A Review by HelloStuart, Veteran Amateur Critic
As several people pointed out, I neglected to mention in last week’s review that this was the first live broadcast of SNL to be featured in high-definition. Though I did neglect to mention this noticeable change, I was aware of the transition from analog several months beforehand but simply overlooked it in my review. Though this letterbox format will take a little getting used to, I can now proudly say that the show can now be enjoyed with a clearer, more definitive picture even if you have to get used to the sight of Horatio Sanz’s pores.
This week’s show is hosted by Jon Heder, the gawky twenty-something that found unexpected fame as the star of the 2004 hit indie movie “Napoleon Dynamite.” As obscure as his name is, he’s not the first quickly forgotten master of ceremonies SNL has had in its long history; he could very well be a good host like Nia Vardelos in Year 28 or a bad host like Michael Sarrazin in Year 3.
The musical guest is a far more interesting story- it just so happens to be Ashlee Simpson, she of lip-syncing infamy. Though her infamous appearance last season wasn’t as astoundingly controversial as, say, Sinead O’Connor thirteen years ago, Ashlee is apparently worthy of some sort of deliverance. So here she is, promoting her second album and praying to the man upstairs that she doesn’t screw up.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: President Bush (WF) and the Big Dick (DH) have a private conversation with Justice Nominee Harriet Miers (RD, naturally). After using the Outback Steakhouse for a mixed metaphor, Dubya later confronts a disappointed Alberto Gonzales (HS, another obvious choice). This was an improvement over last week’s press conference, but only marginally.
MONOLOGUE: The second coming of El Dorko fields a question from the audience before being confronted by his old buddy Leopold Samsonite (AS) and his cohorts (FA, WF), a moment could be seen as an easy way out of your typical self-serving monologue.
“Taco Town”: Three fawning hipsters (BH, AS, JS) are bewildered by an enormous taco. The only joke of the sketch is that the delicacy just keeps getting larger and more monstrously unhealthy.
“Caitlin’s Science Project”: Our spazzy heroine (AP) and her “thespian” partner (Jon) act out their research on insects for their fourth grade science fair. Despite having a sitcom-like quality, I was pleased to see that Poehler toned down the annoyance quotient on this obvious Gilda Radner homage.
“Werewolf Date”: Every full moon, a very unassuming man (Jon) freaks out and grows a mustache, much to the initial shock and gradual annoyance of his new girlfriend (AP). Though it seemed like an above-average “date from hell” sketch, you had to admit that there should’ve been a more energetic actor portraying the so-called werewolf.
“The Misadventures of Tom Delay and Bill Frist”: The GOP’s two most scrutinized members (WF, JS) drive across America’s badlands in search of a clean break, and along the way pick up a hitchhiking Bill Clinton (DH). If this “Thelma & Louise” variation is as tight as the topical material is going to be, then we should all hope for a better season to come.
“Showbiz Grande Explosion!”: The manic Ferecito (FA) makes fun of Manuel’s (HS) indecisiveness as well as mocking his bandleader’s slow-witted cousin (BH) before scrutinizing the host for giving Pedro the shaft. Long story short, this was a by-the-numbers Ferecito sketch.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Ashlee sings the SNL-inspired ballad “Catch Me When I Fall.” Hey, at least it was authentic.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Horatio continues his fill-in gig without adjusting last week’s hit-and-miss approach and Amy throws in some vicious barbs, but the highlight of the night was the return of Tim Calhoun. Now nominated for the Supreme Court (or so he thinks), Calhoun (WF) addresses everything from his cocaine addiction to his years of experience at the food court with the mousy, awkward demeanor that we’ve all come to love.
“Wilson Brothers Funeral Home”: A group of old friends meet “Big Chill”-style at the wake of dearly departed buddy (BH) before dying off one by one. It turns out to be foul play, but the twist that ends the sketch was an ill fit.
“Hubbard Systems”: During a conference, a middle-management stooge (SM) addresses a situation involving pranks at an office party the previous night, complete with cartoon eyebrows and mustaches. This might’ve worked as an improv bit, but on TV it loses something in translation.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Ashlee continues to truly, honestly caterwaul with her current single “Boyfriend.” I’m serious, she really did!
“Operator Date”: In a “date from hell” sketch that actually ends well, a United Airlines automaton (RD) connects with her fuddy-duddy suitor (Jon). Otherwise, there was hardly a laugh in the whole sketch.
“The Black Eyed Peas”: Fresh off their integrity-draining Best Buy commercial, a spokesperson (JS) announces that the funky fresh foursome (FA, FM, AP, KT) are available of bar mitzvahs and office parties at varying prices. As much as I like their music, this is probably a harbinger of things to come, which in turn makes it a savage critique in an SCTV vein.
Despite some concerns earlier in the week, this actually turned out to be a strong show. Jon Heder played to what little strengths he had, and in the end everything worked out. Ashlee Simpson put in an earnest though unmemorable performance, though it’s obvious that she knew her priority was redemption. If there were any positive trends that I saw in this show, it was that Sudeikis, Hader, and Samberg are slowly turning into a potential power trio, not dissimilar to the glory years of Fallon, Sanz, and Parnell in the late nineties/early aughts, and that the writing might actually be improving. No Maya, Tina, or Chris? No problem!
Sketches That Will Probably Be Removed In Repeats: “Taco Town,” “Hubbard Systems,” “Operator Date,” and “The Black Eyed Peas.”
Next Week: Though it was rumored to have been delayed until December, in lieu of a Year 30 repeat we have “The Best of David Spade.”
In Two Weeks: Last year’s Euro-centrism makes a brief resurgence when Catherine Zeta-Jones hosts with musical guest Franz Ferdinand.
Stuart is probably best known under his old TV Tome handle “Heystu,” until he was forced to change it under mysterious circumstances. Feel free to contact Stu at firstname.lastname@example.org.