A Review by the Former "Heystu," Your Favorite Amateur Critic
I'm sorry I've neglected to touch on this subject in recent reviews, but it appears that SNL is in threat of being dismantled yet again. Okay, I'm overreacting, but the recent blather about Tina Fey having a sitcom deal with NBC could have a negative effect on the show. Sure, the show has survived losing key cast members, but with the exception of Will Ferrell's departure three years ago, it usually came at a big cost. Tina is probably the show's strongest writer and most visible face; even if on most nights she's confined to the "Update" desk. Despite the fact that she is the news segment's second longest-serving anchorperson, her possible departure may be too soon, especially now that her current rapport with Amy Poehler is just beginning to get off the ground.
Tonight's host is yet another proven thespian, Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, the latest in a string of quality actors that usually end up being merely above-average congregator. The musical guest is once again Curtis Jackson nee 50 Cent, who appears to well on to his way to becoming the show's first hip-hop five-timer.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Michael Jackson (AP) and Liz Taylor (RD) lie in bed over at the Neverland Ranch, pondering the future of the pop star-cum-national punchline. His sister Latoya (MR) drops by to comfort Jacko but only salts the wounds; she in followed in procession by a drugged-out Macaulay Culkin (WF), a snooping Martin Basher (FA), Geraldo (DH) offering his service and facial hair, and finally, a very desperate Webster (KT). Amusing, but it felt thrown together.
MONOLOGUE: The woman who catapulted to fame and stardom through her supporting performance in Cries Unheard: The Donna Yaklich Story makes her triumphant return to the boob tube. While basking in the glow of the audience that begs for her mercy, she appears in a lame bit about how the cast prepares for the live broadcast, a series of superstitions ranging from jump rope to drug-induced cross-dressing.
"Grayson-Moorhead Investments": Man, the last time they did one of these sketches I was still in grade school. Anyway, the firm's top dog Arthur Grayson (Jim Downey in makeup) discusses all the lousy investments he played a role in, ranging from LBJ watches to Rosie magazine. Despite the nine-year hiatus, this was another memorable work from SNL's most anonymous master.
"Sheila Choad's Los Angeles Face": A talk show all about Botox, complete with those deadpan, hideously distorted faces you've come to know and love. That's all there was to it, though.
"Grayson-Moorhead Investments": Good ol' Arthur recounts the saga of a mutual fund that hemorrhaged money to ridiculous proportions. Despite a lot of Wall Street jargon that I could only partially understand, it was still pretty good.
"Hot Plates": Four restaurant-goers (Swank, SM, AP, KT) and tempted and tortured by the exaggeratingly hot entrees given to them by their waiter (HS). With everyone overacting- er, overreacting- to the enticement of these sizzling serving dishes, I guess it was obligatory for Horatio to crack up again, but it still doesn't effect a so-so sketch with an anemic concept.
"Debbie Downer": They promised it in the promos, and now it's here. The Swankster and hubby Chad Lowe (WF) invites her old babysitter to be seated next to her at next Sunday's ceremony, only to be jaded and ultimately flummoxed by Debbie's disheartening commentary. I was disenchanted to see Downer/Dratch no longer giving us her trademark scowl, but at least she's no longer crusading for HIV-positive felines.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: A half-asleep 50 dozes through an uninteresting duet with Olivia called "Candy Shop." His new disc drops on March 8, but only if he stays awake until then.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Besides more Michael Jackson jokes (and a great stab at the rapidly aging Larry King), we also watch a man-on-the-street remote with native New Yorker Tom Jankeloff (FA), who comments on Christo's "The Gate" exhibit in Central Park, a segment that seemed to play upon age-old Big Apple stereotypes. Also, Hilary's Million Dollar Baby co-star Morgan Freeman (FM) complains about typecasting, then dryly declares that he wants a little action with frequent screen partner Ashley Judd. All that, plus a bad Amy ad-lib and a PSA for "Sida Fantastico!"
"Seasons of Love": A breakup scene on a hit daytime soap goes through several takes, largely due to a recently hired actress (Hilary) and her weird sobbing. Luckily, Arlene the acting coach (RD) is nearby to remedy the "crying ugly," and next thing you know, the little hotshot wins an Emmy. It probably would've been a lot funnier if it didn't move so slowly.
"City Court with Aaron Neville": A hot new show on PAX finds the gossamer vocalist (HS) hosting a daytime court show, a la "Judge Judy" only with obscene amounts of cocoa butter. Given the bizarre yet amiable juxtaposition of the situation, he eschews the usual snippy comments found in shows like this, and then sings to hide his limited knowledge of judiciary law.
"After The Grammys": Marc Anthony (FA) and J.Lo (MR) keep going and going with their cheesy, made-for-Telemundo duet from last week's award ceremony, with Loretta Lynn (Swank) and Jack White (WF) walking in and essentially doing nothing. Does anyone have any idea what this sketch was about? Seriously, this was absolutely mystifying.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: 50 returns, apparently having taken a few wake-up pills, to perform the energetic but equally forgettable "Disco Inferno."
"Project Runway": Hmm, a reality show spoof. What an odd way to end the night. Mimicking the penultimate episode of the Bravo series, host Heidi Klum (Swank) throws around a bunch of clichés as she orders three Lagerfeld wannabes to reinvent Colonel Sanders. Maybe I was too tired to laugh, but this was slipshod and only fleetingly funny.
In the less than two years that I have reviewed SNL episode by episode, I have never come across an episode so boring and poorly paced. Otherwise, it was (surprise, surprise) a good sampling of what Hilary Swank is capable of doing on live television. 50 Cent, on the other hand, appeared to be already tired to promoting his new album, which isn't due for another month and even if he phones in his live plugs the disc will still sell a gazillion copies.
My last nitpick for the night pertains to Rob Riggle. For the past four or five episodes, the writers have hardly given him anything to do, going as far as having him appear as an extra in a sketch but not uttering a word. I do find this to be perculiar, as it seems that even someone who shows up frequently but never gets credited, such as JB Smoove or Jim Downey, receives far more work to do than the muscular featured player. Then again, maybe he's just an ill fit.
Sketches That Will Probably Be Removed In Repeats: "City Court with Aaron Neville," "After the Grammys," and "Project Runway."
In a Few Hours: Filmmaker Kenneth Bowser presents "Live From New York: The First Five Years of 'Saturday Night Live," a documentary on the original cast era of the show, including gobs of commentary from former cast members, not to mention behind-the-scenes people like Rosie Shuster, James Signorelli, and yes, Jim Downey. The big highlight, as I've heard, is rarely-seen footage from the ill-fated 1977 Mardi Gras special.
In a Few Weeks: For the first time in what seems like ages (but in reality, twenty months), a former cast member drops by to emcee and join the merriment. "8 Simple Rules" star David Spade is your host, with musical guest Jack Johnson. This is an incredible feat for both Spade and Johnson, as one is now a vermin-like B-list celebrity and the other died in a car accident sixty years ago.
The writer of this article is a college sophomore based in Downers Grove, IL. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org