A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Disgraced Governor of New York
The media's short-attention span is sucking the nectar out of SNL's flower yet again. Following much-ballyhooed appearances by four presidential candidates (including one that was long out of the race), SNL has seemingly ascended again to the throne of cutting-edge topical satire. The acclaim has been deafening (or at least that's what MSNBC and Entertainment Weekly want you to think), and though I admire how the show has made up for lost time, it all still feels gimmicky to me. Perhaps this week's inevitable jabs at Eliot Spitzer will be a little more low-key…
Well, Janet Jackson was supposed to be the musical guest this week, but due to illness she cancelled and was replaced by Mariah Carey, another R&B spring chicken but with a pinch more credibility. This is her fourth appearance on SNL, and her first since her widely publicized breakdown and subsequent "emancipation." On the bright side, we still have the scheduled host from last week, portly comedy up-and-comer Jonah Hill. The "Superbad" and "Accepted" star was also a victim of rescheduling; he was originally pegged to host four months ago.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Former Governor Spitzer (BH) announces his return to law, promising to specialize in undignified and lurid cases. If your mail-order German pornography gets embargoed or a hooker dies on your watch, he's your man to call. Kristen (as Silda) is hilarious simply by reacting or spacing act during her husband's speech, but Bill's deadpan delivery makes this final nail in the coffin connect.
MONOLOGUE: In an attempt to not pigeonhole himself into his crass "Superbad" image, Jonah sings about being "fancy," though the lyrics prove otherwise. Cheeky, I guess.
"MacGruber": Our resident '80s action hero (WF) is apparently sensitive to criticism, and lets his new sidekicks (KW, Hill) know it. The setting is increasingly preposterous (An abandoned bank… in midtown?), but that mostly enhances MacGruber's continuing delirium.
"What's Your Situation": This façade of a game show is an excuse for the host (Hill) to hit on female contestants (AP, KW, CW). Usually flat, one-note sketches like this don't appear in the first half-hour of the show, so I have to wonder if this killed in rehearsal or something.
"Benihana": The ultra-precocious Adam Grossman (Hill) embarrasses his depressed, recently divorced dad (BH) at the aforementioned Japanese restaurant. This sketch was about two minutes longer than it should've been.
"MacGruber": Now stuck in an abandoned paint factory, MacGruber's bruised ego leads him to stop caring about the matter at hand (i.e. the time bomb) and give his two sidekicks a hard time. Uh… boom?
"The Suze Orman Show": Judy Belushi's ex-college roommate (KW) fields investment questions and spews odd, penny-pinching investment advice. Her guest (Hill) is a Los Angeles flip-flopper who foolishly brought property on the San Andreas Fault. Kristen nailed the Orman impression right down to the gay-baiting and the clipped manner of speaking, but if this is going to be a recurring sketch, they have to make it a little less boring.
DIGITAL SHORT: Andy learns the hard way that Jonah is romancing his 57-year-old father (the always affable James Downey). What seemed like a fluke turns into open-mouth kissing and, surprisingly, oral fixation. It seems out of character for the Lonely Island guys to go for outrageousness, but in this case they took a risk and it paid off. I wonder if Jim would be willing to be a featured player again…
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "Touch My Body" is sweaty, grind-inducing, baby-makin' music. Anyone who liked her last album is probably expecting more of the same, which in that case Mariah delivers.
WEEKEND UPDATE: "The whistleblower got his whistle blown." One clever zinger deserves another in one of the sharper Updates of the season. The latest edition of "Really!?!" shed the spotlight on Spitzer and actually provided some new insight on the scandal. Nonetheless, that expected barrage of sex jokes was a mere appetizer for Tracy Morgan, who did a funny riff on the role of race in the presidential primaries, then debunked Tina Fey's comments from three weeks ago by declaring "black is the new president, b****!"
"Target Greatland": Your favorite disoriented cashier (KW) gives bad dating advice to a dimwitted stock boy (Hill), than thwarts an attempt by one customer (WF) to return black sweatpants. This sketch felt more like an obligation to the fans than anything that oozed creativity or spontaneity, but Jonah's increasingly absurd roadblocks worked well against a recurring character on cruise control.
"NBC Special Report": Brian Williams (WF) accuses Sen. John McCain (DH) of being –get this- old! Gee, that's original! Another dead-on impression by Darrell is wasted on tired jokes about writing five-dollar checks, dinner at 4:30, and watching "Wheel of Fortune."
"Clancy & Jackie": Two country singer-songwriters (WF, KW) with eerily similar writing styles collaborate to perform songs about Model Ts, toddlers, spaceships, and beer. While trying to play the promoter, Jonah cracked up straight through the sketch, but I'll abstain from judging him for breaking character. This sketch had the recipe for satire (that is to say, shedding light on the repetitiveness of country music) but it just didn't cook right.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: The enigmatic, cane-waving MC known as T-Pain assists Mimi on her next single, "Migrate."
"Internet Date": Two IM buddies (CW, Hill) meet at Tad's Broiled Steaks and learn the sad truth about each other. An atypical ten-to-one sketch in that the twist ending salvaged what could've been a tepid, predictable affair.
The most uneven season of SNL in recent memory just got thrown for another loop. After two straight so-so shows, Jonah Hill comes out of nowhere to guide us through one of the funnier broadcasts of this abbreviated season. He was thrust into a situation where the cast and writers could've been completely burnt out and therefore unwatchable; instead, he carried the broadcast and gave everyone an unexpected second wind (or was it a catatonic buzz?). Jonah was jovial, versatile, and took risks like a champ; like Brian Williams before him, I hope he hosts again next year.
Sketches/Segments That Will Probably Be Removed In Repeats: "What's Your Situation," "The Suze Orman Show," "Clancy & Jackie," and "Migrate."
In Three Weeks: After an unnecessary five-year absence, legendary host Christopher Walken returns with musical guest Panic at the Disco. Seriously, what's the point of reviewing that show? It's like an awesome burger with extra awesome sauce.
Contact "HelloStuart" at email@example.com. Don't worry; he still intends to write a review on April 5th.