Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Morning Quarterback – Taraji P. Henson & Mumford & Sons

I’m definitely happy for Taraji P. Henson.  She’s been Black A List for awhile, but now she’s graduated to Hollywood B list, a step up.  She seems genuinely grateful that her hard work as paid off.  And now she’s hosting Saturday Night Live. 

I’ve never seen Henson do comedy, so I’m looking forward to what she brings to the table and what the SNL writers write for her.  I’m also looking forward to hearing Mumford & Son’s new sound. 

Was my curiosity paid off or punished?  

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

Hillary Clinton Cold Open – This is a decent bit.  It doesn’t really add anything new to the characterization of Clinton, which can be mildly forgiven at this point.  Hillary is monomaniacal, we get it. Nice to see Hammond pop up as Bill Clinton, which was always one of my favorites of his impressions. 

Rating: Tim Meadows

Monologue – Yet another musical monologue?  I understand that SNL doesn’t really care what recappers think, but I don’t think anyone is calling for more musical monologues.  Unfortunately this one’s an unbalanced number; Henson can actually sing, but the writing’s not there at least in terms of lyrics.  Fortunately the cast comes in to bring some much needed levity to the number, but it’s too little to late. 

Rating: David Spade

Depend Legends – This is a very well done bit.  Granted it’s completely adding to the stigma that diapers are for babies, but using the marketing tactic of putting likable images on the product is a pretty funny one.  It’s a mean joke, but it made me laugh.  I dug the various product lines “The Greatest Generation” “Newsmen and Newsmakers.”  The “Female D.A.’s from Law and Order” slayed me.  Also funny; “On a diaper? That’s the last place Monk wants to be.” 

Rating: Norm Macdonald

Hot For Teacher – I guess this should be more troubling than it was.  After all, sex abuse is sex abuse, right?  That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to an occasional tinge of envy when reading about the seemingly weekly stories on Gawker of a female teacher being inappropriate with a male student.  And this sketch wouldn’t work if the genders were reversed.  So, double standard out of the way, this sketch was really just fine.  The high points being the sly smile Kenan’s judge gives Davidson’s witness and the some of the names he was called by his classmates.

Rating: Tim Meadows

Home 2 – Can we all implore the writers of SNL to officially retire Zamata’s beyond horrible impression of Rihanna?  Every time is shows up, I’m aghast.  It only appeared for a few seconds and it left a bad taste in my ears and eyes.  The rest of the impressions were adequate at best.  Pharoah needs to put some more work into his Lamar and Jones’ Missy Elliott felt equally off model.  Even Kenan’s usually fine Rick Ross didn’t work in this bit. 

Rating: David Spade

QVC – “Claudette Fontaine”? Apparently SNL’s writers were afraid of offending the estate of Liza Minelli?  (What? She’s still alive?!)  Bryant gets points for really staying in character in this sketch.  She’s an integral part, yet she doesn’t have much to do and she still sells it.  I’m guessing this sketch would be funnier if I were an avid QVC watcher, but as the intro noted, then I’d be a dog whose owner left the tv on. 

Rating: Tim Meadows

John Singleton’s Game of Thrones – For those of you who thought the Beyagency’s parody of The Adjustment Bureau was too topical, here’s a Game of Thrones/Boyz n the Hood mash-up.  Yes, South Centros is funny and I’m always up for an Ice Cube impression, but this is a tough sell.  Boyz n the Hood was an important movie for me and even I had trouble remembering some of the scenes being referenced.  Props for the Kingslayer cameo and Michael Che’s pretty decent Lawrence Fishbourne impression. 

Rating: Kristen Wiig

Mumford & Sons First Performance – Based on this song I feel like Mumford (and Sons, presumably) took all of the calling them soft and biting of their style personally.  This is clearly a response to something.  That said, I detect a distinct Snow Patrol vibe to this new sound, which is decidedly not the opposite of soft.  Also, this song as the same standard Mumford swell, only now with electric guitars.  As someone who has Mumford & Sons albums, I’m on the fence as to whether I’ll be picking this one up. 

Weekend Update – The good is that Che got some truly awesome racial jabs in.   Photos being the things that cops like to shoot the least and white people rioting without consequences were so on target.  Cecilia Giminez was fine.  And with the appearance of Jacob’s dad, Dr. Heinken, does that mean that Jacob is done?  I’d be ok with that, he’s had a good run.  There wasn’t really a bad part of Update this week, it was just sort of middling. 

Hollywood Game Night – This coming on so late in the show is puzzling.  Equally puzzling is why SNL writers decided to take Celebrity Jeopardy, double down on celebrities and remove most of the characterization.  This sketch gets props for incorporating Chris Pine’s tear and for the bit with Nick Offerman’s moustache.  Also, Henson’s Wanda Sykes impression was actually pretty decent, which may be more of an indictment for how cartoonish Sykes is.  But this sketch didn’t do much.  (Side note; Jay1 and I were just talking about how difficult pulling off a Common impression would be and Pharoah’s attempt illustrates it perfectly.) 

Rating: David Spade

How 2 Dance With Janelle – Ah, Zamata’s attempt at a reoccurring character, who can apparently only appear when there’s a Black host.  Zamata bumbles a joke early (by not drawing a longer pause between “state” and “penitentiary”) which is the closest this sketch comes to having a written joke.  Fortunately Henson’s commitment to the bit and her character bring something to the sketch.  And the sketch even has an ending with Pharoah’s panicked ending of the livestream.  Sadly, neither were enough to redeem a sketch with a paper thin premise. 

Rating: Jim Breuer

Sesame Street – Here’s an example of an obvious premise that still works.  Part of it is because Henson is so comfortable in Cookie’s skin.  Part of it is because of the juxtaposition between the setting and the character.  And part of it is because of some amazing acting by Bert and Mr. Snuffleupagus, which is a statement that makes me feel like I can now die having fulfilled a marvelous dream.

Rating: Phil Hartman

Cinema Classics: Their Own League – I will never tire of Reese De’What.  In fact one of the flaws of this sketch is that he’s not in it nearly enough.  Another flaw is that they didn’t quite go far enough with this one.  McKinnon’s line about “while our husbands are away, we’re the racists” feels like the tone that this sketch should have had once it kicked in.  That trigger is pulled a bit too late and not really followed up on.   But it was a decent attempt. 

Rating: Tim Meadows

Mumford & Sons Second Performance – Yeah, this really is sounding more and more like Snow Patrol.  In fact, has anyone seen Snow Patrol and Mumford & Sons together at the same time?  Could they be same band?  Is that possible? 

Connectatron – This is a funny sketch and a funny premise.  But it’s so messy because of the time crunch.  I love the idea of a group of characters who have to come together as a unit to save the day, with interpersonal beef as a hurdle.  Also, couldn’t SNL have figured out a better way to show Connecatron missing a leg than literally having Connecatron hopping on one leg with the other leg clearly bent? 

Rating: Chris Farley

Final Thoughts: This was an interesting episode.  There were several points where race came up directly, which felt at least refreshing if not bold.  And the Black cast members certainly got a ton of screen time, even if the writing wasn’t always there.  And I’d feel bad for Kyle Mooney who played straight man in one sketch, but he still got paid the same amount for this week. 

Henson did a pretty good job.  She didn’t seem completely comfortable, but she committed herself to the characters she was given, even if the writers never really trusted her to carry a sketch.  Her Wanda Sykes impression actually impressed. 

Host Rating: Josh Hutcherson

Next Time: Scarlett Johansson with musical guest TBD.  Or possibly she’s pulling double duty, which doesn’t seem like an empty threat. 

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