Saturday Night Live

Season 34 Episode 12

Neil Patrick Harris/Taylor Swift

Aired Saturday 11:30 PM Jan 10, 2009 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (7)

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  • "Suit Up!"

    A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Fiery Latina

    After a month off, the SNL comedy wagon sets up shop for the calendar year 2009. Of course, after four weeks on hiatus the creative staff is refreshed and raring to go after the previous live broadcast, perhaps the weakest episode this season not hosted by a gawky, emotionless Olympic swimmer. Fred Armisen's portrayal of Gov. David Paterson was perceived as an insult towards the visually impaired (that quickly died down), but the less said about Kanye West, the better…

    This week's host is Neil Patrick Harris, the child star turned veteran TV actor best known and loved as Doogie Howser, MD… or Barney Stinson if you're under the age of 20. The musical guest is Taylor Swift, the perky blonde country-pop singer behind the best-selling album "Fearless." With any luck, Swift will augment her performance with a giant screen, rap about her feelings in an unfocused manner, than get distracted by an off-camera gaffe and flip out, because nothing like that has happened on SNL lately.

    Without further ado, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:

    COLD OPENING: Tonight on "The Rachel Maddow Show," the most powerful lesbian in the news media not named Ted Koppel (AE) lobs softballs and lends a sympathetic ear towards Roland Burris (KT), whose attempts to enter the senate chambers are denied in an almost cartoonish manner. In turn, impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (JS) makes a string of gay slurs and seems dissonantly unfazed by the prospect of being forced out of office.

    MONOLOGUE: The greatest (albeit inadvertent) spokesman in the history of White Castle admits that he almost hosted in 1990, but NPH was passed over for Fred Savage. We end up with two monologues for the price of one, as his obsessed diatribe against the "Wonder Years" star awkwardly segues into three hecklers (FA, BH, BM) making lame "How I Met Your Mother" jokes, followed by a contrived appearance from Mark Wahlberg (AS). This neither doubled the pleasure nor doubled the fun.

    "Today": The gratuitous fourth hour of the morning chat-fest finds Hoda "The Giddy Egyptian" Kotb (MW) playing straight man to egomaniac/aging succubus Kathie Lee Gifford (KW). Bantering about pizza in vending machines and pantyhose for men gives way to non-sequitors from Regis' sloppy seconds. This unsettlingly precise dig at the doldrums of network daytime television ends with a D-list fitness guru (NPH) punching and thrusting with reckless abandon and Kathie Lee becoming the victim of her own brazen aloofness.

    "Curtains for Broadway?": The Phantom of the Opera (JS), Mark from "Rent" (NPH), and the stars of various other Great White Way mainstays fight for their survival as the economy hinders the average theater fan's urge to buy $150 tickets. The Music Man (BH) resorts to selling steak knives, while a puppeteer from "Avenue Q" (AE) moonlights as something quite unprintable, yet apropos for such a raunchy musical. Ensemble sketches tend to be heavy on banter and light on plot, but America's dire financial straits looms large in this piece and gives it a relevant kind of levity.

    "Penelope in Group Therapy": Same character, same joke, new locale. Was it just me, or did you see that DVD gag coming from a mile away? I guess this bit is still funny, but the only real variation was namedropping Liza Minnelli, followed by a cameo from the actress-singer-dancer herself.

    DIGITAL SHORT: Neil and an orchestra of blond wigs and white lab coats perform the "Doogie Howser M.D." theme song. As I warned you before, no one born after 1988 would understand the reference, but hearing that song brought back vague memories of an above-average family sitcom that was cancelled when I was 8 ½ years old.

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "Love Story" has intriguing romantic imagery and numerous allusions to "Romeo & Juliet," but it feels like a Kelly Clarkson imitation.

    WEEKEND UPDATE: Seth's first true solo venture goes swimmingly, and that says a lot. A commentary by Charles Barkley wasn't quite the dead-in-the-water, let's-see-what's-on-other-channels experience that we've come to expect from Kenan, and "college sports fan" Will Forte and his sarcastic musical tribute to the Bowl Championship Series wasn't half-bad.

    "Two First Names": Neil Patrick Harris, Jamie Lynn Spears (AE), David Lee Roth (FA), Philip Seymour Hoffman (JS), Michael Clarke Duncan (KT), Tommy Lee Jones (DH), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (MW), Daniel Day-Lewis (BH), the worst Billy Bob Thornton impression ever (AS), and Joe Pantoliano (FA) sit around and… do stuff. Seriously, who in the hell wrote this?

    "Air Traffic Control": Two southern belles (KW, NPH) with ridiculously long fingernails shoot the breeze while guiding Delta flight 425 to Hartford. It's a slice of life vignette, assembled around two vaguely defined characters doing plodding physical humor at the speed of molasses.

    "Frost/Other People": Following the Oscar buzz of the movie adaptation of the play based on a series of TV interviews from 30+ years ago, David Frost (NPH) grills other '70s pop culture icons with similar persistence. The British talk show great grills David Bowie (BH) about his space-travel credentials, than finally gets to the heart of the Doobie Brothers' random appearance on "What's Happening" via a nervous Fred Berry (KT).

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: I have little doubt that Taylor is a gifted songwriter, but "Forever & Always" is orchestrated like a variation on "Since U Been Gone," right down to the girl-power guitar chops and the schoolgirl jumper. Does anyone remember the exact moment Taylor's guitar and mic stand disappeared? Neither do I.

    "Whopper Virgins": The culturally insensitive Burger King ads take on a village in Romania, where three locals (FA, BM, MW) are baffled by the concept of a cheeseburger. This was pretty funny, but it won't age well in repeat viewings.

    After a rare clunker show and the excepted holiday hibernation, it seems that our show is back on track, at least for the time being. Three of the four featured players were front and center in tonight's show, with Abby Elliott finally earning her breakout moment in the cold opening and Bob Moynihan and Mike Watkins playing several prominent parts. This was also the first post-Poehler show, and her presence was missed only in fleeting moments, like the newly airbrushed Weekend Update intro. Harris was the latest in a line of fun hosts, and I pose no opposition to seeing him host again.

    Segments That Will Probably Be Removed in Repeats: "Two First Names," "Air Traffic Control," "Forever & Always," and "Whopper Virgins."

    Next Week: "Seven Pounds" star Rosario Dawson hosts with indie-pop troubadours Fleet Foxes as her musical guest.

    "HelloStuart" is based in Downers Grove, IL, home of the four-eared cat that was all over the news six months ago. Contact him at
  • A pleasure

    I decide to get into SNL, so the first episode i watched was this one. It was very funny, and it kept me watching.

    Rachel Maddow Opening: Pretty good. The Blagejovich impersonation was very funny.

    NPH opening: A fine opening, enough said.

    Today Show: Kathie Lee Gifford was annoying, but then again, i got some laughs out of this one.

    Broadway: Very memorable. Similar to the save the comics skit in the Zac Efron episode that aired about 3 months after. This one was significantly better.

    Penelope: Annoying but funny. Penelope's personality was a bit obnoxious, but a lot better than Gilly from Kristen Wiig

    Digital Short: Well done!

    WU: Seth Myers is strong on his own. Charles Barkley was good, and Will Forte's BCS song was extremely funny.

    2 First names: Original and well done. The idea is a bit underdevelopped, but the impersonationations were remarkable.

    Long nails: Didn't find this one funny

    Frost: Pretty good

    Whopper virgins: Original, but not as good as i had expected
  • It was horrid.

    The episode was unoriginal, had very untalented people in it. Also, the plot was not professional. The blond was very bad at every single thing she did. I think that they should like just totally delet this one from the like snl books and make sure that no one ever sees it again.The episode was unoriginal, had very untalented people in it. Also, the plot was not professional. The blond was very bad at every single thing she did. I think that they should like just totally delet this one from the like snl books and make sure that no one ever sees it again.
  • Good episode!

    I've never seen How I Met Your Mother, but I used to watch NPH on Doogie Howser when I was a kid. The monologue was kinda funny: basically the cast members telling him bad "how i met your mother" jokes. The better sketches of this episode were the "save broadway", 2 air traffic control women with extremely long fingernails, and the roland burris opening. The Penelope at group therapy skit was funny. Kristin Wiig is great!!
    i didn't really care for the "frost/other people" (satirizing the frost/nixon movie) or the skit about people with 2 first names (Neil Patrick Harris, jamie lynn spears, etc.). Also, the skit about the Today show was not that good, except Neil was hilarious as a Richard Simmons-like aerobics instructor.

    But the best skit was the digital short, with NPH playing the Doogie Howser theme on a keyboard, and the cast members joining in on other instruments, and all dressed like Doogie. Classic!
  • They're not gonna phone that oh so regularly dull January episode in tonight!

    As soon as I knew that Neil Patrick Harris was going to be our host this evening, I knew we'd be in for a good episode. But, then I thought, "well, SNL usually goes into a drab form in January episodes", so I was wondering if we'd continue that trend. We left off on a rather off Christmas episode with Hugh Laurie, which I also expected to be good, but did not stand up to par, so, how am I so sure tonight will be good? I'm not. And I'm not especially with Taylor Swift as musical guest. Her songs are sappy, but that's not the only reason I'm not excited for her guesting on tonight's episode: It's also because I heard her perform live on New Years Eve. Eeek. Let's keep a look out on that.

    So, yeah, NPH is our host tonight, with musical guest Taylor Swift. The cast has finally taken a worthy break, unlike how they've been breaking for the past 3 months or so, with 1 week breaks (not even at times) sprinkled through the first half of the season. So, I know the cast will have energy. It's the writing that's the verdict.

    The Rachel Maddow Show: Wow! Abby gets really good screen time! I'm happy to see that! Of course, those pictures of Burris being removed were funny. Also, it was nice to see Jason's Blagojevich back on, and obviously, the audience was happy to see it back on, also.

    Monologue: After quick one liners from hecklers in the audience to NPH about how they 'met' his mother, Mark Wahlberg suddenly enters and tells them to stop. That was a very funny twist that gave me the vibe of the cast saying "we're gonna try this week!".

    Today: Hoda Kotb and that annoying cartoon woman, Kathie Lee Gifford present the fourth hour of Today, and Kathie goes way to far with her little jokes, while she can't take a hit from Hoda. This was pretty funny, but, I've gotta say, why didn't Neil Patrick play that Biggest Loser trainer, Bob, instead of a made up trainer? He looks just like him! Also, maybe this could have been put off until the 3rd commercial sketch, or something.

    Musical Meeting: Broadway is going down with the recession, and all the actors of broadway meet to see what they can do. I thought this was a very entertaining sketch. Darrell's Stomp made me laugh a lot, as did most of the characters. It was interesting to see how Taylor got no applause. I'm not even sure if people recognized her.

    Penelope at Group Counseling: I saw this in the dress promo, and went "oh boy." Penelope was very funny in the Peyton Manning and Molly Shannon episodes, and, if it werent' so rushed, she was kinda funny in the LeBron James episode. But, that Amy Adams sketch was so not funny, so I was wondering what would become of tonight's return. It was actually more of a delight than not. They got a little more creative this time around, and, of course, Liza Minnelli coming out was great.

    Doogie Howser M.D. Theme: It was nice to see a digital short that wasn't aiming for the funny goofy song as much as the entertaining song. This was just as entertaining as the rest of the show has been thus far.

    Musical Performance: Taylor Swift performs "Love Story". She did much better than she was on New Year Eve, but, still, I'm just not a fan of her music.

    Weekend Update with SETH MEYERS: Interesting to see how the theme is the same, just with new pictures. They also shortened the desk a little bit. For his first Update around alone (I mean official, now), he did very well. Charles Barkley was actually tolerable, if not funny! Will Forte has had better Update songs than this one, but it was still entertaining.

    Two First Names: This was actually a really creative idea. All the impressions had me laughing. It was good to see Wiig's Jaime Lee Curtis back, and I loved Michaela's Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

    Air Traffic Control: Two woman are trying to overcome something that happened in a fight, and are talking about solutions. Definetely the dullest sketch of the night, here. Seeing NPH in drag only lasted as fresh and funny for about 3 seconds, and the rest of the sketch was a drag in and of itself. Will Forte did have me laughing at parts, though. Did this remind anybody else of the "Where's My Purse?" captain? Egh.

    Frost/Other People: This was a really good 12:45 piece. It reminded me of the Rainn Wilson sketch, White Possom Scream.
    Musical Performance: Taylor performs "Forever & Always". Not much to say here.

    Burger King Whopper Virgins: Who said this wasn't funny? This was hilarious! I didn't even care if it was a taped segment, it was still a really funny sketch. All three characters were really funny. Bobby Moynihan was HILARIOUS!

    Geese, tonight's show was a delight. The only thing holding me back from giving this an 8.0 were the musical acts and that 12:40 sketch. Has this cast already found it's voice? They seemed to gel so well tonight, I'm just lost at words. I thought, especially with the new girls, it'd be a while until we got everyone evening out, but everyone got to show their strong points tonight. Abby, who has been doing a 1 line a night thing for the past 4 episodes, finally was really prominent tonight. Even Kenan was doing well by me!

    Neil definetely fit in with the cast. Even with his little chuckles, he was still a helpful more than hurting host. Taylor Swift wasn't anything that hurt the show, but nothing that helped the show at all. Even with Neil's good performance, this was definetely a night that goes out to the cast. They did a spectacular job.

    Next Week: Rosario Dawson hosts with musical guest Fleet Foxes. I hope this cast can keep their great work up.
  • PH proved to be a very good host. The episode lost all of its momentum after WU. Too bad it couldn't finish strong.

    Maddow/Blagojevich – Maddow is extremely annoying, but Elliot came off far too charming. As an opening sketch this was just kind of blah. The segments with Kenan were downright boring, but it improved somewhat when Sudeikis did his excellent Blagojevich impression. Kind of a weak start to 2009, although I have not seen many people say the opening lines with as much enthusiasm as Elliot did. Grade: C

    NPH Monologue – Very good job by NPH. He has a natural sense of comedic timing and is an engaging speaker. I loved how he dealt with the hecklers. A very good recovery from the weak cold open. Grade: A+

    Today Show – Until NPH appeared (over 4 minutes in), this was really bad. Wiig overplayed this one so much that I found it difficult to watch. Watkins was fine in her first starring role, but the writing was very weak. NPH was great as the fitness instructor and demonstrated some fine moves. Grade: C (NPH raised it from a D).

    Broadway Meeting – A nice costume piece. Not a lot of laugh-out-loud moments other than the racist comment, the message therapist, and the phantom's failed attempt to kill somebody with the chandelier. Grade: B Penelope - More of the same from Wiig in this one, but it was enjoyable. I loved how a very sweaty Forte was on the verge of clobbering Penelope. The cameo by Liza and the tomato was a nice way to end the sketch and continued the tradition of Penelope being somewhat truthful in her proclamations. Still, it would be much better to see her in a different setting the typical meetings. Grade: B NPH Digital Short – The highlight of the show. It avoided being yet another of one Andy's vanity pieces, but was rather a touching fantasy from a very wistful NPH. A classy and thoughtful digital short. Grade: A+

    Weekend Update – Well, it's official, Seth will be flying solo on WU, at least for the rest of the season. Personally I think he does a far better job by himself than when Amy was there. The jokes were better than usual tonight probably because of the break. For once Kenan turned in a very good appearance in WU. We've seen the Charles Barkley impression before and it has been OK, but this time he actually really good material to along with it. Forte's song was very funny and contributed to a great WU. Not a weak spot to be found. WU tends to much stronger when kept under 10 minutes. Grade: A+

    Two First Names – A very original piece. There were a ton of characters, but they didn't do much with them. Armisen's take on David Lee Roth was kind of weak, nowhere near as good as Chris Kattan. It was funny how PO'd NPH would get when he found that some of his guests only had one first name. There was no ending to the sketch. A funny idea with no development. Grade: B-

    Long Nail Ladies – A one joke sketch and not a very good joke. Really, it was just an excuse to put NPH in drag and saddle him with a southern accent. Grade: C-

    Frost/Other People Interviews – Pretty much a throwaway piece. I don't know why the writers felt the need to put another impression piece on there. Two First Names already took care of that. The little vignettes were OK, but it didn't add up to anything. The excessive use of voice over sections to allow for time to set up the next guest got really old, but I guess that's just the logistics of doing a live show. Grade: C

    Whopper Virgins – A very flat filmed piece. Honestly, there are lots of commercials out there that are funnier than this lame Burger King parody. Grade: D
  • Some good scenes, some not so.

    I was excited for this episode with Neil Patrick Harris as host, but I was kind of disappointed with the end result.

    SNL relied too heavily on impressions here. Sure, Kenan Thompson as Charles Barkley, Michaela Watkins as Julia Louis Dreyfuss (she actually appeared on Dreyfuss' The New Adventures Of Old Christine) and all Darrell Hammond's characters were funny but SNL is supposed to be about original characters not constantly mocking real ones.

    Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis were the stars as usual, and I was pleased with Kenan getting much more time than he often does. Why does Andy Samberg rarely appear anymore? And can we actually get a decent Digital Short? We've gone from Laser Cats and Lazy Sunday to whatever this was.

    Taylor Swift is awful without electronic help, as evidenced here too.

    Not the worst episode of the season by a longshot, but very few memorable parts outside of the constantly improving post-Amy Poehler Weekend Update and the Two First Names sketch.