A Review by the Former "Heystu," Amateur Critic and Soldier of Fortune
My oh my, what a crazy week this has been. Following the Ashlee Simpson debacle of last week (which resulted in my admittedly unfocused post-show rant), I've been hearing all sorts of excuses, complaints, and conspiracy theories about the so-called singer. I do savor the fact, however, that her father/agent/svengali is essentially just putting words into her mouth in an effort to save face. This way, it makes it relatively unclear as to whether or not she is the victim is this whole mess. But before this turns into one of those major news stories that you instantly get sick and tired of hearing of (shades of Laci Peterson, perhaps?) we must move forward with this week's show.
Hosting for the first time this week is two-time Academy Award nominee Kate Winslet, a much-respected actress who will essentially take her top off as long as you ask politely. This week's musical guest is our old buddy Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem, who (I assume) is dropping by to make some last-minute stumping on his anti-Bush, somewhat ambiguous political pseudo-campaign to get twenty-something slackers like me to get out and vote. Oh yeah, and he has a new album coming out.
And now, he sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: The show is interrupted by an NBC Special Report, where Tom Brokaw (CP) segues into footage from the latest video from Osama bin Laden (SM). Apparently, the elusive terror junkie is annoyed by people persuading him to vote for either Bush or Kerry. He also remarks that even he doesn't believe everything Michael Moore says, his main issue in the election is health care, and he has a personal vendetta towards a certain lip-synching pop singer. Even with Jim Downey's hands all over it (he even did the voiceover), this was probably the single funniest political sketch thus far this season.
MONOLOGUE: Kate walks onstage, comments briefly on last week's incident, then does a tap-dance number to prove that she's live. Yawn.
"Rap Night with Chubb Hotty": This smells like a potential recurring character. A morbidally obese hip-hop star (HS) disgusts his DJ (KT) and guest Norah Jones (Kate) with his bizarre eating habits. I don't know how he pulled it off, but this literal ton of fat jokes actually worked.
"Mrs. Dr. Frankenstein": The effeminate woman-made monster (FA) doesn't impress the three friends of biological clock-obsessed scientist Colleen Frankenstein (Kate), even when he performs a little ZZ Top on the karaoke machine. Outside of Chris Parnell's surprisingly convincing Igor, this sketch was neither trick nor treat.
CARTOON: It's time once again for "Fun With Real Audio," as onetime presidential hopeful John McCain finds himself unsure about a speech he has to make at a pro-Bush rally, only to flip out in his trailer. Nothing special, really.
"At The Rally": Bill Clinton (DH) teaches John Kerry (SM) a thing or two about winning over the audience. While the sketch is accurate in portraying Kerry's nerdy feebleness, I have must nitpick that Will Forte's Bruce Springsteen impression looks way too much like Quentin Tarantino.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: What do ya know, it's that Bush-whacking song! (If it matters, it's called "Mosh.")
WEEKEND UPDATE: This week, Tina makes a few last-minute election jokes, Amy reports on all the pop stars who are supposedly defending Ashlee Simpson, Seth Meyers brags about being friends with Johnny Damon, Will Forte belches out an ode to All Hallow's Eve, some guy from Peru (FA) annoys people at the citizenship ceremony at Democracy Plaza, and a sedated Elton John (HS) pops up yet again to further stir the lip-sync controversy. Despite a few weak spots, this felt like the first truly normal edition of "Update" in months.
"Caitlin at the Mall": Gee, was anyone expecting her again? In her second outing, the annoyingly rambunctious preteen (AP) persuades her cousin (Kate) to pierce her ears but chickens out to the delight of her much-put-upon stepfather (HS). What makes this all kind of sad is that this little girl bears more than a passing resemblance to me when I was her age- bothersome, hyper, and perpetually ready to get beaten up. Ah, memories…
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Rather than perform the first single first, our man Marshall performs his bouncy Michael Jackson rant "Just Lose It" with just twenty minutes left in the show. While hip-hop may not be my cup of tea, you have to admit that it's infectious.
"Goodwin Wig & Toy": After a two-season absence, we learn that Maya Rudolph's rigid attorney/talk show host is now operating a costume shop specializing in non-scary outfits. While I appreciated the "Elf" action figure in the background, I thought Glenda's threats of injuring people in the nether regions were a little forced.
"Decision 2004": Parnell rolls out the Brokaw impression one more time tonight, discussing the color scheme of the Republican, Democrat, and undetermined states with Tim Russert (DH). A dry, yet witty satire that somewhat effectively clears our minds about the whole mess they call the political process.
And so, the fourth episode of Year 30 drew to a close, with our more-than-qualified host appearing in only three sketches, not that it hurt another surprisingly noble effort by the cast. Eminem proved himself to be the best musical guest so far in this young season. With the controversy still swirling over last week, the writers succeeded in putting their tongues firmly in cheek and made sure everyone had a good time. Speaking of which, much to my surprise, I discovered that Andrew Steele as co-head writer a month into the season, leaving me wonder what became of the talented Dennis McNicholas. And if I might ask, how many episodes will Finesse be shut out of before he just gives up and leaves?
Sketches That Will Probably Be Removed In Repeats: Most of Weekend Update, "At the Rally," and "Goodwin Wig & Toy."
Next Week: SNL honors yet another one of it's all-time great hosts with "The Best of Tom Hanks."
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