A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Philandering Councilman
What the heck is this? A live SNL special before the proper season premiere?
In all seriousness however, NBC was so impressed by the hype, ratings, and sweet, sweet ad revenue of last year's Weekend Update Thursday experiment that it's now a semi-regular series. It's not really a spinoff per se (as TV.com seems to be treating it) as much as it is an extension of the topical humor that Generation Y confuses for hard news nowadays. The concept is simple: one topical sketch, followed by two segments (20 minutes!) of Seth Meyers' distinct brand of Nor'easter snark.
Now that Season 35 has unofficially commenced, this might be a good time to recap all the changes that were made over the summer. To compensate for WUT and another 22-episode season, the writing staff was augmented by five scribes. Correct me if I'm wrong, but 27 staff writers has to be some type of record; hopefully there's not too many cooks in the kitchen. My theory is that each writer is a specialist of some kind, and will focus strictly on one aspect of the show rather than SNL as a whole (the monologue, Digital Shorts, so on and so forth). Secondly, and most importantly, Casey Wilson and Michaela Watkins were let go; where Casey was an over-glorified sketch extra who never really proved that she could run with the big dogs, Mike was an inspired breath of fresh air who frequently hit the mark in limited action. On that note, please welcome Nasim Pedrad (the first Middle Eastern cast member ever) and Jenny Slate (the first bisexual woman).
Tonight's show had the feel of an NFL preseason game; there's nothing on the line because everybody's just warming up. The cold opening set its target on one of last week's major news stories, Rep. Joe Wilson shouting "You lie!" as the president addressed both houses of Congress. The sketch imagines a GOP caucus held before the joint address in which Sen. Mitch McConnell (JS) plans out a mass staging of the now-infamous remark. Unfortunately for Rep. Wilson (WF), he needs to see a man about a horse just as the rest of the caucus agrees to back off. Not surprisingly, after the address Wilson is panicking and McConnell et al. are struggling to console him. This was a middleweight satire; you knew what was coming but you weren't sure how it was going to arrive at its destination. Kristen's jab at Rep. Michele Bachmann was an added treat; considered by some to be furthest far-right Republican in Congress right now, her suggestion of changing "You lie!" to something about labeling Obama as a half-Muslim socialist was as a pointed, outrageous, and absurd as it was eerily accurate.
The next 25 minutes were all about Weekend Update. With Amy Poehler back in the fold (at least, temporarily), she and Seth did a semi-comprehensive rundown of everything that's been in the news since September 1st, from the new Osama bin Laden audiotape to that Chinese trade dispute. After a minor technical snafu, "Ragin' Cajun" James Carville (BH) counterpoints last weekend's DC tea party as a gumbo of conservative craziness, a diatribe that travels into BDSM and an allusion to "Eyes Wide Shut." When Amy acknowledges the passing of the latest world's oldest woman, Madonna (KW) honors her VMA-style by comparing Gertrude Baines to her own madcap career as an actress, singer, and tabloid target. We all know that Wiigy is a perfectionist, and her ability to immerse herself into a role is almost unrivaled; this time around, she was almost too mannered and self-referential for her own good. This was followed by another tea party commentary, a debate between race-baiting Former President Carter (Darrell's back?!?!) and square GOP head honcho Michael Steele (KT). The inevitable stalemate was a hoot; we all know Carter was out of line, but the image-obsessed, cliché-spewing Steele was the wrong sparring partner on so many levels. Things wrapped up with another edition of the fan favorite "Really!?!" that started out a rant against Kanye West's public belligerence and drifted to other recent public meltdowns such as Joe Wilson's and Venus Williams'.
One last thing: was it just me, or did they recycle the old Colin Quinn Update backdrop?