A Review by the Former "Heystu," Amateur Critic and Pop Cultural Curio
The first quarter of Year 29 has come to a close, and I am surprisingly exhausted and a bit appalled by how this season is going. The other day I was reading a copy of the Chicago Sun-Times where distinguished TV/media critic Phil Rosenthal made the following comment of this year's SNL:
"Lorne Michaels continues to insist that athletes make good hosts, which is why he's serving up Andy Roddick this week. Roddick is a tennis star. Of course, it's the cast that has to carry the show and lately it's been dropping the ball as self-indulgent aimlessness derails the comedy."
After reading this, I thought: "Wow, he just explained everything that I've been trying to say for the last five weeks, and in only 2 1/2 sentences." There was also something in that column sung to the tune of "Mad TV sucks," but that's not important. But don't think I'm jealous of the guy. I've been reading his column for years, and I happen to enjoy his cynical look at the landscape of the small screen. And if you're reading this Phil, I'm sorry I quoted you without your permission.
Andy Roddick is hosting, and judging from the promos I saw while watching "Scrubs" last Thursday, he bears a strong resemblance to Seann William Scott. And a little over a month after a shameless albeit worthy Dave Matthews imitator graced the stage, the Real McCoy just so happens to be here tonight to promote his first solo album, "Some Devil." I heard that the guitarist from Phish was a contributor to the album, so this could have the makings of a pretty good show.
So now please welcome, you know it, you love it, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: In a spoof of an interview televised on November 7th of this year, Barbara Walters grills Martha Stewart with other people's comments. Rachel Dratch tries too hard to imitate Cheri Oteri's delightful parody of the "20/20" anchorwoman, and Amy Poehler does her best to channel Janeane Garofalo's/Nancy Walls'/Ana Gastayer's Martha but fails. Some great lines, but that's the only saving grace in this rushed intro.
MONOLOGUE: Big Andy can't keep the crowd entertained, so he starts a shouting match with John McEnroe, then brings in Andre 3000 (FM), last week's musical guest, for an excerpt of "Hey Ya!". Hopefully, the rest of the show will not be as full of unopened leftovers.
"Cryogenix": An ad spoof with five people with "serious" health problems like lactose intolerance and male pattern baldness seeking a cure for their ills by pulling a Ted Williams. Something tells me that this sketch was originally intended to air around week one, but sat on the shelf until now. The destruction of the Splendid Splinter's dignity might have been last summer's news, but it's still quite jocose.
"Joey Mack": Hey, do you remember the shock-jock doofus that Jimmy Fallon played in the Eric McCormick/Jay-Z episode last year? Yeah, neither do I. Either that or you don't want to remember. Anyway, he's back, and he's harassing a remarkably pious Andy Roddick.
"Battle of the Sexes 2": A "60 year old Indigo Girl" Billie Jean King (FA) challenges Andy Roddick to a tennis match for the ages, and the stubburn old crone gets soundly defeated. John McEnroe is such a hoot with the play-by-play.
"Mrs. Dalrymple": A "Mary Poppins" spoof with a crazy old lady (RD) "babysitting" a 16-year-old pothead (Roddick). Like Andy's character, it's a little half-baked.
"Commentary": Chris Parnell and Johnny Mac analyze Roddick's performance thus far, which is interrupted by McEnroe's desire to host and his second-rate Jack Nicholson impression. The most memorable part of this bit was when McEnroe channeled the ghosts of SNL past and disses over-the-top hosts like Martin Lawrence and Adrian Brody. A little offbeat, but it provides an amusing segway to the next sketch.
"Anderson-Mellner Year-End Banquet": 70's/80's pop stars Hall and Oates (WF, FA) sing, present awards, and acknowledge achievements made by a bunch of desk jockeys. Wow, that's the fourth time in five episodes that they've made fun of has-been musicians, and this is probably the most droll one yet.
"The Williams Backstage": A comedy piece that fits into the "miscellaneous" category, much like all those times Tracy Morgan used to confront the host backstage and declare Lorne his "bee-yotch." Richard Williams, father of a pair of obscure tennis-playing sisters, wants to adopt a reluctant Andy. A "Best of Kenan Thompson" special is looking somewhat unlikely at this point in time, but if there is one, this might be one of the few sketches to look forward to. Note: that's FOUR sketches in a row without a commercial break.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Dave Matthews, with a little help from Trey Anastacio and a drummer that looks a lot like Carter Beauford, perform "Save Me."
WEEKEND UPDATE: The most inconsistent factor of the show in this young season has been, without a doubt, "Update." Tina Fey's continuous effort as the best anchorperson since Dennis Miller continues to be overshadowed by the one-two punch of Jimmy Fallon's goofiness and Horatio Sanz's ego. Tonight, Sanz appears in his third straight "Update" as a two-faced Rosie O'Donnell. Yet again, he flubbed lines almost as if he was a little drunk, and yet again he made Jimmy break character and crack up. But this edition was not all too bad; we had another appearance from one of my favorite current recurring characters, soft-spoken presidential candidate Tim Calhoun (WF), and Tina made two great jokes based on a recent survey on women's genitals.
"Tennis Talk": One of the most surreal and thus entertaining sketches from last year is this sports roundtable with Time Travelin' Scott Joplin (MR). Tonight, the great-great-grandfather of hip-hop (don't quote me on that) uses his unique abilities to interview current, 1992-era and future incarnations of Andre Agassi. Will Forte has the best lines in the sketch as her depicts Agassi as a pompous, space sovereign from the year 2008. It's the third tennis-centric sketch tonight, so of course John McEnroe had to make another cameo.
"Merv the Perv": Like Joey Mack earlier, hear comes another character from last year that doesn't deserve the honor of recurring status. This time, it's Mervin Watson (CP), a creep whose sexual metaphors and corny jokes disgust the women he tries to seduce. This time, the twist is, he's a gynecologist who visits the waiting room and drops his pants for his appalled patients. To be honest, it's a funny idea, but this sketch could've been fixed. And by fixed, I mean neutered.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "So Damn Lucky." My words exactly.
"Jock Talk": John McEnroe has appeared in so many sketches tonight, it makes me wonder why he's not the tennis star hosting. Despite that, he pops in a couple of times in a dry talk show spoof about dumb jocks and their exercise routines.
"Action News 13": A 6 o'clock news broadcast is wrecked by overbearing music and more than a few technical difficulties. The best part was when the BTO concert footage collided with the intro, causing the "action" to be split into four screens. Definitely your run-of-the-mill "progressive writing" sketch.
After two forgettable episodes, tonight's broadcast left me with a sense of nothingness. Andy Roddick did his best despite his lack of experience as a thespian, and Dave Matthews would've been a great musical guest even if he wore a body cast and sang through a tube. It was good to see Finesse Mitchell back after two weeks off, and Kenan Thompson seems to be making progress at finding his voice on the show. Will Forte was tonight's MVP, appearing or voicing in five sketches and stealing at least two of them. True, the acting and overall chemistry was unexceptional, but at least the writers hit a few bull-eyes. It was a good show, and not because of Roddick.
Sketches That Will Probably Be Removed By E!: "Joey Mack," "Merv the Perv," "Jock Talk" and maybe "20/20."
Next Week: Alec Baldwin hosts for an eleventh time, surpassing Buck Henry for third all-time. I think I can pretty much phone in my next review, because there has never been a bad episode with him as host, and yes, that includes that time back in '94.
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Read Phil Rosenthal's most recent columns at www.chicagotribune.com/