A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Loquacious Mime
For the first time in almost six years, our beloved show is going live on a day of the week other than Saturday. For some this will be a treat, as the election has given SNL some positive publicity, but it's more of a strategy to nab some of the limelight that "The Daily Show" hogs this time of year. SNL has a mixed history of doing live broadcasts outside of its normal boundaries; than again, SNL has a mixed history of everything, so why should I even weigh this factor? (Given the unusual circumstances, I will forgo my trademark sketch-by-sketch analysis.)
The half-hour began with the inevitable parody of Tuesday's town hall debate at Belmont University, where Tom Brokaw (Chris Parnell again) has set extremely tight time limits on the candidates' responses. Senator McCain (DH) flavored all his responses by promising bipartisanship and admitting to abusing the trust of his fellow senators, from totaling Trent Lott's car to destroying Liddy Dole's credit rating. Senator Obama's replies are a bit more non-sequitorial, from (almost) sharing an alien abduction experience to acknowledging his best friend, '60s radical Bill Ayers. The growing monotony of topical satire was shook up a bit by the presence of Bill Murray, who lamented his beloved Chicago Cubs choking in the first round of the playoffs while simultaneously promoting a movie and hoping everyone forgets about his pending and nasty divorce. In the end, this debate sketch was more of a grab bag than the first two; the writers still haven't found a way to take on Obama, and I'm slowly losing favor with Fred's flat, Al Michaels-esque imitation of the Illinois senator. On the other hand, Darrell's McCain impression is flat-out delirious.
The debate sketch gave way to Weekend Update, which consumed the remainder of the half-hour. Let me start off by saying that Amy looks absolutely glowing, as that is the only kind thing you can say about a pregnant woman's physical appearance. The one-liners themselves focused mostly on the American financial crisis and grumblings of a second great depression. "On the other hand," Seth Meyers quipped, "(I'm) looking forward to homeless people in fedoras." Where the usual Update zingers were there, the guest commentaries died their usual, painful death; financial expert Oscar Rogers (KT) spent the better part of three minutes emphasizing the words "fix" and "now" like somebody who knows the economy is in the dumpster but never reads a newspaper, while a song by Hall & Oates (FA, WF) had a hokey, slapped-together feel. These missteps were almost eradicated by an instant-classic "Really?!" segment where Seth and Amy discussed the controversial and poorly-timed AIG retreat… almost.
In the end, this first of three prime-time specials was a wildly uneven affair. Part of this might've been attributed to creative burnout following four straight weeks of live shows, but you also argue that the cast and writers were phoning this in since these specials never get repeated anyway. Considering that Weekend Update Thursday aired after a pretty good episode of "The Office," this was a letdown.
This Coming Saturday: A repeat of last month's Michael Phelps debacle. Maybe I'll read a book instead.
Next Saturday: Josh Brolin (of "Goonies" and "W" fame) hosts with musical guest Adele.
Questions or comments? Send Stu a PM, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.