Episode Reviews (6)
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"Baby got 'ack!'"
A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Raspy Chansonnier
I'm fully aware that this column is for the sole purpose of reviewing live broadcasts of SNL, but the big news these past few weeks have been on the fringe of the show's radar. Two weeks ago Conan O'Brien ended his triumphant 16-year run in New York (20 if you include writing for Saturday Night) to take over "The Tonight Show" in Los Angeles, passing the Late Night baton to ex-cast member Jimmy Fallon. Fallon was far from anybody's first choice and he's been shaky so far, but we really can't judge him as a talk show host until he finds his groove (or lack thereof). He needs to work on his interview skills, though.
This week's host is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, a two-time previous host that has made a surprisingly smooth transition from pro wrestling to Disney movies. The musical guest is Ray LaMontagne… who I don't really know much about. For all my music geekery, he's just a bit off my radar. I vaguely recall listening to the album he released two years ago, but other than that he's an open book. Seems like a folk-rock type, though.
COLD OPENING: Embattled Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (WF) pinpoints excessive bank lending –and not the current administration's enormous bailouts- for the economy's latest rock bottom point. With little else to say in his defense, Geithner suggests a $420 billion jackpot to anyone with a plan that works (or $210 billion apiece for two people with the same idea, and so forth). One person calls the hotline to propose eliminating the bad loans, a second caller completely disagrees but has no ideas of his own, and somewhere along the way a Nigerian prince (KT) calls in promising an alleged inheritance. As hit-and-miss as this sketch might've been, it was an overdue jab at one of President Obama's more in-over-his-head cabinet appointees.
MONOLOGUE: In the wake of two disappointing shows from legends like Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, The Rock points out that he's now tied for 36th on the all-time hosting list.* When accused of watering down his tough-guy image, Dwayne launches into a song-and-dance routine about his masculinity… or that he's in touch with his feminine side, take your pick.
"MacGruber": Is this penance for that ungainly Pepsi triptych? Trapped in a toxic oil refinery, our hero (WF) clashes with MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) before realizing they're father and son. A clever usage of flashbacks, and hey, no product placement!
"The Rock Obama": Rahm Emanuel (AS) imagines President Obama (FA) turning into The Rock! How did nobody else think of utilizing the host in this manner? How clever, capricious, and original! *shakes head* Moving on…
"MacGruber": Stuck in the boiler room of a smuggler's compound, MacGyver and son are getting along famously until MacGruber learns (via flashbacks, again) how and why Mac abandoned his young family.
"Activia Yogurt": A rehash of the Jamie Lee Curtis (KW) sketch from last season, but with a testimonial from a young lady (AE) who can't keep it regular, a director (JS) that shouldn't be eating that yogurt to begin with, and a string of bowel movement jokes that was far from subtle.
"Hawaiians": In the first funny non-MacGruber sketch of the night, two natives (Rock, FA) complain about their dreary lives while entertaining mainland tourists inside a Honolulu hotel bar. More acid than a tangerine and just as tart.
"MacGruber": With their relationship irreversibly strained, MacGruber and MacGyver bicker inside a hijacked cocaine tanker. Suddenly, the piece fast forwards to 2040, where Mac and his female companion (KW) flush his dad's ashes down the toilet. I love how these pre-taped "episodes" thrown in as much plot as possible yet never forgets it original point. You are forgiven, MacGruber.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: As it turns out, I've heard "You Are the Best Thing" a few times on the local progressive-rock station here in Chicago. As much as I adore a strong horn section, this one nearly drowned out the man on center stage.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Even with the economy in the dumpster, Seth finds a way to accentuate the positive- Citigroup stock is now on McDonald's dollar menu! RNC chairman Michael Steele (KT) pops up to clarify his criticism of Rush Limbaugh, but an electrode planted into his skull keeps him from stating how he really feels. Comic strip character Cathy (AS) drops in to address finishing last in some sexiest cartoon character contest; her many layers of neuroses somehow make her husband Irving (Justin Timberlake!) amorous, at least until Jessica Rabbit (Jessica Biel!) walks by. Maybe this was slapped together for the sake of shoehorning a handful of celebrity cameos during sweeps or maybe it wasn't put together that way, but it certainly made this reheated commentary from last season more enjoyable. It almost made me forget an indisputably pointless second appearance by Jon Bovi (WF, JS) and their "opposite" music.
"Game Time with Dave and Gary": A generic sports talk show where one co-host (BH) is an alleged alien that never ages. People call in to point out his various quirks, but Dave (Rock) shrugs them off as mere eccentricities or takes no notice of the telltale signs. Hader almost never carries a sketch unless he's pretending to speak Italian or doing a middling Vincent Price impression, so the change of pace was refreshing on several levels.
"NBC Promos": The Donald (DH) and several of his "Celebrity Apprentice" cohorts turn a quickie promo shoot into a typically trying affair. A topical sketch like this one is guaranteed a short shelf life in terms of relevance, which makes it an unlikely candidate to hold up in repeats. Still, watching Trump stroke his ego as the likes of Tom Green (FA) and Dennis Rodman (Rock) run amuck felt like a circus without a ringmaster holding things down.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: The folksy, yearning "Trouble" was the leadoff track from Ray's first album, which was released almost five years ago. (Yeah, I looked it up.) What's the deal with all these older songs lately?
"Lighthouse Date": A handsome bachelor (Rock) with some unique real estate woos his date (KW) with booze and double entendres, but his faulty surroundings prove catastrophic for several beached sailors (AS, WF, BM, BH) and some guy on a jet-ski (JS). Another fun sketch, partially because of the exaggerated pirate/sailor outfits of the marooned but also because of Dwayne's awkward sexual advances.
This really turned out to be a fun show, and Johnson was an equally gracious and exuberant host. I vaguely recall that his first two hosting stints were held down somewhat by Dwayne's wrestling persona, so seeing him almost completely divorced from his WWE days unleashed a side of Dwayne most of us had never seen before. Also of note was Will Forte, who appeared in nearly every sketch and proved why he's so underappreciated in the SNL fan community. (Kenan Thompson- not so much.) As for "MacGruber," I'll give it a passing grade this time simply because they weren't shilling for soda, though I hope the writers and producers have learned their lesson from the Pepsi backlash. This was a rare show where the best moments were either midway through or near the end of the broadcast, and hopefully this well-rounded effort will positively influence the last five shows of the season.
Segments That Will Probably Be Removed in Repeats: "Activia Yogurt," "Celebrity Apprentice Promos," "Trouble," and the Jon Bovi commentary on Update.
Next Week: Speaking of SNL alumni, Tracy Morgan hosts with musical guest Kelly Clarkson.
"HelloStuart" is nearing the end of his sixth season writing episode reviews of SNL. If you have any comments, feel free to send him a PM or e-mail Stu at email@example.com. *He's not kidding- 56 different actors and musicians have been on SNL at least three times. It doesn't seem like that many, though.moreless
The skit takes place in a small island hotel bar. The crew highlights the plight of the island families, and the ignorance of the typical tourist. Full of ALOHA!
I was at my little island style home on Maui when this episode aired. Funny the TV station suddenly had problems during the very hysterically ironic skit about Hawaii tourism. Having lived on both sides of that Island Topic, I was not surprised at the TV stations ill timed breakdown, but entirely dismayed all the same. Just so you know, I may have lost the visual, but my bunkie and I hung around the ant races listening to the audio and peeing ourselves sensless over the reality. Way too funny, and could someone tell me how I could see that episode again? I feel cheated. Thanks alot TW Cable! Bring it back SNL, we loved it! Aloha and MAHALO for highlighting the plight of the Island families.moreless
This episode was great, I was laughing the whole way through!
This episode was great, I was laughing the whole way through! I haven't laughed this hard at an SNL episode and defiantly haven't seen this many hilarious sketches in one episode in a long while. Justin Timberlake & Jessica Biel were great surprise guests and that whole sketch with Andy Samberg as Kathy was golden! Seth Meyers is handling the weekend update desk great on his own. I would say the trump sketch and jamie lee curtis sketch were the only down point but the impersonations were spot on and saved them alittle bit. Dwayne Johnson was an excellent host! He hit his cues and was hilarious in all his parts! It is defiantly going down in my favorite SNL episode. I didn't really like the musical guest and basically fastforwarded through him but personally most of the time I look at the musical guest as a filler and don't really count it as part of the show. Dwayne Johnson was hilarious and a great host!moreless
There were a couple of slow spots, but not enough to sink this episode. The Rock Obama and Game Time with Dave and Greg are instant classics.
Geithner Address – Turbo Tax Timmy has done nothing yet to instill confidence in the markets and this sketch did a fairly good job of mocking Timmy's cluelessness, but could have perhaps made a better point by taking it in a different direction. Not a bad open though. Grade: B-
Rock Monologue – I usually hate singing monologues, but this one was actually funny. Dwayne did a good job of mocking himself and the Abby and Kristen were enjoyable as the Broadway dancers. Grade: A-
MacGrubers – This series has run its course and I wouldn't be surprised if this were the last episodes. How can you top crapping on the real MacGyver and flushing him down the toilet? Will has become the new king of SNL crackage besting even Ackroyd and Ferrell. Grade: A-
The Rock Obama – A very original sketch that managed to get laughs while lampooning Obama's unique version of "bipartisanship". I almost busted a gut when Rock Obama replied to the request for $40 billion more for AIG by smashing the phone. Great job by Rock, Samberg, and Armisen. Grade: A
Activia Commercial Shoot – It's too bad they decided to include this sketch in the show. Not only is it almost a complete repeat of the previous Activia sketch, but the one-joke premise fell flat and just didn't live up to the rest of show thus far Grade: C
Hawaiian Singing Waiters – Rock and Fred dish it out to a group of unsuspecting and undeserving patrons at a Hawaiian restaurant. I always enjoy a good dose of sarcasm and this sketch did the trick. The Rock is very good in these goofy types of roles and can make the most of a slim premise. Grade: B+
Weekend Update – A very long WU, but still pretty good. At least one of the guest commentaries could have been removed. I would have dumped Cathy and JT. The jokes were pretty decent for the most part. Kenan as Michael Steele was OK and much better than Oscar Rogers. The Cathy segment is now getting pretty old. The return of Jon Bovi was unexpected and not a whole lot funnier than the first sketch they appeared in. WU is always better when it remains under 10 minutes. Grade: B-
Game Time with Dave and Greg – Easily the best sketch of the night and maybe the best of the season. This was all about Hader and boy did he ever deliver the goods. I always knew that Hader had the talen to really do some great things on the show, but I have been somewhat let down by Vinny Vedecci, Vincent Price and his usual gaggle of Jersey characters. Not tonight. We got to see a side of Bill that has been hidden from view until now. Show us more. I've got a fever and there's only prescription: more Hader. Grade: A+
Celebrity Apprentice – This must be Hammond's last season. He has been rolling out some of his most famous characters this year almost as a kind of farewell such as Clinton, Cheney, and Trump. Sadly, the Trump impression stopped being funny years ago and is now just old hat. Not even Michaela's fine impression of Joan Rivers could save this turkey. The Rock did nothing more than just stand there. Grade: C-
The Lighthouse – Another original concept that reminded a bit of the Carvey years in the way that it was so strange and yet still managed to amuse. The best part was easily the stranded sailors killing Sudeikis. Not a great sketch, but easily good enough for the 12:55 slot. Grade: B-moreless
The Rock hosts.
I do not feel like writing a blow-by-blow account of this episode as I usually do, because frankly it does not deserve one. The Rock was yet another one of the hosts where you got your hopes, but were let down in a big, big way. Not one single sketch was noteworthy, and even deserving a second viewing. The thing is that each skit had one or two good lines, so the show was not a total waste, but this was a big disappointment given it was a makeup episode from last season.
The Rock's style of humor, now aimed at kids, may have had something to do with it, but you'd be hard pressed to find people who would call this a good episode.moreless
Did I say trainer? I meant choreographer slash roommate!
Wow, talk about burn out eh? In the past 5 episodes on the 2009 calendar, we've had two episodes that weren't widely considered disappointments. One of them being really good, while the other one middling to a decent broadcast. The other three, two of which were hosted by legends on SNL, were nearly forgettable. I don't know if it was just the fact that the writers didn't try, or if they just really didn't care. If tonight's broadcast is good, then maybe it will prove the fact that the writers can't do a 5 episode arch in 6 weeks in the middle of the season.
The host tonight is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Wierd thing is when he was pegged to host late 2007 (which was cancelled due to the writers' strike), he was announced as "The Rock" simply. But this time, it was strictly Dwayne Johnson. Our musical guest tonight is one that nobody had guessed when we were speculating (U2 was the top contender). Ray LaMontagne is our musical guest tonight.
A Message From Secretary of Treasury: In what you thought was just going to be a sit down announcement from Timmothy Geithner blaming everything on the Bush administration, turns into a phone-line for help. This was a decent opening, and the Nigerian Prince thing was great.
Monologue: The Rock tries to prove he's tough, which turns into him being compared to 4 girls and his gay trainer. Pretty funny monologue.
MacGruber: MacGruber has kind of lost respect from many fans since he sold himself to Pepsi, but tonight wasn't that. It was actually a real sketch. By the way, did anybody else notice the fact that the first 20 seconds of the conversation between MacGruber and MacGyver was the exact same as it was during the Pepsi commercials?
The Rock Obama: Rahm Emanuel tries to convince Obama to get angry, which all plays out great in his head. This was a pretty funny sketch, but there were some parts when it was moving very very slowly. They could have mixed it up more than just throwing them out the same window. Maybe this would have been better later in the night.
MacGruber: MacGyver and MacGruber are happy together until MacGyver wants to leave him again. The little segueways between the MacGyver and MacGruber explosions were great.
Activia Yogurt Shoot: Okay, so this wasn't a total carbon copy, but pretty close. This was somewhat a better sketch than the Ashton Kutcher one, but since it was already used, it cancelled this quality out. At least do something diffierent.
Hawaiian Bar: When this started, I was worried that it was going to be this sketch when the singers annoyed the customers, and it would move slowly, but it actually turned out to be a pretty funny sketch.
MacGruber: This time, Grubs threatens to poop on his dad's ashes when he dies. I've gotta say, this sketch gets more and more out there every time it airs. But that's not a bad thing.
Musical Performance: Ray LaMontagne performs "You Are The Best Thing". A pretty nice song.
Weekend Update: After last episode's crap of jokes and commentaries (leaving out Joaquin Pheonix and B**** Please Blogger) the Update desk finally found it's way back. This time, the jokes for the most part had the edge over the commentaries. Okay, so the Kenan commentary got worse as it went on, but hey, it's a Kenan commentary. And, right when Seth talked about Jessica Rabbit being the sexiest cartoon, I knew instantly that Andy was coming out to do Cathy. This was a much better commentary than it was on the Michael Phelps show. Justin Timberlake cameo was great, and Jessica Biels as Jessica Rabbit was hilarious. Then there was the Jon Bovi, remember that sketch? It was from the weaker Jaime Pressley episode from two seasons ago? Well, if you didn't notice, the first minute and 30 seconds was the EXACT same thing as the sketch with Jaime Pressley. But, it got a tad funnier and a tad less painful than it originally was on the Jaime Pressley episode.
Game Time with Dave and Greg: It would have ben funnier if Bill was playing a real creepy sportscaster, but this sketch was a pretty decent one.
Apprentice Commercial Shoot: Man the last time they did one of these Donald Trump shoots was, like, 4 seasons ago. This was really funny. Especailly Dwayne, Fred, and Michaela as Dennis Rodman, Tom Green, and Joan Rivers.
Musical Performance: Ray performs "Trouble" which is the really nice song. I also loved the blue lighting that went with this. Random, I know.
Lighthouse Date: This was actually a pretty funny 5 to 1 sketch. The way Dwayne set every conversation he had with Kristen turning it into a sexual comment was hilarious, and all the guys yelling from below were hilarious.
Wow. A good show. An actual firm, good show. Dwayne has always been a great host, and tonight was no exception. Instead of being all before Update and leaving Post-Update down, good sketches were sprinkled all throughout tonight's broadcast. There were some middling effort sketches, but the only actual weaker sketch was the Activia commercial. My only other complaint is the fact that, maybe it was just me, or that the cast seemed to be cue card staring a lot more than normal. I don't know. Maybe it was just me.
But, both Dwayne and Ray were great tonight. Our 3 cameos tonight (Richard Dean Anderson, JT, and Jessica Biel) were all delights.
Next week: Tracy Morgan returns to host with musical guest Kelly Clarkson. As long as Tracy takes it easy on the recurring characters, I know this should be at least a decent show.moreless