A Review by the Former "Heystu," Amateur Critic and Wu Tang 4 Life
With four straight episodes claiming that each of next week's episodes would show promise after a slow start, I am not even going to bother hoping for an episode that will peak, much less equal Justin Timberlake's stint back in October. Not even shoo-in hosts like Alec Baldwin and Kelly Ripa can carry this train wreck in the making. After last week's uneven political party broadcast (and subsequent erratic and distracted review), I feel that I am at the top of my game again. I must admit that I was distracted writing the review of the Al Sharpton/Pink episode, but I hope you take nothing against me.
Promoting the final chapter of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Elijah "Frodo" Wood serves as tonight's host. Hopefully, the Tolkien references are kept to a harsh minimum, as I fear that a certain overrated ex-cast member might show up playing Gollum. An up-and-coming quartet of Australian rockers called Jet provides the ear candy, filling in for the originally scheduled musical guests, Simon & Garfunkel. I'd rather have Paul and Artie performing, but I guess this Iggy Pop-AC/DC-Strokes hybrid will have to do.
Before I get into anything else, Chicago Sun-Times critic Phil Rosenthal has joined me once again in the trashing of this under-whelming season. Reprinted with "permission" from his December 12, 2003 column:
"Do you think the people at "SNL" know that all those talk-show parodies in which the talk-show host opens with a song seem like the exact same sketch each week?"
Why does he always keep making all these great points? Stupid professional television critics. I smite your keen sense of observation! But before I get really envious, let's go to the sketch-by-sketch analysis, shall we?
COLD OPENING: It's "Hardball" yet again, with loudmouth ringmaster Chris Matthews (DH) calling Joe Leiberman (CP), Hillary Rodham Clinton (AP), and Carol Moseley-Braun (KT), in respective order, a crybaby, an enigma, and a vanity candidate. And somehow, this doesn't get old.
OPENING CREDITS: I've been blessed with a cartoon by Robert Smigel; now let's hope for something by the departed Jack Handey.
MONOLOGUE: Elijah mentions his upcoming movie, which leads to one thing: Gollem! Yes, it's that witless ball of energy Chris Kattan, heckling Elijah and the show. Soon afterwards, they're plugging their side project, the 80's-style sitcom "A Hard Hobbit To Break." The clip was great, but the monologue didn't "Lord" me over.
"St. Paul's Choir": Three dim-witted 8th-graders (Wood, JF, WF) battle to sing at the most heavenly of falsetto chords. The best part was when they started exaggerating about how high their voices can go, with the desired result coming soon after. It was funny, but Kenan was wasted in the thankless role of the choir director.
"Queer Eye For The Straight Guy": This sounds like something that was ripped off from snlyou.com. The Fab Five (Wood, FA, JF, SM, CP) tries to make Santa (HS) more sexy in the eyes of Mrs. Claus (RD). Elijah was charmingly self-depreciating as the almost-useless Jai Rodriguez. The rest was like shooting fish in a barrel.
CARTOON: Remember last week when I wished for "Fun with Real Audio"? Well, I guess it'll be a Merry Christmas after all. Airing just hours before the just-as-miraculous capture of Saddam Hussein, we find President Bush dressing appropriately for whatever group/organization he's speaking to, with hilarious results. By the way, this ‘toon was written mostly by Tina Fey and Dennis McNicholas, so I guess Robert Smigel is still busy plugging Come Poop With Me.
"Wake Up, Wakefield!": Another segment I haven't seen in a while, except that this one wasn't eagerly anticipated. This time, nerdy Sheldon (RD) and scary Megan (MR) interview the worldly leader of Jazz X Ten (Wood). While I did find it amusing, it probably would've been better if they had deep-sixed "Wakefield" after the recurring gag with Randy Goldman ran its course.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: When I first saw the music video for this song on JBTV (a music program based in Chicago), I prayed that it would go into MTV's rotation. And oddly enough, "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" is now a top forty hit. That's pretty good, since I happen to be agnostic.
WEEKEND UPDATE: For the second time in three episodes, Jimmy Fallon provides a celebrity impression along with co-anchoring WU, this time spoofing whiny marble-mouth John Mayer. Besides that, it was a satisfactory Update with Tina Fey providing the best punchlines.
"Versace Egg Nog": I know Donatella Versace (MR) is probably the show's most popular recurring character of late, but aren't they running the franchise into the ground? This seemingly bland edition finds the chain-smoking fashion maven plugging "designer" nog with Boy George (Wood) and Rosie O'Donnell (HS).
"Howard Dean for America": Darrell Hammond does an marvelous Al Gore impression, and a two-year hiatus has not rusted his performance the slightest bit. Tonight, Gore does all the talking while a seemingly helpless Howard Dean (JR) mumbles his stifled opinions. Another masterwork by James Downey.
"The Rialto Grande": Ugh. More Kattan? Is this spaz wishing that he never left, or is an omen that his post SNL-career isn't going anywhere? Worse yet, he resusitates a sketch that wasn't even funny the first four times it was on.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: While Elijah and the cast head down in to the 30 Rock Rink, those saucy Aussies close out the show with their second single, the mellow "Look What You've Done."
After eight episodes, I can now say that this season bears very little resemblance to the dreaded 1994-95 debacle. It does, however, remind me of 1993-94, which is far from being a compliment. Elijah was not a savior, but merely a host of average quality. Jet was just short of outstanding as musical guests, and they show a lot of promise. If not for OutKast in episode four, they would probably be the best musical guest so far this season. And as for Kattan, well, hopefully making cameos in every fourth episode will not become a routine. His attempt to clone Jon Lovitz's memorable cameos in the early 90's is sad to say the least. Also of note: where were the fake ads?
Sketches That Will Probably Be Removed In Repeats: "Versace Egg Nog," "Queer Eye," "Look What You've Done," and hopefully "The Rialto Grande."
Coming in January 2004: Jennifer Aniston becomes the first "Friends" cast member to host twice, with Grammy nominees The Black Eyed Peas bringing the jams. I'm not placing any bets on this one.
The former "Heystu" is a college freshman based in Downers Grove, Illinois. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org