Friday, October 17, 2008

Saturday Night Princess

Time for another scene-by-scene analysis of "Saturday Night Live." As always, these analyses appear mere hours after the show airs.

In this particular case, a little over 300 hours after the Anne-Hathaway-hosted show aired on the 4th of October.

But I'll make up for it by including recaps of the primetime "SNL Weekend Update Thursday" episodes as well.

Still friends? Great! Off we go.

Cold Open -- From Washington University in St. Louis, MO, comes the first and only Vice Presidential Debate for 2008, featuring Democratic veep nominee Senator Joe Biden (Jason Sudeikis) and Republican Governor Sarah Palin (our returning champion Tina Fey). Apparently Chris Parnell was busy back on the 4th, so Queen Latifah does the ringer thing and ably impersonates moderator Gwen Ifill of PBS.

Fey's Palin continues to score point after point and yuk after yuk, but I'm more impressed that "SNL" took some solid shots at the Democrat this time around. Joe Biden's schizophrenic appraisals of John McCain ("I love the guy but he's dangerously unbalanced!") are as smart and funny as anything Fey has this time around. And even Gwen Ifill with her upcoming Obama book gets taken to task.

Still, Tina Fey as Sarah Palin is the Pop Culture sensation here. Her blunt refusal to respond to direct questions would be an uproarious comic exaggeration if it was actually an exaggeration and not taken verbatim from the real debate. And for those Joe Six-Packs out there playing the Pop Culture America drinking game ... Maverick! 4 stars.



Monologue -- Every woman needs to have that little black dress that looks elegant at any occasion and few carry one off as impressively as Anne Hathaway. Add that to her poise and her willingness to take a shot at her recent romantic troubles and you have a solid -- if brief -- intro. 3 1/2 stars.

The Lawrence Welk Show -- Okay. I don't know who else in the audience besides me has been forced to suffer through enough Welk shows to realize that all of Fred Armisen's Welk references at the top of this sketch are absolutely spot on, but they all are -- from the lovely Lennon Sisters to the high-kicking quick-step of Bobby and C.C. But the comedy meat here comes from the Merrell Sisters, particularly Kristen Wiig's Judy with her baby arms and encephalitic forehead. A scene as golden as the Merrells' hideous bridesmaid's dresses. 4 stars.

Wall Street Bailout on C-Span -- Top government officials ... and President Bush ... explain the recent Wall Street bailout and how it will help the ordinary, common folks. Sudeikis's long-absent Bush is pretty good, not great. If "SNL" is going to keep bringing Tina Fey back to do Palin, howzabout putting in a call to Will Ferrell and get the best George W. Bush impression back on the show in these final days of his administration? Wiig does a precise, wild-eyed Nancy Pelosi while Fred Armisen cheerfully cops to an over-the-top cartoon voice as Rep. Barney Frank. Of the parade of "victims," Amy Poehler as a (pregnant) surrogate scores big laughs and Will Forte as billionaire hedge-fund manager George Soros, the man who bought the American economy, is horrible and a hoot when he purchases Hathaway. But things go on too long and there are a number of stretches where explanations nose out actual jokes. 2 1/2 stars.

One brief note: When this sketch originally aired, the segment with Darrell Hammond and Casey Wilson as Herbert and Marion Stanley bore a caption labeling them as "People who should be shot." That segment has been edited and the caption has been cut from the clip available at NBC.com.

Dancing at the Guest House -- Bobby Moynihan shows his friends at the Guest House bar how to approach a woman when he dances up a storm with Hathaway. Ah, dancing scenes. So rarely of any use whatsoever. It would help this one if Bobby or the dance were any good. Hathaway continues to pour energy into her performances, as she has all show, but even she can't save this limp filler. Nice reaction walk-on by Andy Samberg, strolling through while everyone else is faking slow-motion. 2 stars.

"SNL" Digital Short: Extreme Activities Competition -- Andy and Kristen face off in a series of semi-extreme contests with Will as the referee. Not much here. The Digital Shorts have been pretty weak so far this year. Of course, I remember thinking that just before they did "D*ck in a Box," so I'll give them more time. Extreme activities include the Hat Balance, the Shoe Hands, the Act Casual and my favorite, the Become Jane featuring a quick clever cameo by the host. 2 stars.

The Killers perform "Human" -- Hey look! The Killers have a lower-case "k!" They're ready to guest on "The Electric Company!" Hey you guys! Brandon Flowers sports moth-eaten fur epaulets for some reason. The Killers used to sound like The Cure or New Order. Now, they sound like a pale imitation of A Flock of Seagulls. Flowers's herky-jerky-salute choreography makes me pine for the comparatively complex hand movements of Duffy a week earlier. As recent Killers material goes, this is passable. 2 stars.

Weekend Update -- My Pop Culture America co-host Dave will undoubtedly continue to deride Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler as Update anchors, but I think they've been putting up some excellent runs in this year's Updates. The streak continues as Seth gets to note that O.J. Simpson's recent convictions for armed robbery and kidnapping were really for murder. Amy heralds the arrival of a 150-inch TV screen from Panasonic which comes just in time for nobody to be able to afford it. And the multiple punchlines directed at Manuel Uribe, the World's Heaviest Man, might be cheap, but they're dang funny too. In contrast, Will Forte's appearance is tedious. His name really is Orville Willis Forte IV, by the by. 3 stars.

Mary Poppins -- In a whimsical scene from the Disney classic, magical nanny Mary Poppins explains just what Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (spelling confirmed by Wikipedia) means. Bobby Moynihan and Casey Wilson give their best performances on the show to date, because they're both almost as annoying as Jane and Michael, the Poppins kids. But none of that matters because Hathaway's Julie Andrews is as uncanny an impression as the show has seen in years. All those days on the set of the Princess Diaries movies were put to some good use. Bill Hader contributes with a nice take on Dick Van Dyke's atrocious cockney accent from the original film. There's nothing funnier than a sexually transmitted disease of the liver! 4 stars.



The Sioux City Channel 3 News -- See the nation's most YouTubed news-team! With gaffe-prone anchors Michael Modesto and Tanya Mitchell (Sudeikis and Hathaway)! Will gets to vomit! A weak sketch that gets some points for shear piling on. Sudeikis has a false start. Or maybe that's one of his character's flubs. 1 1/2 stars.

Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals -- The star of the sub-par remake of Planet of the Apes hosts a show where he talks to animals. Andy does a nice Wahlberg. It's too bad they didn't write a sketch for him. Some laughs from the weirdness, but not many. Say "Hello" to your mother for me, 'kay? 1 1/2 stars.

Moving Out -- On the day Amber's gay roommate Marcus helps her move out, he makes a startling confession to her. Turns out Marcus is actually straight and he only slept with 30 or 40 (or 50) dudes to convince her to let him get close to her. A funny relationship two-hander for Sudeikis and Hathaway (with a nice sashay-on for Hader). Some great beats including Hathaway's awful haircut and Marcus's line about "boner-plagia." The singing at the end is a bit weak. Hathaway steps on her applause. Still, flaws and all, very solid. 3 stars.

The Killers perform "Spaceman" -- It looks like The Killers are performing in the Matrix with all the streaming green bits of info flowing vertically behind them. Brandon is definitely off his meds. The weaker of the two songs tonight. A band that I once thought would be serious contenders (Hot Fuss is still a great album) continues to underwhelm me. 1 1/2 stars.

The Less Provocative Songs of Katy Perry -- Bi-curious songstress Katy Perry (Casey Wilson) sings ... well, the title really explains all you need to know. Songs that are less risque than "I Kissed a Girl" include "I Own a Pen," "I Ate a Snack," and "I Held a Cat." The bit would have been helped immensely if Casey did a reasonable Katy Perry impression. Kristen steals the scene with a wordless cameo. 1 star.

And so on to the good nights. Hathaway takes the crown four episodes in as the best host so far this year. I have high hopes for tomorrow's appearance by Josh Brolin though. In real time, two long weeks passed between the Hathaway and the Brolin shows. But fortunately, they were punctuated by two primetime Weekend Update Specials. We'll take a look at both of those tomorrow before Brolin's appearance. See you then.

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