A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and National Treasure
Let's face it: this season has been an improvement over last year, if not very slightly. The departure of Jimmy Fallon has created a tighter ensemble, even if the writing is still a little raw. Will Forte is finally receiving the attention he deserves, with all due thanks to his down-to-earth Bush impression, while Seth Meyers has done a great job since assuming the go-to guy position from J.Fa. If there's anything else to nitpick, it's how the three featured players have been a virtual non-factor; in fact, Finesse Mitchell had a speaking role in only one episode thus far. Funny how Lorne keeps losing minority-group cast members this way
This week's host is acclaimed Irish actor Liam Neeson, promoting the Oscar-bait bio-drama "Kinsey" and becoming the third native of the United Kingdom in a row to host SNL. It's almost a shame Ashlee Simpson couldn't come back to the show, considering how they both seem to know a lot about faking. Instead, we have the Washington state-based indie-rockers Modest Mouse, who are best known for their insanely catchy from last summer, "Float On." Considering that MM is one of my favorite bands, I will do my best to avoid any bias.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Retreated to his own personal paradise, John Kerry (SM) calls up our recently reelected president (WF), who bitches and moans that he's picking up the pieces of the "previous" administration. To throw everyone into a loop, we discover that Al Gore (DH) is chillin' with the Kerrys, that Dubya knows his Disney movies, and that the election jokes have already gone stale.
MONOLOGUE: Qui-Gon Jinn just wants everybody to know that just because he's Irish doesn't mean he's going to play any comedy-rich stereotypes tonight. Finesse Mitchell, Horatio Sanz, Maya Rudolph, Will Forte, Darrell Hammond, Fred Armisen (as the Native American comic), an Eskimo and a closeted Hasidic Jew agree.
"Wedding Jitters": Star Jones (KT) rages as a full-fury bridezilla, much to the chagrin of her fiancé/puppet Al Reynolds (FM). She also receives a number of phone calls from her celebrity friends Liza Minnelli (MR, who was essentially phoning it in), Barbara Walters and Sean Connery (RD and Liam, who were an amorous hoot), and one of Star's moocher cousins (JB Smoove). If there wasn't such a silly quota on the show, Smoove would be a cast member by now, but otherwise he's stuck with minor roles in lackadaisical topical sketches.
I would take this time now to admit that those "SNL Trivial Pursuit" commercials are really annoying.
"Ya Call This A House, Do Ya?" First Finesse breaks his promise of not appearing in any sketches tonight. Now, the host shatters a pinky-swear of his own by playing an Irish stereotype. On this spoof of shows such as "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" and "While You Were Out," a Ty Willingham-type (SM) resembling William Fitzpatrick rearranges a cottage resided by a passive-aggressive drunk (Liam) and his doting wife (AP). Gimmicky, but nothing that will make Erin Go Bragh.
"Dr. Porkenheimer's Boner Juice": Or as I call it, "Huggies Thong '04."
"My Date's Parrot": A skittish widower (Liam) is nearly put off by Jasper (FA), the enormous and interfering pet of his willing date (RD). No offense, but doesn't it bother anyone how Fred seems to keep taking all the cutesy roles?
"Wake Up San Diego": The obnoxious hosts of a morning talk show (MR, Liam) won't stop dancing to the cringe-inducing background music selected by their producer (CP). While it seems that the sketch would have a one-joke nature, the gag goes full steam ahead when an interview with a modern-day Job (KT) is rewarded with a copy of the show's soundtrack. Much like "Morning Latte" before it, this was more annoying than funny.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Yaa-hoo! They played "Float On"! Praise the Lord that they didn't lip-sync!
WEEKEND UPDATE: For the second episode in a row, "Update" goes over ten minutes in length, possibly as a way to block out lesser sketches that might end up in the last half-hour of the show. In tonight's jam-packed edition, Tina Fey finally musters up the energy to finally crack wise about the Scott Pederson trial (seriously, what took her so long?), John Ashcroft (DH) continues to spew his bigoted agenda even after he quit the Bush Administration, Tina and Amy recreate an embarrassing incident involving Tara Reid, a frat boy (SM) comments on the election despite an obsession with the Coors Light twins, the ladies join forces to sing something called "The Party's Cancelled," and a deaf comedian (FA) makes racist jokes to the vexation of his translator (KT). Quite possibly the tightest thirteen and a half minutes on television.
"Appelachian Emergency Room": I swear, it's like Lorne is trying to turn this into a movie or something. On the bright side, it's as funny as all heck. This week, we have more of the same wacky injuries, including a trucker (Liam) with ten hypodermic needles in his back and Tyler's (CP) latest rectal mishap.
"Drug-Sniffing Dog": Now what we have here is a sketch that defies all logic, yet has its moments. A hippie couple (Liam, AP) left their stash inside a police station, then have a hard time convincing the officer on duty (CP) to rent out one of their crime dogs. Lucky for them, this stew of absurdity boils over when they meet another cop (KT) who is more than willing to take a toke or two.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Has anyone seen the video for "Ocean Breathes Salty"? It's cute, but didn't the chemistry between the nerdy little kid and the guy in the bird outfit seem a little creepy to you? But I shouldn't let myself get distracted- this is a good song.
And so, the lightweight winning streak continues. For the first time all season, I witnessed a broadcast that was actually well balanced if not a little spotty. Neeson was a little wooden but otherwise amicable in a rare television performance, and Modest Mouse provided a distinctly organic sound that the music on the show has desperately needed in recent weeks. But before I go, I just want to give kudos to Kenan Thompson and Finesse Mitchell for proving that they could play a meaty role in the show no matter what race, creed, or ethnicity the host of musical guest can be.
Sketches You Will Probably Never See Again: "Dr. Porkenheimer's Boner Juice," "Wake Up San Diego," half of Update, and "Drug-Sniffing Dog."
Next Week: One of the Wilson brothers (Owen? Luke? Brian?) hosts with U2 keeping the Eurocentric trend alive.
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