A Review by “HelloStuart,” Amateur Critic and Morally Ambiguous Highway Cop
The recent hype surrounding SNL following the cult success of Andy Samberg’s various digital shorts has consequently led to an increase in media for the show and its swollen cast. Some interviews have been wry and insightful (the four featured players in The Onion AV Club, 3/8/06), while others have been straightforward yet bordering on superfluous (Seth Meyers at tvguide.com, 3/10/06). Both interviews were quite informative, but TV Guide shouldn’t try to be funnier than the comedian they’re conversing with.
This week’s host is Matt Dillon, the forty-something big-screen heartthrob who made a comeback of sorts with his Oscar-nominated performance in “Crash.” This week’s musical guests are The Arctic Monkeys, the British garage-rock band and alleged saviors of the British power-pop movement. A recent write-up in Time magazine declared them as the next great rock band, and a quick listen to their debut album has me convinced that even though “Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I Am Not” is far from a masterpiece, they’re destined to go places.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Four college girls (RD, AP, MR, KW) plan out their Spring Break trips in all their druggy, lurid and hedonistic glory with a set of parents within earshot. When you think about it, Chris Parnell and Paula Pell could possibly pass off as Rachel’s parents if she were about ten years younger. Also, I give my regards to the writers for finally making light of the most annoying news story of last year, the search for Natalie Holloway. Seriously, does anyone care besides Greta Van Susteren? (pause) Good, I didn’t think so.
MONOLOGUE: Johnny Drama’s big brother gloats about his Academy Award nomination, then proceeds to read an unused acceptance speech that pretty much kisses up to all the minorities he potentially offended during the filming of “Crash.” And after that speech, race relations were never an issue again…
“prisonmate.net”: The old cliché of desperate women finding commitment from prison inmates is beaten again for the sake of giving Finesse some much-needed screen time.
“SportsCenter”: Seth, you do not fool me- your Dan Patrick impression sucked. Either way, this topical sketch (which should’ve been the cold opening, by the way) interrogates Barry Bonds (KT), his trainer-cum-dealer (Matt), and Lou the Seal (AS) in this latest wave of steroid allegations.
FILM: Seth, Andy, and Jason search for look-alikes while eating lunch, but things turn for the worse when one is apparently confused for a street person (HS). Granted, this was far from being the best Lonely Island piece that has appeared on the show, but at least it wasn’t completely boring.
“Two A-Holes at a Travel Agency”: Remember what I said in my review of Black/Young? Well, my assumption was correct, because the A-Holes are back, and now they’re irking a mild-mannered travel agent (Matt). Sadly, it appears that they’ve already become one-joke characters, of which SNL has a bountiful supply.
“How to Order Sushi Like a CEO”: A self-absorbed blowhard in a suit (Matt) shows you the proper way to consume Japanese cuisine, though more than meets the eye. Maya is wasted in a supporting role as the waitress, but overall this was an example of taking a risk and not succeeding.
“JJ Casuals”: Before “Lazy Sunday” saved the day, Andy’s impression of Jack Johnson seemed to be his only claim to fame. Watching an ad spoof that already appeared earlier in the season tends to put weird little factoids like that into context.
“Joplin: Alive! Podcast”: Live from a Bennigan’s in southwestern Missouri, two locals host an internet talk show with topics ranging from ditzy ex-girlfriends to community events, all the while subconsciously mocking the banality of life in a small, rural city off I-44. How can you tell? Their one guest is a local (AS) who speaks with a bad French accent and openly expresses a desire to “party with party girls.” In other words, this was funny for its texture and characterization, and not for the laugh-out-loud moments that isn’t always necessary.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: The influence of Oasis and The Strokes is very obvious in the Monkeys’ first American single, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor.”
WEEKEND UPDATE: This must the first time in recorded history that anyone (and I mean anyone) has ever made a joke about Major League Soccer, or for that matter, the New Jersey Metrostars. So what if Amy’s gag bombed, at least someone reads the next-to-last page of the sports section. As for Update, it was your typical hit-and-miss affair; Tina’s joke about American soldiers going AWOL in Iraq being a much-needed “exit strategy” will probably be quoted ad nauseum by the media for the next week; a commentary by Horatio as an Arab spokesperson in the port protection controversy skimmed the issue to focus on dated pop culture clichés; Will Forte’s “picto-songo-gram” about Iraq’s divided populous was equally simplistic and delirious.
“Vincent Price’s St. Patrick Day’s Special”: In the latest artifact from the TV Land treasure troves, the King of the Grand Guignol (BH) puts up with a one-sided conversation with Katherine Hepburn (KW) before being dressed down by Rod Serling (Matt) in a forgotten TV special. Oh, and for whatever reason Don Knotts (DH) yuks it up too.
“Inner Harmony”: A recording session for a mediation CD is hampered when one of the voiceover artists (Matt) is incapable of speaking in a soothing manner. It’s tough to say what hurt this sketch most- the tepid writing, the lack of response from the audience, or Dillon’s unfunny, dragged-out mea culpa.
“Appalachian Emergency Room”: More redneck-stereotyping hijinks, including Mrs. Denmont’s (MR) desire to “tighten her baby hole.” Though the cameos from Neil Young and Johnny Knoxville made it a bit more digestible last time around, this sketch has been officially overheated one too many times.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: No aping around these parts- the sons of Sheffield play the album track “A Certain Romance” before trashing their instruments and nonchalantly walking offstage.
“DeCicco Brothers’ Unicornery”: Apparently, horse-like mythical creatures are now being sold on retail in Passaic, New Jersey. I can hear it now: “Hey ma, I’m headin’ to da WaWa, then pickin’ up a unicorn and a six-pack of Ballantine. Jeet yet?” Not to stereotype, of course.
In spite of a slight improvement over the unevenness of the Portman/FOB broadcast, we now see SNL going into its annual midseason lull. After taking a backseat to the Samberg’s “Lazy Sunday” hype, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig moved toward front and center to become the MVPs of tonight’s broadcast; their performances alone in the “Vincent Price” sketch seemed to have a rapport not unlike Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer nearly ten years ago. Matt Dillon proved to be another “fun” host though he did battle a certain deer-in-the-headlights awkwardness at various points in the broadcast. Also, did the Arctic Monkeys seem a little stiff, or did they simply not care about where they were tonight?
Sketches That Will Probably Be Removed in Repeats: “How to Order Sushi Like a CEO,” “JJ Casuals,” Farhad Nsar’s commentary on Weekend Update, “Inner Harmony,” and “DeCicco Brothers’ Unicornery.”
In Four Weeks: Yeah, you heard me- another four-week layover, all because NBC cancelled the March 18th broadcast under unknown circumstances. Anyhoo, on April 8th Antonio Banderas hosts with the musical guest not yet determined.
The writer known as “HelloStuart” is a junior at Illinois State University. Feel free to PM him or leave him a message at email@example.com.