Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Morning Quarterback – Dwayne Johnson & George Ezra

Dwayne Johnson is an odd pop culture figure.  He’s huge star, but he’s never launched his own franchise.  He’s transcended professional wrestling, but still has a huge wrestling presence.  He’s also a very solid SNL host.

It’s why we’ve got some expectations for him as a host.  And Saturday Night Live could really use a homerun, right about now, with some relatively weak episodes so far this year.  Did Johnson deliver?  

Our Rating system

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

The Rock Obama – I feel like this sketch was given.  It’s Johnson’s reoccurring character and while it’s completely predictable, it’s also totally acceptable.  The incorporation of Leslie Jones into the bit was a nice addition.  However it’d have been nice of the sketch actually built to an ending. 

Rating: Kristen Wiig

Monologue – The concept of Johnson as “Franchise Viagra” is a funny one, but the musicality of it had me wary.  But Johnson really pulled it off.  His bragging and self-deprecation really worked well together. 

Rating: Kristen Wiig

Pep Boys #Genderflect – This was a pretty well done parody of Starbucks misguided attempt to start a dialogue about race.  It’s a simple formula; pressing issue being broached by people not necessarily equipped to handle the nuance of said issue.  It could have easily been Palestine/Israel at Chipotle, but this one worked perfectly.  This was very well done. 

Rating: Norm Macdonald

Wrestlemania Promos – This is right in the Johnson’s wheelhouse, but it also allows him poke fun at wrestling.  Coco tearing into Junkyard Mutt is hilarious to watch.  And the escalation of things is just great.  I think my favorite line is “I’m going to rip this guy apart and I mean psychologically. “  You have to love a sketch that involves herpes, long lost daughters and catfishing. 

Rating: Norm Macdonald

Bambi – This was well done, but I couldn’t get past the notion that Disney wouldn’t make this film.  Say what you will, but the Disney brand is strong enough that I found the violence and profanity distractingly unrealistic for a Disney flick. 

Rating: Kirsten Wiig

Dinner Date – I honestly can’t think of any part of this sketch that I didn’t love.  I loved Johnson’s meathead character, a character who he makes feel so real.  I loved Cecily’s dim Brit.  I loved how weird the sketch got at the end with the onion rings.  But I really loved when Johnson’s character provided the beat for Cecily’s song; he completely sold it. 

Rating: Phil Hartman

Escape From Jungle Island – I liked this sketch.  I’m sure that some people will find it homophobic, but I think it’s really more like a live action Ambiguously Gay Duo type scenario.  I do have to mark off for them putting the words “guy code” into Davidson’s mouth. 

Rating: Kristen Wiig

Brogaine – Here’s a sketch that’s two thirds of the way there; it’s got a punny product name and funny scenario (Bennett’s baldness is pretty funny) but the sketch doesn’t really deliver much beyond that.  It’s like the writers hoped something funny would happen, but it sadly never did. 

Rating: Tim Meadows

George Ezra First Performance – I can’t lie, this guy did not hold my attention.  I didn’t care for his voice and song did not hook itself into me. I’m always interested when SNL introduces me to a new artist, but sometimes they just don’t take. 

Weekend Update – Updated benefited from having two ringers for correspondents; Olya Povalsky and Willie, Michael’s Neighbor.  They both hit homeruns, with Willie being my favorite sadsack since Gil on The Simpsons.  There was also some banter between Che and Jost, which is a good sign.  On a less than positive note, Jost’s riff on The Jinx was a valiant effort that didn’t quite work out.  But all in all, it was a very solid outing. 

Cooking with Paul – What a dud of a sketch.  It only had one note and it got old very quick.  I kept hoping that sketch would veer into uncomfortable laugh territory, but it stuck with Thompson’s Paul constantly wanting computer access, which is as funny as it sounds.  A rare misfire for the episode. 

Rating: David Spade

Durst Improv Troop – This is one of those sketches that was clearly supposed to be the cold open (note the lack of both an ending and of Johnson).  The ending is insanely abrupt and it really tarnishes the goodwill earned by both McKinnon’s Robert Durst impression and a fun mocking of improv troops.  At the end of day, it’s still a sketch worth watching just for McKinnon’s spot on impression. 

Rating: Kate McKinnon

George Ezra Second Performance – I enjoyed this song much more than the first one.  Maybe it was faster or have a better hook?  I can’t call it, all I can say that this song left me with a positive impression of someone whose music Ill probably never purchase. 

Interrogation – Yet another sketch that illustrates how adept Johnson is at character-work.  His character’s trash talk is amazing.  His apparent platonic crush on Jeff is fascinating.  This sketch really was great. 

Rating: Phil Hartman

The Circus with Kyle – I’ll admit it; I’m a sucker for Kyle Mooney’s mumbly awkward guys who have access to video technology.  What I like about this how for the most part, he wasn’t really poking fun at the people he was interviewing; he was just making things awkward. 

Rating: Norm Macdonald

Final Thoughts – I was cautiously optimistic about Johnson’s hosting SNL and fortunately I wasn’t disappointed.  He’s an old pro at this, plus he’s used to working in front of a live audience. 

Johnson really brought is characters to life and he served as the comedy for most of the sketches.  He really is the consummate SNL host. 

Host Rating:  Drake

Next Week: Michael Keaton and Carly Rae Jepsen.  I really think there’s zero overlap between those two target demos. 

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