A Review by the Former "Heystu," Amateur Critic and Punk Princess
So much for gaining momentum, don't you think? After a relatively consistent first half of the season, SNL is now back in the rut that if found itself for almost all of last year. With the season now three-quarters over, it has become apparent that the more militant viewers of the show are going to have to suffer through another creatively thin period in the show's run. As I had mentioned last week, ratings are at a relatively stable position, so any major changes between now and next season are unlikely to happen. As for the state of the fair-weather fans of the show, it has dawned on me that I know a lot of people that stopped watching when Will Ferrell left. The simple fact that it has now taken three years for SNL to recuperate from his loss only hastens the need for some modifications to the cast and staff.
As I have been for nearly every live broadcast for the past two years, I remain guardedly optimistic about tonight's show. This week, our host is none other than Cameron Diaz, who is currently promoting a travel-documentary series on (of all places) MTV. Diaz has had a relatively uneven experience as host; her stint in the 1998 season premiere was arguably one of the better episodes of the season, yet her second stint three years later proved to be one of the most tedious broadcasts the show ever had. The musical guest tonight is also no stranger to the show, though they haven't appeared in over a decade. The band that I speak of is Green Day, now enjoying a career renaissance on the heels of their hit album American Idiot.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Live from Vatican City, it's a "Papal Debate" pitting a half-dozen or so old fossils against a young hotshot cardinal (WF) and Al Sharpton (KT). One perennial candidate (FA) tries to win um over by quoting Lloyd Bentsen, yet botches his shot when he gives Tim Russert (DH) the index finger after the screen pixilation unit fails. As strangely admirable as it may be to see some satire come out of the recent passing of the Pope, I couldn't help but feel that this was a rehash of a Jim Downey presidential debate sketch.
MONOLOGUE: Low rise jeans? That's so 2003, but I digress. Essentially, the joke is that Cameron wants to prove to the girls that she was an ugly duckling in high school, with photos to prove all claims. Tina's senior pic was probably the funniest, though Rachel's was the probably the most realistic. Overall, it wasn't all that great.
"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition": In this flat-out (emphasis on flat) spoof of the reality tearjerker, Ty Pennington (SM) and company rebuild a house for a family whose mother (Cameron) is oblivious to the illness that will ultimately end her life. Not only does the sketch fail to present the alternate form of reality needed to make this work, but its lack of a real ending only accentuates the general lack of effort put into this sketch.
SMIGELTOON: Are we already twenty minutes into the show? Boy, that crappy "Extreme Makeover" sketch ran long. As for the cartoon- after a four-year hiatus it's the wacky adventures of Michael Jackson, with the onetime King of Pop wearing "magic" glasses that makes any becoming woman look like Emmanuel Lewis, circa 1983. The ferocious bite Robert's cartoons usually have has only slighty dulled with age, but hasn't this whole "Wacko Jacko" thing been run into the ground?
"The Barry Gibb Talk Show": There had been rumors swirling that this episode was going to be heavy on the cameos, and upon watching the end result, the big moment was more overindulgent than exciting. Essentially, Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake reprise their roles as the two surviving Bee Gees, who host a surreal talk show where they berate political figures Nancy Pelosi (Cameron), Ann Coulter (Drew Barrymore), and Governor Bill Richardson (HS). Justin was the only one that cracked up, which can be taken as a good and bad omen.
"One-Star Hotel": The employees of a dingy flophouse cry revolt when its optimistic new manager (CP) wants to clean up the dump. Eventually, the most adamant opponent (Cameron) has a moment of truth, and some dude (DH) walks in praising her self-revelation, then proceeds to have sex with her and the custodian (FM). It meant well, but it simply wasn't comical.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: As expected, Billie Joe, Michael, and Tre slumber through their current hit "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." Does anyone want to bet that we'll be sick of this song by the time "Batman Begins" arrives in theaters this summer?
WEEKEND UPDATE: After what felt like an overstock of topical jokes from the past two weeks, we are treated to another appearance by newlyweds Chuck and Camilla (FA, SM) and the palace guard (RR) trying to prevent them from kissing. To no one's surprise, however, Jimmy drops by to check up on Tina and his successor, which turned out to be a far more fitting coda than that annoying song-and-dance bit from last year's season finale.
"Woo! The Musical": All that is right and wrong with Spring Break at South Padre is turned into a clueless off-off-Broadway musical. The female lead (Cameron) falls victim to the faulty pixilation unit from earlier tonight, leaving her flesh-tone strapless bra visible for the entire world to see. The non-reviews were a nice touch but by and large this was a lame sketch with an even lamer theme.
"Sofa Warehouse": Two lazy deliverymen (FM, KT) try to persuade a customer (Cameron) to rescind her purchase of a very heavy sofa-bed, only get their just desserts. Another weak sketch on a night where mediocrity comes a dime a dozen.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Green Day resuscitates their stage presence after a wooden first performance with their third single from Idiot, the catchy "Holiday."
"Spy Glass": It's very remarkable how this is the fourth installment of this British gossip send-up, yet it's never appeared outside of the last half-hour of the show. I mean, it's only fleetingly funny, and this latest edition doesn't bring anything new to the table. At least we got to see Cameron butcher a British accent.
Wow. Simply wow. Not to be self-aggrandizing, but when I said Cameron had a spotty hosting record, I hit it on the money. The writing on this show was simply atrocious, though you couldn't tell that from the performances or shameless guest appearances. When the best part of the night was a so-so musical performance by a band that's notoriously hit-and-miss as a live act, you know you're in trouble. I guess it's official- the second-half collapse is nearly complete.
Sketches That Will Probably Be Removed In Reruns: "Michael Jackson," "One-Star Hotel," "Woo! The Musical," and the Prince Charles segment on "Update."
Next Week: To add insult to injury, the Art of Athletes Hosts is reconsidered; New England Patriots field general Tom Brady joining an already top-heavy list of hosts that score on the field but can't catch a break on a stage. On the bright side, Beck Hansen joins the five-timers club.
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