After a month-long absence (remember the 12th of April?), "Saturday Night Live" came storming back to television screens last night. So of course everyone was refreshed and at the top of their games and all the sketches were crisply written and scaldingly satirical, right? Right?
Well let's find out. Here's another scene-by-scene assessment of ...
"Saturday Night Live" -- Host: Shia LaBeouf, Musical Guest: My Morning Jacket.
Cold Open -- Hillary Clinton (Amy Poehler) lays out her case as the more electable Democratic candidate. I guess now that Hillary is most likely going to come in second in the Democratic Primary, the "SNL" writers feel they can take the gloves off with her. This is the hardest political shot the show has taken at any viable candidate since the race began, taking Hillary to task for playing to racists and for her win-at-all-costs demeanor. And its funny too! Amy's Hillary has been a highlight all season and here she once again nails the single-mindedness and superciliousness of the Stepford Candidate. 3 1/2 stars.
Monologue -- Shia LaBeouf is joined at home base by some characters who will not be appearing in the upcoming Indiana Jones movie. Any excuse to get Darrell Hammond to drag out his Sean Connery impression is okay by me. Pow! Nothing much is done with either Short Round (Amy) or the Melty-Face Nazi Guy (Will Forte). The question-and-answer red herring with Jason Sudeikis is a nice twist. 3 stars.
MacGruber I -- I really should be tired of Will Forte's MacGruber and when the familiar title sequence popped up, my first thought was, "Again?" Or as Seth and Amy might say, "Really?" But dang it all if they didn't find a solid comic hook that justified dusting off the mullet and plaid. LaBeouf as MacGruber's "experimenting" son is a riot and the timing on the final long takes leading up to the inevitable explosion was dead solid perfect. 4 stars.
It's a Match -- Once again "SNL" parodies a game show from before anyone in the audience was born. Maybe they figure everyone has seen "Match Game" reruns on the Game Show Network. Whatever, it turns out to be very well done. Game show host Guy Lang has been murdered backstage and Detective Rob Perkins (Bill Hader) questions the "Match" panel about the surrounding circumstances. Questions focus mainly on the whereabouts of closeted homosexual Steven Neilsen Perry (Fred Armisen), a clear spoof of Charles Nelson Reilly, right down to the ascot. Lotta gay stuff in the early going tonight. Sketch ends weakly, but overall, a good impression jam. 3 stars.
Shoplifters -- Three youngsters caught shoplifting Grand Theft Auto IV from a Game Stop are "scared straight" by inmate Lorenzo "Mac Attack" MacIntosh (Kenan Thompson). In keeping with the overwhelming gay theme of the show so far, Lorenzo routinely threatens the boys with the always hilarious anal rape. Yuk, Yuk. More effective are Kenan's memories of crimes based exclusively on the plots of lame movies (Gone in 60 Seconds, Weekend at Bernie's, The Goonies). It reminded me of a Chris Farley Matt Foley sketch, only less funny. 2 1/2 stars.
MacGruber II -- MacGruber's son Merrill is back from a camp where they make gay youngsters "normal." Bless those who run such camps for they truly do God's work. This one builds beautifully on the first effort, from Forte and LaBeouf eyeing the lovely young girl in the title sequence to the pixilated item that Merrill accidentally drops on the floor. I wonder what that was? With it pixilated out like that, I have no way of figuring it out. Thank God for the NBC censors; they truly do God's work. Brilliantly funny. 4 stars.
The Suze Orman Show -- Gay much? Kristen Wiig portrays the lesbian financial advisor, just as she did on the Jonah Hill episode three shows ago. Wiig's impression is first rate but the scene is only sporadically amusing. LaBeouf is shoehorned in as Josiah from Miami. A place-holding trifle. 1 1/2 stars.
SNL Digital Short -- And now, something that makes "Daiquiri Girl" look well thought out. LaBeouf and Andy Samberg sing about not wearing pants, "The Best Look in the World." Right. You know a sketch is desperate when it resorts to the old illiterate Genie gag. The Digital Shorts have been highlights for so long, I guess it was inevitable that the Lonely Island guys would run out of steam. Andy sings in an exceptionally annoying high-pitched whine. Not good. 1 star.
My Morning Jacket performs "I'm Amazed" -- MMJ is a band I only know in passing, but the performance here of a track off their forthcoming album Evil Urges makes me want to know more. They are particularly good in the solo/instrumental section at the end. 3 1/2 stars.
Weekend Update -- Seth Myers and Amy are in pretty solid form tonight, not cracking themselves up too much. Seth's joke about how having fatty deposits on your hips and buttocks improves your chances of "contracting Sir Mix-a-Lot" makes me laugh very hard. I laughed again typing it just now. Bill and Fred don't do enough with Vlad and Niko, two characters from Grand Theft Auto IV. Kenan's French comic Jean K. Jean scores again. Incroyable! Any reference to the Euro-comic "Asterisk" makes me guffaw. Also liked the notion of Amy Winehouse getting a "bazillion" strikes. See? I laughed again! 3 1/2 stars.
La Rivista Della Televisione con Vinny Vedeci -- Bill Hader's Italian talk-show host returns to interview LaBeouf about Transformers, Indiana Jones, and the incomprehensible idea that smoking could be a crime. It's a good way for the show to address LaBeouf's recent legal troubles, though the whole Italian Guy interviews non-Italian speakers bit is wearing thin. Vinny Vedici's name is a play on the famous Julius Caesar quote "Vini Vidi Vici," or "I came, I saw, I conquered." Amazing what you can learn from doing crossword puzzles. Love the Lorne Michaels cameo. 3 stars.
MacGruber III -- Ah! They got all three MacGrubers in this time, unlike on the Jonah Hill show where I had to access the third one online. This time, Merrill brings along his friend Scott (Andy) and forces himself to kiss Vicki (Kristen) with disastrous results. A show-stopping capper to a great run. 4 stars.
Admirers -- Emily and JC (Kristen and Amy) are glad to get away from the office for a bite to eat when they start noticing all the cute guys who are noticing them. An exercise in making funny faces. Hader's is my favorite, though Andy and Shia have good ones too. A smart sketch masquerading as a stupid one that knows more about male psychology than we guys would like to admit. Doy Doy Doy. 3 1/2 stars.
My Morning Jacket performs "Evil Urges" -- Not as good as the first number. Maybe I don't have to find out more about them after all. That falsetto singing is ... unfortunate. But when they break the song down for the extended instrumental run out, once again the band comes alive. 2 1/2 stars.
Clothes Shopping -- Tourist family with pretty daughter (Kristen) and not-so-pretty daughter (Shia) check out some New York funky fashions. If your idea of hilarity is seeing LaBeouf in a dress, this is the scene for you. It's not for me. Yes No. 2 stars.
Then Shia says good night, thanks MMJ, and proclaims that the show "kicked ass." Well, maybe a little. An overall good effort. Happy Birthday Kenan!