A Review by the Former "Heystu," Amateur Critic and Mythical Beast
Man, Queen Latifah has been all over the place lately. Not only does she have a new CD out, but she has a new movie about every two months. And considering her co-stars in her most recent efforts (Tim Meadows in "The Cookout," Jimmy Fallon in "Taxi"), I guess it was a no-brainer that she would end up appearing on SNL again, this time as both host and musical guest. For the first time in nearly a year, I actually have a very good feeling about tonight's broadcast.
As I began typing this review on a vociferously cool autumn's morn, it suddenly came to me that this year and the coming year mark a huge number of milestones in SNL's history. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Aykroyd and Belushi leaving the show, the 15th anniversary of Gilda Radner's passing, and the 10th anniversary of the infamous 1994-95 season as well as the death of Michael O'Donoghue. And then next year marks the silver jubilee of SNL's most wretched cast and the ill-conceived 1980-81 season, not to mention the 20th anniversary of the show's next-worst ensemble. I certainly hope that the show's current direction does not let an established pattern continue.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Apparently it's still an election year, so that must mean another debate sketch. Remarkably, it's a well-detailed parody of Friday night's debate in St. Louis, complete with all the key points that were repeated constantly by the news pundits five minutes afterwards. Kerry keeps mentioning that he has a plan, while Bush is anxious to make rebuttals despite not knowing what to say. While I do appreciate that this was slightly shorter and much tighter than last week's marathon sketch, I did find myself pondering an important question: am I on the good internet or the bad internet?
MONOLOGUE: The Queen greets her loyal subjects, then gets coerced into singing with The Scat Cats (FA, WF, MR, HS) and their heinous rendition of "Take the A-Train." Looking back at her first hosting stint, I'm guessing that no matter how many times she appears on the show, she'll never have a decent monologue.
"Short N' Curly": A bunch of guys in the locker room observe their pubic hair, only to find their masculinity upstaged by the more appealing package of an urban gentleman (FM) who uses a similar product. Just don't ask me if I ever use the product.
"The Prince Show": Nobody even remembers last winter's Grammys, so why keep going with this spoof? The answer is because it's so gosh-darn amusing. Tonight, the Beyonce (MR) and the man in mauve (FA) do their eccentric spiel for a bloated Patti Labelle (Queen) and an unctuous Sharon Stone (AP). This recurring sketch gets more absurdly silly as time wears on.
"Excedrin": Now available for situations pertaining to racial tension. It's very pointed, and it gets to the crux of the issue.
"Vice Presidential Debate": Gwen Ifill (Queen) makes up questions for Dick Cheney (DH) and John Edwards (WF), mostly to rile up the Veep about his ambiguous stance on gay weddings. I'll give it points for brevity, but this political spoof felt more like a throwaway than something that probably competed for the cold opening slot.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: True, Al Jarreau and Bill Withers' "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh" was pretty funky, but didn't it seem just a bit too straight-laced?
WEEKEND UPDATE: In tonight's sophomore effort by the soul sisters of fake news, we chat with Martha Stewart (RD) discussing prison life with her new best friend Kinyata (Queen), plus some hilarious commentary on the Denmark baby name controversy by the AWOL thus-far Finesse Mitchell. But if there's something that's been striking me as odd in the past two weeks, it's how Fey and Poehler have been reliant on actual news clips, a shameless wink and a nod to "The Daily Show."
"Letron's Choice": A high school hoops prodigy (FM) is stuck between choosing the gruesome reality of going to college and the opium-high lifestyle of going pro. Amidst Letron's struggle to decide are his pushy parents (Queen, KT), a college coach (RR), and a smarmy sports agent (SM). While it was nice to see Kenan after an extended absence, this Lebron James take-off doesn't quite hit the basket.
TV FUNHOUSE: It's "The X-Presidents," with onetime host/stem-cell pansy Ron Reagan Jr. filling in for his deceased dad. When an anti-Bush conspiracy turns out to be a hoax, the "X-X-Presidents" (including Reagan and Benjamin Harrison) beat the living crap out of Dubya's administration. I never thought I'd see this recurring cartoon again, but despite its flaws this was a breath of fresh air.
"Rodney Remembered": An obvious and somewhat trite tribute to the recently departed comedian. While it's good to see Darrell Hammond do his Dangerfield impression one more time, I personally don't think repeating all of his best one-liners was all that effective, especially for a send-off.
"Vote or Die": The one and only Starquisha (FM) runs into her best friend (MR) and the father of her child (KT) while trying to get people to register to vote. Unfortunatly, she runs into an ex-con turned Bush supporter (Queen) and a white couple (CP, AP) trying to score some weed. Like the "Excedrin" ad earlier in the night, it's a somewhat pointed albeit satirical look at culture differences.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Also appearing on the just-released The Dana Owens Album, we are treated to the soulful "Hard Times," which the Queen first recorded nearly a decade ago. Of course, the song might have been a fitting choice for Chris Kattan's inexplicable cameo, considering his enormous oeuvre since leaving the show 18 months ago.
"Zinger vs. Snaps": In yet another putdown contest before the imminent destruction of all mankind, Dr. Clinger (SM) is narrowly defeated by former classmate Sheila Alsnape (Queen). I'm beginning to think the good doctor is running out of rivals with clever nicknames, which could explain why this sketch was put in the ten-to-one slot.
The second episode of the thirtieth anniversary season of SNL was largely a companion piece of the season premiere, in that it shared similar themes and concepts but remained inconsistent as a whole. The Queen was just as splendid a host as she was two years ago, though her presence in nearly every commercial break was a slight annoyance. She also pulled back a few punches too, but I'll forgive her for that. Unfortunately, I must make this short- after seeing Chris Parnell buck naked ten minutes into the show, I might have to consider therapy.
Sketches That Will Be Removed In Repeats: "Short n' Curly" (because there is no way in hell it will ever air at 4pm in the afternoon), "The VP Debate," "Letron's Choice," and the second musical performance.
Next Week: It's "The Best of Jimmy Fallon." A nation of teenyboppers and J-14 subscribers pay their final respects.
And The Week After That: Academy Award nominee Jude Law is the host, with celebrity sibling Ashlee Simpson trying to avoid becoming the next Frank Stallone.
The writer known simply as "heystu" resides in Downers Grove, Illinois. He has been writing reviews of SNL episodes since May 2003, and hasn't been paid a red cent yet. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org