A Review by the Former "Heystu," Sexiest Amateur Critic Alive
We now enter episode seven of year 29, and after a string of under-whelming shows, we are now looking forward to an overglorified publicity stunt that is surefire wake-up call for the writers. You might recall that two of last season's strongest episodes were hosted by a couple of guys that at one time or another, were defeated by President Bush. With long-shot Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton, they must've figured, "Go for a three-peat." While I've never heard him speak in person, I've been told he has a great sense of humor. (I was watching one of the Democratic debates two months ago, and John Kerry and Wes Clark couldn't shut the hell up. Poor Al.) Serving as musical guest tonight is former Britney imitator Pink, who happens to be promoting her third album.
Before I move on, I must confess that I unwittingly read spoilers of tonight's episode on the Internet. Not from some clunky fan site, but from (believe it or not) CNN.com. They had an article mentioning Tracy Morgan appearing in a bunch of sketches, more than likely to plug his new sitcom, not to mention a bunch of sketch synopsi. Those cretins! How dare they ruin the surprise! I mean, they certainly didn't do anything like this when McCain and Gore hosted.
Now, before I pop a blood vessel, let's move over to the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: The Peacock's top suit, Mr. Jeff Zucker (another awesome impression by Jimmy Fallon), explains the concept of equal time, and how he will incorporate the eight other Democratic presidential candidates into other NBC shows. Howard Dean ingesting a camel's rectum on Fear Factor? I'll watch.
CREDITS: There hasn't been a Robert Smigel cartoon in awhile. It's getting really frustrating. I mean, I understand if he's plugging that Triumph CD, but I'm hungry for a "Fun with Real Audio."
MONOLOGUE: The Rev's speech is interrupted by- surprise, surprise- The Rev circa 1997 (Tracy Morgan). After his jumpsuit-modeling alter ego cries sell-out, Big Al jumps into a energetic rendition of James Brown's "I Feel Good." While The Rev sings a little like Solomon Burke with a head cold, it's still a good way to start the show.
"Mom Jeans": A fake ad from last mother's day (the Adrian Brody episode, I think), with a new voiceover to make it more seasonal. Once I get around to reviewing that particular broadcast, I'll give you my two cents on this spoof about big-bottomed soccer mamas, caprice?
"Michael Jackson in a Roller Coaster": Say that three times fast. Johnnie Cochran (Al), another lawyer (CP), Liz Taylor (RD), and some guy in a suit (HS) try to knock some sense into a certain fallen pop idol (AP). It's an absurdly funny concept, but it wears thin when the "Wacko Jacko" jokes kick in.
"Brian Fellow's Safari Planet": With Morgan around, one might ask, "Gee, who saw this one coming?" Tonight, Brian and his lady-hunting brother Ryan (Al) let their imaginations disrupt interviews with a seal and a bat. Tina Fey makes a rare, non-WU sketch appearance, and she can act (just barely). Other than that, it was a recurring sketch that bordered on carbon-copy.
"Three Wise Men": An allegory for modern race relations with the wise guys (Al, TM, KT) getting stopped over by a camel patrolman (JF) who thinks they're smoking frankincense. Jeff Richards is a nice touch as Gabriel, though I think a female cast member (Tina again, perhaps?) would've been better suited for the role.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: From her new album Try This, Pink's looking for "Trouble."
WEEKEND UPDATE: It was a short but not necessarily sweet "Update," as the busiest woman in showbiz spewed out a few clunkers that segued into Jimmy's interrogation of Paris Hilton. I liked the double entendres, but it felt a little forced. Also, Don Pardo makes a rare non-opening credits voiceover to diss all the NBC affiliates that decided not to air this episode due to equal-time policies.
"Stereotypes": Five actors from a 1930's cheapie (old fashioned for "low-budget movie") demand to play less offensive roles. The five black actors appearing in tonight's show were okay, though I am bothered by how they've subdued Finesse Mitchell since his potential breakout performance in the Halle Berry episode.
"Casa de Sushi": The Rev opens up a Sushi Bar in Secaucus, NJ for no apparent reason. It's a shameless time-killer sketch with "Klymaxx"-esque choreography, but it was good to finally see Will Forte.
"Candidate Party": Six of Sharpton's rivals critique his performance at John Edwards' (WF) house, where he grovels for a vice-prez nod. I have a feeling that a ticket that reads "Dean/Edwards" will be ignored on a whim. Otherwise, it was permissible political satire with two great impressions: Darrell Hammond's Dick Gephardt and Seth Meyers' John Kerry.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: If "God is a DJ," does it mean that Joan Osbourne song from ten years ago was prophetic? And if so, who's the MC? Jesus? Allah? L. Ron Hubbard?
"The Latoya Jackson Show": Another MJ-related sketch? I'm beginning to sense a pattern here. Anyhoo, the talented-challenged sister (MR) of the fallen singer interviews her self-esteem crushing father (Al) and an asthmatic Chaka Khan (KT). A bigger failure than Latoya's first album.
"Vasquez Drives A Cab": That goofy Horatio Sanz concoction Vasquez Gomez-Vasquez makes yet another appearance, as tonight he's sharing his zen with The Rev and his assistant (MR) in a cab. Did somebody say "time filler"?
"Cryogenix": Another repeat ad. Ugh.
"Unearthed": Darrell Hammond, who usually appears almost strictly in the first half-hour of the show, bats at the bottom of the order in this Johnny Cash homage. I didn't get it, but it's another great impression from the master. For some reason, it reminded me of when I was the music director of this small radio station in Downer's Grove, Illinois. I dropped by my old workplace the other day, and apparently whoever succeeded me put an All-Johnny Cash minidisk (yes, minidisks) in the Classic Rock category. What the heck were they thinking?
But enough Michael McIntee-style self-aggrandizing. While it wasn't a masterpiece, this was probably one of the better episodes so far this season. Pink was alright, but Al Sharpton was as subtle as a scene-stealer could be. Tracy Morgan's homecoming, no mention the lack of any real surprises, was a distraction of sorts. Sharpton's wit and charm, however, was pleasing to say the least. And as for the cast, well, I'm not going to bother anymore.
Next Week: Former child actor Elijah Wood gets in the "hobbit" of things, with Australian garage-rockers Jet serving as musical guest. Simon & Garfunkel was originally scheduled to provide the jams, but I guess this an acceptable substitute.
Sketches That Will Probably Be Edited/Removed By E!: The two repeat ads, "Latoya Jackson," and "Three Wise Men."
P's and/or Q's for the former "Heystu"? Send 'um to email@example.com