A Review by “HelloStuart,” Amateur Critic and Bloodthirsty Despot
Tonight’s host is Forest Whitaker, the noted actor-director who recently scored an Academy Award nomination for his tour de force performance in “The Last King of Scotland,” a biopic of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. I remember reading somewhere that he has a lazy eye, and even though that is a serious condition, at least we can count on a host that won’t read cue cards all night.
This week’s musical guest is a song of a different tune; country superstar Keith Urban is the first representative of his genre on the show since 2003. A decent songwriter and performer, he’s probably better known to the general public as being the main squeeze of fellow Australian Nicole Kidman, as well as being the one-zillionth country singer to admit to having a drinking problem.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: A Valentine’s Day card-reading with Dick (DH) and Lynne (KW) Cheney serves as another feeble endeavor to list off everything that’s dogging the administration. I’d probably be enjoying these political sketches more if they didn’t beat the same two or three topics into the ground.
MONOLOGUE: Several flattering comments by Maya leads to a duet of the Rare Earth hit “Get Ready.” Forest has a really sweet, soulful singing voice… I guess.
“Bronx Beat”: In the second installment of this implausible recurring sketch, Betty and Jodi (AP, MR) kvetch about the flu, then try and force two doctors (Forest, KW) to hook up simply because they look cute together. This didn’t work for me the first time around, but now I’m starting to see a certain rhythm; of course, the only way this is going to last if the writers can avoid being repetitious.
DIGITAL SHORT: “Andy Everywhere” finds our most technologically-knowledgeable cast member hiding around various locales Waldo-style. Forte butts in to spice things up, but it only enhances the goofy, simplistic charm of this particular bit.
“Assagio’s”: Am I imagining things, or is the “dining experience from hell” sketch growing just as tired and clichéd as the “date from hell” skits that we frequently see on the show? This time around, busboy Benjamin Tellurine (Forest) performs a twenty-minute rendition of an old Elton John tune, during which he alters his pitch so that only stray dogs can hear him.
“Urigro”: An ad spoof repeated from last month. “Make ‘um proud, pee out loud” indeed.
“Man Versus Beast”: I don’t watch a lot of Animal Planet, but with the way thing are going nowadays I wouldn’t be surprised if they had programming like this. Basically, Greg Gumbel (Forest) and some PETA whackjob (AP) do the play by play when some moron (JS) attempts to take on a mountain lion, ultimate fighting-style. This didn’t look promising until the post-match interview, which was a quasi-masterpiece of blood hemorrhages, dumb ESPN-type questions, and awkward silences; it was like a Bob and Ray routine, but with suggested animal cruelty.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Though I’m not the biggest country fan, (any of my closest friends will tell you that I have a personal vendetta against Rascal Flatts), I actually liked the mellow twang of his current single “Stupid Boy.”
WEEKEND UPDATE: I’m starting to wonder if Amy writes her own one-liners; it seems that way, since Seth is obviously getting the better jokes. For once, a commentary featuring Kenan was actually funny; his Al Sharpton’s assistance with a faux-moustache wearing Jesse Jackson (DH) in relation to Senator Obama’s ranking on a “blackness” scale was just the type of witty racial commentary even Joe Biden could love. If anything didn’t work, it was Amy’s flirting with Cmdr. Bill Oefelein (JS), who came off acting like a cross between Flash Gordon and Steve Dallas from “Bloom County,” but nowhere near as amusing.
“Love Whitney: Whitney Houston’s Valentine Day Special”: There was a time when I thought Maya’s Whitney impression was a riot; a good example of this would be the Geico commercial spoof from the season premiere. Now, it’s as annoying as hell; how many times does she have to make hollow vilifications of Bobby Brown before she thinks we get the point? Anyway, tonight she hosts a TV special and sings with Chaka Khan (KT) and her ex-brother in law Tommy (Forest).
“Am I a Crazy Street Person?”: A game show send-up where two contestants must separate eccentric genius from deluded homeless guy, which proves easy for the one participant (KW) that has her marbles together. Even though she plays more straight-men characters than anything, Kristen does a good job of being mildly perplexed, and Forest was just as convincing as an eager, childlike mental asylum escapee.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Keith chugs through his rocking, Bob Seger-esque hit from six months ago, “Once in a Lifetime.”
“A Message from the Staten Island Zoo”: A zookeeper (KW) introduces a short film about the sloth species that resembles a typical low-resolution clip from RatherGood.com. Holy crap, I think I might’ve actually laughed at this one.
This broadcast may not have been anywhere near perfect, but I sighed with relief when I realized that this broadcast was more funny than unfunny, albeit just barely. This was a show that clicked because it acknowledged its own silliness, and it didn’t hurt that the writers stayed clear of the bad puns that had been their crutch for much of the past year. Forest was a diligent host, and Keith wasn’t as bad a musical guest as I’d feared.
Sketches/segments that will probably be removed in repeats: “Valentine’s Day with the Cheneys,” “Urigro,” and “Love Whitney.”
Next Week: A repeat of the uneven Justin Timberlake broadcast.
In Two Weeks: Rainn Wilson from “The Office” is rumored to host, but I don’t think anything’s set in stone yet.
Contact Stuart at firstname.lastname@example.org. He responds to all queries.