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'Saturday Night Live' Bryan Cranston/Kanye West Recap

by Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously), posted Oct 3rd 2010 11:30AM
'Saturday Night Live'['SNL' - 'S36 E02']

Last week's 'Saturday Night Live' was good, but it had a few built-in tricks to ensure its quality: it was the season premiere, a former cast member was the host, and the musical guest had large breasts.

The second episode of the season would need to stand on its own with only the wiles of its multi-faceted host and enigmatic musical guest. When you played Tim Whatley on 'Seinfeld,' hosting 'SNL' is about the only thing left to do in your career, outside of getting into a feud with Kanye West. Bryan Cranston's bucket list might now be two items shorter.

Cold Open: Fred Armisen as Obama addressed the resignation of Rahm Emanuel. It effectively contrasted the personalities of Emanuel and Pete Rouse, his replacement. Obama introduced Emanuel as "Rahmbo," before he showed Rouse the ropes with a paranoia- and rage-laced speech, suggesting that "everyone in Washington is trying to kill you ... all the time!" Emanuel was painted as a borderline sociopath with Rouse as the guy who might be charged with getting him his morning coffee, then tasting it for contaminants.

Monologue: Bryan Cranston went about making himself a household name in the best way possible -- by doing an elaborate barbershop musical number that could best be described as something out of 'The Music Man 2: Back For More ... Music.' The joke being that Cranston is the guy no one knows, but who we all know of.

Pepto-Bismol Ice: "Keep the party out of your pants." At once, the best and worst advice I can think of.

The Miley Cyrus Show: Like, Vanessa Bayer was like pretty cool as like Miley Cyrus hosting like her own talk show with like her like dad like leading the band, like injecting pretty cool nuggets of like pithy pretty like cool southern fried wisdom. Cranston was Billy Ray, and described his daughter as "a pretty little George Lopez." In addition to the quality impressions all around, the thought of notoriously elusive Johnny Depp agreeing to do 'The Miley Cyrus Show' might be the best joke.

What Up With That: Keenan Thompson as DeAndre Cole ended up being one of the runaway characters of last season, on his BET vehicle, 'What Up With That?' The roles of token guests for DeAndre to interrupt with song were played by Morgan Freeman and Ernest Borgnine (the voice of Mermaid Man from 'SpongeBob SquarePants' for those of you under 30) this week. The sketch cashed in on its recognizable conventions: back-up singers, Jason Sudekis as an '80s b-boy, Armisen as a poor man's Kenny G, Lindsey Buckingham getting bumped, and outrageously random appearances by robot graduates, Mary Kay Letourneau, and a Funkadelic knock-off duo named Doo-Doo Man and Squiggy. The funniest part was, hands down, a shot of Borgnine and Freeman looking blissfully disoriented and fighting the urge to punch someone, respectively.

Shanna: When all is said and done, and all life is obliterated from the planet, we will inevitably be left with one thing: bodily function humor. Shanna (Kristen Wiig), the painstakingly generic '50s Hollywood starlet who reels you in with her innocent sexuality: worked a whistle with her butt, ripped off a 30-second belch, told a story about eating cow poo, and showed off her unruly back hair to keep the boys guessing ... is she hot or disturbingly rancid? Set on a basketball court, the sketch had absolutely nothing to do with basketball. Hilarious.

SNL Digital Short, Rescue Dogs 3D: The fellas behind the digital shorts have an incredible ability to twist narrative and turn it away from where the viewer assumes it's going, generally making them funnier with each clash of expectation and actuality. This week's was no different. What started as a standard burglary scenario wound up being a commercial for a fictional dog movie and its various corporate tie-ins. Good times.

Kanye West: I'm not much of a Kanye guy, but his stage set-up was innovative, if not uncomfortably bizarre. I haven't seen that many writhing women since my last beginners yoga class at the YMCA. His second song just looked like he was playing 'DJ Hero.' I was most surprised by the fact that Kanye didn't make any appearances in any sketches. He's usually all about ruining live TV moments.

Weekend Update: Update just didn't have it tonight. The topical news jokes were decent, but too few, and the special segments were some of the show's lamest. Bobby Moynihan as Anthony Crispino, Second-Hand News Correspondent is a good character that just wasn't enough to carry a weaker Update, and Andy Samberg's 'Cathy' impression is cute, but hardly show stopping. I was happy to learn, however, that LeBron James "is gonna be on 'Miami Vice' with friggin' Dwayne Wayne from 'A Different World.'"

The rest of the show sort of limped to the finish line. The show seemed conflicted about its stance on creepy men. In the '70s game show parody, Kid Smartz, Cranston played a greasy host who insists on kissing the pre-pubescent "kidtestants." This was followed by Cranston playing a father to a dorky fifth grade boy (Nasim Pedrad) who repeatedly punches his son in the face to toughen him up. So, which is it 'SNL?' Sex offender or child abuser?

i-sleep PRO: For the second week in a row, the show closed with a fake commercial, and this one was a gem. For the light sleeper, the i-sleep PRO offers both white and black noise settings, the latter highlighted by "muffled Tyler Perry sitcoms" and "bass." It's smart to end the show with one of its strengths instead of a sketch about Mitt Romney.

Host: B
Musical Guest: B+
Laughs: B

Tune in next week for Jane Lynch and musical guest Bruno Mars.

Dr. Vaughan teaches English/Media/Humor courses at Binghamton University in upstate New York, and he's pretty sure his college roommate was a vampire, now that he thinks about it. You can also check out his blog at drvtv.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/pages/Ryan-Vaughan/21931402981

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Barbershop involves harmony. That wasn't barbershop. I love Bryan Cranston, but I don't know. SNL just doesn't matter any more.

October 04 2010 at 4:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jude's comment
Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously)

The barbershop reference was more about their garb than their sound.

October 04 2010 at 8:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Watching Kanye sing I got the vibe of Gantsalicious singing Homies over Hoes on the Boondocks. dunno why....

October 04 2010 at 1:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I always come here to see some positive SNL reviews, because there is just too much harshness out there. It has never, ever been over-top-funny, and it's actually doing its bets with the current cast... great new talent!

October 03 2010 at 11:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can't believe anyone would like the not funny/just plain annoying Kristen Wiig bodily functions sketch. that was the consistently terrible character i expect from her!

October 03 2010 at 6:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to theaarondean's comment
Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously)

Yeah, definitely not her best. But I like farts.

October 03 2010 at 8:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Memo to Lorne Michaels: An adult man kissing children is not funny. Nor is an adult man punching his child.

The commercials were the only reason to watch this week. The Miley Cyrus impression was also good.

I'll be happy if I never see "What Up With That" again.

P.S. Rahm Emanuel's nickname is "Rahmbo." That wasn't a joke.

October 03 2010 at 6:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jim's comment
Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously)

Joke or not, "Rhambo" is funny.

October 03 2010 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can understand not "getting" Kanye... but the general consensus of people in the musical know is that his performance was nothing short of spectacular and I tend to agree. The 2nd song he was creating the majority of the track live using his MPC and the dancers were... phenomenal.

October 03 2010 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to eric's comment

When the Miley sketch ended, I commented that is was nothing but a slight variation on the What Up With That formula. I was surprised when they followed it with the much more entertaining original.

October 03 2010 at 12:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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