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'Saturday Night Live' - Gwyneth Paltrow / Cee Lo Green Recap

by Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously), posted Jan 16th 2011 10:30AM
Gwyneth Paltrow, Cee Lo Green, Saturday Night Live['Saturday Night Live' - 'Season 36, Episode 12']

It's been almost ten years since Gwyneth Paltrow last hosted 'Saturday Night Live,' and a lot has happened since then. She married a pretentious rockstar, named a person "Apple," starred in a blockbuster superhero franchise, showed up on 'Glee' and kept her girlish figure. She has always fared well at Studio 8H, to an impressive degree. So much so that I can vividly recall having to fight the urge to laugh since I hated her for that brutal duet with Huey Lewis, only to be thwarted by her comedic overtures.

Cold Open: The show opened with Fox News turning over a new, more civil leaf, and vowing to put aside combative rhetoric with open-minded discourse in its stead. Greta Van Susteren (Kristen Wiig) rolled out three of the conservative's most boisterous talking heads: Sean Hannity (Bobby Moynihan), Glenn Beck (Jason Sudekis), and Michelle Malkin (Nasim Pedrad). Barely able to contain their moral outrage through the introductions, out came left-wing nut-job James Carville (Bill Hader) attempting to goad them into caving on the new commitment to civility with his own brand of stereotypical simpering stances. Solid opening, for sure. Great impressions all around, which has become a trend for this cast, and this shot at the right focuses on a fundamental problem yet often overlooked problem: language.


Monologue: The best hosts are at ease making fun of themselves, and I think that's why Gwenyth is so good at this. She drops all the British movie star BS and gives herself up to comedy. The crux of the monologue was Paltrow's newly discovered country roots. She lauded her knowledge of all things country, only to reveal her lack of country cred. As she fumbled through an "Islands in the Stream" duet with Kenny Rogers (Sudekis) and "the big boob lady" (Wiig as Dolly Parton) it was apparent that she doesn't take herself too seriously. And neither does musical guest Cee Lo Green, who joined in. This is good, because people who take themselves too seriously make life more difficult for the rest of us.

The Scarf: It's extra funny when shows take shots at their respective networks. Think Letterman and '30 Rock' as shining examples. This sketch parodied NBC's ridiculous superhero show, 'The Cape,' and dared to ask the question: What if other items of clothing could give you special powers, like a scarf, a smock or a legwarmer? With each example more of a stretch than the last we are left to wonder: What won't NBC put on the air? Evildoers, beware! The Spanx tolls his bell for thee!


Secret Word: The return of Mindy Elise Grayson (Wiig), oblivious theater actress was pretty much par for the course. The character never changes, but it cashes in on the suspense of predictability. She literally does the same thing everytime, but it's funny because you're thinking "this is the time she breaks the pattern." This recurring sketch is less about her as it is about the kinds characters the hosts can play. Paltrow as Titsy Bismark Dublinson, an elitist, racist '60s socialite giving arcane clues to someone she thinks is a butler, was spot on, right down to the brandy-soaked speech and obtuse sense of entitlement and ignorance. Throwaway line of the night: "Johnson and Johnson Baby Cages. Keep your baby out of harm's way ... in a small cage."


SNL Digital Short: Andy ran into Pee Wee Herman and embarked on a night of libations that would embarrass Robert Downey Jr. They bum-rushed Anderson Cooper, then the cop who tried to slow them down, only to arrive home to an intervention for each of them. This short had a very distinct "is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch" feel to it, drawing many parallels to the 'Chappelle's Show' sketch from 2004.


Jacob's Bar Mitzvah: Apparently, 'SNL' is turning into a showcase for impressionists. Which begs the question: Why didn't they just hire Frank Caliendo and rename the show 'MadTV 2'? Not that impersonations aren't funny, but they are easy laughs. Taylor Swift (Paltrow), Jay-Z (Jay Pharoah), Alicia Keys (Pedrad), and Katy Perry (Abby Elliot) all made Jacob's (Vanessa Bayer) bar mitzvah a memorable occasion with decidedly Jewish versions of their hit songs. They were good, but the painfully Jewish banter between Jacob and his father (Fred Armisen) stole the scene, with Bayer's deadpan "Dad, I told you. I just wanted a modest luncheon" taking the cake.

Cee Lo "Forget You" Intro: I thought this was pretty sweet, actually. To introduce the musical guest by organically incorporating them into a sketch was something I don't think I've seen before. Instead of the static, boring host intro, they wrote a sketch that addressed some of the controversy surrounding Cee Lo's lyrics, and the hyper-sensitivity of the FCC. Replacing curse words (f@#k) with suitable media replacements (forget) gave us instant classics like, "Forget me in the Sasquatch!"


Weekend Update: Seth did an extended bit about the issue of guns that turned on the old addage, "what would the Founding Fathers say if they were here today?" Meyers went on to put things in perspective by saying that the founding fathers would be too consumed with cars and "steel dragons flying in the sky" to care about arms and militias. I'd like to see him do more bits like this one, and "Really!? with Seth and Amy."

Jimmy McMillan (Kenan Thompson) of "the rent is too damn high" fame, came on Update to announce his candidacy for President of New York, and now we all know what it's like to hear Al Sharpton's crazy half-brother talk. His new platform? "The deficit is too damn high."

Garth and Kat: I don't think I'm alone when I say this one is getting old. Quickly. Just when I was about to get up and take a wizz, they changed the formula, bringing out Paltrow as Kim Castle, their songwriting collaborator. The added wrinkle of the host made it somewhat watchable, but I think it's time for Garth and Kat to be murdered.


False History: This was a great concept piece, applying all the conventions of the modern movie-going experience to the original performances of Shakespeare for the stage. In other words, what if they did previews and the "let's go out to the lobby" song at The Globe Theatre? They hit all the biggies: black guy yelling at the screen, the size of drinks, movie trailer guy, silence cell phones, etc. It was funny until the end when they sort of copped out and called it "False History," when the sketch could have easily stood on its own. "Aww, hell nay!"

'Fresh Prince' 20th Anniversary: Jay Pharoah still hasn't evolved into anything more than an impersonator. His Will Smith is mad good though, so you could see why they went out of their way to craft this sketch around it. Will and Carlton (Thompson) talked about Will's lack of acting experience during scenes from "Special" episodes. At least he's developing the impressions into more than just the catchphrases.


ESPN Deportes: Peppering American sayings and accents into 'SportsCenter.' That is what I imagine was written on the script at the run through. It's a smart take on American news and sportscasters saying Spanish phrases and names with a zeal normally reserved for clandestined love-making, rolling R's like it's personal. For me, this was the best sketch of the night, mostly for the random mention of Sheryl Swoopes.


Parker/Spitzer Auditions: Spitzer's boorish behavior made it difficult to keep a co-host, but when former governor Patterson came to the set, the natural order of things was re-established. More impressions from what amounted to a pretty soft effort.


Host: B
Musical Guest: Was on the show more than the host.
Laughs: C+

'Saturday Night Live' airs at 11:30PM EST on NBC.

Dr. Vaughan teaches English/Media/Humor courses at Binghamton University in upstate New York, and he loves a good lather. You can also check out his blog at drvtv.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/pages/Ryan-Vaughan/21931402981

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Stacie

Not all hysterical, but it was clever writing. I feel like they actually put in the effort this time and didn't just rely on old stuff. It's true that they rely on impressions a lot, but this cast actually does them very well. Although the past casts relied on original characters, this one does this. It's not a slight if they do it in a funny way. Sometimes they overdo it but not tonight. I think that Vanessa Brayer is definetly coming into her own, she is in at least one funny more memorable sketch a night(being the Bar Mitzvah boy was really clever).

I feel bad for Abby Elliot, she's been on the show for a pretty long time and her most memorable skit is her Angelina Jolie impression which she does for about 30-45 seconds on Weekend Update, maybe once a year. I don't know if she's just not being chosen or she isn't writing enough to be on the show, but she unfortunetly doesn't really add to much at this point. I think Naseem Pedrad is also doing a nice job integrating herself into multiple sketches per night. Taking the load off of Kristen Wiig a bit, even though she is still in the majority of sketches.

January 16 2011 at 3:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael

This was one of the better episodes of the season. Up there with Anne Hathaway, Paltrow made it look effortless and the writing was really strong. I laughed at almost every sketch, with my favorites being the Forget You intro and SportsCentre Deportes. Solid episode.

January 16 2011 at 12:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe Goforth

"Forget me in the Sasquatch!" Totally sounds like something Liz Lemon would say.

January 16 2011 at 11:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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