New "Saturday Night Live," new review. Let us waste no time ...
"Saturday Night Live" 4 April 2009. Host: Seth Rogen. Musical Guest: Phoenix.
Cold Open -- President Obama (Fred Armisen) announces his government's plan to micromanage businesses and decide which lives, and which goes the way of ousted GM Prez Rick Wagoner. Everything from reclining chairs to frozen shrimp to plastic novelty vomit fall under the President's meddling jurisdiction.
It's not much of an opener, little more than a string of contrast jokes and repetitions of "Yes" and "No." When the Commander in Chief gets to stroke mags, he shows the most recent Playboy which coincidentally features tonight's host on the cover. Seth Rogen is the ugliest Playmate ever.
Not much to say about the bit, so let's focus on Fred's impression. Despite some controversy over a non-African actor playing the nation's first African-American President, Fred persists with a mediocre and comically unfocused portrayal. If he was knocking these bits out of the park on a weekly basis, nobody would care about the race of the actor. Has anyone ever complained about Darrell Hammond's uproarious Jesse Jackson? Well, some curmudgeonly soul probably has, but it has never been an issue. Fred either needs to step up his Obama game, or the show has to spend the off-season casting for a suitable Presidential impersonator. Of any race. 1 star.
Monologue -- The newly svelte Seth Rogen boasts of having lost "a million pounds," gets mistaken for Paul Blart, and attempts to smooth things over with his former pizza delivery guy. Oh, and he plugs some movie. I think it's called "Paul Blart, Mall Cop Returns." Rogen's new physique can only mean one thing: he's off the pot and on the smack! Kudos! 2 stars.
The Fast and the Bi-Curious -- Big men. Tough men. Testosterone-laced men. This weekend's top grossing film gets a nice commercial parody with seething, throbbing performances by the host and Andy Samberg, while poor little Abby Elliott gets ignored in the background. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Coming Soon!" 3 stars.
Save the Funnies -- Famous comic-strip characters convene at a meeting to discuss how to move forward with the nation's newspapers under financial siege. Jason Sudeikis as Dick Tracy chairs the meeting. Other notables include Hagar the Horrible and his wife Helga (Rogen and the yet-to-ever-be-funny Casey Wilson), Jon and Garfield (Will Forte and Bobby Moynihan), Archie and Veronica (Bill Hader and Abby), Darrell as the guy who does the Jumble, and Fred as the mystic Japanese Sudoku. Another ethnic minority for Fred. Reminiscent of the Save Broadway scene from back on the Neil Patrick Harris show in January. Real reminiscent. Like, it's the exact same thing with different funny hats. I enjoyed when Michaela Watkins and Kristen Wiig as Marcie and Peppermint Patty started making out, but then, I'm into that sort of thing. Andy traffics out his Cathy again. Sweat drops! 2 stars.
La Rivista Della Televisione con Vinny Vedeci -- Bill Hader's Italian talk show host once again interviews a non-Italian speaker (Rogen). More recycling. It's good for the environment. I like Hader's character and I like the bit, but is it asking too much that the writers bother to come up with a new idea for them? Anything. Rogen as the terrifying Bear Man is pretty funny. 2 1/2 stars.
The "SNL" Digital Short "Like a Boss" -- Andy goes in for his performance review from Rogen and launches into a repetitive rap about how he gets it done "like a boss." Come to think of it, "repetitive rap" is a fairly repetitive phrase itself. A slew of quick cut gags of varying quality punctuate each boast; not enough of them connect. Not destined to be the next "Dick in a Box." Or even the next "Jizz in my Pants." 1 1/2 stars.
Cell Phone Voices -- Andy, Bill and Rogen all take turns talking on their cell phones. Each individual call prompts a different voice from the trio. Familiar tone shifts, like the one you might take with a girlfriend, give way to increasingly outlandish voices, like Gizmo from Gremlins. In a sidebar in the most recent "Entertainment Weekly," Hader said that the best impression he had that had yet to make it on a show was his Gizmo. Cross that off the old bucket list. Some of the voices are cute. Bill and Andy are much better at this than Rogen. Even a relatively easy one like Yoda comes out weak. Fred plays yet another ethnic, Scottish this time. 2 1/2 stars.
Phoenix performs "1901" -- I confess I was unfamiliar with this French pop rock outfit before they made their way onto the "SNL" stage. They're not half bad, and considering what I've heard of French music, that's saying something. They are however hamstrung by the fact that they have all the charisma of wet toast. And a bland band name that makes them sound like they're the southwestern desert answer to Boston. Catchy tune though. 2 1/2 stars.
Weekend Update -- After an awesome run from Seth Meyers on the gift-giving bungles by the Obama administration and the Queen of England ("You're world leaders, not Secret Santas!"), the news heads downhill. Jason Sudeikis as Rod Blagojevich feels flat. Maybe that moment has passed. And Kenan Thompson's French Def Jam comic Jean K. Jean delivers one of his weaker appearances. Again with the French.
But then Kristen as Madonna and Abby as Angelina "My Big Weird Lips Are Sealed" Jolie throwdown over who can adopt the most babies. And it's a scream. There's a baby island. And babies in space. And Russian babies inside other babies. Angelina's boyfriend was born an old man and aged into a baby. There's even a decoy baby. It's easily the highlight of a very weak show so far. First 3/4 of the news = 2 stars. Madonna v. Angelina = 4 stars.
You're the One That I Want -- Mr. Blessinger (Fred) calls Lee (Rogen) in to a meeting to answer for a blunder wherein he sent out copies of the Grease soundtrack with the company's quarterly prospectus. Sometimes the weird works. Rogen and crew stare at each other awkwardly while John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John warble energetically. Not for everyone, but I laughed hard. 3 stars.
Milestone High -- Lance (Rogen) needs some serious tutoring from Eli (Andy) if he's going to pass his exams in time to lead Milestone High's Basketball team to victory in the big game in this ABCFamily classic. Turns out that Lance isn't actually the captain of the team; he's just a delusional idiot. Needed a couple more passes in the rewrite room. 2 stars.
Clancy T. Bachleratt and Jackie Spad Sing Easter Songs About Spaceships, Toddlers, Model-T's and Jars of Beer -- Yet another retread on this greenest of recycled episodes, this time from the Jonah Hill hosted effort last year. Throw enough ridiculous nonsense at the wall and maybe some of it will stick. Almost worth it to watch Will Forte's forehead blood vessel nearly explode when he sings. but not quite. 1 1/2 stars.
Phoenix performs "Lisztomania" -- Wow. A song about a Ken Russell film. Cool. These guys benefit greatly from a rock hard backbeat provided by their drummer. They still look like someone roused them out of their respective dorm rooms and shoved them onstage. Once again, an undeniably catchy tune. 3 stars.
Movin' Right Along -- The Muppets are cruising down the road when tragedy strikes. Some scenes are exercises in character work. Some are all about a game of "Can You Top This?" This scene is all about funny costumes. Just about the whole cast portrays some Muppet or other. Notable by her absence is comic lead weight Casey Wilson. Kenan ends up cameoing as Nipsey Russell. Does anyone less old and decrepit than me even know who that is? I wonder if Kenan does. 2 stars.
Rogen says the "Good night's" with the rest of the cast still dressed as Muppets, and then Phoenix gets to perform for a third time. Just like U2, Bon Jovi and Coldplay. Is Phoenix really in a league with them? Can't evaluate the third song because my local NBC affiliate cut it off pretty quick so they could run the "Southland" promo. Thanks WESH-TV NBC Orlando! You blow!
All in all, this episode kinda blew too. We're getting to the end of the year and it seems like the writing staff already has one foot out the door. Here's hoping they throw a little effort behind Zac Efron next week. At least we'll get one of the best bands around, Yeah Yeah Yeahs on that show. See you here when we take it apart scene by scene. Bye-ee.