A Review by the Former "Heystu," The Most Sinister of Amateur Critics
Usually when I write these reviews, I usually spend the first paragraph discussing recent SNL-related news and try to put a vague, nonpartisan viewpoint on this topic as a prelude to the actual assessment in itself. Unfortunately for me, when I started writing this I had nothing to talk about. I already stated the status of the season in progress last week, the gossip well has run dry, and nobody else has been caught pretending to sing since Ashlee Simpson essentially torpedoed her career, leaving me with little else to discuss. I have been pondering whether or not I could compare/contrast my personal life to the show, but A) that veers way off the topic and B) nobody cares.
This week, SNL bucks the trend a little by neither presenting a host that is from the UK nor promoting some Oscar-bait movie. In this case, the master of ceremonies is good ol' boy Luke Wilson, whose next project won't be released until early next year. This little tidbit of information is of minimal interest when you consider that U2, one of the show's most memorable musical guests in recent memory, makes a return engagement in a vain attempt to get the audience out of their seats.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: A lukewarm "Apprentice" spoof with an indifferent Dubya (WF) deciding whether or not to fire the already-resigned Colin Powell (FM). As much as I appreciate Darrell Hammond's blunt Rumsfeld impression, I expected so much more out of this.
MONOLOGUE: Luke kisses up to the cast and crew for all their hard work, then recaps a wild night on the town with Horatio Sanz and his trusty digicam. Though it was only moderately interesting, seeing Luke make out with an elderly couple certainly proved that this was a host who was up for anything.
"Debbie Downer": To the dismay of some, this still has legs. Our favorite purveyor of gloom (RD) ruins a Thanksgiving dinner with her mentions of eczema, African diamonds, and the Chinese typhoon season. While it's apparent that Dratch can't make an expression of sadness without contorting her face, she finally cracks up right at the very end of the sketch. Of course, by then it's a little too late.
"The American Trainwreck Awards": Diana Ross (MR) and a strangely flat-chested Anna Nicole Smith (AP) emcee an inspired awards show for celebrity burnouts. Included in this sketch are the obvious jokes toward Nick Nolte and Courtney Love, plus a deliberately woebegone Toby Keith-Josh Groban (RR, Luke) duet, another Ashlee Simpson reference and a last-minute allusion to last Friday's Pacers-Pistons game. Suffice to say, this was too funny for its own good.
CARTOON: A speech by President Bush pertaining to gay marriage leads into the introduction an identity-swapping machine called a "homo-cranial mindmixer." Unfortunately, the only positive effect of the machine is kinky gay-celeb sex, so Bush accidentally transmogrifies himself with his dog. Despite its best intentions, this was a lackadaisical political satire with a one-joke premise.
"Lifelong Friends": Two old buddies (RR and Luke again) bring new meaning to the phrase "finger food" to the disgust and dismay of their girlfriends (AP, MR). While it felt like well-decorated time filler, it also suffered from a discouraging shock-and-awe vibe I haven't seen since Year 20.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: The Edge binges on a monster riff, Adam Clayton reaches for the bottom, Larry Mullen pretends to be bored while playing the drums, and Bono makes love to the camera. Yep, this must be "Vertigo."
WEEKEND UPDATE: Tina can't stop making Clinton jokes, but that's the least of anyone's problems. Ah-nuld (DH) drops by to discuss a possible amendment to the constitution, though the impression in itself has become repetitive. Just before meeting the one-news-clip-per-night quota, a cleaning lady (MR) drops by in awkward silence. But the one bona-fide belly laugh of the night came from toy guru Dan Schwartz (FA), who gives Amy a Bop It-type toy that doubles as a moaning phallus.
"The Coolest Teacher at Benton Township High School": At least the title doesn't give it away. A well-respected educator (SM) is one-upped by a new faculty member (Luke) who's far cooler than he is, until a poorly-executed twist proves otherwise. Strangely, the greatest saving grace of the sketch was the fact that Horatio (as a twenty-something student) cracked up for the first time since last season.
"The Falconer": Will Forte's upper-appreciated woodsman finds himself in peril yet again, and the situation only gets worse when a yodeling dog lover (Luke) creates a monstrous rockslide. And like he always does, Donald the Falcon and his new canine friend take a detour to the state fair, where they ride roller coasters and upchuck. But when the going gets tough, Donald saves the day yet again. There is something predictable about each edition of the recurring sketch, but they are oddly appealing.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Sometimes you can become international superstars with a remarkably long shelf life, but "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own."
"Business Trip": A concept sketch in which three guys in a bar (Luke, SM, KT) admit their hatred for their jobs, discuss the conflict in Iraq, but most of all get drunk and unwieldy. I guess it was worth a chuckle or two.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: At first it looks like they're ending the show a couple of minutes early, but then Luke Wilson and Bono stand up and we close the show out with the raging "I Will Follow." It's a cool song and everything (it's one of my favorite tunes by the band), but doesn't it scare you that the song is almost 25 years old? And as promised by our inner desires, Bono does jump off the stage and get hands-on with his audience, then (seemingly) gropes Poehler. But before we can hear a second encore that may or may not have been "(Pride) In the Name of Love," the show draws to a close.
Wow. Wowee wow wow. I knew U2 would put on a great performance, but I totally wasn't expecting this. In fact, a stint this memorable makes you almost forget Luke Wilson's middling turn as host and roughly five or six mediocre sketches. All in all, this was a satisfying show, soaring almost entirely on Bono's theatrics.
Sketches That Will Probably Be Removed In Repeats: "Lifelong Friends," "The Coolest Teacher at BTHS," and "Business Trip."
Next Week: Probably a rerun or another unnecessary "Best of" special. Or better yet, a rerun of a "Best of" special.
On The Next Live Broadcast: Euro-centrism continues to rage on December 11 with Irish badboy Colin Farrell as host with expatriot pop-rockers The Scissor Sisters as musical guest.
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