by Brendan Wahl
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.
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.
2. Monologue (4:33)
– 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!”
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.
– 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)
– 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.
8. Who’s On Top? (5:09)
– 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.
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
– Another fine, albeit weirder, performance. Dig Thom’s crazy dance moves!
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
– 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.
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)
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