SNL Alec Baldwin/Radiohead

ZOË RICE: I don’t love myself for laughing at Taran Killam’s Huntsman-does-Chinese-restaurant gag, but I did, and more than “little bit.” Entertaining opener to the season, with Wiig starting her year off strong as Bachmann.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Across the board, this really captured the essence of the GOP debates. Well done here.

ZOË RICE: The monologue was more of a Steve Martin vehicle than an Alec Baldwin one, but hard to quibble with Martin’s quirky charm.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I certainly like Alec Baldwin- but to get Steve Martin, too? This is going to be a good night.

ZOË RICE: A classic SNL commercial in the vein of Gilda Radner’s “Hey You.” Wiig continues to redeem herself after a lackluster previous season, and even if some of the “red flag” punchlines are better than others, the spot really pays off in the last 10 seconds. Great stuff.

Perfect pitch and length. As I maintained last season, Wiig is an immense talent often trapped in subpar sketches. That’s on the writing staff, though, not her.

ZOË RICE: SNL has done this kind of gag a few too many times before – that soap operas have ridiculous paradigms is nothing new. Andy Samberg had the best moment here, followed by Sudeikis. Relevant given the demise of All My Children, but not fresh, and my least favorite sketch of the night.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Yes- this one left me cold. Even Vanessa Bayer’s Susan Lucci, and I didn’t think she could be onscreen without making me laugh.

ZOË RICE: Wiig’s timing here is excellent, which is what makes the delay work, and I admit I giggled at the snake boob gag. A silly bit, but Wiig pulls it off.

I thought the delay gag had diminishing returns, but I greatly enjoyed the Buffalo anchors.

ZOË RICE: I know they’re supposed to be legendary, and perhaps I’m a Philistine for knowing very little about Radiohead or their music. But the lead singer looks so dopey and pretentious flopping around there. I dig the sound, but I couldn’t keep a straight face.

He seems sad. Isn’t his band really famous? Why is he so sad?

ZOË RICE: I missed Seth Meyers, and I was glad to see he remains as adorable as ever. The first Update of the season offered consistent laughs, if not that one biting or especially memorable joke. The blue ribbon, however, goes to Alec Baldwin for his Tony Bennett impression, which reminds the SNL audience that although Justin Timberlake rocks, Alec Baldwin’s still the untouchable #1 host.

Howard, will you be my Hebro?

HOWARD MEGDAL: Always. I liked letting Bennett ramble, concert patter-style, which was certainly a subtle reference to this story. Seeing Weekend Update not weighed down by 2-3 impressions worked nicely.

ZOË RICE: I laughed in spite of myself, and I give much of the credit to Alec Baldwin. He’s so good. “Oprah Winfrey!”

HOWARD MEGDAL: Alec Baldwin’s star power saved this.

ZOË RICE: Like its predecessors, this “DVD Extras” bit remains a great vehicle for the cast’s impressions, and Bill Hader continues to be the highlight. His Alan Alda yes, but in this case especially his hilarious Harvey Fierstein. Unfortunately the wig and styling of Alec Baldwin’s Al Pacino really missed the mark, and he wound up  looking like Rosie O’Donnell. Taran Killam’s Tom Hanks underwhelmed, but Fred Armisen’s Prince drive-by keeps me laughing out loud. No Jay Pharoah – has he left the cast?

HOWARD MEGDAL: It’s almost shocking every time I hear Hader’s Alan Alda, look up, and don’t actually see Alda there. Pharoah was in the opening credits, but I’m pretty sure that was it. Hopefully this was a temporary oversight.

ZOË RICE: I will take Nasim Pedrad as a little girl, or a little boy for that matter, any time. She’s just great at it, and I enjoyed her here.

This one built nicely, and again captured a joke within the zeitgeist- Alec Baldwin’s parenting skills. A sneaky good skit.

ZOË RICE: But the lead singer’s just so twitchy and foolish looking. Is Radiohead supposed to sound supper trippy and kind of from the 90′s? That’s what I got from this song. I feel like I’m the only one who’s not convinced this is the coolest band ever. But I’ve kind of only heard these two songs so don’t lynch me please.

HOWARD MEGDAL: He’s happier here, at least.

ZOË RICE: Knowing that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell took effect recently, and given the title of this “TCM movie,” I was expecting SNL to resort to easy homosexual-stereotype humor, as it often does. But I was enchanted to be wrong. I found this final sketch to be unexpected and fresh, I laughed a lot, and I hope for more hilarious surprises from SNL for the rest of the season. We’re off to a great start.

HOWARD MEGDAL: You highlighted one key pitfall they avoided, but here’s the other- simply relying on anachronism to make their parodies funny. Here, they worked within the parameters of the genre itself, and came up with something very funny, I thought. Bravo. This felt a lot to me like the Steve Martin/ESPN Classic parody of a few years ago, also, unfortunately, buried at the end of the show.

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