A Review by “HelloStuart,” the Well-Rested Amateur Critic
I can’t believe it’s been an entire month since I wrote my last review; though I definitely missed the show, it does feel invigorating to take some time off before Year 31 goes down the home stretch. Given how crazy my first semester at Illinois State University has been, the Olympics-induced sabbatical was exactly what I needed to replenish my creative juices.
I’m actually somewhat thrilled by the fact that Fall Out Boy is tonight’s musical guest. Being a native Chicagoan, I’m always happy to see somebody local hit the big time. I remember about five years ago when a band from my high school opened for them. (Coincidentally, the bassist for this particular band is now with The Fold, who just released their debut album last month. Keith Mochel, the eyes of Downers Grove are cast upon you with grace.) This week’s host is Natalie Portman, the “it” actress currently starring in the film “V for Vendetta.” Academy Award nominees (past or present) tend to be effective hosts, but only when they prove to be good judges of comedy.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: El Presidente (WF) summarizes and responds to everything that’s been thrown at him in the last month (Portgate, Katrina, the trade deficit, etc.) in the weakest political sketch yet this season. I hate to break it to you, but “The Onion” pulled off that Di-Tech joke nearly two years ago; don’t rip off McSweeney’s next.
MONOLOGUE: The late, great Senator Padme Amidala fields the inevitable Star Wars questions from the audience (played by cast members, and not writers as usual), but lucky for us her knack for detail brings down this gaggle of geeks with one fell swoop. Questions about head lice and pedophilia are also quashed.
“Nelson’s Baby Toupees”: This repeated ad spoof, funny as it may be, is only a sad reminder of how Bill Hader’s stock has fallen since Andy Samberg’s post-“Lazy Sunday” lunge into the spotlight.
“Jamba Juice”: Three over-caffeinated employees (Nat, SM, HS) for the up-and-coming smoothie chain irk their customers with their hammy enthusiasm. Apparently, even after a midseason break Horatio can’t keep a straight face, but I won’t take it against him. After all, how can you resist a peppy little spaz like Natalie’s cashier girl?
“Larry King Live”: Oh my goodness, Army does an incredible Larry King impression; if only the sketch were as funny as he was. Transsexuals in the topic on tonight’s show, with Felicity Huffman (KW) and four people that have been either directly or indirectly affected by sex change operations. King’s senile confusion was a real treat, even if Armisen was a one-man band.
“The Couple That Should Be Divorced”: The Needlers/Harrisons (SM, AP) continue to rip at each other at a fertility clinic run by tonight’s host. The jabs are a bit more vicious than usual, but otherwise it’s the same old sketch in a different setting.
“Belated Black History Moment”: Dennis Haysbert of “24” fame examine the history of African-Americans in mediocre, half-forgotten Saturday morning cartoons. “Token Power” (featuring characters from Peanuts, “Josie & The Pussycats,” and “Ghostbusters”) coasts on its own randomness, while “The Hoke & Daisy Show” is a forgettable send-up of “Driving Miss Daisy.” The third cartoon, “Ladysmith Black Mambazo in Outer Space,” is a so-stupid-its-funny, blink-and-you-missed-it piece of two-dimensional absurdity.
“Art Dealers”: Speaking of absurdity, Nuni and Nuné (FA, MR) are rescued from the dung heap of forgettable recurring characters at least one more time to meet up with their daughter’s straight-laced boyfriend (JS). Melted ice cream is consumed and chairs made of hair are sat upon. All in all, I’m sick of the Art Dealers.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: The lads from Wilmette bounce like monkeys to their most recent hit “Dance, Dance.” According to my girlfriend, the chicks dig it.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Yep, more Bush jabs; were you expecting anything besides that? Donald Trump (DH) comments on his public feud with Martha Stewart; Sasha Cohen (Nat) tells a few story jokes and bombs, Kenan introduces his clothing line for black men in drag, which evidently gives Finesse a minute to prove that he’s still a cast member (he’s on the outs, and you know it), and Amy thanks “C. Brandon Brandy” after winning an Oscar for a weak, Leno-type topical joke.
“Sheldon’s Bar Mitzvah”: It’s been over two years since we last saw the “Wake Up, Wakefield” gang- why bring them back now? Wait a minute- I had nearly forgotten that this was a funny sketch. The painfully awkward adolescence of Meghan and Sheldon (MR, RD) rambles on as our bushy-haired hero makes his way to manhood. Nevertheless, Sheldon is preoccupied with a much-needed romantic entanglement that sours the special occasion, while Adam Levine becomes Meghan’s latest Randy Goldman surrogate. At least Jazz Times Ten has the versatility to combine klezmer with 70’s-era funk…
FILM: During a fluffy interview with Chris Parnell, Natalie unleashes a monster freestyle rap about who she really is. Though it may be derivative of a certain digital piece that aired three months ago, I have to give extra points to Samberg and his Viking helmet for coming out of nowhere to duet with our wannabe gangsta.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Their moderate critical acclaim continues to elude me for their big hit from six months ago “Sugar, We’re Going Down.” Watch out for projectile bass guitars!
“RAM 3000”: Apparently, the show ran long again, so we’re stuck with seeing this ad spoof for the 1,684th time to keep our appetites satisfied before the goodnights.
Tonight’s broadcast was not a crash landing, but compared to more recent broadcasts this was a very lopsided affair. Portman had a great time and it showed, but there have been better hosts this season. Despite the hometown pride, Fall Out Boy made quite an impression but couldn’t avoid being one of the weaker musical guests of recent memory; despite their success, they seem disinclined to move away from the college campus-type cult following they’ve built up. The writing, as usual, was the real culprit, as the show resorts to recurring characters after avoiding them successfully four weeks ago.
Next Week: Academy Award nominee Matt Dillon (“Crash”) is your host with musical guest The Arctic Monkeys.
Sketches/Segments That Will Probably Be Edited in Repeats: “Nelson’s Baby Toupees,” “Art Dealers,” Weekend Update, and “RAM 3000.”
Questions or comments? Feel free to write “HelloStuart” a PM here at TV.com or send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.