A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and House Bunny
This week's host is Anna Faris, a seasoned comedic actress whose cinematic work ranges from the highbrow ("Lost in Translation," "Brokeback Mountain") to the lowbrow (the entire "Scary Movie" series). Whether Anna brings a sense of class and professionalism to the show or goes on her ditzy blonde, slapstick autopilot remains to be seen. The musical guest is Duffy, the equally blonde R&B singer behind the acclaimed album "Rockferry."
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Tina Fey resurfaces again as Gov. Sarah Palin, who demonstrates hints of xenophobia while discussing foreign policy with Katie Couric (AP). When grilled about the $700 billion bailout, she gives an incoherent answer and begs for a lifeline a la "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire." Though Fey's Palin impression is still spot-on, the character's rhetoric grew more one-dimensional as the sketch went on. On the other hand, Amy's Couric was about as half-hearted as you can get; whoever produced this didn't even bother with make-up or getting Katie's mannerisms down pat.
MONOLOGUE: Anna admits that her dumb blonde shtick isn't an act, stating that "(her) mind is a prison" while giving a series of short, confessional soliloquies. It's all for laughs, but this mixed first impression suggests that we'll be seeing more of her lowbrow side tonight…
"New Friends": While driving home, a couple (Anna, JS) discuss their new companions (BM, CW) while revealing some of their own sociopathic quirks. It was a funny, throwaway sort of sketch, but describing it just doesn't give it justice.
"The First Presidential Debate": First Tina, now Chris Parnell? Are they reuniting the 2004-05 cast tonight? I guess nobody on the current cast could do a Jim Lehrer impression quite like Parns. Either way, tonight's spoof of the previous evening's debate is a bipartisan jab at both candidates; the usual McCain (DH) stodginess is matched by some overdue jabs at Senator Obama (FA), who pledges to give even more money to the Chicago city council. When questioned for supporting 90% of President Bush's policies, the Arizona senator disowns Bush, declares that he can't be trusted, than suggests turning the debates into a "nude or seminude" town hall meeting. It's no lockbox, but it certainly made for one of the more memorable debate sketches in recent memory.
"Rowboat Date": The ex-girlfriend (Anna) of a drug deal lawyer is oblivious to the fact that her date (KT) is a hired hitman. There's some singing involved, and everything ties up nicely in the end. Problem is, the wacky plot twist was given away too early, so the last four minutes of the sketch was like watching the smoke after an explosion.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "Mercy" has a somewhat quaint, Nina Simone-meets-Dusty Springfield sound that makes its chart success somewhat mystifying.
WEEKEND UPDATE: The "Nothing Accomplished" banner was good for a chuckle, but tonight's Update belonged to the triumphant return of Darrell's Bill Clinton impression. When asked about Senator Obama, Slick Willie avoids endorsing him and ends up complimenting for fellow moderate-in-disguise John McCain. As for Palin… well, let's just say there was a clever retort. In spite of that refreshing commentary, Update also welcomed back jittery travel writer Judy Grimes (KW) who's just as much of a nervy motor-mouth as she was the first time around.
"Scores": The managers (BH, KT) of the noted Manhattan gentlemen's club threaten to close the Champagne Room because of the economic slowdown. Two pole dancers (CW, KW) have an informed discussion on subprime mortgages before a third stripper (Anna) reads an epiphany right off the cue-card. Another botched execution on what seemed like a droll concept.
"Deep House Dish": Boy, it's been awhile since we saw Handbag and T-Shane (KT, AS). Tonight on the dish, Kaylee Moore (KW) turns her ponytail into a double entendre; the middle-aged Aussies known as Bear Supply (BM, FA, WF) are nearly laughed off stage; and Natasha Slovanya (Anna) makes a few wry observations on American culture. In other words, the same-old same-old.
"Googie Rene's": A self-made businessman (KT) sells "slightly stained" wedding dresses for dirt cheap, than makes suggestions for accessories that will cover the burger grease, puke, and so forth. Not even Anna's presence as a professional bridesmaid could save this forgettable piece of filler.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "Standing Stone" is a dainty, ethereal ballad and a fine song in its own right, but I wouldn't have minded hearing "Warwick Avenue" instead.
"Beer Garden": While meeting her new boyfriend's pals, a somewhat-reformed wild child (Anna) won't stop bragging about her ex's sexual prowess. Typically flat for a ten-to-one sketch, it kind of bothered me that only one person in this piece had any form of character development; it was just Anna and three cast members reacting to Anna.
It took three weeks, but we finally found our first good episode of the season. Granted, this didn't feel like a typical SNL affair; unless you count "Deep House Dish" there were no ensemble sketches and Anna was the only dominant presence in the show. On that note, Ms. Faris was a capable host, never quite letting go of her ditzy persona but willing to try out a variety of characters. I found it strange that the inevitable debate sketch aired after the first commercial break, but I guess the producers wanted the media to gobble up Fey as Palin at least one more time.
Segments that won't appear in the 60-minute edit: everything after Update, except possibly "Deep House Dish."
Next Week: Anna's "Brokeback Mountain" co-star Anne Hathaway hosts with musical guest The Killers.
Questions or comments for HelloStuart? Send him a PM, or e-mail Stu at email@example.com.