourite was Taran talking about his knowledge of Chinese culture not limiting him to only one area of expertise. Using broken english made me laugh quite a bit and it was in a large part due to Taran’s delivery of his lines here.
– Bobby walking away was hilarious.
– I never expected Samberg to nail an impression so I like how he just made Rick Santorum crazy instead.
– Kristen’s bit as Michele was funny like usual as well. Her best bit was about her obviously gay husband.
– Of course, Hader rocked it as Shepherd Smith as well like he usually does whenever he does the impression of this strange, weasely anchorman.
– Kenan as Herman Cain was okay and Brittain as Ron Paul wasn’t as strong as the others, but they were still fairly funny. Brittain’s impression was actually pretty good too.
Rating: ****

2. Monologue (4:33)

Alec celebrates his 16th time hosting but is interrupted by Steve Martin (big surprise!), who wants to test him for steroids with the help of “drug expert” Seth Rogen.

– You had to know Steve was gonna show up for this but it was funny nonetheless. I enjoyed Baldwin’s comments before the cameo, especially talking about hosting the Oscars and Steve helping out a bit.
– Seth Rogen’s cameo came out of nowhere but it was funny despite the fact that he didn’t get all that much to do. I did like his line about Steve Martin getting 108 results when he searched for him.
– The pee drinking thing was a bit much but Steve is one of the few that can make that funny with his dry delivery and great deadpan humour.
Rating: *** 1/2

3. Red Flag (1:51)

A gorgeous woman (Wiig) walks through a party and flirts with various young bachelors (Samberg, Sudeikis, & Killam) while a voiceover points out some red flags that should notify others that she is actually a crazy person.

– This was very funny and featured a great performance by Kristen as the woman in question.
– The best parts here were Jason spitting up his drink, Wiig putting her finger in Taran’s mouth, and the line by the narrator about her being “funny but not funny ha-ha, like funny yikes!”
Rating: ****

4. All My Children Wrap Party (4:32)

Susan Lucci (Bayer) hosts a wrap party involving the cast and crew from the long-running soap opera, but things get insane when the soap opera-like antics carry over to the creative forces behind the show as well as they continue to one-up each other in terms of bizarre and unusual quirks and confessions.

– This was definitely my favourite sketch of the whole night and I think it ranks as a near-classic in my book. Everything worked here for the most part from Bayer’s hilarious impression of Susan Lucci to the ridiculous confessions to the insane names that everyone introduces themselves with.
– Bill Hader’s bit may have been my favourite with his line, “OR WAS I PUSHED?” especially how that line was repeated later on by Brittain and Sudeikis (who was especially hilarious as a crazy man).
– Best lines? Baldwin responding to a question about having kids by saying that he has cancer, Kenan’s bit about everyone having AIDS, and Kenan as his own evil twin (“I mean… his regular twin”).
– Samberg mistakenly coming into the wrong room was also a hoot.
– The only thing that didn’t work all that well was Fred with his hair blowing in the wind.
Rating: **** 1/2

5. WDHX Buffalo (3:55)

Co-anchors (Baldwin & Elliott) speak with a correspondent (Wiig) on location in Costa Rica and have to deal with a time delay while attempting to warn the surgically-enhanced reporter about various critters that are crawling all over her

– I’m sure some people will dismiss this as “some whatever Kristen Wiig shit” but fuck ’em. I enjoyed this a decent amount and it was a much more creative take on one of those typical “morning-show-gone-wrong” premises.
– I liked the twist that Wiig’s character had gotten Botox and I especially liked her retort that Baldwin’s character had herpes.
– I really thought this was going to be Herb Welch at first (who I love, by the way!) but I’m really glad they went a different route with this and gave us a non-recurring character.
Rating: ***

6. Radiohead performs “Lotus Flower” (4:57)

– It is undeniably awesome to see this band back on SNL for the first time in eleven years and they did a great job here. Their songs always sound unique and this one was no exception.
– Thom has an insane way of dancing. I love it.

7. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (8:32)
Guest: Tony Bennett (Baldwin)

Best Jokes: new tax; gay recruiting; fashion terms; NYC women uptight; freon thief; PETA/porn




– The sole commentary comes from Alec doing one of his classic bits: his Tony Bennett impression. He had so many good lines here and there, my favourite probably about John Garfield “croaking on top of a chick for hire.” Although I also loved his line about the He-bro, the bit about confusing a blind girl with the help of Bobby Darin, and the sponsor spot at the end with Poise Pads.
Rating: ****

8. Who’s On Top? (5:09)

An absurd gameshow featuring contestants (Baldwin & Bayer) being given a pair of celebrities and having to guess which one of them would be on top if they had gay sex together.

– The introduction by Bill as the gameshow host was hilarious as was Sudeikis quickly leaving after hearing the rules of the game.
– My favourite parts were Baldwin’s dissection of Billy Joel/Bruce Springsteen and Timon/Pumbaa along with Bill warning him of the remaining time left with saying “ten more minutes.”
– Bayer was good here, Hader was great as usual as the host, but Baldwin was particularly excellent here as the overly-eager participant and him going through the Lightning Round was a great example of comic timing, especially him mentioning “the other guy” after only hearing Paul Giamatti as the first participant. Entourage fans take notice of the great bit at the end.
– The end was hilarious with Baldwin opting to lose all his money thinking that it led to some type of bonus round but it just meant that Baldwin lost all his money at once.
Rating: ****

9. Top Gun Auditions (2:54)

Commemorating the 25th anniversary of Top Gun, several different actors of yesteryear try their hand auditioning for various parts in the well-remembered film from Tony Danza (Armisen) to Harvey Fierstein (Hader) to Al Pacino (Baldwin) and many, many others.

– This was a pretty funny follow-up to the Star Wars and Back to the Future auditions sketches, particularly with Alec-as-Pacino, Bill with both of his impressions, Fred-as-Danza, and Taran’s impressions of Tom Hanks and Bobcat Goldthwait. Really though there weren’t any real duds here and I enjoyed this quite a bit from start to finish.
– The Prince impression was pretty much the same thing they did with it last time but it still makes me chuckle.
– Andy’s Crispin Glover was so strange it made me laugh.
Rating: *** 1/2

I just want to mention here that those usual shots-during-the-middle-of-the-commercials bits got super cool here as the camera took us backstage for a bit where we actually saw Radiohead chilling and a few costume people walking around.

10. Child Psychologist (4:37)

Renowned child psychologist (Baldwin) attempts to have a romantic date with a woman (Bayer), but his young daughter (Pedrad) constantly creeps around behind them. Despite the woman’s reluctance to ignore her, the psychologist informs her that by giving her attention you give her the power and thus have no control.

–  I’ll admit here that Nasim’s voice was a bit grating at the beginning but the sketch got better and better as it went on from Nasim being perched on top of the cabinet to her burning Alec’s blue tennis jacket. Still, this was probably the weakest sketch of the night but not as bad as some have said.
– Vanessa continues to impress with her performance as the straight woman in this sketch. She has a very likeable grounded quality to her that I really enjoy. She even made it funny when she was covered by the tapioca pudding (which kinda looked like oatmeal) just from her great subtle reaction.
– I liked the ending with Alec saying, “After we have sex, you should probably go home.”
Rating: ** 1/2

11. Radiohead performs “Staircase” (4:32)

– Another fine, albeit weirder, performance. Dig Thom’s crazy dance moves!

12. Angels in the Trenches (3:39)

An old-timey war film on TCM features a number of dying soldiers (Baldwin, Armisen, & Moynihan) making a number of pleas to another one (Killam) that get increasingly more and more bizarre and offensive.
– This was hilarious and the whole thing was carried by Taran Killam. He is definitely the best of the featured players and it’s any day now that he’s going to break out and have the whole world notice his talents.
– My favourite were Baldwin telling Killam to tell his brother he has cancer (“trust me, it will be hilarious”), telling him to tell his son that Taran killed him, and the slew of yo momma jokes disguised as last requests that followed from all three soldiers.
– This was one of the best closing sketches in quite some time. A near-classic despite its very basic premise.
Rating: **** 1/2

13. Goodnights

– Alec being caught off-guard was pretty funny.

OVERALL: Wow, what a season premiere. There wasn’t a single sketch here that I flat-out didn’t like and the only thing that even came close was the child psychologist segment. Baldwin was a terrific host as per usual but he didn’t eclipse this fantastic cast that was a great blend of old guard and blossoming newcomers. It seems that it’s about that time for Kenan and Fred to cut their losses and go but I wouldn’t mind everyone else sticking around for a while yet. I sincerely hope this isn’t Hader or Sudeikis’ last year and I pray that Seth remains on Update for at least another season or two.

BREAKDOWN:

HOST: ALEC BALDWIN – 9 segments (Either the 7th or 8th GOP Debate; Monologue; All My Children Wrap Party; WDHX Buffalo; Weekend Update; Who’s On Top?; Top Gun Auditions; Child Psychologist; Angels in the Trenches)

CAMEOS: STEVE MARTIN – 1 segment (Monologue)
SETH ROGEN – 1 segment (Monologue)

FRED ARMISEN – 4 segments (Monologue; All My Children Wrap Party; Top Gun Auditions [2 roles]; Angels in the Trenches)
ABBY ELLIOTT – 3 segments (Monologue; All My Children Wrap Party; WDHX Buffalo)
BILL HADER – 4 segments (Either the 7th or 8th GOP Debate; All My Children Wrap Party; Who’s On Top?; Top Gun Auditions [2 roles])
SETH MEYERS – 1 segment (Weekend Update)
NASIM PEDRAD – 3 segments (All My Children Wrap Party; Top Gun Auditions; Child Psychologist)
ANDY SAMBERG – 5 segments (Either the 7th or 8th GOP Debate; Monologue; Red Flag; All My Children Wrap Party; Top Gun Auditions)
JASON SUDEIKIS – 4 segments (Either the 7th or 8th GOP Debate; Red Flag; All My Children Wrap Party; Who’s On Top?)
KENAN THOMPSON – 3 segments (Either the 7th or 8th GOP Debate; All My Children Wrap Party; Top Gun Auditions)
KRISTEN WIIG – 5 segments (Either the 7th or 8th GOP Debate; Monologue; Red Flag; All My Children Wrap Party; WDHX Buffalo)

FEATURING:

VANESSA BAYER – 3 segments (All My Children Wrap Party; Who’s On Top?; Child Psychologist)
PAUL BRITTAIN – 2 segments (Either the 7th or 8th GOP Debate; All My Children Wrap Party)
TARAN KILLAM – 4 segments (Either the 7th or 8th GOP Debate; Red Flag; Top Gun Auditions [2 roles]; Angels in the Trenches)

Episode MVPs: Bill Hader/Taran Killam

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by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 15)

Keep in mind that immediately upon arriving in New York to Studio 8H, Christopher told all the cast and writers that he did not want to play Dracula in any segments and that he was tired of doing the character he had made famous back in the 1960s within the old Hammer horror films.

The Show:

“101 Dalmatians Get Run Over by 101 Moving Vans” will not be seen tonight…

1. Cold Opening: John’s New Name (2:50)

As Bill Murray and Gilda Radner discuss John Belushi’s newfound fame, Gilda mentions that the network has made John change his name to Kevin Scott as the start of an all-new image for the reckless castmember. “Kevin” soon enters the locker room and tells his compadres to just treat him as they would always have treated him despite the image change.

– There were a lot of these backstage cold opens back in the day and for the most part they’re funny because it gives the cast the opportunity to just be themselves and act loose. This one was pretty decent.
– There’s a really funny bit at the end where Belushi pronounces the “live” in LFNY like a word rhyming with give instead. He then just quickly corrects himself at the end of it and you can noticeably see Bill and Gilda crack up at the very end. I wonder if this was intentional. John made it look so real but the fact that Bill and Gilda broke character makes me think that it might’ve been an honest mistake.
– Gilda’s explanation of how everyone is being bumped up one notch at NBC was pretty funny, especially how Tom Snyder was being replaced on Tomorrow with Grizzly Adams.
Rating: ***

2. Monologue (7:27)

Christopher talks about some awful ideas he’s been given for horror movies and adds that he didn’t accept every one of them. He then shows a trio of movie trailers that he didn’t agree to star in. The Island of Lost Luggage features a young woman (Newman) who suddenly can’t find her suitcase on an island run by a scientist (Morris) and his assistant (Radner). The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave is almost semi-biographical featuring a beastly man (Belushi) who simply won’t leave a couple’s (Curtin & Murray) home. Finally, Dr. Jekyll and Mister Rogers features Vincent Price (Aykroyd) playing scientist Dr. Jekyll, who suddenly transforms into kindly Fred Rogers when he drinks a concoction from his laboratory.

– Longest. Description. Ever.
– Christopher’s dialogue before the trailers was pretty amusing, especially when he mentioned his role as Trixie in The Honeymooners. I also liked some of the other films that he rejected like The Creature from the Black Studies Program.
Lost Luggage was amusing, especially because of Garrett’s strange performance as the scientist. Gilda’s facial expressions were funny as well.
The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave was especially funny because of it being rooted in reality. Belushi was known for his incessant need to crash at friends’ houses and just never seem to leave. That had to be the basis for this hilarious piece. Jane’s over-dramatic screaming made this even better but Belushi was also great with his very dry delivery.
– The final trailer was perhaps the funniest as Aykroyd did a perfect imitation of Price-as-Mister Rogers and I love how that was seemingly more terrifying and dangerous than his creepy scientist character. Also, how did Laraine get changed so quickly to be in this bit as well as the first trailer?
– Tom Davis as the announcer in all three trailers was pitch-perfect, especially his last line: “Just keep saying to yourself… it’s educational… it’s educational…”
Rating: ****

3. Speech Therapy (5:46)

In an obvious take-off of My Fair Lady, Professor Henry Higgins (Lee) along with his assistant, Colonel Pickering (Aykroyd), is assigned to help Baba Wawa (Radner) learn the English language properly. Specifically, he is tasked with the dubious responsibility of teaching her how to pronounce her R’s.

– A clever way to utilize Christopher’s theatre acting background and also a brilliant way to insert Gilda’s Baba Wawa into a sketch where it isn’t just a straight interview with her and some celebrity.
– I like the immediate reference to Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady being an ungrateful woman.
– All the musical cue teases were hilarious and I like how they didn’t turn this into a musical sketch like everyone was probably expecting.
– The ending was especially funny with Christopher and Dan’s characters speaking just like Baba instead of her being cured.
Rating: *** 1/2

4. Meat Loaf sings “No Place to Go” (3:39)

– Christopher Lee’s cheeky introduction to the musical guest was pretty amusing (“I would like you to meet… Loaf!”)
– Great energetic coked-up performance by Loaf here. Everytime I see this guy perform, it makes me appreciate Chris Farley’s impression of him even more because it was so spot-on.

5. UPDATE TEASER w/Jane Curtin (:06)

– David Brenner looks back…

6. Weekend Update w/Dan Aykroyd & Jane Curtin (9:35)
Guests: John Belushi and Bill Murray

Best Jokes: pay-toilets; Spinks/Norton fight; Sesame Street

– Funny introductions.
– In the first commentary, “Kevin Scott” (Belushi) goes into detail about the problems involving giant oil tankers with the aid of a toy model. As he describes the way the tanker moves, John gets some fake oil all over Dan’s face despite his attempts to get out of the way. To be quite honest, this didn’t really get a great reaction and kinda fell flat.
– Bill Murray debuts his Oscar Predictions segment and it gets a great overall crowd reaction. My favourite comments from Bill were about John Travolta, Marcello Mastroianni, the “who cares” comments regarding the supporting actors/actresses, and the way he goes about choosing the best picture winner.
– We get the debut of Point/Counterpoint, which focuses on the notion of the validity of the point/counterpoint concept itself. Jane starts off with a really good string of comments but Dan seals the segment with “Jane, you ignorant slut” and thus, a monster is born.
– Update started off slow, but got really good with the second commentary and the point/counterpoint segment.
Rating: ****

7. Mr. Death (6:08)

Shortly after a young girl’s (Newman) puppy has been killed, she is visited by Death (Lee), who explains to her why he does the ghastly things that he has to do and apologizes for taking away her precious dog.

– This is a fairly well-remembered classic. In fact, in Christopher Lee’s autobiography he mentions that he was approached by Lorne Michaels himself who told Mr. Lee that it was one of the most fondly-remembered sketches in the show’s history.
– This sketch also has a backstory involving Laraine Newman threatening to quit the show unless she was given the main role here as she was tired of getting looked over for major parts on the show. Once she found out it was Alan Zweibel and Gilda Radner who co-wrote the sketch with Gilda in mind for the part she was devastated and felt very badly about it.
– The actual sketch though? It’s a brilliant bit of writing and performances. Christopher’s delivery is wonderfully dry and serves this sketch perfectly. This may have been one of the best pieces ever written by Zweibel, who was a very prolific writer to begin with.
– My favourite parts are Lee looking over his scroll, his comments about Richard Harris and Nick Nolte, Death confessing that he doesn’t like small animals, and especially his remark at the end about visiting the girl again on her 15th birthday.
Rating: *****

8. Suggestions for Sadat (1:35)

Anwar Sadat (Morris) is so frustrated that he asks people to mail in suggestions for what he should do with his regime in Egypt.

– Quick piece and Morris did a decent job here. It was fairly one-note though.
Rating: ** 1/2

9. Gary Weis Film: Cold as Ice (3:08)

A music video set to the “Cold as Ice” by Foreigner in which a young homicidal woman slowly kills a man (Stacy Keach).

– I have done my fair share of criticizing Gary Weis’ oddball taste in filmmaking but I rather appreciated this strange yet well-made video.
– Stacy Keach showing up is a pretty awesomely random cameo too even though no one in this really had any lines or anything. He was still good though with his facial expressions and body language. Whoever played the woman was real good too.
Rating: *** 1/2

10. Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut (1:47)

Del Stator (Aykroyd) presents a restaurant where families can pick out their rabbits from a number of cages right by the entrance.

– Pretty funny commercial parody. I especially liked the little kid nearly crying before taking a bite out of a rabbit and then proclaiming it “better than chicken!”
– Not a classic like some of Danny’s other commercial parodies though but it was still funny just for the premise alone.
Rating: ***

11. Nixon’s Memoirs (6:31)

As Richard Nixon (Aykroyd) finally completes his memoirs, Maureen Dean (Curtin) enlists the help of a vampire slayer (Lee) and his assistant Carl (Belushi) to destroy the book before it can be released upon the unsuspecting public. Nixon does everything in his power to thwart their attempts.

– What do you do when Christopher Lee refuses to play Dracula in a sketch? Why, you cleverly work around that blockade, that’s what! This was a brilliant way to utilize the host in a horror movie setting and also to make mention of the news involving Nixon’s book release.
– Aykroyd was fantastic as Nixon here, making him even creepier than usual to have him resemble Dracula as well as the former president.
– One of the more scathing indictments of Nixon to be sure.  The ending was great too with Nixon starting to type his book all over again after it had been stabbed.
Rating: **** 1/2

12. Stand-Up: Richard Belzer (5:09)

– Not bad. I liked the wedding singer/Rolling Stones medley, his Mick Jagger impression, and the brief bit where his hand was caught in his hair. The Bob Dylan bit at the end was brutal though.
Rating: ***

13. Meat Loaf sings “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” (3:51)

– Even better performance than the first one. This man has energy up the yin-yang. You don’t think he was chemically-enhanced in any way, do you?!

14. The Mr. Bill Show: Mr. Bill’s Circus (2:20)

At the circus, Mr. Bill is tortured once again by Mr. Hands and Sluggo, this time by cutting off his arm with helium balloons and shooting him out of a cannon for example.

– The usual hijinx. It’s a bit of a waste of time going into details about this recurring segment but this one was pretty funny. This hadn’t really gotten old yet at this point in time.
Rating: *** 1/2

15. Goodnights

– Laraine and Gilda give flowers to Christopher, who looks elated with the whole experience.

 

OVERALL: A pretty strong show that didn’t sport any bad sketches aside from a below-average piece with Garrett as Anwar Sadat, but even that was still okay. Christopher Lee was a really good host, giving everything a sense of class and poise no matter how silly the concepts were. There was a lot of good material on this episode but it also contained two bonafide classics (Mr. Death and Nixon’s Memoirs) and a slew of great performances from cast and host alike. Unfortunately, Mr. Lee would never come back and host but his presence on this one episode is enough to give him a good reputation on the program.

BREAKDOWN:

HOST: CHRISTOPHER LEE – 4 segments (Monologue; Speech Therapy; Mr. Death; Nixon’s Memoirs)
FILMED CAMEO: STACY KEACH – 1 segment (Cold as Ice)

CAST:

DAN AYKROYD – 5 segments (Monologue; Speech Therapy; Weekend Update; Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut; Nixon’s Memoirs)
JOHN BELUSHI – 4 segments (John’s New Name; Monologue; Weekend Update; Nixon’s Memoirs)
JANE CURTIN – 6 segments (Monologue; Speech Therapy; Weekend Update; Mr. Death; Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut; Nixon’s Memoirs)
GARRETT MORRIS – 2 segments (Monologue; Suggestions for Sadat)
BILL MURRAY – 4 segments (John’s New Name; Monologue; Weekend Update; Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut)
LARAINE NEWMAN – 3 segments (Monologue [2 roles]; Mr. Death; Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut)
GILDA RADNER – 4 segments (John’s New Name; Monologue; Speech Therapy; Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut)

FEATURED PLAYERS:

TOM DAVIS – 1 segment (Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut)
AL FRANKEN – none

 

Episode MVP: Dan Aykroyd

Still Alive!

Posted: September 6, 2011 by Brendan Wahl in Uncategorized

Just been really busy/lazy lately but I’ll get a new post up within a couple of weeks.