An Extended Review by the Former "Heystu," Amateur Critic and Media Gadfly
With the tenth episode of 04-05 looming, we reach the halfway point of the season. But with this minor milestone looms what appears to be horrific news: sources are circling that reality show skank Paris Hilton has been confirmed for hosting during February sweeps. Since this unfortunate piece of information was first circulated the Friday morning before tonight's show, the various message boards and forums that dedicate themselves to this show have buzzed with comments, most of which have been decidedly and deservedly odious. I for one am sick and tired of hearing about and seeing this overexposed trollop, and shortly after her guest stint in 2003 I even suggested that her hosting would be a sign of the apocalypse. I will even go as far as saying that I would rather watch her feeble attempts at porn than see her host. I am also appalled by the fact that the producers of this show (specifically Marci Klein) would even stoop as low as to suggest that she could host, and for thinking that people may actually give a rat's rear for this untalented publicity whore.
As longtime viewers of Saturday Night prepare for the worst, at least we can look forward to this week?s show. Tonight, our host is character actor Paul Giamatti, who is currently jockeying for a potential Academy Award nomination for his work in the film Sideways. Our musical guest is Hotlanta-based rapper Ludacris with a little help from Canadian punk-poppers Sum 41, making this the first time in show history that one act took top billing over another.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Shortly after the Inauguration Ball has ended, a hammered Barbara and Jenna Bush (TF, AP) discuss life and politics in a secret twin language that sounds very similar to Ubbi Dubbi from "Zoom." After surrogate father figure Dick Cheney (DH) tells them to go to bed, they close out the sketch with a "Live from New York" that would make Nicholas, Bernadette, et al. proud.
MONOLOGUE: Wait a minute- Paul didn?t shave off his beard? I can?t even remember the last time we had a host with facial hair. Either way, rather than participate in some lame bit or take questions from the audience, he does a sardonic recap of last weekend?s Golden Globe ceremony. Better than nothing, I guess.
"Rice Confirmation Hearing": What was intended to be a breezy interrogation of the Secretary of State (MR) turns into a platform for Senator Kerry (SM) to grumble about losing the election and a soapbox for Senator Barbara Boxer (AP) to emphasize the fact that Dr. Rice is a pathological liar. The "lie volcano" prop gag was a bit over the top, but this tolerable piece of topical humor seemed reluctant to pull punches.
"Gaystrogen": Again? With the possible exception of the classic ?Show Us Your Guns? from Year 1, has there ever been a fake ad that?s been repeated at least thrice?
"After the Golden Globes": Shortly after last weekend?s big ceremony, Ol? Paulie struggles to impress a limo driver (FM) who confuses him with former cast member "Rob Schniedly." Even though this wasn?t a terribly funny sketch, I was happy to see Finesse have a lead role in a skit for two weeks in a row.
"Caitlin's Instrument": The spazzy preteen (AP) and her perpetually put-upon stepfather Rick (HS) seek to purchase a musical instrument at the store owned by hack rocker Uncle Chaz (Paul). After much haggling and an impressive rendition of Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle," Rick gives into Caitlin's pleading and buys her a set of drums, drawing to a close a popular recurring sketch that hopefully will never be turned into a movie.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Luda and the Canucks struggle through a sloppy rendition of his current hit "Get Back." Word to the wise: this is why real musicians rehearse.
WEEKEND UPDATE: In a rare back-and-forth bit, Tina and Amy receive updates on the ongoing blizzard courtesy of "Dratch on the 1's." Outside of your usual mishmash of catty comments, not to mention a great jab at next week?s host, we also tune into an aimless dialogue by Governor Ah-nuld (DH) that jumps from the mudslide crisis to his fading shot at the presidency.
"The Lundford Twins Feel-Good Variety Hour": An unaired 70's TV pilot focuses on two Glen Campbell-type musicians (FA, Paul), an aging character actress (AP) reduced to saying the same lame catchphrase over and over, plus some dancing and about a half-dozen extremely abbreviated musical numbers. Hurried as it was, I don?t think I've ever seen Tina appear in so many sketches (she was one of the dancers) within one episode.
"Reinhold Investments": A big accounting deal is blown when a desk jockey named Andy (WF) keeps screaming "No!" into a telephone. Strangely enough, a lot of laughs came out of this small, insipid premise.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: I couldn't tell what the title of this little ditty was (I think it was "Number One Spot"), but the execution was a lot more polished compared to earlier tonight.
"Spy Glass": Making its first appearance since last season, Ian (SM) continues to make bad puns while Zoe (AP) further divulges information on her latest celeb-heavy dives into blind hedonism. Even with the host playing a ludicrous bowler hat stereotype, the sketch doesn't quite gel until everyone acquires Spanish Chlamydia.
"My Date's Cat": Nothing more than a variation of a sketch from Liam Neeson/Modest Mouse, except with a different apartment and Armisen playing a feline in lieu of a giant bird. At least this time around Army hit the spot, with his infectious meowing hitting overdrive as he takes his 10 o?clock suppository.
Even with a potentially horrific show looming within the next couple of weeks, everybody put on a cautiously adequate performance tonight. Giamatti was outstanding but restrained as host, and if the producers of SNL have anything between their ears they will almost certainly choose him to come back at least one more time. Ludacris, on the other hand, was clearly working through the motions and seemed unprepared for a rare live television appearance.
Sketches That Will Probably Be Removed For E!: "Gaystrogen," "After the Globes," "Reinhold Investments," and at least one song from Ludacris.
And now, a quick recap of the first half of Season 30:
Most overrated cast member: Fred Armisen, especially when he hogs rather than steals the spotlight.
Most underrated cast member: If you asked me this question two months ago, I would've almost certainly said Finesse again, but now I'm leaning towards the recently downplayed Chris Parnell.
Biggest surprise: The writing- on some nights it's actually bearable.
Best host: Paul Giamatti
Worst host: Ben Affleck
Best musical guest: U2
Worst musical guest: Ashlee Simpson (natch)
Best episode thus far: Luke Wilson/U2
Second best: Kate Winslet/Eminem
Worst episode thus far: Robert DeNiro/Destiny's Child
Next Time: Shut up and pass the Paxil.
Congratulations to Stuart M. Allard, who was voted unanimously as the 2004 SNL Episode Reviewer of the Year, chosen by his all his TV Tome peers. Comments on this review or any other article he has written can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org