Monday, March 10, 2008

Weekend at Lorne's

I'd like to turn today's blog over to today's guest blogger ... ME!

Thanks me. It's great to be back in the blog saddle. And what better way to return than with yet another scene-by-scene evaluation of this weekend's "Saturday Night Live?" Lorne Michaels tells me there is no better way. Good enough. Off we go.

"Saturday Night Live" Host: Amy Adams. Musical guest: Vampire Weekend.

Cold Open: For the third week in a row, "SNL" kicks off with a Hillary/Barack scene, with the two Democratic candidates played again by Amy Poehler and Fred Armisen. No debate this time; instead, the target is Hillary's recent "3 AM" campaign ad, which touted her experience, scoffed at the inexperienced Obama, and threatened small children. The scene depicts Hillary receiving a late-night phone call from a panicked, foul-mouthed President Obama and doling out sage, experienced advice on everything from global alliances to the heating system in the White House. To quote Rudy Giuliani from last week, "It started off strong, but didn't really have an ending." The scene goes on forever, long after the joke has been told. And here's an overthought point of logic: Armisen does his Barack Obama impression here, but the ad is supposed to be a Dramatization, not an actual event. So shouldn't the voice on the line have been an impression of an impression? Oh, who knows? Let's make with the Amy Adams already. 2 stars.

Monologue: Or, more appropriately, a biologue. Biologue? Duologue? There are two of 'em onstage. Host Amy Adams, a tremendous actress and dollface, is joined by Kristen Wiig and they claim to look alike. I guess they sorta do. Actually, if you want to see a dead ringer for Amy Adams, watch "Welcome to the Captain" and get an eyeful of Joanna Garcia. Anyway, Amy and Kristen launch into "What Is This Feeling?" from Wicked. File this observation under Things You Notice When You Watch Too Much TV: On the Oscars, Kristen Chenoweth performed a song from Enchanted, originally done by Amy Adams. Here, Amy Adams performs a song from Wicked originally done by Kristen Chenoweth. It's cute. High energy. Good start. 3 1/2 stars.

Mirror Image: So according to the duologue (I like that one), Adams and Kristen look the same. Now here's a scene where they play twins. A typical TV twin switcheroo prank goes awry when one twin packs on some pounds. I enjoy the shot at ABC Family. Adams brings her Enchanted enthusiasm to her half of the role of Haley Winters, complete with exaggerated winks to the audience. Poor Kristen, stuck playing the less appealing twin, her winks are accompanied by fart noises (Professional Comedy Writers strike again!). A dopey scene about a dopey subject, but the laughs are there. 3 stars.

Couples Therapy: Brian and Bogdonna are having marital difficulties: she won't fulfill all of his romantic needs, and he won't sign the forms that will permit her to stay in the U.S. Will Forte excells as these normal-on-the-surface types. Poehler's Bogdonna is very funny. Adams gets the thankless task of playing straight man (straight woman?) as the doctor. A very good scene rooted in something resembling the real world, instead of the umpteenth TV show parody. I'm looking at you, "Mirror Image." 3 1/2 stars.

A New Kind of Hero: This week's SNL Digital Short features a well-to-do man (Andy Samberg) who gazes out at the city only to see crime, corruption, and suffering (a newspaper headline screams, "Another 50 Murders!"). He decides to do the only logical thing: don the spandex and mask and battle evil as a superhero. But things don't go as planned. A one-joke scene -- albeit a good joke -- that may have benefitted from being pushed even further than it goes. Jason Sudeikis as a street punk robbing Adams administers a savage beating to Samberg's hero, but why stop at a mailbox to the head? Go Wile E. Coyote on his backside! 3 stars.

Fierce: The Hot Mess Makeover Show: Ah! I knew they'd have an out-and-out clunker eventually. Poehler portrays someone who won a Bravo reality show, I guess. Since I avoid such things like the plague they are, I have no clue who this guy is supposed to be. From the scene, I'd guess he's gay and has a seven-word vocabulary. Okey doke. Bill Hader throws in some other effete reality-show zombie impression and Adams does a quick Heidi Klum, who I've actually heard of. Casey Wilson's baffled character echoes my sentiments, but not in a funny way. 1 star.

Vampire Weekend performs "A Punk": Vampire Weekend has become the indie rock band du blog, but despite that, I still like them. Here, they're augmented by a lovely string quartet and sound stately and jittery at the same time. Call it Chamber New Wave. 3 1/2 stars.

Weekend Update: For the last two episodes, I've said essentially the same thing about "SNL's" news parody: "Mixed bag, stop laughing at your own jokes." I'll go a bit more in-depth this time, partly because I don't want to keep repeating myself, mostly because this was a better-than-average "Update." Poehler opens the spot with a joke about Hillary Clinton being a monster. The punch line: "When asked for comment, Clinton said, "Grrrr!" That's good. The ironic thing is, it was also good when they did the same basic joke on last year's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," a show set at a fictional late-night sketch comedy program. Parody imitates parody? Seth Myers gets in some nice lines about German soldiers and wet drug dealers and the awesome power of a Hell's Angels amphibious naval assault on Mick Jagger. The closing joke from Poehler about Paula Abdul sponsoring "pills in general" is one of the best lines they've had in awhile. Both Forte as bizarre Senator/Presidential Candidate Tim Calhoun and Kenan Thompson as European Def Jam wannabe Jean K. Jean are fantastically funny. Zut Alors! Incroyable! 3 1/2 stars.

Penelope at Traffic School: Wiig's character Penelope, with her obsessive Can You Top This? mania, is one of my favorite recent "SNL" creations. It must be difficult to find settings for her, she's such a twistoid. Sometimes, the scenes with her fall flat (like earlier this season in the LeBron James episode), but usually Wiig's performance saves the day. The Traffic School backdrop adds little here, but the Penelope lines still have have a comic zing ("I'm best friends with all the Muppets"). At one point, Adams does an impression of Penelope back at her, but she's not as good at it as Molly Shannon was last year. 3 stars.

Dr. Uncle Jimmy's Smokehouse and Outpatient Surgical Facility: Sometimes, the whole joke is in the title. This is one of those times. Forte plays a weirdo who feeds you and operates on you in the same building. Adams gets shoehorned into the scene as Ellen Pompeo from "Grey's Anatomy." Why? I dunno. 2 stars.

Roger Clemens Presents: Sudeikis is roided up, ticked off playwright Roger Clemens, introducing his first play, a cautionary tale of the horrors of baseball without steroids. Sudeikis pulls laughs just by standing there in his fake over-muscled arms. No attempt is made to make them look real, which makes them even funnier. Darrell Hammond puts in his first (and only) appearance, a cameo as a reporter. Samberg's tear-jerking death scene is a riot. And scene! 3 stars.

The Tookie Styles Show: Thompson as a pioneering cable access host flogs a DVD of his early work. Here's a strange duck. The bit is that Styles's show featured controversial guests from yesteryear, interviewed in the host's dancing, featherheaded manner. He's named Tookie Styles, but the dance he does is called "Zookie Style." I'm confused. 1 star.

Vampire Weekend performs "M79": These guys must have all of Rhino Records' Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the 80s CDs. I know I do. My Gawd, they even dress like Haircut 100. This one sounds like an odd marriage of the calypso-inflected beats of Burning Sensations married to the fiddle slack of Dexy's Midnight Runners. I like it! Did I mention I own all of Rhino Records' Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the 80s? 3 1/2 stars.

Dancing Gals: Poehler, Wiig, Wilson, and Adams all stop in at Hader's bar to show off their eighth-grade talent show dance moves. I normally resist comedy scenes built around dancing funny, but this one works, mainly because the four women are wonderfully pathetic. Let's go collect our bounty, ladies! 3 stars.

Then it's time for the good nights and about half the credit roll. Thank you, NBC promo division. A pretty solid effort from the kids tonight, though I thought that for the second week in a row, they really never figured out how to use the host's talents. By my count, that was 8 out of 12 good scenes and some decent music. Not bad at all.

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