Saturday Night Live: Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Paul Simon
(S31E19) This is one of those shows that no matter what I write in the following paragraphs, people are going to disagree with me. I really do think that as this season has progressed, it's gotten stronger. Early episodes in this season weren't as good and as readers have pointed out, I was far more critical of those earlier episodes. Well, there's a reason for that. I think they've steadily gotten better, save for the crappy sketch here and there and or the few horrible episodes we did get this season (Dane Cook was a huge disappointment). Last night's episode with Elaine... er, I mean Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a perfect example of what I'm trying to say here. This was a solid episode with a few huge errors, the biggest in my opinion being a "Weekend Update" that ran in at just over 14 minutes. That's way too long.
One of the biggest things I've had trouble dealing with lately are all the negative comments that my SNL reviews generally garner. Well, a simple truth remains and it's one that numerous commenters have pointed out: No matter what season, what time period, or what cast, there are still tons of folks out there who think that particular era (or cast or whatever) is the worst one yet. Well, I'm more then willing to defend this season of SNL as being one of the best we've seen in a few years. We're talking about a season that gave us Lazy Sunday. We're talking about a season that gave us some of the freshest new cast members (Samberg, Sudeikis, Hader, Wiig) than we've seen in years. We're talking about a season where we saw Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, and Tom Hanks all return as hosts. We're talking about a season that's had more reliance on pre-produced segments. I could keep going but I wanted to get this out of the way now so that I can devote next week's season finale to another reason: Kevin Spacey is hosting. Okay, well as Ryan always says, on with the show!
Cold Open - This is what a cold open should be. When SNL does political satire and commentary right, they really can hit the ball out of the park. The set-up? We're in a parallel universe, Al Gore was elected President in the 2000 election and he was re-elected in 2004. So what's our world like? Global warming has been stopped but the price we pay is renegade glaciers encroaching on Michigan. We have a gas surplus and it only costs 19¢ a gallon thanks to President Gore's mandate that all cars run on trash. Thanks Doc Brown. Welfare and Social Security are fixed and there's an $11 trillion dollar budget surplus. Plus we have an anti-hurricane and tornado national defense machine. It goes on. That's what you need to do, we need to laugh. It was great Al Gore agreed to come on and do this segment. Of course all these things would never have happened. They're extremes, but it allows us to at least crack a smile at our current situation. Very well done.
Julia's Monologue - I loved when she told us the alternative titles to her new sitcom (The New Adventures of Old Christine) that were tossed around in an attempt to grab the male demographic. Football Christine. BBQ Spaceship Christine. Coke off a Whore's Ass Christine. The real treat was the short video where she bumped into Jason Alexander on the street and they talked about the Seinfeld curse. Alexander was then hit by a cab. What curse? Back in the studio, Julia said she didn't believe in it but then a stage light falls next to her. Except it didn't fall on accident. Jerry Seinfeld cut it down with some hedge clippers. But where was Michael Richards?
The Tech Pack - A new fake commercial for the latest item to help you control all your electronic devices from Blackberries, to iPods, to cell-phones, to digital cameras. Just wrap the Tech Pack around your waist and control it all with on large red plunger button. It looks just like a bomb and works great when you're going on business trips. Sudeikis running through the airport was funny stuff.
That Hobo doesn't Like Me - Julia, Amy, Maya, and Rachel are all out to lunch and a bum who hangs around outside the restaurant keeps making lewd comments and gestures to everyone except Julia. So her friends pay off the bum to say something to her (something about taking a dump on her stomach). This was the only sketch that I thought was poorly executed and I didn't really laugh at it. It was kind of slow and I think it would have worked better had they just been walking by the guy on the street and Julia was forced to have more interaction with the bum (Bill Hader).
The Morning Show - The best way to describe this sketch is "cute." It was a cute idea and I thought it played out very well. Wiig and Sanz are the hosts of a generic morning TV show and everything stereotypical that goes wrong on these types of shows went wrong. Theme music stays on too long, microphones are broken, staff members have died and no one is told, the guest's seat makes fart noises, information is wrong, and Horatio grabs Julia's breasts. It was really funny and it reminded me of that older sketch (another morning show) with Will Ferrell, Nancy Walls and David Alan Grier. The teleprompter breaks and they end up becoming savages. Similar idea, but it went in a different direction.
The Learning Annex offers a MySpace class - Now this was a great idea. Continuing education businesses always offer classes on Microsoft applications, how to do your taxes, and the Internet in general. But it makes sense that a class might be offered on how to set-up a MySpace profile because it's so popular right now. So who would attend such a class? Well... pedophiles complete with moustaches and aviator sunglasses. The reason I think this sketch was so well done was because I don't need to describe it. I just gave you the set-up and you can pretty much deduce how it played out. I did enjoy as all the 40-year old men made user-names such as Chadster1991, 9thGradeSkaterBoy, and NaughtyGirlHotStuff.
Weekend Update - As I said earlier, this just went on too long and there were far too many dead jokes. I mean, fourteen minutes for Weekend Update? Whatever sketch got cut in the dress rehearsal in order to stretch out WU must have been really bad. The debate over global warming between Al Gore and Amy was really amusing. The bit with Tina's grandfather (Fred Armisen) was terrible and they bounced back to it three times! Completely unnecessary. Finesse's bit on how to dress for prom was really funny but they cut it short. Stand-up is his bread and butter. We know he sucks in sketches so give him more time on WU when he comes on and cut out all that other crap if you're going to make the segment so long.
Charades - I think this was a real gameshow? Or there was at least something similar to it, but it might not have been called Charades. Chris Parnell was the host of this 70's style show (he even had the giant microphone). Amy and Julia were the contestants given the topics to act out. They all required some kind of sexual charade: eating hotdogs, throwing dice, licking two ice cream cones. You get the idea. Celebrities had to guess the topic: Nipsy Russell (Kenan), George Carlin (Fred), Bruce Jenner (Will), Rich Little (Darrell Hammond), and I'm not sure who Maya was supposed to be. You have to admire Darrell Hammond here though. Rich Little is arguably one of the greatest impressionists ever. And here we had Darrell doing a dead on Little impression while he did Little doing Johnny Carson, Popeye... it was fantastic.
Unsolved Mysteries - I always wondered what it might have been like to be part of the crew that filmed the re-enactments for this show. Julia was playing a woman who had been abducted. Kristen Wiig played that woman and she was there as some sort of creative consultant. Well apparently she had been abducted by E.T., a generic looking alien, Count Dracula, and about a dozen Gremlins. Then Colonel Sanders came and saved her. This was just so ridiculous, I loved it. And once again, Darrell Hammond showed why he's still on SNL because of his flawless Robert Stack impression.
SNL Digital Short - This was very similar to the first digital short they did this season for the Lettuce Growers of America. Only this time it was the United Peyote Farmers. Forte and Samberg were both high out of their minds and were convinced they were in some sort of police situation. Samberg was going to jump off a building and Forte was the cop trying to talk him down. Except they were both on the sidewalk. This would have been better had it not been so similar to that first short I mentioned.
Paul Simon - He performed two songs off his new album Surprise. The first was "How Can You Live in the Northeast" and he followed that with "Outrageous." The guy has still got it though. His music was never exactly my cup of tea but everything he does has this weird kind of "listenability" to it. It's like comfort music.
-TV Squad sends its condolences to the family of Al Camoin. Al was a longtime camera-man for SNL (according to his IMDb page, he'd been there since at least 1978). There was a brief memorial screen graphic for Al at the end of the show. He was 78.
-The 31st season finale airs next week (5/20/06). Kevin Spacey hosts with musical guest Nelly Furtado.