Saturday Night Live

Season 34 Episode 2

James Franco/Kings of Leon

Aired Saturday 11:30 PM Sep 20, 2008 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (6)

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  • The night the freaks got geeked

    A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Canadian Football Hall of Fame Punter

    Amy Poehler claims she's leaving "after the election." Would you care to be more specific?

    This week's host is James Franco, a veteran TV and film actor who experienced a breakthrough of sorts with the hit summer movie "Pineapple Express," which coincidentally featured two past and present SNLers (Nora Dunn and Bill Hader) in small roles. The musical guest is Kings of Leon, a southern-fried blues-rock quartet that just released their fourth album, "Only by the Night."

    And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:

    COLD OPENING: At Aquarius Sound Recording, Senator McCain (DH) endorses a few political ads whose sarcastic messages aren't quite on par with John's playbook. Though the age joke fell flat (I'm sure a 72-year-old man is at least somewhat familiar with digital audio production), this sketch really suffers from being the act that had to follow last week's vicious Palin-Clinton vignette. On the other hand, Bill has a pretty good "sarcastic" voice.

    MONOLOGUE: Jim the Columbia University freshman discusses dorm living and inadvertently vexes his RA (JS), who gets to plug his a-cappella singing group for penance. Moving on…

    "The Cougar Den": I didn't expect to see this become a recurring sketch, not that I'm necessarily complaining. This time around, the three old broads (AP, KW, CW) welcome their favorite guest Kiki (Cameron Diaz) and her latest conquest, a teenage emo (James). This time around, the generation gap jokes connect; watching a mere kid react to women old enough to be his mother is priceless in a weird, uncomfortable way. At least he likes saggy boobies.

    "Agent 420": A spoof of spy movies where the secret agent (James) is an irresponsible, headband-wearing stoner. That's all you need to know.

    "Simpson Jury Selection": With his robbery trial pending, the number of people that won't assume OJ (KT) is a murderer scrapes the bottom of the barrel: a coma survivor (WF), a brain-damaged construction worker (James), a woman raised by wolves (KW), and so forth. The joke is obvious, but it doesn't stop the silly fun of this sketch.

    DIGITAL SHORT: "Murray Hill" is a vague send-up of CW teen dramas that finds a brooding trust fund kid (James) obsessing over his miniature appendage to a disgusted partygoer (KW). Much like last week's "Space Olympics," the idea holds promise but the execution kills it.

    "The Looker": Following the success of "The Closer" and Kyra Segdwick's (KW) overbearing southern drawl, TNT's latest crime drama has Penny Marshall (FA) staring criminals into submission. Yeah, it's a one-joke sketch, but Army's condescending gander did the trick in more ways than one.

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "Sex on Fire" is a slight departure for the Followill family, mixing a Killers/Bloc Party sound with their melancholy, yearning lyrics.

    WEEKEND UPDATE: Tonight at the Update desk: lots of financial jokes, including an appearance by barrel-wearing Lehman Brothers head honcho Richard Fuld (JS). Speaking of male exhibitionism, pantsless American Apparel founder Dov Charney (FA) gropes Seth and Amy, something that Will Ferrell would've run away with seven years ago but now feels overheated. On the strength of several good one-liners, Update ends up bolstering an underwhelming broadcast for the second week in a row.

    "New York Times": Fifty investigative reporters at the legendary newspaper are ill-equipped to handle a fact-finding trip to Alaska, mostly because of lifestyle issues and their various neuroses. The vibe I got from watching this was that whoever wrote this had something really ambitious in mind, but couldn't quite put all his thoughts to paper.

    "Of Mice and Men": The lost ending to the John Steinbeck classic reveals that Lenny (BM) had an epiphany in regard to his man-child behavior just before being shot by George (James). After Lenny figures everything out, the sketch completely falls off the wheels; he sums up the entire novel from his point of view but never quite brings the sketch to a passable climax.

    "Yankee Stadium Stories": Martin Scorsese (FA) and Rosie Perez (AP) reminisce about The House That Ruth Built… sort of. Watching them go into weird tangents would've been more interesting if they hadn't done this before. I doubt any Yankees fans found this funny, either.

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "Use Somebody" starts slow before simmering into a "Guitar Hero"-type epic.

    "Backstage": James is confronted by "Spider-Man 2" co-star Willam Dafoe (BH), who orders him to kill Samberg because he's so annoying. It might've been funny had they found a decent impersonator for Dafoe, but Bill's delivery flat-lines what was already a weak sketch.

    Let's put it this way- tonight's broadcast was a bit more tolerable than the season premiere, but far from a strong show. Franco blended in well with the cast, but the writing was the real culprit. After appearing in nearly every sketch last week, Amy Poehler limited herself to one sketch, one filmed piece, and Update. Whether or not this has anything to do with attending the Emmys the next day, I'm not sure; this could also be a sign that she's phasing herself out of the show like Eddie Murphy rather than go out with a bang like Will Ferrell. On the other hand, Bobby "New Guy" Moynihan was decent in limited action but has yet to demonstrate what he's capable of.

    Segments That Will Probably Be Removed in Repeats: most of Update, "New York Times Reporters," "Of Mice and Men," "Use Somebody," and "James and Willam Dafoe."

    Next Week: Actress Anna Faris hosts with musical guest Duffy.

    Contact "HelloStuart" at
  • Throw Me A Meatball, Martin Scorcese!

    The fate of this season can, and will not be told until we really get into it. My predicitions are that SNL will be a continuation of last season, with maybe a little bit more or less consistancy. The direction of this season will not have an explosive change, or at least not negatively. It's very hard to do with such a versatile cast, that has been functioning fine for the last 2 years. It's hard to tell if this cast has reached it's peak or not. This season shall tell. But, as of now, especially after our most recent bombing episode, starring Michael Phelps, I must say that I'm not worried for this season... yet?

    This week's host is James Franco, the man fresh off Pineapple Express. He is known by older ones, for starring in Freaks and Geeks. We'll see how he does. The musical guest is Kings of Leon. It's good to see indie bands make their appearances on the stage. Especially after Lil Wayne. *shivers*

    *drum roll*

    McCain/Palin recording session: John McCain decides to show up to record new approval messages, since he didn't know the old one was recorded digitally. Basically, this sketch went to Bill for doing those great sarcastic messages. The ridiculous points they came up with in the messages weren't much of an exagguation as to real life. They are ridiculous at times. Slow, yes, at times, but it sure did pay off as a decent opening.

    Monologue: Gilbert Grottfried- I mean James Franco delivers his monologue, saying how he enrolled in college. Even though this could have been funny, it went by slowly.

    Cougar Den: Getting cocky, are we? Putting this sketch first? Yes, it has a cameo, big whoop. That doesn't mean this sketch is the funniest of the night. It, infact, was far from it. Though, I'll give them points. They mixed it up. Cougars = relevant. Emo boys = very relevant!!!

    Agent 420: Weed enthusiast, Agent 420, is the only M16 agent left over. He gaffes his mission up, and ends up getting all the bad guys high, having them turn off their laser beam, that was to destroy a communication sattelite. The sketch wasn't that funny, but somewhat entertaining. Once again, did dress find this sketch hilarious or something, because SNL put this way too much at the top of the show.

    O.J. Simpson Jury: O.J. Simpson's lawyer makes sure they have a jury who hasn't heard of O.J. A very funny sketch, indeed. I'm sorry, but Kenan's Simpson really grew on me (even though he didn't say anything).

    Malcolm Hill: When a girl goes to flirt with him, Malcolm creeps her out, by trying to get all deep, and talking about his small penis In the end, he does get one taker, though. A guy. The Digital Short was wierd, and goofy.

    The Looker: This was hilarious!!! Fred Armisen as Penny Marshall was genius. It's true, though! Penny Marshall does catch that depressing facial expression! This was hilarious! Absolutely hilarious!

    Musical Performance: Kings of Leon performs "Sex on Fire" which is an awesome song.

    Weekend Update: Tonight's update was really, really strong. Most jokes were great, and both commentaries were good. A save from last week's Update. I loved the Rosie Perez Dora the Explorer.

    New York Times to Alaska: 50 people were chosen to go to Alaska, from the New York Times, to do research on Palin. The sketch was long, but had a pound up delivery at the end.

    John Steinbeck Closing: Another Bobby Moynihan audition sketch, I take it. Bobby seems very talented, but these sketches are border-line retarded. This one was definetely an improvement over last week's "Peppuh" sketch. I'll give him that. For writing, he may not be on top, but for acting, he's there.

    Yankee Stories: Just for the clear up, these were shot in May. You can tell, due to Amy not being really that pregnant. (plus, it was in the info thing from an insider). Much like the Jaime Pressley episode, these were enjoyable to watch.

    Musical Performance: Kings of Leon performs their second song, "Use Somebody". I even like this song more than their first one. Such an awesome tune.

    Kill Andy: I thought this was a good last sketch. Another green light for Bill Hader.

    Tonight's episode was enjoyable. It wasn't just because of the sketches, but really, think about it: Every cast member got to show themselves tonight. Jason Sudeikis, who's been somewhat pushed aside for a while, finally came back out tonight. Bobby even got a sketch. Usually, only a few cast members get the spot light an episode, while the rest of them do supporting characters. Tonight evened out to, seriously, everybody.

    As for the episode, It was hard to decide if this were just fair, or if it had more momentum than fair. I gave it the benefit of the doubt. James Franco was not anything special tonight. He can act, it was just that he got mostly straight men character, but, you know what? I'm not complaining! Kings of Leon was an enjoyable musical guest tonight.

    By the way, I've been reading a lot of crap about Casey Rose. How can you not like her? She has a different way of acting, yes, but she is unique in a good way. I have a lot of hope for her, when Amy leaves.

    Next week: HouseBunny Anna Faris hosts, with musical guest Duffy. Anna Faris has proven herself in the comedy field, while Duffy, I could not be any more excited about.
  • A huge improvement over the Phelps episode. Everything was better: the host, the writing and the performances by the cast.

    McCain Voice Over cold open - One of the best cold opens I've seen in a while. Short and to the point. This sketch pretty much hit the mark with the exaggerated and misleading ads. Good job by Hader. Grade: A+

    Franco monologue - Not a bad monologue, but the college jokes started to wear pretty thin. It didn't overstay its welcome though. Grade: B-

    Cougar Den - The return of the cougars. A pretty funny concept and I have seen more than my fair share of these middle-aged barflies. Unfortunately the sketch doesn't have any where to go outside of the ladies' incessant obsession with looking young and bagging young dudes. Maybe a night on the town at at bar could spice this up a bit? Grade: C

    Agent 420 - I loved this sketch. OK, first I am a total sucker for anything that references 007. And second, I have always loved stoner humor since I first saw Cheech and Chong. Franco does a great job with the role and reminds us what a capable actor can do with this show (as opposed to a functionally illiterate athlete). The only thing that disappointed me was the ending. I think they should have gone on a munchie run to 7-11 or something along those lines. Still, nice to see a fresh sketch that is well executed. Grade: A

    OJ Jury Selection - OJ is back in the news again, but the SNL role will always belong to Tim Meadows. The premise was simple and relied solely on the bizarreness of the characters. Fortunately there were a few such characters especially Kristen's wild wolf woman. Hader did a great job as OJ's attorney. Grade: B-

    Murray Hill Digital Short - I loved the setup. There was some serious acting and we finally get the punch line one minute into the sketch. Very well acted by both James and Kristen. I especially love the line, "It was like they'd just seen a ghost. A ghost with a really small ding dong." The ending kind of was a let down for the sketch. Funny overall though with some great lines. "I hear you have a really small penis "Damn right I do." Grade: B+

    The Looker - Another of Fred's weird impersonations. Just nothing to the sketch other than Penny staring at the perps. Grade: C-

    Weekend Update - Some good jokes and guests. All of the jokes about the Wall Street mess belie a lack of understanding about the whole thing. But that's OK. It's impossible to stuff any exposition into fifteen second jokes. Armisen's new character was creepy and funny. I didn't miss the Kenan-in-a-dress segment. In fact, I'm upping my grade just because of its absence. Grade: A-

    NY Times Reporters - The reporters come across as a bunch of pansies who know nothing about the world other than their own myopic view of the world as seen from the cesspool of Manhattan. Some good digs at 'investigative reporting' but nothing that had me rolling on the floor. Nice job by Franco again. The sketch was WAY too long at 8 minutes though. Grade: C+

    Of Mice and Men - I think Bobby is showing great potential and COULD be a break out star if he can find his groove. The notion that Lenny was never really slow in the head, but only lied to by George is hilarious. Lenny telling George to "enjoy your pancakes" is a clever way to end the sketch. Grade: B+

    Yankee Stadium Stories - New York Stories is back and just as unfunny as ever. I guess you gotta love Martin and Rosie to dig this. Grade: C-

    "Avenge Me" - A nice way to end the show. Franco has some good acting chops and Hader does a pretty good Dafoe impresssion. I especially liked Hader getting hit in the face with the cup instead of having the mirror shatter. Of course, Samberg does the same impression he does for everybody. Remember the impresssion-off contest 3 years ago when Andy and Bill had just joined the show? Grade: B
  • A quality host, a couple of strong ensemble sketches, and an inspired "Of Mice And Men" parody make for a fairly satisfying episode.

    9-20-2008 Season 34 Episode 2
    Host - James Franco
    Musical Guest - Kings Of Leon

    "Cold Opening - McCain Ads" - Darrell Hammond as John McCain, approving some blatantly misleading campaign ads against his opponent Barack Obama. Fairly funny and scarily accurate, I especially liked Bill Hader as the world's most sarcastic announcer. - 2.5

    "Monologue: James Franco" - A short but amusing monologue from tonight's host, young actor James Franco. Franco is going to college in New York, and a new college buddy (Jason Sudeikis) crashes the stage for a funny little interchange. I got a few chuckles, and it gets bonus points for not going to the audience for questions (the standard lazy SNL monologue fallback.) - 3

    "The Cougar Den" - The SNL ladies host a talk show as the current raging cliche of "cougars" sex-crazed older women. Cameron Diaz pops in unrecognized by the audience, and Franco is very funny as her current boy-toy. - 3

    "Agent 420" - Franco spoofs his character from "Pineapple Express" as a inept stoner secret agent. Again, I'm happy to see another original sketch, and one that's reasonably funny to boot. - 3

    "O.J. Jury Selection" - Many of the folks in the jury pool for the latest trial of O.J. Simpson have a lot to say about the Juice. I thought this was a nice satire, and I got more than a few chuckles. Again, Franco is funny as an amnesia victim, and there was a lot of the cast featured in this ensemble sketch. Good, solid stuff. - 3.5

    "Digital Short - Mysterious Stranger" - Franco is a mysterious stranger sulking at a party, who is approached by curious Kristen Wiig. I have to admit I chuckled twice, but mainly out of surprise rather than excellent writing. Franco's deadpan delivery is funny but let's face it, in the end it's just dick jokes. - 2

    "The Looker" - Penny Marshall (Fred Armisen) is the main character in a spoof of the TV drama "The Closer." "Why are your glasses so small?!" criminals cry when Penny blankly stares them down. Some laughs, nice, surreal concept, the type of obscure reference humor that "Family Guy" would throw at you. Not fantastic, but not bad. - 2.5

    "Musical Guest - Kings Of Leon" - Intense vocals, but repetitive music. They were all right, but they didn't set my world on fire.

    "Weekend Update" - Sudeikis appears dressed in a barrel as the destitute CEO of Lehman Brothers (the big US firm that didn't get a billion dollar government bailout last week like the other big firms.) Armisen later appears as some CEO currently being sued for sexual harassment. Only one or two of the news jokes were slightly amusing, and I thought neither of the guest commentaries were very funny, even though Armisen milked a fair amount of laughs from the studio audience. - 2

    "NYT Reporters Heading To Alaska" - Another good ensemble sketch about a gaggle of big city reporters being briefed for their upcoming trip to Alaska to vet new Republican Vice Presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin. Quality laughs all around and even a few edgy lines, I especially liked Hammond as "Queens" Gilesspie, and Will Forte as a reporter overly concerned about polar bears. It's probably an obligatory Palin placeholder sketch, as I suspect Tina Fey won't return until the VP debates, but I liked it a lot. - 3.5

    "Of Mice And Men: Alternate Ending" - Now this is what I'm talkin' about. An old school, literate sketch like SNL hasn't done in years, I loved the way it skewered the classic novel. Franco and Bobby Moynihan did a great job, and I laughed a lot during this one. If only all sketches could be this smart and sharp! - 4

    "Yankee Stadium Memories" - Armisen as Martin Scorsese and Amy Poehler as Rosie Perez offer some inane observations about the famed baseball stadium in the week before the end of the final season. Pretty aimless filmed segment didn't have anything going for it, in my opinion. - 1

    "Musical Guest: Kings Of Leon" - Blah. Was their sound mix off, or is the guitar supposed to be that low? Very forgettable.

    "William DeFoe Visits" - Host Franco is visited in his dressing room by fellow "Spiderman" star William DeFoe (Hader), who wants vengeance against either Spiderman or Andy Samberg. A silly but funny little sketch that made me chuckle. - 3

    Final thoughts - A quality host, a couple of strong ensemble sketches, and an inspired "Of Mice And Men" parody make for a fairly satisfying episode.

    Final rating - 33 out of a possible 48 68.7% Funny
  • Live from New York, it's Saturday Night with your host James Franco! This week saw a return to form as an actual actor took to the stage as host. It wasn't the best episode but was certainly an improvement on last week's. Let's take a look at the s

    Cold Open: Quite a clever sketch, that was partly written by SNL alum Al Franken. Not as hard-hitting as it could have been, but Bill certainly rocked the sarcastic voice. My favourite line was probably:
    "We use digital technology."
    "Digital? With your fingers?"

    Monologue: Extremely lacklustre. Jason Sudeikis, bless his heart, tried his best to bring energy to this dull, lifeless bit, but in the end it fell flat.

    Cougar Den: Excited to see this one return, and also a little surprised. The inclusion of the emo song was genius and there were some terrific one-liners. I loved Kenan's deadpan delivery also.

    Agent 420: Very lame. Can't believe it survived dress rehearsal.

    The Looker : Silly sketch, but Fred Armisen's face just had me in hysterics. And I loved the Kyra Sedgwick "Con-fay-uss!" part at the beginning.

    SNL Digital Short: Kind of funny. It had a good premise but sort of fell a little flat. Also, I don't really find the phrase "ding-dong" to be funny.
    Clearly The Lonely Island do.

    Weekend Update: An improvement on last week's. They all looked like they weren't taking it too seriously and that they were just having a good time. I have to say the American Apparel CEO bit was so silly, I had to rewind and watch again. It had me in hysterics, particularly where he repeatedly used the word 'slut'. Sillt guilty pleasure. The New York Times: I enjoyed this sketch even if it felt a little thrown together and incomplete. It had some very funny one-liners. For example when he was going around the room asking their names and Fred Armisen's character says very earnestly, "Umm, Karl Marx." I liked the little epilogue at the end too.

    Of Mice and Men: This was a witty, original sketch and once again Bobby Moynihan proved himself to me. However, it felt a little like The New York Times sketch in that whoever wrote it either rushed it or wanted to achieve more than he could with it.

    Yankee Stadium: I loved this little bit. It was short and sweet but did not sacrifice the laughs. SNL needs more little filmed bits like this.

    Willem Defoe: This was quite entertaining, and a nice reference to Spiderman. This felt like a complete sketch unlike some of the others. Hader's impression surprisingly wasn't very good, but it didn't take away from the sketch.

    Overall, I thought this was good, solid episode. James Franco was a decent host, but sort of lacked a lot of the energy necessary for a live show. He peaked in the Cougar Den sketch but after that, he was pretty lacklustre. Kings of Leon were incredible, as if I even needed to say that.
  • James Franco hosts.

    After an okay episode last week Saturday Night Live returned to top form here. It was good to see someone actually funny hosting the broadcast and James Franco was great in pretty much every sketch. From the monologue to the OJ Simpson scene to Agent 420 nearly everything in the first half hour was great.

    I've never heard of Kings of Leon before and I did not really enjoy them here, although their second song was better than the first. Jason Sudeikis got time here and excelled especially as the CEO of Lehman Brothers in Weekend Update. Seth Meyers wasn't as good as he usually is in the WU segment though. Will Forte and Bill Hader were great in the Alaska sketch though.