A very weak episode with uninspired writing and lackluster performances. The extra song by U2-lite was yet another time filler since they obviously had a difficult time coming up with usable sketches this week.
Biden/Murtha cold open – A very limp opening. There was nothing wrong with either of the impressions; they were both fine. The problem was with the writing. Yeah, we know Biden's remarks about Obama being tested and Murtha calling western PA racist, but there was nothing here beyond that besides escalating the comments into increasingly ridiculous proclamations. Very, very flat. Without completely rewriting the sketch, the only way I can think to improve it would have been to have a split screen with Obama sitting in front of the TV at his grandma's house shouting unflattering epithets at Biden. Grade: C-
Hamm Monologue – Hamm is definitely charismatic and did a good job of .pumping Mad Men. Short , to the point and no singing. What's with going right to a commercial after the monologue? Not going to waste precious dime of that valuable early ad time I guess. Grade: B+
Sex Offender – This kind of sketch is Forte's forte. Weird, creepy characters that still maintain a semblance of believability. The interaction between Hamm and Forte was very good and the build up to the sexual assault joke was excellent. I would have loved to have seen an incorporation of the Dick in a Box joke with Forte holding his plastic pumpkin in front of crotch beckoning Hamm to put some candy in his pumpkin. Grade: A-
Rastafarian digital short – The digital shorts have pretty much stunk it up this year. Andy's contribution to the show is becoming negligible at best. I felt like I was being subjected to some crappy YouTube video except that I couldn't just close the browser. Yes, white Rastafarians are a complete joke, but this digital short failed to capture the inherent humor. Grade: D
Two A-Holes at an Ad Agency – Jason and Kristen's characters have been around for a while now, but they still haven't really improved. The Christmas Tree shopping trip with Jack Black still represents their peak and that was three years ago. Unfortunately they walked through the same routine with nothing new to add. The hula hoop wasn't all that great, but even worse was the lack of any kind of ending after Hamm gave his introspective opinion of why the hula hoop is reflection of life. Grade: C-
Barack Obama Variety Half Hour – A decent idea with some funny bits. The best part was easily Hammond's Clinton dancing with the cheerleaders. The rest of it fell kind of flat. Seeing Maya back was no reason to get excited for me anyway. I thought the show had finally moved past her to embrace some new talent. We'll see. Grade: C+
Don Draper's Guide to Picking Up Women – Kind of like that sexual harassment training film with Tom Brady three years ago except not nearly as funny. Fred played the dork in both sketches. I guess he fits the typecast. Grade: C-
Weekend Update – This was better than the last Thursday's WU with some decent jokes (Palin's pregnant children). I loved Forte's Robo-Call. It was a nice break from the usual Kenan segment and featured a great costume. Can I have that for Halloween? Hader does a pretty good job impersonating Nader, but looks like nothing him. The impersonation only turned funny when Nader's running mate Manuel was introduced. Hey, Nicholas Fehn, we know what you do. We get it! And it's not funny. Time filling at its worst. Grade: B- (minus for Fehn)
Vincent Price's Halloween Special – Hader does a great impression of Vincent. The set was excellent and I dug the B&W. What I didn't like was the choice of guests. Gloria Swanson and James Mason? Why not choose some people from that time period who actually resonate with people under 60? I did get a kick out of Fred's Liberace though and his flowery accompaniment to Vincent's recitation of The Raven. Nice ending with the reprise of the lift gag. Grade: B-
Jon Hamm's John Ham – Amusing concept with an uninspiring delivery. It would have been great to have Hader interviewing Hamm about the product. "So, tell us, what is so special about Jon Hamm's John Ham?" Like the much of the rest of the show, this just fell flat. Grade: C+
Pat Finger for City Council – More pseudo-clever word play in the tradition of Col. Angus. This kind of sketch is usually very juvenile and this one was no exception. I don't have a problem with going for cheap laughs and I love a pun as much as anybody, but I think it is pretty poor when an entire sketch is based around a "funny" combination of words. Grade: C-
A Review by "HelloStuart," the Amateur Critic of Madison Avenue
I'm beginning to wonder if I was too harsh in criticizing Governor Palin's cameo last week. Granted, I don't agree with her hard-right stance on the issues, but I tried to be politically impartial last week and I still found a way to screw up. If anything, the concept of political figures spoofing themselves has changed dramatically since Stephen Colbert's infamous speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner three years ago. If not for Colbert practically criticizing President Bush to his face, Palin's guest appearance would've been just as fawning as John McCain's hosting stint in 2002 or anything preceding it. Alec Baldwin's trashing of Palin in last week's cold opening was actually a lot more daring than I gave it credit for, and the hockey mom simply rolled off the punch.
As for this week's show- tonight's host is Jon Hamm, the veteran character actor who rose to prominence with his Emmy-nominated portrayal of emotionally maladroit ad executive Don Draper on the AMC series "Mad Men." Making their third appearance as musical guest is Coldplay, who are promoting their best-selling album "Viva la Vida."
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Somewhere in Pennsylvania, Senator Biden (JS) and Rep. John Murtha (DH) make an endless and embarrassing stream of comments that could easily blow the election for Senator Obama. Both fail to restrain each other from making comments that border on the prophetic, but maybe the point was to demonstrate the egotism of public figures in high-pressure situations. Either that, or SNL is taking an overdue and now-irrelevant jab at the seemingly unprepared Obama.
MONOLOGUE: In a desperate bid to entice viewers, Jon lies about the premise of "Mad Men." There's not much else to this.
"Pedophile Trick-or-Treater": A 43-year-old convicted sex offender (WF) makes an awkward and horrific first impression on his new neighbor (Jon) while make his court-ordered rounds. Palpable tension makes for good comedy, and Will carried the sketch with gusto, but Jon made his straight-man character even stiffer than he was intended to be.
DIGITAL SHORT: College freshman "Ras-Trent" (AS) sings the praises of being Rastafarian even though he's a complete poseur and wouldn't touch, much less smoke a reefer for his dear life. Having known people like this when I was in school, I can tell you that this was a worthy comeuppance, not to mention pretty catchy.
"Two A-Holes on Mad Men": …or an ad agency in the 1960s, but that's a mouthful. The sketch plays out like above-average fan fiction; our two favorite pricks (JS, KW) pitch a hula hoop with straps to the executives at Sterling Cooper (played by some of the actors from the series itself). Jon/Don goes on a soliloquy in which the suspended hula hoop becomes a metaphor for suspending reality, but it doesn't go anywhere.
"The Barack Obama Variety Half-Hour": Maya Rudolph as Michelle Obama- whodathunkit? That's not sarcasm, I'm probably just happy to see Maya again after a year-long absence; the role of the senator's wife was hers for the taking. Parodying the 30-minute infomercial airing on Fox next week, Obama (FA) and his Democratic cronies sing and make bad jokes akin to a '70s variety series. The sketch has a slapped together but it's not entirely a bust; Bill Clinton's (DH) butting on a dramatic sequence between Obama and "the spirit of the party" (Jon as JFK) speaks volumes about Bubba's perceived narcissism.
"Don Draper's Guide to Picking Up Women": Another "Mad Men" sketch? The SNL must be die-hard fans. In this filmed piece, Jon/Don gives advice for sexual dalliances- be silent, make vague references to your past, have a great name, and more or less "be" Don Draper. To anyone who doesn't watch the show, this will be a confusing in-joke, but I'm not sure if "Mad Men" viewers will be amused by the gag either.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: The title track from "Viva la Vida" was all over the radio four months ago, but that doesn't hinder Chris Martin and company from playing the song one last time. Interesting use of percussions, though.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Holy crap, Amy went into labor! Will Seth's solo venture (the segment's first since May 2000) be a sign of things to come? For something that happened at the last minute, Seth did decent but he's too workmanlike to carry the segment by himself, especially for an extended period of time. Of the three guest commentaries, only one clicked; "Robo-Call" (WF) and his anti-Obama slanders were weighed down by his drinking problem (oil in a flask- get it?). An editorial by Ralph Nader (BH) dragged, and I don't think I need to explain the latest appearance by Nicholas Fehn (FA). The segment ended with Maya and Kenan singing "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" in honor of Amy's baby, a rare poignant moment and de facto tribute to the departing cast member and one of the show's all-time great female repertory players.
"Vincent Price's Halloween Special": Absence makes the heart grow fonder… or scarier? The first sketch of its kind in 2 ½ years is a typical study in slow burn for the ghoulish B-movie great (BH) as he deals with an over-the-top Gloria Swanson (KW), a drunken James Mason (Jon), a clueless Liberace (FA), and a series of technical gaffes.
"Jon Hamm's John Ham": Remember that "Peter Sarsgaard SARS-Guard" sketch from three years ago? It's basically the same idea, except that the product is slices of pork on a toilet paper roll. I should count my blessings that this didn't drag on for five minutes or more.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "Lost" finds Chris Martin doing his epileptic piano-playing shtick, though the song sounds like the #1 nightclub hit of 1347 AD.
"Pat Finger": A city council candidate from the unfortunately named hamlet of Butts, NY promises to fill holes (in the street) and lick cracks (on the sidewalk). Somewhere, a 14-year-old boy is busting a gut from all these tired double-entendres. I'm beginning to wonder if the scribes are looking to justify their laziness/writers' block by simply ending sketches --much like this one-- by pointing out that this is the type of thing that surfaces on YouTube.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Taking advantage of their reputation as a powerhouse live act, Coldplay whips up a third song, their 2000 hit "Yellow."
I should note that after this unexpected and delightful third performance, Coldplay nearly gave us a fourth serving but was cut off due to time constraints. Those Studio 8H audience members should be so lucky…
Overall, tonight's broadcast was probably the most uneven of the season thus far. The minor gems of the first 45 minutes gave way to an awkward Weekend Update, and two of the last three sketches of the evening were undisputedly awful. It's tough to say how much the birth of Amy's child affected tonight's broadcast, but her presence was and will be missed. Coldplay was ready and willing to pick up the slack, tearing the roof off the dump to prevent the audience at home from sitting through even more terrible sketches. Jon Hamm was an adequate host, willing to mock the role that made him famous yet straining to prove that he could do more than just play Don Draper.
Sketches/Segments That Will Probably Be Removed in Repeats: Weekend Update, "Jon Hamm's John Ham," "Lost," and "Pat Finger."
Next Week: SNL's Ironman-like run of ten live shows in eight weeks concludes with Ben Affleck returning to host with musical guest David Cook.
"HelloStuart" is a radio station employee and free-lance writer based in Downers Grove, Illinois. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Amy Poehler has had her baby. After speculation for months, wondering if her baby will be born early or not, she has her baby only a day before due date. Of course, this means Amy is done with SNL. It was released about an hour before dress rehearsal went on that she had a healthy baby boy, Archie Arnett. Congratulations, Amy and Will!
This week's host is Mad Men's Jon Hamm. Of course, many said 'who?', which could worry everyone. A no name host can either soar, or fall flat on their face. Musical guest is Coldplay. Coldplay's new album and single, Viva La Vida, took this summer by storm... Well, next to I Kissed A Girl, I guess.
Biden and Murtha: I think this is the first political sketch this year that I did not enjoy. So, it goes without saying that watching 7 minutes of this made me concerned for tonight's episode. But, basically, Murtha just says stupid things, and Biden is caught with his foot in his mouth.
Monologue: I'm liking how we've been having the past four monologues real monologues. This one was short and sweet. In summary, Hamm advertises his show combining all the biggest television ideas into one.
Trick Or Treat: This was cut from the Brian Williams/Feist episode last year, for a little piece of info. I thought this was a pretty funny execution of the sketch, and Will Forte being the pedophile was the two thumbs up choice.
Digital Short: Um... silly? Sure. Funny and clever? I don't think so. Digital Shorts are getting way to bizarre lately. Yet, I can't come to say this was a bad short.
Two A-Holes: Whoa! I totally didn't see the A-Holes coming into this sketch. I don't think anyone did. I was happy to see the A-Holes make a return back, and I thought they actually had more creativity in this sketch than the last time they did it.
Obama Variety Hour: Maya Rudolph is back on. And... of course it's a singing sketch. No, but let' s not focus on that. This was a really funny sketch. The song choices they chose to spoof were all gold. Everybody's performance in this sketch was great.
How To Be Like Donny Draper: I thought this sketch worked out great. This is probably the last we'll see of Amy for a while.
Weekend Update: The cheering for Amy was a very nice touch after Seth's announcement. I thought most jokes were funny, while Forte's bit was okay, and Ralph Nader was pretty good. But, then, we did Nicholas Fehn. Stop, stop, stop, Fred! Stop! Fred, you're better than doing Fehn. Or, at least, please do a different formula. I'm not going to get into that commentary though. The singing for Amy at the end was nice, and Seth's message was touching.
Vincent Price Halloween Special: This has been long awaited. After an unnecessary 2 1/2 year hiatus, Vincent Price does a new special with James Mason, Liberace, and Gloria Swanson. Everyone in this sketch did their part so awesome. Kristen's Swanson was hilarious to watch.
Jon Hamm's John Ham: Jon Hamm does an advertisement to toilet ham. I thought this was a decent sketch, and Peter Sarsgaard's SARs guard really came to mind during this sketch.
Finger for Butts: A man running for office has the last name Finger, and he wants to go into Butts. Inuendo goes a far way in this sketch. I'm glad they didn't just keep the sketch to the inuendo, and that they actually showed him discovering why people laughed at him. The Deldeaux last name was great.
Tonight's episode was definetely a good one. Jon Hamm was our 2nd host of the season who did a memorable job. Him along with Anne Hathaway. Coldplay performing "Viva La Vida" and "Lost" was great, but I do have to say performing "Yellow" wasn't need to be redone. I would have rather had them do "Clocks" for a third song. And, also, I was not pleased with the huge middle finger the network gave us, when they cut off Coldplay's 4th song. I wish Marci just waited for the goodnights to end, just so we didn't have to watch them perform 5 seconds of a song. But, still, this was a good show. Maya Rudolph's appearance was a little more undertone, and enjoyable.
And, last but not least, once again, congrats Amy and Will! Fans will miss you. I am wondering if Lorne will put a replacement in by the November 15th show. The November 1st show seems a little farfetched, unless someone has already been hired, and was waiting for Amy to leave.
Next week: We enter November sweeps with Ben Affleck as host, and David Cook as musical guest.
Not suprisingly Jon Hamm looked as bored doing SNL as he does during Mad Men. The only remotely good sketch was the Mad Men parody/Two A-Holes scene. Will Forte's Pete Campbell impression was spot-on and it was great to see Roger Sterling there as well. It had some funny lines, but was not up to par with past Jason Sudeikis/Kristen Wiig scenes. This showed just featured way too much childish humor. I mean Pat Finger running for City Council in Butts, NY? The Barack Obama Variety Half Hour was pretty awful as well except for Darrell Hammond's Bill Clinton. And that was probably the worst Digital Short ever.
Not a very good showing and hopefully Ben Affleck does a better job next week.