A Review by the Former "Heystu," Amateur Critic and Incessent Whiner
Happy New Year, everybody- I certainly hope you all are ready for another year of midding sketch comedy right here on SNL. Now, while this year has been alright thus far, I can't help but think that the bubble's going to burst somewhere. The fact that this year has been a lot more consistent than 2003-04, yet includes nearly all the same people from the previous season, makes me wonder if this ongoing streak of good-to-fair episodes is either dumb luck or some sort of epiphany. I mean, the show lost Jimmy Fallon and Dennis McNicholas during last year, but they weren't the repellent forces on the show. Heck, even the oft-irritating Horatio Sanz is more subdued this year.
Tonight's host is the lovely Jennifer Garner, star of
(stops typing to listen to my buddy whisper something to me)
um, alright. Turns out there's been a change of plans, folks. The scrumptious Miss Garner will not be appearing tonight, and instead our host will be
who? (more whispering) Topher Grace? (talking to my buddy) Wait a minute- Forman from That 70's Show? You gotta be kidding me! First Kelso hosted two years ago, now him? Man
why didn't you tell me this earlier? Wait, The Killers are still musical guests, right? (my friend nods) Oh, thank goodness. You could you let me write my review? (more whispering) I won't say that, and besides, it doesn't have anything to do with SNL- (my buddy punches me in the shoulder) Oh, alright- Mike Sweeney, if you're out there, stay in Kansas City. The Royals won't be anything without you next year. (talking to my buddy with a certain amount of contempt) There, are you happy? (my friend nods)
And now, the sketch by sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Live on CNN (I'm beginning to sense a pattern here), anchorperson Fredericka Whitfield (MR) introduces a live press conference with Presidents Bush (WF), Other Bush (FA), and Clinton (DH) that pertains to the ongoing tsunami effort. But as you would obviously imagine, questions pop up involving the end of the WMD search and Slick Willie starts flirting with a reporter (RD). And if this jab at current events couldn't get any sloppier, they have Armisen inexplicably playing Bush Senior when I'm pretty certain Dana Carvey probably had his schedule cleared for a potential cameo. Heck, even Jim Downey would've made for better Prez 41.
MONOLOGUE: Forman walks out, makes a lame reference to the TV show that he'll be ditching at the end of the season, and then takes the time to answer some questions from the audience. Tyrell and his wife (JB Smoove, Paula Pell) stand up to call Topher a racist, while a jaded Jets fan (Liz Cackowski) moans and groans about her boys loss in the NFL Playoffs earlier that day. While I was happy to see my favorite monologue bit again, you could tell it was open for a little improvement.
"Trucker Talk": It is often said that real man drive trucks, even if they're wasting precious time discussing the Jennifer Aniston-Brad Pitt breakup on their CB's. Even an introverted voice of reason (FA) can't stop the Hollywood gossip. While the bizarre juxtaposition worked, Parnell's performance was way too goofy and distracting for the sketch's tone.
"Paramedics": Two EMTs (FM, KT) hold out on saving lives in honor of Martin Luther King Day, much to the annoyance of their superior (Topher). They clearly don't know jack about Martin, but they continue to squabble and in the process overwork their colleagues and start in the process portray some sort of postmodern stereotype. On the bright side, at least Finesse had a leading role in a sketch.
"CBS Evening Fraudulent Document Update": Dan Rather (DH) has to report on his own network's undoing, then admits that even under his own cloud of disgrace he isn't sure about what goes on at the network. The highlight of this sketch is when he announces that his given name is Joel Pinkus and that he's the product of suburban New Jersey, making his slight Texas drawl a superfluous tangent.
"The Beaver Ranch": A twenty-something (Topher) looking to lose his virginity is repulsed but ultimately swallowed in by the dowdy inelegance of a seemingly ancient prostitute (RD). From the onset this didn't really look all that promising, but this was probably one of the better sketches of the night. Heck, even the botched audio cue was funny.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Fresh off the plane from Las Vegas, The Killers perform their rousing breakthrough hit "Somebody Told Me." And it sounded just like it did on Hot Fuss, though I'm not implying that they lip-synced.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Tina kicks it all off with an amusing clip of Barbara Walter's big interview with Dubya Friday night, followed by faux documentary footage of Prince Harry in his now-infamous Nazi uniform, courtesy of Alison Jackson*. After a string of hit-and-miss zingers, Tina introduces "positive black role models" Cliff and Claire Huxtable (MR, KT), which is apparently just an excuse for Kenan to do his Cosby impression again.
"Art Dealers": A square couple (Topher, RD) with a passion for the avant-garde meet and greet with Nuni and Nunë (FA, MR), eccentric patrons with a love for peculiar furniture and colon-cleansing paste. This sketch was weird as heck, yet it had its uproarious moments.
"Hardball": Making a rare non-cold opening appearance, good ol' Chris (DH) puts up with a nervously energetic Howard Dean (RR), corporate stooge Armstrong Williams (KT), and the ever so lovable Zell Miller (WF). I will admit that I dismissed this recurring sketch for lacking the zing it had when Hammond's Matthews was berating Chris Kattan's Paul Begala, but now that the hotheaded Senator has entered the fold, I really do see new life in this bit.
"The (Not) Incredible Adventures of the Down-n'-Out Dollar": That has to be one of the longest sketch titles ever. But anyway, the depressed** greenback (AP) is harried by the pompous Euro (Topher), the smarmy Pound (SM), the cocky Peso (HS), and mousey Yen (MR), but manages to find solace with the demented Canadian Loonie (WF). Gimmicky, but not much else to it.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Brandon Flowers powers in a pink sport-jacket for the band's second single, "Mr. Brightside."
After the DeNiro-influenced off-week the show had last time, this particular episode was a slight return to form. Grace was a place-holder in some of his sketches, but otherwise made for an above-average host. The Killers were an awesome live act, even though the material on their first album is only a decent sampling of their potential. And at long last there was no oligarchy in the cast tonight, with the three featured players landing key roles in almost every sketch and the usual "regulars" (Meyers and Sanz, for example) barely making blips on the radar.
Sketches That Will Probably Removed For E!: "CNN Press Confrence," "Paramedics," and "The (Not) Incredible Adventures of the Down and Out Dollar."
Next Week: Fresh off a potentially Oscar-nominated performance in "Sideways," that lovable schlub Paul Giamatti is host with Ludacris and Sum 41 performing a song that is apparently not a Beatles cover.
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*see Ben Affleck/Nelly for more details.
** Get it? Depressed? Man, that kills me.