A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Pariah of the Religious Right
Scroll down for a bonus year-end recap!
What is there to say about the 32nd season of SNL? To state the obvious, this was a transitional year for the show, a time to let young and unproven talent get their moment in the sun. In spite of the usual uneven writing, we’ve seen enough of Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, and Kristen Wiig to know that the near-term future of SNL is in good hands. The beginning of the season was awkward but far from unwatchable, and the broadcasts that aired in the second half of the year were mostly adequate but still disproportionately funny and inane. Year 32 is compatible with Year 12 as a transition year for the show; not unlike twenty years ago, the cast consisted of a ragtag group of scrappy unknowns with the unfortunate burden of “saving” the show. I highly doubt the likes of Hader and Samberg will ever replace Dana Carvey and Phil Hartman in our hearts, but they made the most of a Herculean task. If Lorne keeps this ensemble intact for Year 33, SNL could be on the verge of another upswing period.
Our host tonight is Zach Braff, the NBC sitcom star/independent film auteur appearing in the upcoming romantic comedy “The Ex.” This marks the first time the NBC cult hit “Scrubs” has been represented on SNL, and even though I would’ve picked the constantly underrated John C. McGinley first, I have no qualms with Dr. Dorian as the master of ceremonies. The musical guest is Maroon 5, who first appeared in arguably the worst broadcast of Year 29, yet has come back to plug their new CD and prove that they’re not some superficial flash in the pan that make 14-year-old girls go berzerk.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Set on getting away from all the problems he’s created for himself, President Bush (JS) gives a farewell address for the summer. Vice President Cheney (DH) eggs him on, while Secretary Rice (MR) takes the reins. You would think such an obtuse end to a sketch would suggest that Maya might be leaving the show soon, but for now I’d rather focus on the show as a whole.
MONOLOGUE: Zach sings the praises of his home state New Jersey by mangling the songbooks of Billy Joel and Leiber & Stoller, then pointing out the obscure landmarks of the Garden State. The charm is in the off-key crooning.
DIGITAL SHORT: An apartment-hunter (AS) is seduced by his potential roommate’s dog (voice of BH), but things get complicated when a desire for ham is thrown into the mix. Everything leads up to a climax we all sort of expected, that being Andy and the dog making out. Moments like this are made for YouTube.
“Prom Committee”: Two girls named BJ (don’t ask) go over potential prom themes, but nothing quite lives up to the James Bond motif they originally had their eyes on. The rejected ideas some from a diehard Mets fan (FA), the socially awkward class valedictorian (WF), a “Garden State” geek (Zach, of course), two stoners (JS, KT) that really love their Pink Floyd, two abstinent Christians (BH, KW), and an RPG player (AS) who suggests a “virtual” prom. The left-field ending, in which Darrell reprises one of his best-loved impressions, was the cherry on top of this funny, odds-and-sods vignette.
“Deep House Dish”: T’Shane finally says something witty… then kills all his momentum. Did we expect anything less of him/her/it? As for the rest of the sketch, it was pretty much the same old business; vapid electronica chanteuses and the DJs that love them talk like blithering idiots as Handbag (KT) fawns over them. Personally, I can’t believe they’ve already done seven or eight of these sketches.
SMIGELTOON: In “Decision 08: Spring Cleaning 07,” a wide group of presidential candidates, including some that are speculated but have yet to throw their hat in the ring, reveal less-than-shocking secrets to Oprah Winfrey (voice of MR). Everyone bares their soul except Senator Clinton, who looks like one of Jack Nicholson’s victims in the first “Batman” movie. My favorite confession? Al Gore has herpes and a yen for game hunting.
“The Weight”: In an unexpected encore of one of my favorite sketches of the season, four guys sit in a bar and reminisce strange memories to a jukebox tune; this time, it’s the aforementioned song by The Band. Having Zach mail his own feces via FedEx nearly killed the credibility of this recurring bit, and even though it wasn’t as funny as the first time around, it still put a smile on my face.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Sounding like a rehash of an obscure Red Hot Chili Peppers song, “Makes Me Wonder” is either an enervated pop attempt at jamming or a really lazy disco number.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Summer’s not here yet, but it seems like Seth and Amy are already on hiatus; after all the progress they made this season, they spend their last WU segment of the year regressing to the same tired joke formulas that dogged them earlier in the year. You know what was also same and tired? Batty old Aunt Linda (KW) drops by to review some upcoming summer blockbusters, her near-constant lambasting feeling more dreary than ever. Worse yet, the segment ends with another visit from Whitney Houston (MR), who does her usual exhausted “I’ll get you Bobby Brown” schtick, then offers cocaine brownies. If there was anything I did find funny, at least Amy acknowledged that ABC’s new cavemen sitcom looks pretty bad (watch the clips they have available on this site, they’re really lame).
“Le Revista Della Televisione”: This is pretty much the same old pistolotto we saw two months ago with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, except now we have vomit-spewing puppets and karate gorillas. As for Vinny (BH), he’s just as manic and exuberant as ever, but he’s still two-dimensional and for a recurring character largely forgettable.
“Bronx Beat”: Jodi and Betty (AP, MR) grill a production intern (Zach), but never acknowledge if he’s cute or if he’s compatible with anyone they indirectly know. Luckily for me and anyone else that do not get this sketch, this was about half as long as it normally is.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “Won’t Go Home Without You” steals the bass riff from The Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” but at least makes it more danceable.
“Brian Grazer’s Office”: An “Ugly Betty”-esque secretary named Melissa (FA) discovers that her creepy fawning over Zach is mutual. As half-baked and implausible as that may seem, whatever attempt at satirizing the film industry and the sticky world of public relations was hampered by static performances from Maya (as Zach’s agent) and Bill (as Grazer). After a string of so-so shows, the 32nd season of SNL ends on a somewhat positive note. The host and musical guest were neither delightful nor disappointing; Braff brought some energy but in certain sketches he had his eyes glued on the cue-cards, while Maroon 5 performed two flavorless pop songs that will almost certainly get obscene amounts of radio play this summer. Tonight, however belonged to the cast and what they’ve built upon in the last year. The cast reduction that made heads swirl eight months ago is slowly but surely paying off.
Sketches/Segments That Will Probably Be Removed In Repeats: “Decision ’08,” “Bronx Beat,” “Won’t Go Home Without You,” and “Brian Grazer’s Office.”
Next week: A repeat of the Jaime Pressly/Corinne Bailey Rae broadcast. Oh dear.
And now, a retrospective of Season 32:
Best Musical Guests:
3. Tenacious D
2. The Shins
1. Arcade Fire
Worst Musical Guests:
3. Avril Lavigne
2. My Chemical Romance
1. Gwen Stefani
3. Drew Barrymore
2. Alec Baldwin (did you expect anything less?)
1. Hugh Laurie
3. Jaime Pressly
2. Jake Gyllenhaal
1. Annette Bening
The 10 Most Indelible Moments of The Season:
10. Borat addresses the nation (Laurie/Beck)
9. The Down Syndrome flap (Rainn/Fire)
8. The cast comes into their own (like I don’t emphasize that enough)
7. Tony Bennett meets his imposter (Baldwin/Aguilera)
6. Jake Gyllenhaal pays homage to “Dreamgirls” (Gyllenhaal/Shins)
5. “Bobby McPherin raped my grandmother” (Baldwin/Aguilera)
4. Peyton Manning shreds his public image to bits (Manning/Underwood)
3. Dan Aykroyd cries for Sanjaya (Manning/Underwood)
2. Hey, is that Paul McCartney? (Baldwin/Aguilera)
1. “D*** in a Box” (Timberlake)
Worst Overall Episodes:
3. Matthew Fox/Tenacious D
2. Jaime Pressly/Corinne Bailey Rae
1. Jake Gyllenhaal/The Shins
Best Overall Episodes:
3. Rainn Wilson/Arcade Fire
2. Hugh Laurie/Beck
1. Alec Baldwin/Christina Aguilera
This year’s individual achievement awards:
Overrated comedian, underrated host: Dane Cook
Most diligent athlete-host in recent memory: Peyton Manning
The Robert DeNiro Achievement Award for blatant cue-card reading: Annette Bening
Most delightfully random cameo of the season: Chris Rock, in the cold opening of the JLD/Snow Patrol broadcast
Most unnecessary random cameo of the season: Horatio Sanz, in the “Versace Super Bowl Party” sketch from the Barrymore/Allen broadcast
Strangest host/musical guest pairing: Forest Whitaker/Keith Urban
Most promising trend: SNL serving a launching pad for up-and-coming indie-rock acts (The Shins, Arcade Fire, etc.)
Least promising trend: Outside of “Maraka,” I don’t think there was a halfway decent Smigeltoon all season.
At worst he’s a bland Joe Piscopo imitation, but he knows how to fill a sketch: Jason Sudeikis
2006-07 Most Valuable Player: Kristen Wiig
Contact “HelloStuart” at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great summer, everybody!