Monday, March 17, 2008

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!

Gonna keep on dancin' to the rock and roll on Saturday Night! Well, maybe not rock and roll. After all, the musical guest is the decidedly un-rocking Mariah Carey. But we'll make do.

For the first time since 1976, "SNL" aired new episodes on four consecutive weekends. Any guesses who were the hosts and musical guests on that run 32 years ago? Keep reading. Somewhere in this scene-by-scene evaluation, I'll drop in the answer.

"Saturday Night Live" 15 March 2008. Host -- Jonah Hill, Musical Guest -- Mariah Carey.

Cold Open -- An Eliot Spitzer opener was a given on this episode. Bill Hader delivers a decent impression of the beleaguered Emperor's Club VIP with Kristen Wiig staring hatefully at him throughout as his wife. The scene checklists some fairly obvious Spitzer material, then takes a nice left turn when the soon-to-be-former governor says he's starting up a legal practice targetting the scandal-ridden. Good twist on what could have been nothing more than an obligatory bit. 3 stars.

Monologue -- Jonah Hill takes center stage to declare that he's not at all like the slovenly characters he plays on screen. He is, in fact, fancy. For the second week in a row, the opening monologue is a song, and another big showbizzy tune at that. Hill's obvious discomfort works to the song's advantage, but outside of some "Shaving Cream"-level humor, the sequence doesn't have any follow-up ideas. It's fun to see Kenan, Andy, Jason and Will in their tuxes. 2 stars.

MacGruber I -- What can I say? Will Forte's Mr. Almost-Fix-It cracks me up. He's MacGyver with zero sense of priorities. Assisted by Wiig and Hill, he goes all defensive over a perceived slight and the bomb he's attempting to defuse goes ... Well, I don't want to give anything away. It explodes! 3 stars.

What's Your Situation? -- Another "SNL" game-show parody that looks like it was unfrozen about the same time as Phil Hartman's caveman lawyer. Seriously, are there any game shows with isolation booths or podiums like this any more? I'm a million years old and I think it looks dated; what must some 14-year-old think? Anyway, it's kinda not good. 1 star.

Benihana -- Six-year-old Adam Grossman (Hill) talks up his recently divorced father, Evan (Hader), to the ladies at their Benihana table. Hill is completely in his element, gleefully shattering social conventions. It's a tremendous showcase for the host; something that's been missing on the last two Saturdays. 4 stars.

MacGruber II -- MacGruber's passive-aggresive behavior continues to endanger lives. He switches places with Hill but the results are the same. 3 stars. Note: There were only two MacGruber installments on the show as broadcast, but if you go to, you can see a third featuring Hader as MacGruber's life-coach trying to talk him through his issues. Wish they'd put it on TV. 3 stars.

The Suze Orman Show -- Famous lesbian financial consultant Orman shows off her knowledge and her fabulous collection of jackets. Kristen Wiig has Orman down but the sketch doesn't have much kick. The jackets ARE pretty great, though. 2 1/2 stars.

Andy's Dad -- Tonight's "SNL" Digital Short features Hill confessing to Andy Samberg that he's dating Andy's Dad. Some big uncomfortable laughs here, and some very impressive kissing by Hill and Andy's Dad. Trivia for "SNL" fanatics: Andy's Dad is played by Jim Downey, long-time "SNL" writer. 3 1/2 stars.

Mariah Carey performs "Touch My Body" -- Oh dear. Is she old enough for this material to be officially creepy yet? Carey's new album is entitled E=MC2 because first and foremost, Mariah Carey is a physicist. I'll admit I'm no fan, but Mariah sells gobs of CDs, so clearly there are loads of people who like this tripe. Could one of them please explain the appeal to me? All I hear are turgid, plodding beats and the screeching wail of a woman who thinks she's a lot hotter than she is. 1 star.

Weekend Update -- Entertainment Weekly cover duo Seth Myers and Amy Poehler deliver the fake news and it's one of their best segments ever. They both score repeatedly and the "Really? with Seth and Amy" run about Eliot Spitzer is "Best of" quality. I love Tracy Morgan, but I was a little disappointed to go to him with Seth and Amy so completely on. Tracy's defense of Barack Obama, including a direct rebuttal to Tina Fey's endorsement of Hillary Clinton three weeks earlier, is darn good as well. One of the best Updates in recent memory. 4 stars.

Target Greatland -- Kristen Wiig's Target Lady is okay. I really enjoyed the character on last year's Justin Timberlake show. Haven't been terribly impressed with subsequent appearances. This time there's not much of a scene for her and Hill doesn't add a lot. 1 1/2 stars.

John McCain: Old -- I really wish they'd use Darrell Hammond more. Lately, he's been relegated to one scene per show, and last week, he barely had a cameo. Here, he unveils a killer John McCain impression that should serve him (and the show) well throughout the Presidential race. Again, a political scene takes as its target the Media. It's not that I think it's wrong to do that, or that the media isn't idiotic; I just think it's too easy and lightweight as a satirical punching bag. The Media can't stop pointing out how old John McCain is. Will Forte's Brain Williams impression could use a little work. For Darrell, I give it 3 stars.

Spaceships, Model Ts, Toddlers and Jars of Beer -- Ah! Sweet comedy desperation. Throw a bunch of ridiculous nonsense together, give everyone a funny name, have Will Forte do that thing where he sings so hard he looks like he's about to have a stroke, have the host crack himself up all through it and what the hell? At least it will look like comedy. Clancy T. Bachleratt and Jackie Snad sing dopey songs about ridiculous things. I resist the urge to go to bed. 1/2 star.

Mariah Carey and T. Pain perform "Migrate" -- Mariah delivers a heartfelt number about the plight of those who immigrate to this nation. Nah! Who am I kidding? It's yet another song about how hot she is! Janet Jackson was supposed to be the musical guest this week but had to cancel at the last minute because of the flu. I have never hated the flu so much. Mariah has a sparkly microphone in clear tribute to her awesome film, Glitter. T. Pain is aptly named; obviously his name refers to the Thigh Pain that forces him to use that cane. My heart goes out. 1/2 star.

Tad's Broiled Steaks -- Hill and Casey Wilson go on a date after corresponding on the internet. Lots of unoriginal internet dating jokes; turns out, some people misrepresent themselves in cyberspace. Go fig. For her first featured role in a sketch, Wilson contents herself with feeding Hill straight lines. A missed opportunity to showcase the host and the newest cast member. 2 stars.

Overall, the highs were very high (Update, Benihana) and the lows were dismally low (Spaceships etc., anything with Mariah Carey in it).

And that's the last original show for awhile. But there's good news: In April we get a Christopher Walken appearance! Yay! It's all worthwhile when you get to pay a visit to The Continental. By the way, the four consecutive shows from 1976 aired from May 8 to May 29 and featured Madeline Kahn and Carly Simon, Dyan Canon and Leon and Mary Russell, Buck Henry and Gordon Lightfoot, and Elliot Gould and Leon Redbone.

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