A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Reluctant Celibate
There's no real point in explaining the groundwork for the second SNL prime-time appetizer, so let's get to the meat of the matter:
Just like last week, the cold opening focused squarely on the intense health care debate; this time we see the perspective of the mastermind himself, President Obama (FA). After appearing on every network show from Late Show with David Letterman to The Price is Right, the president shifts his focus to the cable news outlets… with the exception of Fox News. Obama's choice of channels is not selective in the faintest: on ESPN, Stuart Scott (KT) compares single-payer health care to Shaq vs. Kobe; over on Bravo, Kathy Griffin (NP, in her first sketch) asks if his plan will exclude Perez Hilton; MTV focuses on Kristen Cavelleri's (AE) babbling; The Food Network offers up Guy Fieri (BM); The CW is represented by an angsty teenage vampire (AS), and NBC wraps things up with Keith Morrison (BH) and his peculiar fascination with death panels. The zaniness takes a pause so we can see what's on Fox News, where we cut to Glenn Beck (JS) making a bad pun about Obama and somehow associating Communist Russia with goose-stepping. This opening sketch was as delightful as it was rapid-fire; you get the sense that four months of partisan bickering on this topic has lit a certain flame in the writers' bellies, yet this barrage of celebrity impressions never felt rushed or bloated. I can't wait to see more of Jason's Beck impression, though.
Over at the Update desk, it's like 2007 all over again. Amy Poehler left the show almost a year ago, and this will likely be the last time we'll ever see her behind the Update desk, yet the chemistry between her and Seth is as palpable as ever. (For those keeping count, Solo Update resumes in two days.) Dubbing Kaddafi and Ahmadinejad "swarthy lunatics" is all fine and dandy, though its squeeze plays like the Walmart/syphilis joke that earn the belly laugh. A simulated 911 call between a Latina operator and a Seattle resident being attacked by a monkey was little more than an excuse for Seth to prod at Amy's cartoonish Rosie Perez impression.
As usual, the commentaries were a mixed bag. With the president pressuring him to not run for a full term in 2010, Gov. David Paterson (FA) compares his stint in office to a cursed monkey paw before telling the usual New Jersey jokes. While Fred's Paterson impression still comes off as obvious and chintzy, most non-New Yorkers should be reminded that the Empire State's top dog has a deservedly low approval rating and has every right to be subjected to ridicule. I'm sorry that he's blind and there are no intended race jokes to be found, but this man was never meant to be governor and it shows. From there we're treated to a visit by Former President Clinton (DH), who promotes an upcoming book about his legacy and presents two incriminating audio clips. A homage to the cancellation of Guiding Light is a wacky excuse for Megan Fox to make a cameo and prove that she isn't a deadly serious person and/or a really sexy robot. Finally, a discussion of collegiate Swine Flu concerns is lead by UConn undergrad Shep (AS), a one-dimensional nerd with panic attacks.
Though these 30-minute specials will leave –and have left- the purists skeptical about how NBC promotes SNL, this one-third size sampling nevertheless retains the essence of the show. A couple of good jokes, some light topical humor, and a sense that as hit and miss and it might be, you still find yourself entertained. With four more prime time specials ahead (one next week and three more in January) and a full 22-episode order yet to begin, perhaps The Peacock is risking desperation and slowly manipulating one of its most beloved shows into a time-slot stopgap. Then again, with Jay Leno gobbling up five hours of primetime each week, maybe SNL should be the least of our concerns.
This Saturday: Aforementioned "Transformers" hottie Megan Fox hosts with musical guest U2. Also, my last review of a live 90-minute broadcast.
Questions or comments for Stu? Drop him a PM or e-mail him at email@example.com.