Sunday, January 18, 2009

Saturday Night Roxane

I name today's post after my favorite Rosario Dawson character. Slog through Oliver Stone's Alexander to find her. It's rough going, but she's worth it.

But how is she as an "SNL" host? We'll find out the only way I know how ...

"Saturday Night Live" 17 Jan 2009. Host: Rosario Dawson. Musical Guest: Fleet Foxes.

Cold Open -- Outgoing Vice President -- outgoing in the sense that he's about to leave office, not that he likes parties (I imagine he doesn't) -- Dick Cheney sits down with former Nixon aide Diane Sawyer for an exclusive exit interview. Turns out, he has few regrets. And by "few," I mean he has zero. If there was a number less than zero, that's how many regrets this guy would have.

I won't miss the real Veep anytime soon, but I will miss Darrell Hammond's bullseye impression with its sneer and disdain for anyone and anything. Kristen Wiig takes on Diane Sawyer and does a good job with the hostess's schmoozy interview style. She can't touch the magnificent Sawyer that Jan Hooks brought to the 1988 Presidential Debate sketch, all flirts and winks. Not fair to compare? Life ain't fair. Cope.

Anyway, Cheney here is pathologically incapable of regretting anything, and I mean anything. Not just the usual suspects like Iraq and Katrina. He doesn't regret that Brian Piccolo died young, or that Old Yeller had to be shot, or that children grow up too fast. He especially doesn't regret shooting his friend in the face.

Similarly, I don't regret his departure. I do regret that he probably will never be prosecuted. Bye Dick! 3 1/2 stars.

Monologue -- Rosario Dawson in her fetching little black vest tells us about her upbringing, then plays straightman to Fred Armisen's Latino comic Ferecito, who we haven't seen in ages. Dawson takes the opportunity to shill for Vota Latino, which I'm sure is a good cause, but ain't terribly funny. Ay Dios Mio! 2 stars.

North American Savings -- In these tough economic times, you want a bank you can trust to keep your money safe. North American Savings keeps it safe by never lending it to anyone. Ever. A parade of applicants watch as their dreams of home ownership and small business start-ups are squashed by the "Rejected" stamp of a loan officer. A little too accurate to inspire laughter. 2 1/2 stars.

Da Learnin' Train -- Over on DiscoveryKids -- which I'm assuming is a channel -- Cupcake and Riznatch the Readin' Raccoon teach kids about spelling and reading and math. Very, very badly. Books are great! You can dance on top of them! Jason Sudeikis pops in as Harry Connick Jr. for some reason. Dawson has all the right scattered energy as Cupcake and the scene nails the tendency of some kids shows to replace any genuine learning with flash and volume, though I actually think kids TV has gone in the opposite direction, becoming somnolently pedantic and jettisoning any entertainment value. But that probably wouldn't have made for a very lively sketch. Having Connick playing the voice of reason strikes me as ironic because when I've seen him interviewed, he has come off as kind of an idiot. Oh well. He's good enough for the number two pre-school hip-hop block party show on TV, y'all! 3 stars.

Guantanamo Bay Close-Out Sale -- Gitmo is going out of business and that means everything must go! If it can be used to humanely detain or interrogate prisoners, it's reduced to rock-bottom prices at Gitmo. Jason plays a Gitmo official whose name has been redacted as he leads "Operation Savings!" Dawson cameos as a Hispanic woman who took advantage of the bargains to get ahold of some flip-flops, jumpsuits and a lovely portrait of Donald Rumsfeld. I imagine this is something Dick Cheney doesn't regret, either. Why torture yourself with high prices? 3 1/2 stars.

Aladdin and Jasmine: 10 Years Later -- Ever since there have been fairy tales, people have asked the same question: What comes after Happily Ever After? If modern pop culture is to be believed (and it MUST be!), nothing good. Jason as Aladdin and Dawson as Jasmine bicker on a magic carpet ride that isn't quite as magical as it used to be. Aladdin is so depressed he'd like to wish he was dead, but he's used up all his wishes. Jasmine can't help but notice that Aladdin's moves on the magic carpet aren't as energetic as they once were. And one of their kids is blue! The two duet on a parody of "A Whole New World" whose chorus points out that "The Spark Is Gone." Dawson's pipes are in good order since her stint singing in Rent, and she's lovely in her Jasmine outfit. A nice scene that probably doesn't quite match its potential. 3 stars.

The "SNL" Digital Short: A Couple of Homeys -- Andy Samberg and Fred are real good friends. They can slap five and share soda together. They can even put on yellow dresses, peel bananas and stare at each other. Another Digital Short exercise in increasing absurdism that benefits from Will Forte singing his heart out about mundane things, then displaying his finest asset. DARE to say "No" to drugs kids! 3 stars.

Gilley -- Mr. Dillon would like to read the tale of Margaret Dumplecracker on Giraffe Island to his students, but he keeps getting interrupted by sociopathic mischief-maker Gilley. Kristen as Gilley with her pink bow and white-girl afro reminds me of Nancy from the old "Nancy and Sluggo" strip. She has her own theme song and her own signature catch-phrase ("Sorry"). Her mischief grows increasingly criminal, featuring pencil stabbings, arson and shootings. Never creative enough in its violence to really make an impact. 2 stars.

Fleet Foxes perform "Mykonos" -- Baroque Folk act Fleet Foxes bring their acoustic stylings and subtle harmonies to the "SNL" stage. It's nice that Lorne Michaels is willing to help the homeless like this. There's definite talent here, especially in the singing, but the song is so loose and meandering, it's hard to hook into these guys. There are those in the rock press who think they're brilliant. I find them sonically inoffensive. Their scent is another matter. 2 stars.

Weekend Update -- I guess Seth is going to have the Update desk all to himself for the forseeable future. Once again, he has some fine material to work with, riffing on the Flight 1549 spectacle and the new digital Presidential portrait. Update contributors this time around include Bernie Madoff (Fred), who eats breathes and dreams in terms of pyramid schemes; Travel Reporter Judy Grimes, who gives Kristen an opportunity to show how fast she can read a teleprompter (very), just kidding, I'm sure she memorized it; and Andy as Larry the Goose giving the other side of the Flight 1549 story. From Larry's perspective, the whole thing was a huge clusterflock. The Update writing -- primarily courtesy of Seth himself -- continues to be top notch and the guests are all solid. 3 1/2 stars.

La Policia Mexicana -- A Spanish-language cop show, as scripted by Ms. Larkin's 4th Grade Spanish Class, focuses on colors and body parts. These cops are clever, though. They know they can break their suspect using the time-honored Policia Bueno, Policia Mala gambit. Cute idea, if not exactly knee slapping. Donde esta la biblioteca? I don't have those upside-down question marks to put at the start of the sentence. As Gilley might say, "Sorry." En espanol, por favor. 2 1/2 stars.

The View -- After their appearance on the Ben Affleck episode about a month ago, "The View" ladies are back, this time joined by Dawson as Salma Hayek and Michaela Watkins unveiling her (indifferent) Barbara Walters impression. Fred as Joy Behar says, "Who cares, so what?" to everything. Kenan Thompson as Whoopi Goldberg throws penetrating looks. Watkins's Walters namedrops Judd Hirsch. And Kristen as Elisabeth Hasselbeck loudly cites every single thing she has ever found on the Internet. Jason plays Ricky Gervais. Not really. He should meet up with Judy Grimes. They could "Just kidding" and "Not really" each other to death. 3 stars.

Fleet Foxes perform "Blue Ridge Mountains" -- Ah, the mandolin. I knew something was missing from the first number. It's another obscure, wandering tune. It still looks like these guys need to be slapped in the face with a big soapy brush. They are very earnest. They are even earnest when they play the tamborine. Loosen up, you guys. 2 stars.

Good Excuse! -- Will and Kristen in odd androgynous outfits and wigs host a show on Channel 25 in Logan, Ohio where they desperately invent unlikely excuses for their guests. Kenan wants to break-up with his girlfriend and gets a ridiculous story to tell about his employer moving away and his face coming off. Dawson as the wonderfully named Perpetua McGurk needs help making rent. Her story involves bedbugs, pit bulls and volcanoes. The strategy here is for Will and Kristen to invent the bizarre tale, then have the guest repeat it to them.. The idea of a show about making excuses is a good one, but the deployment here is lacking. Still, I'd kinda like to revisit the old abandoned theater on Freeble Street some day and give them another crack at this. 2 1/2 stars.

Then Rosario says good night and holds her breath as she hugs the Fleet Foxes guys. Brave girl.

It's a repeat of the Malkovich show next week (good one). Then we get Steve Martin and Jason Mraz. And I thought Hoda Kotb was vowel-phobic.

Extra: Here's a web only video of Michaela doing an Ann Coulter piece for Update. Coulter will have the last laugh on her media elite critics.

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