A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Letterman Mistress
Does anyone else think that Jenny Slate's slip-up last Saturday has been blown out of proportion? Granted, dropping the F-bomb on live network television is fairly shocking, but this is not the first time it's ever happened on SNL (it once happened twice in a show) nor does it mean curtains for Slate. Most longtime fans will admit that Slate's slip-up shares some odd parallels to when Paul Shaffer dropped the first profanity in SNL history 30 years ago. In all likelihood, Jenny will rebound from that awkward first impression and with any luck she'll become a valuable asset to the cast. On the other hand, Jenny was the only current cast member to not appear in any of the three Weekend Update Thursdays that have aired this season, though that's probably a pure coincidence.
A couple of years ago, shortly after Tina Fey left the show for a life of relative obscurity, several posters in the TV.com SNL forum wondered if Broadway Video would release a Best-of DVD in her honor. The crucial problem with that, as I repeatedly pointed out, was that Fey was such a non-presence in sketches that the disc would be nothing but zingers from Weekend Update. That memory flashed back into my conscious as I watched tonight's prime time special, which had no cold opening and was a basically a full half-hour of Update with Seth Meyers. Pretzel logic would suggest that expanding a ten-minute segment to three times its average length would mean triple the laughs, right? It worked for all those SNL movies, didn't it?
Obviously, I was a bit underwhelmed by tonight's show. There were a couple of scattered chuckles, but the end product was bogged down by several guest commentaries that ran beyond its course and a general lack of energy. Seth's two opening stories –Sarah Palin's memoir and the latest swine flu alert- were punctuated by Whoopi Goldberg (KT) and Joy Behar (FA). Apparently the arrest of director Roman Polanski on a three-decade-old rape charge was too ungainly a topic to poke fun of, and three minutes of airtime were filled by Fred and Kenan honing and sharpening their respective imitations. This was followed by an equally unfunny treatise by Capt. Roger Baines (JS), an American Airlines pilot with a simmering jealousy for recent comeback kid Chesley Sullenberger.
It was after the first commercial break that WUT #6 reached an apex of sorts. Rather than open with a Suze Orman sketch, the frisky financial guru (KW) was relegated to a sit-down with Seth. This was a mixed blessing, as Orman was the only commentary of the night that worked; her penny-pinching tips in a down economy (like getting a free spray tan by laying under a neighbor's stained deck) were absurd enough that there was no way you couldn't smile. That was followed by a topic near and dear to my heart: Chicago's (ultimately futile) bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. In what will likely be his last SNL appearance as a de facto cast member, Darrell Hammond took on Dennis Franz to Bill Hader's sublime John Malkovich impression; together, they join forces to explain why a Windy City Olympiad would never work out. The slow drag of their ranting and the oddly tepid generalizations about my hometown were traversed by Oprah Winfrey (Maya, of course) cheering on the planning committee live from Stockholm and promising gold medals to everyone in the audience. It was, to sum it up in one word, tired.
The third act maintained the same cadence of the first two. After a sharp gag about a prolific Bangladeshi rat killer, the last commentary of the evening was an impromptu performance by Daryl Hall (WF) and John Oates (FA again). As we learned last year, the rock n' soul duo are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, and they will often rewrite their old hits to address the main issues of the day. Their homage to "Private Eyes," reconstructed as an uninformed debate on health care and the recent public option vote, was almost interchangeable to their previous riff on Obama vs. McCain. In short, one must hope that tonight's appetizer is no harbinger for Saturday's live show.
In Two Days: Ryan Reynolds hosts with musical guest Lady Gaga.
"HelloStuart" can regularly be found in the TV.com Forums. Feel free to leave him your comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.