A Review by the Former "Heystu," Amateur Critic Of The Dark
After months of hoping, wishing, and secretly yearning, the moment beleaguered fans have been waiting for has arrived. Hail the conquering hero, because Will Ferrell has come back to host SNL, nearly three years to the day that he announced his departure as a cast member. His presence, like David Spade earlier this season, should temporarily reinvigorate an ensemble that I have all but given up on. Tonight's musical guest is Queens of the Stone Age, a stoner-friendly metal-rock quartet perhaps best known for collaborating with Dave Grohl for their 2002 disk Songs for the Deaf. As far as I know, they are not, repeat not, the same band as System of a Down.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Rather than sit though what I thought would be the inevitable Ferrell-as-Bush address to the nation, we find our hero roaming the hallways of Studio 8H trying to keep his cool with thoughts constantly running through his head. At one point or another, Tina, Chris, Amy, Finesse (not Kenan), and even Lorne walk over to chat, and Will tries in vain to hide the general awkwardness of his return. Plus, this sketch features the first on-air reference to Tina's pregnancy, which might've screamed in-joke but instead complimented a long-overdue "backstage" sketch.
MONOLOGUE: Will acts really fawning, then confesses to being nervous, does a soulful interpretation of an old Streisand tune, then wet his pants. Let me guess- he wrote this himself.
"Celebrity Jeopardy": I try not to play favorites, but boy, do I miss this recurring sketch. In this edition, Alex Trebek (Will) loses his patience to the cartoonish egocentrism of The Cos (KT), Sharon Osborne (AP), and everybody's favorite, Sean Connery (DH). In this post-Ken Jennings universe, it almost makes you wonder about the relevance of the celebrity edition of the long-running game show. Okay, I'm lying, but I'm on a time crunch and I couldn't think of any other way to finish this paragraph.
"Oracle Conclave 2005": The emcee (Will) at a company powwow cracks under pressure and bombs onstage. The premise was flimsy, but Will was hilarious.
"Para Tri-Cyclen": A birth-control pill that's perfect for sexually active women, even ones that are addicted to the point that they'll shag anything with legs. Why doesn't it surprise me that Amy would be up to the task of playing the seeker of Mr. Goodbar?
"Art Dealers Apartment": Another conformist couple (RD, SM) is sucked into the vortex of the beyond-eccentric Showners (FA, MR), their butler Tato (CP), and their postmodern man-child Newnee (Will). The first time they did this, it was alright; the second time they did this, it was cute; third time around, it's officially old.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Disposing rumors of his untimely passing five years ago, Gene Frenkle comes back roaring to provide frantic cowbell to "Little Sister."
WEEKEND UPDATE: Amy admits to sucking beer out of clumps of dirt, providing an adequate companion piece to her raging hormones earlier in the evening. Otherwise, this paint-by-numbers edition of Update had more misses than hits; a segment involving John Bolton's bullied assistant (SM) went nowhere and only provided a gag everyone saw coming from a mile away.
"Doctor Roberts": Some diehard SNL fans have noticed that Will Forte and producer/bit player Steve Higgins do look a lot alike. When I saw Forte appear in this sketch as a college professor that tortures a struggling ex-student (Will) at a three-star restaurant, I had to wonder if maybe they wrote the character with Higgins in mind. Oh, the grinding!
SMIGELTOON: Spoofing an obscure 60's cartoon, "Shazzang" is a genie that constantly comes to the rescue of two children and a camel, only to sadistically torture and feast upon the pain of anyone that crosses his path. I'm not sure where Bobby Smigel was going with this one- is it skewed criticism of Arabic society or just an attempt at gross-out comedy that got way out of control?
"Robert Goulet Cell Tones": All these Will Ferrell characters coming back to life- it's like Hanukkah in May! But I digress. After the delightful surprise of seeing Gene Frenkle tonight, we now have the renowned baritone performing his own ten-second ditties to pay some more of his mysterious debts. This wasn't bad, but I'm afraid nothing will ever top "The Coconut Bangers' Ball" or his collaboration with Jay-Z.
"Going 2 C Movies": Simple little Vazquez (HS) joins basement-dwelling talk show host Terrye Funck* (CP) for a movie review show on cable access. Joining them is the clerk from the local video store (Will), who gives them a stash of unwanted videotapes and irks everyone around him with the scent of a severe tooth infection. This sketch simply did not go anywhere, though seeing Will crack up instead of Horatio doing the same could say something about how the weight was shifted.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: The Queens roar back with the disjointed yet rollicking "In My Head."
"Jaguar Spokesman": An eccentric man in a bar (Will) flirts with a lady (MR) by speaking in a bad British accent, then lies about being a spy that does commercial voiceovers. Though there were a couple of chuckle-worthy moments, this sketch brought a whimper to what had started with a bang.
In the past two years, I have mentioned more than once that the show's recent phase of mediocrity could be attributed to the fact that SNL has no go-to guy, a cast member whose versatility could help carry an otherwise mediocre sketch. The return of Will Ferrell, a fine go-to guy in his own right, almost cemented my theory. This show may not have been an instant classic, but Ferrell's performance made it more than passable.
Sketches That Will Probably Be Removed For Repeats: "Art Dealers," "Doctor Roberts," "Going 2 C Movies," and "Jaguar Spokesman."
Next Week: It's the season finale, with russet-haired self-promoter Lindsey Lohan returning as host and Coldplay as musical guest. Plus, the second annual year-end recap from Heystu!
*Do you remember that sketch? It was near the end of the Jeff Gordon episode from Year 28? Oh good, I didn't think so.
The author of this article is still adjusting to those silly classifications that are now at the top of every review. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org