A Review by the Former "Heystu," Amateur Critic and Automaton
Tina Fey is pregnant. Tina Fey is pregnant. Tina Fey is pregnant.
That was the mantra repeating in my head a couple of weeks ago, shortly after I opened up that morning's newspaper. While I do offer my congratulations to Ms. Fey and her husband Jeff Richmond, it dawned on me that if she has a mid-September due date, there would be no way she would be ready to return to the "Update" desk when Year 31 begins in October. Given that, it will be a shame to see Tina leave, as her continuing skewering of the news was one of a mere handful of stabilized factors in what has been an unspectacular season of SNL, and that her presence will be missed.
This week's show is hosted by Johnny Knoxville, the masochistic former star of MTV's "Jackass" and now a legitimate comedic actor in his own right. According to his bio right here at TV Tome, Knoxville was once offered to join the cast about five years ago but turned it down, which leads me to believe we're going to have a very interesting host tonight. The musical guest is System of a Down, the nu-metal wunderkinds that scored an out-of-left-field bestseller with their 2001 album Toxicity and after a slight delay has finally released their official follow-up, Mezmerized.
Before I move on with this review, I would like to take this time to explain something to my readers. As some of you probably already know, by mid-June TV Tome will be no more; rather, this will become tv.com, a slightly more commercial site that will essentially absorb all the boob tube factoids that have been accumulated since the site's inception five years ago. Given that, I have absolutely no idea as to whether or not I will continue to review SNL broadcasts for 2005-06. I will give you more details when they transpire.
Let's get down to the sketch-by-sketch analysis, shall we?
COLD OPENING: Paula Abdul speaks directly to the audience about her ongoing personal problems, then introduces a sketch that spoofs the recent "American Idol" expose on "Primetime Live." Corey Clark, the hack singer at the center of the controversy, is honored not only with misspelling his name but also with an impression by a cast member (FM) that looks nothing like him. On the bright side, Maya gets to do her dead-on Justin Guarini impression again, and Amy is given another chance to perfect her fawning imitation of Paula. Besides the repeated breaking of the fourth wall, this sketch really lacked bite.
OPENING CREDITS: It's very unusual to see a cast addition this late in the season, but I'm happy to see that Second City Vegas alumni and staff writer Jason Sudeikis has been added to the cast. I had the pleasure of seeing this guy perform with the Vegas troupe in 2001, and I really hope he sticks around for a few years.
MONOLOGUE: The former Phil Clapp gives us a look behind the scenes, where in which his "Jackass" persona takes center stage. Heck, even Ol' Man Pardo gives him a knee in the crotch. I don't know why, but this a rare monologue that actually makes you wonder what's in store for the show.
"Mom Jeans": It's a repeat sketch, but they may as well show it again before Tina leaves.
"The Couple That Should Be Divorced": Sally and Dan Harrison (SM, AP) bicker constantly, and while that may seem like a one-joke premise, the added depth to the other characters in the sketch was what made this arguably one of the funniest sketches of the season. To watch The Harrisons' friends (Johnny, RD, CP, MR) observe and wince at this very quarrelsome couple is what makes this segment work, even if their comments are muted by comical tension.
"Domino's Pizza": The Donald (DH) lords over yet another ad shoot, but this time he's promoting that cheeseburger pizza from "The Apprentice." Nothing new to note, but hearing Donald mangle "Dominyo's" was worth a chuckle.
"Versace Mother's Day": The fashion maven (MR) drops by to give her Florentine mother (RD) a gold chain bikini and essentially be herself. As expected in nearly every Donatella sketch, Elton John (HS) drops by brag about his engagement, which is fitting yet strangely derails the entire skit.
"Visitors From Another Planet": Tonight's late night movie finds a gullible hick (WF) being fooled into an anal probe in what is nothing more than a bastardized "Gays in Space" sketch.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Fresh off their new album, it's the f-word tossing "B.Y.O.B." I have to wonder, though- did Serj Tankian give the audience the finger?
WEEKEND UPDATE: Tonight's best joke was probably Mama Tina's reference to The Beverly Hillbillies, though Amy's trashing of Angelina Jolie was also a memorable moment. Otherwise, this was a bland edition of Update, starting with Will Forte singing a weird little ditty to him mother Patti, and ending another mediocre stand-up performance by deaf comic Ritchie P and his much-put-upon translator Marcus.
"Mother's Day Brunch": A compare/contrast scenario is created as a busboy (CP) serves three tables of very different families. At the first table, Mom (RD) must celebrate the holiday with her trans-gendered ex-husband (Johnny), even though her kids (SM, JS) are doing their best to alleviate the awkwardness. At the second table, two brothers (FM, KT) have a hard time putting their senile grandmother (MR) in the right headset. At the third and final table, the overbearing parents (AP, RR) of a newborn baby make the most minuscule movement of their child look like a spectacle. Though this low-paid waiter is intended to be the unifying factor of these three scenarios, Parnell plays him as too low-key, thus leaving this three-in-one sketch bereft of a feeling of totality.
"Helping Hands Telethon": A pseudo-religious figure (Johnny) is quickly annoyed by idiot savant phone operator Andy (WF), who continues to shout "No!" into the receiver despite numerous warnings to refrain from doing so. While this sketch retains it small, insipid quality, its only purpose is to be a study in slow burn for an underdeveloped character.
"Merv The Perv": Merv (CP) and his brother Irv (Johnny) harass costumers at a lingerie shop, with the usual trou-dropping results. Somebody must think this is really funny if it just keeps coming back.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Hot dog, they played "Aerials"!
"Action News": The fifteen-member ensemble of a local newscast has high schadenfruede towards an arson committed by one member of the team (CP). For yet another one-joke premise, it worked well.
"Bear City": In the sixth installment of the anthropomorphic ursine saga, a barfly is berated by his wife, which only augments my conclusion that nothing is funny without bears.
"You Might Be A Gay Redneck If..": Jeff Foxworthy's gay half-brother Todd (Johnny) promotes his DVD of stand-up skewering towards the fey white trash demographic. It's obvious almost straight through, yet the removal of a segment involving "Treat Dangerfield" (FA) makes you wonder if this sketch was intended to be slightly longer and possibly much worse.
I did not learn until just hours before the broadcast that Mr. Knoxville was once offered a position on SNL, but had I known, I would not have been surprised by his performance on tonight's broadcast. Knoxville was everything a host should be: personable, open-minded, and clearly willing to remember his lines. The fact that I am giving such a glowing critique of Knoxville's performance even mystifies me as I write this. System of a Down did not disappoint either, though their profanity-spewing in their first song makes me doubt if they'll ever appear on the show again. Jason Sudeikis, in his first credited appearance following a year of sporadic stints as an extra and/or bit player, was hardly anywhere to be found until the final third of the show, but contributed nicely. To put it nicely, this was a bearable show.
Sketches That Will Probably Be Removed For Repeats: "Mom Jeans," "Visitors from Another Planet," "B.Y.O.B.," "Helping Hands Telethon," and "Gay Redneck."
Next Week: Your friend and ours Will Ferrell finally returns home to host, with stoner-rockers Queens of the Stone Age as his musical guest. Who wants to bet there's going to be a "Celebrity Jeopardy" sketch?
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