Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Morning Quarterback - Woody Harrelson & Kendrick Lamar

Woody Harrelson is hosting SNL again.  The only thing I asked was that the writers didn’t do a Cheers sketch.  I was totally fine with True Detective making it’s way onto the show, but Cheers was way past it’s pop cultural relevance. 

So did the writers for Saturday Night Live let me down?  And did Kendrick Lamar knock my socks off? 

Read on. 

Phil Hartman – Comedic gold
Chris Farley – Definitely funny, but kinda messy
Norm MacDonald – Funny, but not for everyone
Kristen Wiig – So-so premise saved by performer.
Tim Meadows – Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it, dripping with adequatulence
Darrell Hammond – Funny, but overstayed it’s welcome
Jim Breuer- Crowd pleaser, but a bit obvious
Robert Downey Jr – Brilliant performer, not a lot to work with
David Spade – Trying too hard
Janeane Garofalo – Weird weird, not weird funny

And introducing our new Host Rating Scale;

Drake – Outstanding
Edward Norton – Impressive
Josh Hutcherson – Fine Enough
Charlize Theron – Essentially an Extra
Seth Rogen – Expectation, Unmet
Jim Parsons - Awful

Cold Open   President Obama and Mitch McConnell bond over some liquor.  This is best kind of topical sketch; it features players that are known, but doesn’t have anything specific that it has to stick to. Watching them bond was fun, as was the awkward race talk.  The ending kind of undermined the bonding that happened during the sketch, but still this cold open was better than most. 

Rating: Kristen Wiig

Monologue – I’ll admit to bracing with fear when Woody reached for the guitar.  SNL has worn out the welcome for the musical monologue.  But everything clicked with this one.  Woody’s take on Taylor’s song was genuinely funny, as were his Hunger Games guests.  Jennifer Lawrence’s messing up her line was just one of those endearing things that she seemingly does on command.  It reminded us that the show was live.  Also, Woody’s exaggerated version of himself was highly enjoyable to watch. 

Rating: Phil Hartman

The Dudleys – Wow, this was an incredibly on point sketch.  From the milquetoast nature of television shows, to the immediacy of social media critiques to the demographic that still mails letters, everything was on point.  Loud and Clear.  Seriously. 

Rating: Phil Hartman

Martch’d – I would have been fine if this was just a sketch about three horny guys trying to one-up each other for the chance to score with Desiree, but the turn was perfect.  The backpedalling, the ass kissing, the ending every sentence with “Sir”; that was comedy.  And Strong’s Desiree had great lines like “can’t shake hands with a ghost” which is part of the reason I was attracted to her.  Wait, did I just type that? 

Rating: Phil Hartman

A New Day – This was a really well shot short.  Seeing all of the stoners venture into the light of day and celebrate freedom was funny to witness.  (Though Leslie Jones’ character doesn’t really fit thematically, because, she’s already out in the world.)  The realization that they can’t smoke in public harshing their high, was a great touch. 

Rating: Kristen Wiig

New Tackles – I can’t think of something on SNL being this sharp in awhile.  To poke fun at the overzealousness of new safety protocols for football players while also showing why the protocols are in place it a great idea and it was executed perfectly.  It was funny before Kenan’s DC came into the scene, and he elevated it.  Poking fun at both sides of the issue and doing it well.  This sketch was great. 

Rating: Phil Hartman

Young Tarts & Old Farts – Conceptually, it’s a lazy sketch, but the odd pairings redeem it.  My personal highlights were Sam Smith and James Taylor and James Taylor and Two Chainz, though Barry Manilow and Kendrick Lamar was also a good pairing. 

Rating: Kristen Wiig

Kendrick Lamar Performance #1 – I really dig the theatricality of this performance.  I dig the contact lenses and how isolated he is onstage.  For most of the peformance he’s stationary, yet very kinetic and every movement has some flair.  I truly believe in Kendrick Lamar. 

Weekend Update – Right off the bat I dug how the audience didn’t appreciate Jost’s perceived shots at Che.  The writing didn’t really shine on Update this week.  Again, Che flubs a joke, which is getting to be a pretty bad habit.  While I’m happy Leslie is getting her time to shine, I’m tired of her doing her stand up on Update.  If I wanted to see Leslie Jones do stand up, I’d go see her do stand up.  The best part of Jones on Update is her interplay with Jost, which is troubling because it plays up racial stereotypes.  Che’s joke about Jimmy Carter on Tindr was a highlight.  Of course seeing Killam and Woody was funny.  Killam really cut loose with his McConaughey.  And they both clearly enjoyed it. 

NYC Reminiscing – Having a crack aficionado chime in on the conversation about the glory days of NYC is a funny idea, that’s completely sold by Harrelson.  This could have been a one-note sketch, but he gives it life and practically causes Moynihan to break.  It even had a an ending. 

Rating: Kristen Wiig

Apples…the Usual Way – This will be a sketch that you either love or hate.  At Fission Spaghetti, it’s loved.  A song that sound half formed and mostly made up?   A weird group of friend?  Woody’s character only having two possessions?  The two splashes?  Woody pulling a Lindsey Buckingham, by pouting and then coming around?  This sketch had just the right amount of nuttiness to be right up my alley. 

Rating: Norm MacDonald

Kendrick Lamar Performance #2 – If I’m not mistaken, this is a song that Kendrick Lamar is only featured on, which makes it an odd choice for his second performance.  Granted, it is out right now, but it still feels off.  Speaking more generally of Lamar, I think I like him because he was positioned as a savior of West Coast Rap, yet has clearly pivoted to become an artist.  I dig that. 

Last Call at Donnelly’s – It sound weird to say, especially considering how many times this sketch has closed out SNL, but this was the best and most well written one so far.  “I pick out the nasty ones” “You sure do!!” “ST-Detroit” and “Dejaculated.”  Some thought went into this sketch.  And again, having Kenan’s bartender being an actual moving part of this sketch is a great touch. 

Rating: Phil Hartman

Final Thoughts: I don’t know what happened in the off week; maybe the writers got received an ultimatum.  Maybe they got fired and replaced.  Maybe Woody shared his primo weed with them.  Who knows, but the writing for this episode was head and shoulders above anything thus far this season.  It’s not a matter of the writers hitting their stride, because they were clearing hurtles I could have thought them capable of even attempting. 

Sadly, Strong, Bryant and McKinnon got limited sketch time this week.  Also, it feels like Jones has been in more sketches than Zamata, which doesn’t seem like a good sign. 

Harrelson performed spectacularly.  When he needed to carry things, he did.  When he needed to be a role player, he was.  Very good job. 

Host Rating: Edward Norton

Next Week: It’s Cameron Diaz with Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars.  I’m actually looking forward to the music more than the host. 

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