A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Master of the Squib Kick
Something about tonight's show suggests that this broadcast will be a guest star cluster****. The writing's on the wall if only because of how SNL has been wrapped around the entertainment world's finger these last few weeks; with Sarah Palin itching to turn the tables on Tina Fey and Mark Wahlberg swearing revenge on Andy Samberg for a mediocre sketch that barely anyone remembers, you know there's hints of a spectacle in the air going into tonight's broadcast.
This week's host is Josh Brolin, the second-generation film/TV actor currently starring in the presidential biopic "W." You might he's promoting political agitprop, but I'd like to think he's promoting "The Goonies" 23 years after the fact. The musical guest is Adele, the zaftig British soul singer behind the acclaimed album "19."
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: This is exactly what I expected- an imaginary press conference by Governor Palin (Tina Fey) is critiqued by Lorne and the real Palin, than nearly quashed by Alec Baldwin. Meanwhile, Mark Wahlberg drops by to settle his rift with Samberg once and for all. The minor media blitz eradicated any form of surprise from this sketch, which in itself was clearly catered to the vice presidential candidate's rigid agenda.
MONOLOGUE: Barbra Streisand's step-son compares himself to President Bush in an obvious statement of his political beliefs. He explains how he got his Dubya impression down pat, which is interrupted by Oliver Stone (yes, another celeb cameo) begging him to plug their movie. Besides, Frank Caliendo more or less does the same thing.
"MacGruber": In an abandoned oil refinery, a free-spending MacGruber discovers that all his investments have gone flat. My only question is- did they have dial-up in 1987?
"Japanese Restaurant": Excitable Sue (KW) can't suppress herself when her friend (Josh) announces that he wants to marry the birthday girl from last season (CW). It's a shameless rewrite of a sketch from last year's Christopher Walken broadcast, but that's neither here nor there when compared to Kristen's delightfully manic performance.
"MacGruber": In an Italian mafia hideout, a desperate Mac smashes a glass bottle and demands his friends' jewelry to clear a few debts. I can't wait to see how bad the situation gets in the third segment…
Wait a minute- did we just go through five sketches without a commercial break? Has that ever happened before?
"The Suze Orman Show": Keeping in part with tonight's motif, The Suze (KW) dedicates her entire show to helping ordinary people survive the economic fallout. Tonight's guest (Josh) followed a MacGruber-esque path from riches to rags, but Suze seems oblivious to how dire his situation really is, than closes the interview with a gay sex joke. Good impressions can often withstand lazy writing, but in this case Kristen's Orman is bolstered only when she has something clever to say, and this sketch was… no… exception.
"Backstage": Marky Mark finally catches up to Samberg, but Andy's apology is undercut by Wahlberg's repetitive banter with Amy, Josh, and (did you see this coming?) a farm animal. Though we finally have closure after two weeks of macho posturing, this whole wraparound felt like an obvious plug for "Max Payne." That's a shame, because a Wahlberg-Samberg beatdown would've made some good television.
"I'm No Angel": A very expectant woman (AP) flirts with a good ol' boy (Josh) in a cowboy bar while the eponymous Gregg Allman tune blasts from the speakers. Was this supposed to be a cheap fat joke or a somewhat convoluted pregnant joke? Either way, it wasn't funny.
"MacGruber": Trapped in a human traffic supply ship, our pathetic, drug-addicted hero pops a ping-pong ball out of his nether regions. I've always liked how Will goes to great lengths for a laugh and yet make it look effortless, not matter how grotesque the situation may be. MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: The big girl with the sultry voice belts out "Chasing Pavements." Her lack of stage presence kills an otherwise command performance.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Even when the American political scene is more polarized than ever, you can always count on Write-In Party Candidate Tim Calhoun to appear on Update to assert his obtuse stance on the issues. Speaking of politicos with questioned credentials, Governor Palin pops up again for a guest commentary, but when she balks over the subject matter, AP performs an insipid rap about Eskimos, igloos, and moose hunting. Would this be considered burnout?
"Fart Face": A classic example of a sparse idea stretched out well beyond its breaking point, three insecure corporate-types (WF, BH, Josh) argue over a childlike nickname for five godforsaken minutes.
"Narc School": Vanderbilt High School is populated entirely by undercover police officers, as one befuddled math teacher (CW) learns. Where "Fart Face" dragged, "Narc School" was somewhat rushed; having over-the-hill cops struggle to play convincing teenagers was funny, but the sketch was cut off before the premise really bloomed.
"ReadiTrade.com": Victims of the bear market can sell their stocks, bonds, annuities, plasma, and first-born children to avoid the upcoming market meltdown. Though seeing a new ad spoof was refreshing, the joke was somewhat passé.
"New York Underground": Somewhere on the lower east side, hip Briton Trevor Dix (BH) profiles piano balladeer Joshua Rainhorn (FA). It's a well-tuned jab at the indie-rock scene, bolstered mostly by Fred's strained, whiny crooning, that aims to prove that some artists never get discovered for a reason.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Adele is a little looser on "Cold Shoulder," but that moment of sheer magic has come and gone.
"Fall Foliage": An eccentric executive (Josh) can't convince a roomful of suits to join him on a trip to the country to see the leaves change colors. I could sense that a flat sketch like this would have a twist ending that would justify the means, and to my surprise the turn went above and beyond whatever I expected.
Despite the obvious and hype-fueled distraction of five celebrity cameos, tonight's show was only a small step backward from the strong Hathaway/Killers broadcast two weeks ago. With Amy approaching her due date, it seems that either this week's show or next week's broadcast will be her last; in spite of her pregnancy, she's made the most of her farewell lap around the SNL stage, as her presence on the show hasn't changed since she started showing near the end of last season. Josh Brolin was an adequate host though he never really played against type, though Adele was often too mousy for her powerhouse voice.
Sketches/Segments That Will Probably Be Removed In Repeats: "I'm No Angel," "Fart Face," "ReadiTrade.com," and "Cold Shoulder."
Next Thursday: The final Weekend Update Thursday (for now, anyway).
Next Saturday: Jon "Don Draper" Hamm hosts with musical guest Coldplay.
"HelloStuart" resides in Downers Grove, Illinois. Send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.