A Review by “HelloStuart,” Amateur Critic and Whiny Emo Kid
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Arguably the biggest SNL story of the past month has been the internet cult sensation of “Lazy Sunday,” a digital movie clip that appeared on the show four weeks ago and turned Andy Samberg into a star overnight. As I stated several weeks ago, I had originally all but given up on Andy, and upon seeing the short film I evidently refuted my statement. After taking the time to view some of his work at thelonelyisland.com, I can now say that this was the breakthrough that Andy needed; after barely being noticed for the first half of the season, with any luck he'll get more screen time as Year 31 progresses.
This week’s host is the lovely Scarlett Johansson, star of such films as “Lost in Translation” and “Girl With a Pearl Earring” and a potential Oscar nominee for her work in the Woody Allen character study “Match Point.” The musical guest is Death Cab for Cutie, the poetic art-rocks sometimes deriviately referred to as "The 'O.C.' Band." Their most recent album, 2005's Plans, was their major label debut and found itself on several critics' best-of lists last year.
COLD OPENING: Live from New York, it's... a Smigeltoon? Your eyes are not deceiving you, kiddies; I guess Darrell Hammond had more inportant things to do. Anyhoo, it's time for the "The 700 Gang," as Pat Robertson appalls an audience of children with his wacked-out belief that heart problems, pastries, and celebrity deaths is God's way of smiting the world's sinners. It really doesn't matter to me that the show broke tradition with this sketch- this was funny as heck.
MONOLOGUE: Amy and "Scar-Jo" wear identical strapless party dresses and perform a goofy song about the perks of being a celebrity.
"Taco Town": There must be a drought in terms of commercial parodies this year. Has Jimmy Signorelli gone AWOL too?
"Deep House Dish": I don't know why, but after watching last week's Longoria/KoRn repeat, I developed a gut feeling that there would be another "Dish" sketch in this episode. This time around, straight man Dynasty Handbag (KT) and his dullard co-host Tiara Z. (RD) chat with two dance club neophytes (Scar-Jo, AP) and a electronica legend (CP) recovering from a horse-tranquilizer addiction. Though I was indifferent towards "Dish" upon first viewing, I am warming up to this.
"Smorgasbord": The newest show on the Food Network lineup is a stereotype-teasing homage to Scandinavian cooking. The hosts (SM, Scar-Jo) profess their lust for one another in a Bergman-esque state of repression, as her hubby (BH) lies comatose on the other side of the studio. Meatballs and pickled herring are cooked, and even the Swedish Chef (AS) pops up to sell ringtones. Being a film buff, I loved the cinematic references, and even the Muppet non-sequitor worked.
SMIGELTOON: Another one? This has to be another first. Sharing a common theme with tonight's show-opener, the Hanna-Barbara spoof "Darwin" is a religious right mockery of his theories of evolution (Paging Tim Kazurinsky- he's married to a monkey!), plus two promos that mock International Family Entertainment in "Bryo the Gay Stem Cell" and "Celibots." Now that "Christmastime for the Jews" is earned an internet cult status not dissimilar to "Lazy Sunday," you could say Robert Smigel's on a roll, and that fact is not lost on the producers.
"Mike and Toni's Chandelier Galaxy": A husband and wife from Brooklyn (FA, RD) shill gaudy ceiling ornaments with gusto in a forgettable ad spoof.
"Live Duluth": The hosts (AP, JS) of a local morning talk show are bewildered and bored senseless by a live performance of their overlong, overindulgent new theme song. This sketch had every right to be bad but wasn't; whether it was Fred's drum solo, Forte's consumption of an entire bottle of Jack Daniels, or the bored reaction on Amy and Jason's faces, this was a lot of fun to watch.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: The band sings their heart out on their breakthrough single "Soul Meets Body." Somebody loves their baroque-pop...
WEEKEND UPDATE: Tina takes a jab at the Samuel Alito hearings, depicting his wife (RD) as childlike and bored in her facial expressions, then pulls a Jon Stewart and comments on a news clip of Lindsey Graham. Amy recites a Limp Bizkit lyric for comic effect, which proves to be an omen as she strains for laughs for most of the night. Together, the ladies throw a "Nutbird News Quiz" in which they pit Pat Robertson against a mentally unbalanced homeless guy. The highlight of the segment (surprise, surprise) is a cheeky appearance by Mr. Samberg, who launches a crusade for people with shaggy hair.
"My Super Sweet 16": Spoofing an MTV reality show that I'm only vaguely aware of, a Beverly Hills brat (Scar-Jo) is followed around as everyone she knows and loathes plans her sixteenth birthday party. Every character in the sketch is a sad caricature, though it's clear that whoever wrote this has a great regard for "Laguna Beach," "The Simple Life," etc.
"Once in a Lifetime Jewelers": A boisterous jerk named Ed (JS) hounds a stiff but well-meaning clerk at a Kansas City jewelry store, but his massive ego proves to be an assault on her senses. This sketch was minimal on the laughs, though this Ed guy does have recurring character potential.
"The Kuril-Khamchatka Trench": It's a love triangle (quadrangle?) when husband and wife underwater explorers (SM, Scar-Jo) unravel a third wheel in their trusted associate (HS). Horatio is seemingly uncomfortable in a rare straight-man role, and despite a decent twist ending this sketch was literally floundering.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: The bittersweet boys from Bellingham play "Crooked Teeth." Somebody also loves their 70's-era Fleetwood Mac...
"Mr. Willoughby": A trio of unmarried sisters (RD, TF, Scar-Jo) obsess over the the exaggerated characteristics of a much-older suitor in a amalgam of every other Jane Austen novel you've ever read. On the bright side, at least they didn't awkwardly insert Samberg into this sketch...
Just when I thought the "Lazy Sunday" hoopla was starting to die down, the man who was #16 in the cast depth chart six weeks ago was all over the place tonight. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but by the end of the show it was bordering on overkill. On the bright side, Samberg has proven his mettle and will be a key component of the cast no matter how maladroit he can be at times. The becoming Ms. Johansson treated her hosting stint like a therapy session, bouncing off the satellites in a scattershot test of her versatility. Death Cab also ran the spectrum but escaped almost unscathed, proving that it is possible to be mellow, thoughtful, and dryly self-depreciating all at the same time.
Sketches that will probably be removed in repeats: "Taco Town," "Chandelier Galaxy," "My Super Sweet 16," "Once in a Lifetime Jewelers," and "Mr. Willoughby."
Next Week: "Trendy" character actor Peter Sarsgaard hosts, with The Strokes appearing on the big show for their second time.
And now, a quick recap of the first half of Season 31:
Most overrated cast member: Horatio Sanz. Seriously, he has to go.
Most underrated cast member: Samberg. I don't think I need to explain this again.
Biggest breakthough: It's a toss-up between the four newbies. Whether or not Maya Rudolph ever comes back, or if some of the more seasoned cast members get a bad case of wanderlust, the future of SNL is in good hands.
Best host: Catherine Zeta-Jones
Worst host: Lance Armstrong
Best musical guest: Franz Ferdinand. To be honest, there haven't really been any outstanding musical guests in these past ten episodes.
Worst musical guest: Ashlee Simpson. She can sing, but her range is limited and her material is way too weak.
Best episode thus far: Jack Black/Neil Young (a no-brainer pick)
Second best: Jason Lee/Foo Fighters
Worst episode thus far: Eva Longoria/KoRn (there hasn't been a truly bad episode so far this season, but somebody had to take the honor)
All archived information for this review is courtesy of The SNL Retro Archives (snlra.com). Contact HelloStuart (the former Heystu) at firstname.lastname@example.org