After 3 weeks, we get a new episode. This week for SNL featured returning host Shia LaBeouf with musical guest My Morning Jacket. During the break, news broke out that Amy Poehler was pregnant! She hasn't gotten the physical features yet, but when next season starts, I think we'll get it. I will specify her pregnancy and her effect on the show, when I get the picture. And now, here it is.
A Message From Hillary Clinton: Hillary addresses us about how she knows she'll win. There were some fine one liners here, but I was disappointed to see another "Hillary 2008" sketch.
Monologue: I would have liked this more if I watched all the Indiana Jones movies, but basically characters who only appeared in one movie out of the first 3 movies each were jealous he got in. This is almost a blessing for Darrell.
MacGrubers (I): His son being gay was great. The way Shia mumured "Scott ended this perfectly.
It's A Match!: We see a 70s game show much like "Match Game" that contains a bunch of washed out sex addicts for stars. But, the host has been murdered, and when the detective tries to get answers, the stars think it's part of the game. This was a pretty funny sketch.
Police's Office: When 3 boys are in trouble for trying to shoplift, a police officer hires a speaker to try to scare the kids. It seems much like a Matt Foley except less funnier. This was a sign of Kenan's attempt to stay fresh.
MacGruber (II):Oh my gosh! This was a GREAT ending.
Suze Orman: Suze Orman returns. She has one guest on. I thought the jokes on this one was a little bit more funny than Jonah Hill's sketch. I think Kristen's impression of her shouldn't be on the Suze Orman Show, but a sketch that involves Suze being annoying or something to other people.
Digital Short: This was just proof that Digital Shorts need a hiatus. I think we should go back to the parody commercials for a while, and come back to Digital Shorts halfway through next season, but this "Digital Short every episode" thing isn't working out.
Musical Performance: My Morning Jacket performs "I Believe" which is a really good song.
Weekend Update: Jokes were very consistant tonight. The guest commentaries were not, however. The town members weren't that entertaining, and the return of Jean K. Jean was once again a wake up call from Kenan saying "I'm going to keep on trying to be hip on this show!"
La Revista Della Televisione: This sketch with Vinny was a lot more better than other Vinny Vendicci sketches. All the other ones focus on the same problem. "Oh... I don't speak Italian" I thought this one had much more of a storyline. I was laughing when Lorne came on.
MacGruber (III): Another AWESOME one! I really hope that next season, MacGruber stays fresh and doesn't get stale, because these are gold.
Crushes: Two girls think 6 guys have crushes on them. But they're really just humming in their heads. That's it. A one story plot line. I will say I layghed, though.
Muical Performance: My Morning Jacket performs "Evil Urges" which is such an interesting song. The lighting was great in this, too.
Dressing Room: A mother is concerned about finding a dress for her daughter who isn't that attractive in the facial part. Once again, it's a one story plot line.
Overall: Tonight seemed consistant in most parts. I have to say this was much like Shia's last appearance. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. It was just fair. Both Shia and My Morning Jacket were above average guests. Shia seemed even more stronger than last year, and I would hope for him to host again.
Next week is our season finale. Steve Carell is returning! Looking forward to that. Usher is musical guest.
Hillary cold open - Not badly written, but it lacked so much energy and went on for so long that it was a poor choice for a cold open. I will be glad when this election is over. SNL's political coverage this year has been the worst since 1980 and 1984 when politics were all but ignored. Hopefully the gang will step it up in the fall. Grade: C
Shia Monologue - Nice way to use Hammond's Sean Connery impression (and give him his only few minutes on the show) and Amy's Shorty was pretty close. A decent monologue, though not hilarious. On a side note, Shia has the skinniest tie I have ever seen. Fatten it up boy! Grade: B
MacGruber 1 - I love Merrill's matching mullet. Introducing MacGrunber's son is a nice plot expansion and ties in well with Shia's new movie. The fact that he is still in the closet is even better, that is until the anal lubricant is exposed. Grade: B
It's A Match - Totally nailed the cheesy 70s game shows like the Hollywood Squares. The facial affectations, makeup, and costumes were all period perfect. The characters were so good that they easily overcame any shortcomings in the writing. I also loved the cheesy funk theme song. Grade: B+
Motivational Speaker - A very poor Matt Foley copy. Kenan does not have the comedy chops that Farley had and he is poorly advised to step into Farley's realm. The writing wasn't awful (Farley would have made it work), but in the hands of Kenan it was a disaster. Grade: D-
MacGruber 2 - Merrill has been brainwashed, but still loves the dudes. The pixilated vibrator was one of the funnier and edgier things on SNL in a while. Grade: A
Suze Orman - OK, we get it. SNL has been given a mandate to do parodies of shows on NBC-owned networks (Bravo, CNBC). Otherwise, there is no reason for this sketch to continue. Shia gave it a little boost, but it still failed to achieve liftoff. Grade: C-
The Best Look in the World DS - Risky Business meets Jet. What a nice comeback from the horrible Daiquiri Girl. Awesome, just awesome.Grade: A+
Weekend Update - Just so-so jokes until Seth gets into his Weather Channel riffing. The Kenan part was horrible as usual (happy b-day K). A general comment about WU: I can't stand all of the giggling and smiling that the anchors do at their own jokes. I know this has been going on since Tina and Jimmy, but it is really annoying and detracts from the quality of the material. Try deadpan guys. It will work wonders. Grade: C
Vinny Vedecci - Hader's faux Italian character is back, but I'm not sure why. Hader is obviously talented and should be able to come up something better than this. The cutaway to the entire TV crew puffing away was great. Of course, Lorne as the Godfather was the money shot. The confused look on Shia's face while Vinny keeps yelling "He hates snakes" was also pretty good. Otherwise, forgettable stuff. Grade: C
MacGruber 3 – Nice conclusion to the latest MacGruber trilogy. Merrill just can't be "cured". Grade: B
Restaurant - The guys were working hard to maintain their faces. Not much to this sketch besides the faces and the brain-dead dudes. Pure time filler. Grade: C
Two Daughters - Just an excuse to get Shia in drag. If they wanted to do that so badly, they could have pulled a Jake Gyllenhaal and just get it over with during the monologue. Total throwaway sketch that ended with the applause sign being switched on. No jokes, no escalation, no punchline. Very weak. Grade: F
I've only recently started watching SNL, so I haven't seen a whole load of episodes. However, this one seems a lot poorer than the rest. Shia Lebeouf was quite good as a guest host, but not as good as some other, less likely ones, in particular Brian Williams.
Here's a sketch by sketch analysis:
Cold Open: For me this seemed to just drag on and on. It had a few mildly funny moments, but nothing special. Hilary's three weaknesses was, to be honest, a very weak basis for a gag in itself.
Monologue: Much better than the cold open, but Shia looked very uncomfortable while performing. This had some good funny moments (the audience member question was brilliant), but I felt the whole Indiana Jones thing was a bit of an obvious road to go down.
MacGruber I: The first MacGruber sketch of the episode was the comedy highlight of the whole show. The brilliant expression on "MacGruber's" face when he discovers the anal-lubricant was hysterical!
It's A Match: Once again, this dragged on a lot for me and didn't really seem to go anywhere. Keenan was good in this and the magician character was mildly funny.
Scared Straight: This is another part of the episode which was great, it didn't overstay its welcome and all actors were great. The only complaint I have, however, is the ending was quite poorly done.
MacGruber II: Following on from the first MacGruber, this was another hilarious sketch. Not as good as the first, but the concept was still funny.
The Suze Orman Show: Not bad, but not brilliant. The character was great, but it seems a little overdone as almost all SNL episodes these days have these sort of characters. However, the recipie for the "homemade tampons" was great!
SNL Digital Short: This was a good one, but like so many other sketches in this episode, it was overtly brilliant. It had potential to be hilarious, but seemed to fall a bit flat again.
Musical Performance: I should really like MMJ, they're like the other bands I'm into, but this song just didn't appeal to me. They sound different to most other bands that are around at the moment (which is great), but the lead's voice doesn't seem to fit in with the sound.
Weekend Update: After a string of poor jokes and a depressingly poor apperance from Keenan (I know it's the guy's birthday, but does he really need to be in the episode so much?) the final few jokes were great!
La Rivista Della Televisione: Not brilliant and, once again, it dragged on for a bit for my liking. However, the ending snake gag was quite good.
MacGruber III: Er, what was that? Seriously, after two great MacGruber's what happened here? This was an aweful sketch that just felt tagged on for no reason.
Don't Look: A good sketch that didn't overstay its welcome, something nice for the end of the episode. However, I think this could have been better had it been done as an SNL Digital Short.
Musical Performance: Once again, MMJ just don't appeal to me. The guitar performance was great, but the drumming and singing just weren't up to scratch.
New York Funky Style: What just happened? This was a depressingly poort sketch that looked like it had come straight from "Family Guy". A terrible way to end an already mediocre episode.
As I've said, this was not the best episode of SNL by a long way and Shia seemed uncomfortable in this setting. A lot of the jokes were obvious and a few went long, but if you can get past this you'll notice a couple of great lines and two hilarious MacGrubers!
Cold Open: Didn't overstay its welcome, but it lacked the comprehensive everyone-bashing from the last cold open. At the same time, it really started to beat a dead horse. Fortunately the season's wrapping up, and we should be getting some new twists in the presidential campaign by September.
Monologue: For our monologue, SNL took some of the easiest targets in the world and let the cast just give straight impressions. I'm sure this was a hoot for hardcore Indy fans, but for everyone else it didn't work nearly as well.
MacGruber (all three): Please will you know better than to beat a character into the ground make it stop make it Stop now
It's a Match: Props to SNL for trying to stay as faithful to the actual show as possible, with the music, set and logo, but the characters' name changes screamed cop-out. It's true that formulaic impressions are just as bad (see Monologue), but name-changing shouldn't be used as a crutch either. Also, Fred knows he could've played Charles instead of turning the character into Paul Lynde.
Scared Straight: I'm boggled as to why the cast or crew got a kick out of Kenan's prisoner character in rehearsals. It's just more of the same. The only redeeming part of the sketch was the series of inadvertent film references. Incidentally, the Gay Sex Humor Count is at 3 and climbing.
Suze Orman Show: A definite high point. The writers actually improved upon the sketch from its first goaround, giving it more of a focus with fewer random segments. Kristen's impression is just as good.
Digital Short: Maybe I missed the memo, but I never understood why a Digital Short had to air during every single episode this season. Tonight's was proof that this was a bad idea.
"I'm Amazed": My Morning Jacket was another solid booking, a reliably interesting live act with talent. I especially liked the first number, a fun jam from the band.
Update: Seth and Amy were on their game, but it was clearly the duo of Fred and Bill who stole the show with their spot-on take of the Grand Theft Auto characters. Kenan may also have shown up, but I never really notice him anymore.
Vinny Vedecci: Good to see the writers still trying new things with this sketch. The cigarettes and Lorne cameo made for a nice touch at the end. Shia himself wasn't particularly interesting, and he's been this way for the whole show now, but that didn't derail anything.
He Likes You: A pretty good premise hurt by pretty lousy execution. I wasn't so much turned off by the one-joke ending, but the male sextet didn't all have to resemble Farley and Sandler so much.
"Evil Urges": Once Jim James actually opens his eyes, we can tell him that Song #2 was fine, albeit a little uncomfortable. They definitely had this sense of look how amazing we are!
Anthropologie sketch: I bet Amy proposed a new character by saying one or two lines of dialogue, and the rest of the sketch just wrote itself. No, yes, no.
I thought the Ashton Kutcher show was a shade below par, this one even moreso. Shia LaBeouf was as OK as he was last year, and the writing didn't try to save us from lots of hokey performances from the cast. The Suze Orman sketch was the only real winner, followed distantly by Fred/Bill on Update, It's a Match, and the musical guest performances.
Saturday Night Live has been either hit or miss this season. Tina Fey, Bon Jovi, Ashton Kutcher, Brian Williams and Christopher Walken all produced good episodes. Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill were awful, and the rest had their moments.
This was just a brutal episode though. The skit about all the men in the restaurant with "one thing on their mind" was mildly funny, but the rest was hard to watch. Shia LeBeouf just isn't very funny, and it showed in the monologue. Being an overrated actor as well did not help in a show where storytelling ability is key to moving scenes forward. This also featured one of the rare song Digital Shorts that isn't funny. The songs are usually the best part of the show, but this one was just really lame.
A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Lovable Misfit
Man, there must be something in the water at Studio 8H. Six years after Ana Gastayer's on-air pregnancy, and three years since Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph's subsequent brushes with motherhood, Amy Poehler has joined the league of expectant cast members. Having a baby is wonderful and everything, but this has raised questions about her future with the show; from the looks of it, Amy will be on maternity leave for the first part of next season, and then stick around for the rest of Year 34. What happens beyond May '09 remains to be seen. Of course, I'm just assuming.
Tonight's host is Shia Lebeouf, the child actor turned up-and-coming heartthrob and the co-star of the upcoming "Indiana Jones" sequel. This is Shia's second time hosting, the first time being a modest affair from near the end of last season. The musical guest is My Morning Jacket, the Kentucky-based band centered upon singer-songwriter Jim James. Known for their distinctive fusion of alt-country, neo-psychedelia, and indie-rock, MMJ is currently promoting their new album "Evil Urges."
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Still claiming to be the presumptive next president, Senator Clinton (AP) is confident that the Democrats' nomination is hopelessly deadlocked. To encourage and reinforce support, she discusses her three strongest qualities- she's a sore loser, her supporters are racist, and her ethical standards are insubstantial at best. After a string of cold openings that portrayed Clinton as a victim, James Downey finally pokes fun at her weaknesses, warts and all, and the payoff was tremendous.
MONOLOGUE: The more successful half of "Even Stevens" walks onstage looking like he just left 1988 (are skinny ties back in fashion?). After awkwardly dodging an audience member's question, Shia confronts several people from Indiana Jones' past, including a bitter Sean Connery (DH). I liked the idea, but it was a little too cutesy for my tastes.
"MacGruber": While reconnecting with his son inside a chemical warfare silo, MacGruber (WF) learns the hard way that his offspring has a different sexual preference. Anal lube = funny!
"It's A Match": The regulars on a "Match Game"-type '70s game show are all witnesses to the murder of the host. This familiar amalgam of deceased C-listers (a Brett Somers-type, a Charles Nelson Reilly-type, plus thinly veiled knockoffs of Nipsey Russell and Doug Henning) answer a detective's (BH) questions as if the incident were any other episode. Somebody did their GSN homework, and the result is just plain delirious.
"Scared Straight": Prisoner Lorenzo MacIntosh (KT) fails to prompt three shoplifters (BH, AS, Shia) from repeat offenses with his over-the-top barrage of male rape threats and thinly veiled movie references. This was one of those sketches that initially felt funny, but the more I thought about Kenan's performance, the more it seemed indolent and crude.
"MacGruber": Trapped in a rebel training camp, Junior MacGruber resents his father for sending him to "straight camp," then inadvertently reveals his heterosexually-impaired side again. Whoopie sticks = sort of funny!
"The Suze Orman Show": America's favorite lesbian financial adviser (KW) continues to thrive in her frugality, singing the joys of Arizona color clinics, snap-on collars, and homemade tampons. Her guest is Josiah (Shia), a Miami restaurant owner who only seems partially interested in her advice. Well, I guess it beats more gay sex jokes...
DIGITAL SHORT: While chatting with Shia in a locker room, Andy (literally) sings the praises of "the best look in the world" (black socks, dress shirt, no pants). Not even the honky-tonk justification could keep this from being a rare, absolute misfire from the Lonely Islanders. Given Shia's involvement, I would've been more content if they just re-aired "Dear Sister."
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: MMJ's current single "I'm Amazed" draws comparisons to Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Black Crowes with a hint of Ryan Adams.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Another capable night at the Update desk, as Amy connects on consecutive jokes about Israel, 42-cent stamps, and Cinco de Mayo respectively. Seth had his moment in the sun as well, commenting on the Weather Channel sexual harassment lawsuit. If there was one letdown, it was the return of pseudo-Eurotrash comedian Jean K. Jean (KT) and his banal riffs on French cultural touchstones like cheese and Asterix. The appearance of two characters from "Grand Theft Auto 4" (FA, BH) looked fleshed out in comparison.
"La Rivista Della Televisione": Tonight on "The Magazine of Television," Vinny (BH) welcomes Shia, with confusion over Transformers and American smoking laws eclipsing the tired, tepid language-barrier jokes. The change in direction was needed, and though the sketch wasn't unfunny per se, Vinny's chutzpah is beginning to wear thin.
"MacGruber": Inside an angel dust production lab, Junior MacGruber can't kiss a girl without puking. Forced opposite-sex tonsil hockey = maybe funny?
"Don't Look": Two galpals (AP, KW) in a three-star restaurant are enamored with the mute, bug-eyed strangers glancing in their direction at other tables. This one-joke sketch might've worked better as a Digital Short.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Jim and company perform the title track from "Evil Urges," a straightforward prog-rocker that deviates into a southern-rock jam.
"New York Funky Style": An indecisive Georgian mama (AP) helps her two daughters (KW, Shia) shop for trendy clothes in the big city. Shia in drag was a hoot, but this dry character study never really came alive.
This was another strong show in what has to be the longest winning streak I've seen in some time. After a shaky first go-around, Shia proved himself a diligent host in his second stint, and though they might've been an obscure choice for SNL, My Morning Jacket was a left-field gem as musical guest. On the flip side, Kenan had an overbearing presence in the show; he painted broad strokes when finer touches would've been more beneficial for the canvas. The closest he came to brevity was in the "It's A Match" sketch, and even then he played a part where flamboyance was a prerequisite.
Sketches/Segments That Will Probably Be Removed In Repeats: "The Best Look in the World," Jean K. Jean, "Don't Look" and "New York Funky Style."
Next Week: The truncated 33rd season of SNL draws to a close with host Steve Carell and musical guest Usher.
Questions or comments directed towards "HelloStuart" should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Granted, it's a lot easier to just send him a PM, but he'd never admit that.