SNL with Daniel Radcliffe: Where's the Magic?

Daniel Radcliffe, as sweet and talented as he is, had a rough go of it hosting this weekend's very subpar episode of Saturday Night Live. It’s not his fault—there were just some real stinker sketches in there. (And then there was Lana Del Rey, but more about her later.) Radcliffe did have two successful bits, featuring two very unlucky characters: Casey Anthony’s new dog, and a Spin the Bottle player with rotten luck. Let’s relive the (lack of) magic!

I’m going to gloss over the cold open, the second in as many weeks to feature a Republican presidential candidate yammering on for what seemed like forever. (It also tripped up Jason Sudeikis repeatedly as he tried to read off the teleprompter.) Instead, let’s skip ahead to the monologue, which a nervous Radcliffe rushed through, speaking at times over the audience’s applause. It featured a bit in which he told Harry Potter fans that “you were reading children’s books” (which reminded me of the classic William Shatner sketch at a Star Trek convention, and paled in comparison), then segued into a few punny visual gags on the character. So far, so mediocre.

It felt like Kristen Wiig, the cast’s biggest star, was doing triple-duty during this episode, which began with a return to a character we haven’t seen in a long while: her weird Target checkout lady. Radcliffe was done no favors in the role of a stock guy with a long ponytail who was in love with her for no apparent reason. The sketch felt messy and ran long, though it did feature Radcliffe’s bared torso, which is impressively ripped.

I love Sudeikis’s Ricky Gervais, and this sketch did a great job of parodying his particular brand of smarm—even if, as we now know, Gervais was a non-shocker at this year’s Golden Globes.

SNL has done repeated sketches aimed at internet culture, parodying bloggers on Weekend Update and hostile, anonymous commenters in another recent sketch. This week the show went after YouTube stars, with a talk show that mocked how an entire generation now exists who think they are more talented and wonderful than they are, and who crave fame online. You know—the Rebecca Blacks of the world. Except there was something incredibly patronizing and disingenuous to me about this, seeing as Andy Samberg, and most aspiring sketch comics, are now taking to YouTube to launch their careers. Just because someone's work is on the internet doesn’t make it “less” than something on a big-deal network show like SNL. In fact, SNL is kind of shamelessly lacking compared to a lot of stuff you find online. Plus, it’s SNL. It’s the dominating force. It’s money, it’s fame, it’s “success,” as defined by the general culture. So why attack people who are actually trying to use what’s available to get their own creativity out there? Granted, there’s a lot more garbage online, too, but this sketch just sort of dismissed it all, smugly. And, most ironically, this sketch WAS NOT FUNNY. Not even a little funny. So the point wasn’t even made. (Rant over.)

Now this was a great, pre-filmed sketch, not billed as a Digital Short. (So does that mean it had nothing to do with Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island guys? I’m not sure how that works.) A roomful of teens played Spin the Bottle, and Radcliffe’s character kept landing on a series of increasingly gross homeless men, who he then had to kiss, as the rules dictate. Where did they come from? No one seemed to know, or care. I particularly liked Kenan Thompson’s bum, who had band-aids on his mouth and a large whitehead on his forehead.

There were a few other bad sketches that were nevertheless interesting to me for various reasons. One was “The Jay Pharoah Show,” which finally acknowledged the fact that Jay Pharoah is a bit of an inept (if likable) cast member, except when it comes to his celebrity impressions. It maybe made the point too well, because all the non-impression parts of the sketch felt unrehearsed and funny. Compare this to “The Chris Farley Show,” which sent up Farley’s image as a childlike buffoon hilariously.

Then there was this disaster, “2012,” in which an audience from the distant future watched a play about how life was back in 2012. It was basically an excuse for writers to make up a bunch of random jokes about how life will be different in the future, a la Conan O’Brien’s “In the Year 2000” bit. But the sketch was not funny, and featured a really weird moment where Kristen Wiig had to describe a graphic sex act. Seriously, I had to rewatch it a few times to relive the awkward.

Here’s Radcliffe’s Casey Anthony dog bit on Weekend Update. I’m glad he had this. He needed a score. It was pretty clear neither Radcliffe nor the writers anticipated that the word “rough” sounds identical to “ruff,” which earned one of the biggest laughs of the bit. So here’s to accidental jokes, I guess?

Finally, here is Lana Del Rey’s performance of her hit single (if you hang out on the internet a lot), “Video Games.” This isn’t a music site, and I don’t want to get too deeply into the ongoing fascination with whether or not Del Rey is an authentic talent or pre-fabricated passing fad. All I know is, I went in with an open mind and was a bit astounded at what I saw. And I’ll leave it at that.


What did you think? About Del Rey, and about the show in general?

Comments (20)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Jan 19, 2012
Funny, the only bit I saw was Lana Del Rey singing "Video Games." I don't know how she came about from the internet when I have just heard her from the radio, but I LOVE that song. That being said, I felt really really bad for her watching her perform the song. She did seem nervous, but I feel she was changing it up for the broadcast. Artists tend to do that, as not for people to get sick of their songs. Still love that song, and hope she bounces back from it. Also, now I know I don't need to watch the rest of the episode.
Reply
Flag
Jan 19, 2012
Too bad about Lana Del Rey, she's such a beautiful woman, and so are her songs... hopefully just stage fright.
Reply
Flag
Jan 19, 2012
considering this is daniel radcliffe you probably should've commented on the harry potter skit. i thought that one was well-done.
Reply
Flag
Jan 18, 2012
Lana Del Rey wasn't perfect but at least she and her songs were interesting, and memorable compared to Kelly Clarkson's bland new Toyota theme song "Stronger" last week. I thought Daniel was a good sport but as usual the show could've been funnier.
Reply
Flag
Jan 18, 2012
Well, I did a DVR-jump right over the one-note Target Lady bit, and all the musical bits - Lana Del Rey is the laziest piece of pop culture ever - but caught the rest of the episode; thankfully, Weekend Update didn't have anything else annoying and repetitive that I normally also fast forward through (SNL does an amazing job burning airtime with stretched-out rehashed, even the credits take nearly 2 minutes to get through). I thought Radcliffe brought a lot of energy and talent to his sketches, he actually ACTED in them where most of the castmembers now are on lazy autopilot. But the writing really let the show down at nearly every turn, although I do want to give them credit for not making every sketch a movie or tv parody the way they too often do. But Spin the Bottle was not a good bit, it was a lame bit with the same gag over and over again and should have been shut down after the second hobo. Usually I cannot stand Kristen Wiig's mugging and overacting, she actually had me on the self-attack-ad bit but then as usual the writers brought it back and made it unfunny and she jumped into the part with both feet.
More+
Reply
Flag
Jan 18, 2012
I found it no better or worse than any other episode not hosted by Alex Baldwin or Justin Timberlake.



It's "in" to bash the unorthodox performance of the musical guest, but I thought she was terrific.
Reply
Flag
Jan 18, 2012
Musical guest was terrible, never heard of her either. PS - that wasn't a Youtube sendup it was a sendup on the kids today who only hear "yes" and "you are special and unique".
Reply
Flag
Jan 17, 2012
The show was okay, funny but nothing special.



I thought Lana Del Ray was aweful, she howled and moaned a bit while looking bored. I was really disappointed too because I really liked her song when I heard it over the internet. Yay for auto-tune, I guess?
Reply
Flag
Jan 17, 2012
made me wish for those cut sketches Radcliffe mentioned in his monologue...they seemed far more interesting
Reply
Flag
Jan 17, 2012
worst SNL episode I've seen in a while... maybe only one or two funny moments and I can't even remember them and I just finished watching it.
Reply
Flag
Jan 17, 2012
Like everybody else so far I have to completely disagree with everything in this review. This SNL episode was definetly one of the funniest this season (which also shows how generally lackluster this season really is). I thought Daniel Radcliffe did a fine job and most of the sketches hit their mark (with the exeption of the Target sketch which went nowhere and the Jay Pharaoh Show which made me question why NBC would pay this guy money - he has exactly one shtick and it's played out to death). The best sketches were the one with Harry Potter and You Can Do Anything.
Reply
Flag
Jan 17, 2012
I don't really watch SNL, well, ever, because I know that chances are I'd tune into an episode like this.

I watched some of the clips-I didn't laugh once. Not even a nervous laugh, like "Heh. This is supposed to be funny, right?" It was more painful than high school improv performances at talent shows.



I know the show used to be funny, many years ago. Has the creative ability, writing and/or acting, really decreased that much? You'd figure that each generation should be able to field a few talents. Or is that the show just isn't attracting talent like it used to?
Reply
Flag
Jan 17, 2012
This is so weird. I don't think I'm watching the same shows as you. This episode was not the best but at least it made me laugh a lot. Last week with Charles Barkley (which you liked) was so terrible maybe anything would have been funny in comparison. I'm not a huge Daniel Radcliffe fan but it was a solid episode. I really like Lana Del Rey. I've heard her music a lot but this performance sounded nothing like her songs on the radio. It was a really bad performance by a singer who is not ready yet.
Reply
Flag
Jan 17, 2012
Pretty much a subpar show and will definitely fall in the bottom half of this season. But still light years better than the Fallon Abomination.
Reply
Flag
Jan 17, 2012
Don't know what show you were watching, but the Fallon episode was the most well written of the season. Melissa McCarthy was the best performer, but her sketches had very little content.
Reply
Flag
Jan 17, 2012
Funniest and truest thing of the show was the "You can Do Anything" skit. Maybe it went over the TV.Com contributor's head since it probably applies.
Reply
Flag
Jan 17, 2012
No comments on the Potter sketch? It was the only other notable sketch after the Gervais one and Casey Anthony's dog.
Reply
Flag
Jan 17, 2012
Oooh have to disagree for the most part. I thought the sketches were pretty funny, not all of them but most of t hem. I thought Daniel was great, and his acting was pretty good which we don't always see as actors clumsily read off the prompter. His ability to switch over to an American accent was good too. I don't know, I liked most of it.

As for Lana Del Rey... where the hell did this chick come from? She completely freaked me out.
Reply
Flag
Jan 17, 2012
I thought the episode was pretty funny. Like the survey sketch that you failed to mention, that was hilarious!
Reply
Flag
Jan 17, 2012
i love Daniel Radcliffe, but i thought the writing for this one wasn't as good as it could've been. The Harry Potter sketch was funny and the Casey Anthony bit, but the rest was.... eh. And don't even get me started on Lana Del Rey. Her nerves were definitely showing.
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook