A Review by the Former "Heystu," Amateur Critic and Honorary Sweet Potato Queen
Hello again, everybody. I know I do my best to avoid discussing the goings-on of my life, but I am just so pumped about the Red Sox-Cardinals World Series. Watching the Yankees collapse after taking a 3-0 lead is something only miracles are made of, and that's coming from an agnostic. At least with Fallon out of the picture we won't have to worry about the inevitable championship-themed "Boston Teens" sketch.
This week's host is British actor and Academy Award nominee Jude Law, who just so happens to be appearing in a whopping six movies this fall. Mr. Law, as most of you know, fills the usual quota of having at least one English host SNL per season. Serving as musical guest tonight is Ashlee "I don't want to be remembered as the sister of Jessica" Simpson. I recall reading in the tabloids that Ash is somewhat flaky, so let's see if she brings any of that energy into the show.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: With the presidential election in dead heat, it must be time for another "Hardball." This time, the ever-so-irked Chris Matthews (DH) chats with the annoyingly cheerful Bush supporter Ed Gillespie (SM), googly-eyed homophobe Mary Beth Cahill (AP), and Chris' new best friend, Senator Zell Miller (WF). Suffice to say, this was the most fun I've had watching this recurring sketch in ages, from Hammond's line-flubbing to Forte's incredibly pink face.
MONOLOGUE: Jude walks out, starts bragging about how he started out on the East End stage like all the other British hosts have, and segues into a narcissistic song-and-dance number. Nothing special, but I liked the Beatles reference near the end.
"Dreamscape Studios": The weird thing is, I wasn't expecting a "Sky Captain" spoof. Then again, who was? Anyway, the star of a computer-enhanced fantasy film (Law) is quickly vexed by the film's clueless director (SM), moronic co-star (AP), and a doofus in a green-screen bodysuit (WF). Once again, the show relies on the absurd-is-funny formula, and dadgummit, it worked!
"The Dyson Toilet": Spoofing those charming vacuum ads, our favorite British inventor (FA) invents a new, affordable, and "perfected" commode. It was funny without getting too nasty.
"Debate #9": In an apparent attempt to milk one last debate sketch out of this year's election, we are now treated to a spoof of Debate #3 that came just ten days too late. Okay, so John Kerry keeps emphasizing the fact that Mary Cheney is a lesbian, whoop dee doo. Outside of a couple good lines, this overwrought stab at political satire has more than run its course.
"Paris Hilton Apologizes": The overexposed heiress-cum-bimbo (MR) admits to feeling sorry for inadvertently using the n-word in one of her sex tapes. Joining her in this admission is her just-divorced kid sister Nicki (Law, who was hilarious) and a clueless Nicole Richie (RD). I would've found this to be a riot if not for the fact that the sight of Paris Hilton now makes me nauseous.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: The child of a lesser Simpson performs her hit song from three months ago, "Pieces of Me." True, it was nothing more than whiny pop piffle, but who am I to complain?
WEEKEND UPDATE: In the third outing of this mock media marianismo, I can now officially say that the Fey-Poehler combo is working out very well, perhaps improving upon the sluggish year Tina had with Jimmy last year. While they were a little less reliant on actual news clips this week (which was good), the ladies also received a visit from Horatio Sanz as the ghost of Babe Ruth (which was largely tepid). Oh, and by the way, "you're welcome."
"C-SPAN Live Coverage": Dubya (WF) and Tony Blair (Law) hold a joint press conference to prove that the war in Iraq was justified and that there is a coalition fighting the increasingly pesky insurgents. Law pulls off another great performance, accurately displaying the prime minister as a pushover and a buffoon. Good thing I don't live in Britain.
"NBC Promo": The Donald (DH) manhandles the recording of a Halloween-themed promo for his sinking reality show "The Apprentice." Hammond flubs a line for the third time in two shows, but it still works.
"Jane Eyre": Pardon my metaphors, but after a string of sketches that went for extra-base hits (no homers, of course), we end up with a ground out to first. While it was moderately amusing, this revisionist yet slight look at the Charlotte Bronte opus finds our very plain heroine (RD) being completely oblivious to the attic goings-on of Mr. Rochester (Law) and his other wife (MR). The problem with this sketch wasn't just the squirrels, folks.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: A pretty good show comes to a screeching halt. Jude introduces Ashlee, as the vocal track from "Pieces of Me" plays while the band is revealed to be only pretending to play their instruments. After a few seconds of awkward posing from the singer, she does a goofy little monkey dance for a little bit before walking off the stage in mid-performance. Several million viewers look in confusion and ask, "what the hell was that?" The answer, my friends, was LIP-SYNC!!!
I'm sorry, but what just happened is perfect example of how SNL is going down the tubes in terms of overall quality. I mean, if you can't sing on live television, then why bother? And if you can't sing period, then what's the point? The fact that this is the second time Ashlee has been caught pretending to caterwaul (the first time being when she bombed at the MTV Video Music Awards) will almost certainly sidetrack, if not destroy, whatever career she had as a pop singer. At least when ABBA lip-synced in on the show in 1975, nobody noticed and nobody cared. And here's the worst part: during the goodnights, she actually had the balls to blame her band in what could go down as one of the single worst musical performances in the three-decade history of the show, though calling it a performance might be putting it too gently.
"Bear City, Part 1": This short film by T. Sean Shannon (of "The Adventures of Harold" fame) finds all civilization taken over by bears in suits and ties. In this first installment, the great Fred Willard narrates an incident between two bears in a fender-bender. Well, at least it kept my mind off Ashlee Simpson.
"The Adventures of Peter O'Toole and Michael Caine": Two caricatures of the great thespians (SM, Law) drunkenly discuss the art of acting with the customers of a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut Express. Kenan Thompson serves as straight man to the old souses, ad-libbing as a reluctant Othello. It's not the fault of the actors or the writers that this sketch went four minutes without a real laugh, but at least they tried.
"Bear City, Part 2": A bear climbing the corporate ladder gets caught insulting his boss, providing an anticlimactic ending to a very unusual show.
The third show of Year 30 was actually quite amusing, with Law effortlessly putting on a above-average performance as host, though one can hope following what happened tonight that he will host again. On the bright side, at least for once an episode like this wasn't the fault of the cast. And where were Fred and Finesse?
Sketches That Will Probably Be Trimmed Out For E!: "Debate #9," both "Bear City" films and both musical performances.
Next Week: The British Invasion continues with Kate Winslet as host and rapper Enimem as (God willing) musical guest.
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