A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Street Fighting Man
Scroll down for my annual recap!
If last week's Will Ferrell show felt like a finale, than consider this the encore. Tonight's host is no stranger to SNL, though he tends to appear at a once-per-decade rate, just enough to be a vague acquaintance. Rock legend Mick Jagger has been a guest on the show three times before (not counting cameos), and the elder statesman will also be pulling double duty as musical guest. In lieu of the Rolling Stones are they feuding? are they not? are two select yet contemporary rock bands playing backup to an undisputed legend. Oh yeah, and Jeff Beck.
And so, here's the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Tonight on Lawrence Welk, our host of hosts (FA) introduces lovelorn Italian crooner Gionni Prosciutto (Jon Hamm), which of course leads to those three comely sisters (AE, VB, NP) from the Finger Lakes and their infamous fourth, Dooneese (KW). Though Gionni is initially repelled, a new twist brings unexpected closure to this bizarre recurring sketch.
MONOLOGUE: In lieu of audience questions, Mick answers his own FAQs. Yes, his favorite Rolling Stone is himself. Yes, he has a great respect for Arcade Fire and Foo Fighters. Yes, he has been suppressing any form of gratification for the last 47 years, or otherwise he can't sing "Satisfaction." Yes, it was self-indulgent but Mick's charm shined through.
"Secret Word": I don't know why, but this recurring game show parody had a boomerang effect on me. I was amused when this first aired, than gradually got annoyed, than grew to appreciate the sketch again. Tonight, Mindy Greyson (KW) continues to dance and sing in her own little world while facing off against a barely closeted Montgomery Clift type (Mick). Who cares if the two imaginary celebs never seem to compete against each other, it (was) a joy ride for Wiigy and whoever was hosting that week.
"Holiday Inn Karaoke": Cooling their heels at an insurance convention, a middle-aged wet blanket (Mick) nitpicks his friends and colleagues' "interpretations" of Stones standards. This was the one meta sketch of the evening, a piece that everyone was sort of expecting, culminating with Mick's somber solo rendition of "Satisfaction." I'm not sure it was worth the payoff, but the audience seemed to eat it up.
DIGITAL SHORT: Yes, it finally happened. Either to make up for being glaringly omitted from last week's 100th anniversary bash or simply because this is what put the Lonely Island on the map I'm leaning towards the latter we were treated to "Lazy Sunday 2." It was the same beat yet not nearly as catchy, but if this was the last short in a fading enterprise, than what a great way to go out.
"Politics Nation": The sole topical sketch of the evening was also the most immediately forgettable. Playing upon the assumption that Al Sharpton (KT) doesn't rehearse or checks his facts barely got us through that first sketch, let alone two. Tonight, however the inexplicable MSNBC host pokes his liberal horns into the JP Morgan accounting blunder from earlier this week, than "focuses" on the American jobs crisis and the seemingly GOP-fueled gridlock.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Six men harmonize gospel-style on the Stones' 1965 "The Last Time," than segues into Mick and Arcade Fire doing their own energetic, rollicking rendition of the oldie-but-goodie.
WEEKEND UPDATE: With this episode, Seth Meyers quietly secures an SNL record: most episodes as Update anchorperson, his 120 shows trumping Tina Fey's 119. Strangely, he wrapped his six year behind the desk in a slump of sorts, pushing through one okay-to-midding joke after another. It all turned out to be an opening act for Stefon (BH), who previews bizarre summer hot spots while struggling not to crack up. "Owned and operated by evil celebrity chef Wario Batali"
"So You Think You Can Dance at an Outdoor Music Festival": With Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza et al. on the horizon, Dave Matthews (BH) hosts this reality show spoof in which hippies and hipsters alike gyrate to jam bands. Fred's cocky Santana impression and Abby's whiny Jewel Kilcher take a backseat to Mick's deconstruction of "American Idol" judge Steven Tyler. The Aerosmith frontman has made an entire career out of emulating Mick, so naturally Jagger slithers into that impression and does the most visceral imitation of Tyler as he can.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Suds introduces Sir Mick and Foo Fighters, who push through a metal version of the Stones' 1966 hit "19th Nervous Breakdown," takes a split-second breather, than chugs through 1974's "It's Only Rock n' Roll."
"The Californians": Recurring already? The SoapNet spoof about well-tanned yuppies, their mirrors, and their fascination with highway directions gets a second installment that more or less plays upon the same dexterous joke. This time around, Mick plays Fred's estranged father, who just married his son's ex-girlfriend (AE). Everybody has a nice tan, and everybody's sleeping with everyone else, just like a typical soap. Also, the sketch closes with (another) cameo that brings the show to a halt for 15-20 seconds, and understandably so.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Mick Jagger explains that he wrote this next song about the coming election, than introduces Jeff Beck as his Keef surrogate. The next four minutes is a generic blues slog; Jagger eschews any subtlety and makes a number of forced puns about Mitt Romney, while Beck plays one uninspired riff after another. In short, "Tea Party (Presidential Blues)" was bullocks.
"Graduation": What begins as a slapdash, almost surreal sketch at a high school ceremony proves to be front for something much greater and momentous: Kristen's departure from SNL. A mere handful of cast members have ever received an on-air sendoff (Phil Hartman, Will Ferrell), and this tribute was affectionate, thoughtful, and well-deserved. Describing this tribute won't do it justice; go watch it on Hulu and try not to get emotional. Love her or hate her, Wiigy was the go-to cast member these past few three or four years, and it goes without saying that SNL will be a different show without her. Though the twist wasn't a major shocker by any means, it was a very fitting sendoff.
Everyone and their grandmother knew tonight's show was going to be heavy on music, but serious and comedic in nature, and from that perspective SNL did not disappoint. Looking at Jagger & Friends as a standalone episode, this was just as much of a grab bag as any other Year 37 episode, bolstered partially by star power and a fond farewell to an all-time SNL great. Sir Mick was an amiable host and always kept his charm and wit beside him, though the new interpretations of Stones hits had enough spark to compensate for its dire lack of revelation.
Segments That Will Probably Be Removed from the 60-Minute Edit: "Politics Nation," most of Update, "So You Think You Can" and "Tea Party."
And now, a retrospective of Season 37:
Last year, I declared Season 36 a transitional year; I admit that I jumped the gun, but in hindsight I don't regret the blown call. Wiig's transition tonight finally moved the wheels turned rebuilding for the near future, and in a season where the delightful late-2000s core began to show its age, the sooner turnover comes the better. Either you thought the show was inconsistent yet still had sparks of brilliance, or you thought it was time to clean house. Regardless of whichever camp you belong to this was not a particularly memorable year for SNL, not awful by any means but certainly undistinguished.
Best Digital Short: "Seducing Women Through Chess"
Honorable Mention: "Laser Cats 7"
Worst Digital Short: "Science Finders"
Best Musical Guest: The Black Keys
Runner-Up: Jack White
Worst Musical Guest: Lana Del Rey
Runner-Up: Michael Buble
Best Host: Melissa McCarthy
Runner-Up: Jimmy Fallon
Worst Host: Lindsay Lohan
Runner-Up: Anna Faris
3. Maya Rudolph/Sleigh Bells
2. Melissa McCarthy/Lady Antebellum
1. Jimmy Fallon/Michael Buble
3. Sofia Vergara/One Direction
2. Anna Faris/Drake
1. Lindsay Lohan/Jack White
The Ten Most Indelible Moments of the Season:
10. Alec Baldwin breaks Steve Martin's record (Baldwin/Radiohead)
9. The epic Weekend Update joke-off (Fallon/Buble)
8. The Muppets! (Segel/Florence)
7. A Whitney Houston "cameo" now too loaded with historical irony (Buscemi/Black Keys)
6. "The Artist" is spoofed with zeal (Deschanel/Karmin)
5. Jon Huntsman can take a joke (Segel/Florence)
4. The cameo overload (various episodes)
3. Nicolas Cage gets in the cage (Deschanel/Karmin)
2. Lana Del Rey crashes and burns (Radcliffe/Del Rey)
1. "She's a Rainbow" (Jagger and Friends)
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