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 email@example.com.