A new "SNL" is always cause to celebrate here at Pop Culture America HQ. The latest edition features Bradley "Um Y'Know Um That Guy From 'Wedding Crashers' No Not Him The Other Guy No The Other Other Guy" Cooper (It's a long nickname, but I think it suits him) and rock critic faves TV on the Radio. And how did the gang fare? Let us discover the answer to that question together.
"Saturday Night Live" 7 Feb 2009. Host: Bradley Cooper. Musical Guest: TV on the Radio.
Cold Open -- Congressional Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid give us the lowdown on the stimulus package and kvetch about trying to be bipartisan. Fred Armisen takes on Senator Reid and his impression is a little more suited to its subject than his Obama, probably because Reid speaks in Fred's higher register. Kristen Wiig has assayed the Speaker of the House before, most memorably just after the 2006 midterms when she indulged in every San Francisco liberal cliche imaginable, up to and including being served by a submissive leatherboy slave.
Unfortunately there's nothing so noteworthy in this outing. Reflecting congressional realities, Reid pushes bipartisanship while Pelosi is eager to just hammer the legislation home. If a few Republicans get steamrolled in the process, more's the better; maybe they should have thought about that when they were booting the Dems around eight years ago. Her bitterness -- and Kristen's wild-eyed exaggeration of same -- gets the scene its only real laughs. We're clearly still trying to find our satirical way in a post-Bush world. 1 1/2 stars.
Monologue -- Hey everyone! It's Bradley Cooper! I understand they had to up security levels at Studio 8H for fear that fan enthusiasm would tear the place apart. Seriously, this guy is barely more than an extra. Sigh. I'm sure I'm just jealous. After all, as he points out here, he's been to the prestigious Actor's Studio. I know it's prestigious because every time "Inside the Actor's Studio" airs, a voice-over tells me how prestigious it is. So Cooper gives us a rather perfunctory lesson on how to be a movie bully, gets upstaged by Andy Samberg, then gets upstaged by James Lipton. 1 star. For Andy.
The Fourth Hour of 'The Today Show' -- Hoda Kotb and talent-challenged goofnuts Kathy Lee Gifford host one of the least necessary hours of television ever. Just like when this sketch debuted a month ago on the Neil Patrick Harris episode, Kristen as Gifford mugs and gurns and casually insults her co-host while Michaela Watkins as Hoda takes it and seethes. It works, but the dynamic already seems a little tired on only the second time through. They discuss the Snuggie and Christian Bale and Kathy Lee rips her husband and drops racist cracks into the mix while sticking her tongue out and rolling her eyeballs around her head. Cooper appears as a fashion nitwit. The one thing they get right with his character is that everyone in the fashion world dresses like a circus clown. The sketch edges dangerously close to being as simple-minded and useless as the thing it makes fun of. 1 1/2 stars.
I'm Gonna Have Sex With Your Wife -- Wow. I thought we were past this stuff. I thought after Tina Fey rose to Head Writer and no reasonable person seriously held John Belushi's oft-stated opinion that "chicks ain't funny" and all the show's Boy's Club ghosts had been exorcised that we wouldn't have something so ugly and utterly misogynistic as this. Yet here we are. The "premise" of this sketch: Game show host Danny Lane (Bradley) informs male contestants that he's gonna have sex with their wives and then he does. Please contain your laughter. I'm trying to find the edgy, meta, post-ironic, in-your-face hilarity that justifies this crud, but it's obviously way too hep for me. By the way, all the women are eager participants in the High-Larious adultery, and all are blissfully mussed and satisfied afterwards. Of course they are. So head-spinningly icky that spinning my head had to be the point. Goal achieved. Zero stars.
The 'SNL' Digital Short: I'm On a Boat -- Andy finds a ticket for a free boat ride in his cereal and invites his friends Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone to come along. No wait. Not Jorma. Instead Andy picks rap superstar T-Pain who is kind enough to bring along his Auto-Tune voice synthesizer. Must have been a nightmare lugging that thing on board. No real joke here beyond the repeated swearing and screeching about being on a boat. But compared to the last scene, this is comic gold. Some cute moments in the video parody including Andy in a flight suit in front of an "I'm On A Boat" banner. And I always love to see a mermaid pop up. Who doesn't love T-Pain's unending collection of funny hats? 2 stars.
Jukebox -- A jukebox scene without a jukebox. I have to come up with a new name for this bit. Last seen in the Paul Rudd episode at the end of 2008, the jukebox guys are back at what appears to be a wedding (wink, wink). This time out, their creepy reminiscences are set to the tune of Mr. Big's "To Be With You." The music in these scenes has really degenerated. Remember when they were set to things like "The Weight" by The Band? Mr. Big. Sheesh. Anyway, this creepfest includes references to masturbating with internet porn (you can do that?), marrying your sister (you can do that?), and extremely personal mishaps with jacuzzi jets. I really liked this format the first few times they did it. It might be time to retire it though. Decent pay-off at the end. 2 stars.
TV on the Radio performs "Golden Age" -- On this blog, I have called TV on the Radio "overrated." That has more to do with the critical mooning over them than it does with the band itself. They're a solid herky-jerky funk outfit, at times real good. But the best of the year (as they were named by Rolling Stone, Spin and Entertainment Weekly)? 'Fraid not. This performance is an energetic, exuberant effort on a song that ain't quite as funk-kay as it would like to be. Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe was the groom in the great film Rachel Getting Married. Pretty good stuff. 3 stars.
Weekend Update -- First, a correction of a glaring oversight by yours truly: Last week when I examined this segment, I failed to mention Abby Elliott's brief but impactful appearance as baby-huntress Angelina Jolie. She was wonderful and I plead brain damage. Bygones. This week, the fake news is Michael Phelps-intensive as his pot-smoking snapshot cropped up all over the media in the past few days. I wonder if the "SNL" gang didn't take a bit of a shine to him when he hosted back on the first show of the season; they seem terribly eager to rise to his defense, especially during Seth Meyer's "Really!?!" piece. Or possibly they just really like weed. Anyway, Andy as hairy-chested Mark Spitz talks about how much he partied back in the 70s. He calls his mustache "The Admiral." Kenan Thompson pops up as James Harrison, the Pittsburgh Steeler who ran an interception 100 yards for a touchdown (after further review) in the Super Bowl. He is still out of breath. And Kristen is Icelandic Froot Loop Bjork, commenting on her country's economic collapse and on how itchy her skeleton is. Sprinkle in some good lines from Seth and you have the highlight of a very weak show so far. 3 1/2 stars.
Hockey Fan -- Bobby Moynihan is excited seven-year-old hockey fan Keith, eager to meet his heroes on the Fort Wayne Admirals. They named the team after Mark Spitz's mustache. As excited as Keith is to meet his heroes, he is strangely hostile to one of them, Right Wing Matt LaFleur (Cooper). Moynihan does another annoying juvenile, but the character twist in the scene carries it along well. I love Will Forte's French-Canadian accent. Darrell Hammond sticks his nose in as a trainer. Hardly seems worth it, does it Darrell? 3 stars.
Bad Guys, Good Conversation -- On a show hosted by Johnny Lawrence from The Karate Kid, movie villains discuss their concerns. Bradley Cooper IS William Zabka! No. Seriously. I think he really is. Also on hand are Hans Gruber (Andy) from Die Hard, Alex Forrest (Michaela) of Fatal Attraction, and Jaime "Buffalo Bill" Gumm (Bill Hader) from Silence of the Lambs. Hader's impression is the big winner, predictably. Solid comedy sketch concept executed well. Nothing spectacular but the episode has picked up enormously since the Update spot. How come Hader's Buffalo Bill sounds just like Captain Stottlemeyer on "Monk?" 3 stars.
Intervention -- Mark (Andy) has a drinking problem, so his family has intervened with the help of counsellor Matt Sajak, brother of Pat. Hader as Sajak ("No I canNOT get you tickets, so don't ask") gets off some nice opening lines, but then the scene bogs down with a dippy reliance on funny sounds from increasingly less likely sources. Starting with the squirt, squirt, squirt of a hand-sanitizer, it eventually escalates until Cooper is churning his own butter ("I'm way behind on my orders"). Silly. Not terribly funny. 2 stars.
TV on the Radio performs "Dancing Choose" -- Another high-energy performance of another average song. A rapid cascade of imagery set amidst more stop-start rhythms and fevered horns, it all builds to an impressive crescendo. I'd like to see these guys work some better material. Solid. 3 1/2 stars.
Christian Bale Tirade -- Batman yells at lighting guy. In an attempt to defend himself from his many critics, the intense actor shows other, more beloved celebrities having similar meltdowns. Why is Cooper doing Bale with a British accent? He should have used the gravelly, constipated Batman voice. Other celebs include George Foreman (Kenan), Joan Cusack (Abby with another brief but accurate impression), and "Mad Money's" Jim Cramer (Darrell). Will Forte is the hapless lighting guy. Compare this to Stephen Colbert's riff on the Bale explosion earlier this week and watch it pale. Shoulda been better. 1 1/2 stars.
And then Cooper says "good night" and waves at ... Hey! Is that Drew Barrymore? You mean he lied to us in the monologue when he said that the other (better) stars of He's Just Not That Into You couldn't make it to host? We could have had Drew? Dang it! At least she would have made I'm Gonna Have Sex With Your Wife mildly interesting. Aaaaargggh!
Next week it's Alec Baldwin and -- squeal -- The Jonas Brothers. I'm already wearing my Purity Ring.