SNL: Steve Buscemi/The Black Keys (Hulu version)

COLD OPEN
ZOË RICE: Although Armisen’s voice and cadence used to be more Obama-like, I got a kick out of his frustrated president. Clever chart, good writing, and one of the more solid opens in several weeks.

HOWARD MEGDAL: And this one left me cold. I’m beginning to worry about just how impressive either impression will be in a Gingrich-Obama matchup.

MONOLOGUE
ZOË RICE: It’s great to see what happens when SNL relies on good writing rather than a flashy song or kooky dance. I loved Buscemi in this situation, being asked by signature supporting characters how they, too, can get the lead.

HOWARD MEGDAL:
Absolutely. Good targets, well executed.

FROZEN MEXICAN DINNER
ZOË RICE: This spot won’t add anything particularly Earth-shattering or different to the SNL cannon, but the commercial was well executed, and it’s a rare opportunity to say: some good work from Paul Brittain.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Ah, poop. The old standby. They definitely made a fresh comedic point… about Mexican food?

THE MILEY CYRUS SHOW
ZOË RICE: Vanessa Bayer remains fun to watch, but her Miley Cyrus wrestles with the same problem SNL faces on a regular basis – overplay. I’m kinda over it. Maya Rudolph’s Whitney was amusing, if perhaps at certain moments too over-the-top. However, Steve Buscemi’s character added nothing (not his fault).

HOWARD MEGDAL: Exactly. Either evolve the skit or let’s move on. The writing at fault, not the acting.

DIGITAL SHORT
ZOË RICE: The Batman drop-ins built nicely and concisely. Enjoyed the payoff at the end.

HOWARD MEGDAL: More toward the funny than the odd. Well done.

DATELINE
ZOË RICE: I’ve never seen the feature they’re spoofing, so perhaps that’s why I missed the funny here? Hader’s faces and noises weren’t enough for me, and this felt long.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Nor is this the first time. SNL, seriously: the recipe that calls for endless repetition is a problem you need to eliminate from your writing repertoire.

CENTRAL COLLEGE COACHES
ZOË RICE: I can’t think of a better timely way to capitalize on Buscemi’s innate creepiness. A nice marriage of host and current events. Here I thought Hader’s faces, though brief, were awesome. Really enjoyed this.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Absolutely. Capturing the zeitgeist in an amusing and building way. Really solid, SNL.

THE BLACK KEYS
ZOË RICE: They sound a bit retro, as if from a time when rock was bluesier. I like it.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Among bands I wouldn’t listen to, this was pretty good music.

UPDATE
ZOË RICE: Seth has been strong all season, and I look forward to his jokes every week. No disappointment this time around, and special mention to his driving “You’re doing it wrong.” The end of Herman Cain’s campaign hopefully means less Kenan Thompson in the future, but I must admit Cain gives enough material for even Kenan to produce laughs. He did great with Labybia…alright Kenan, nice work. Drunk Uncle – Moynihan is a very convincing drunk! He had some good moments (be sure to stretch, baby Jesus) that outweighed the couple of off beats.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Labybia stayed with me, too. And Moynihan will obviously return as Drunk Uncle.

SURPRISE SUE
ZOË RICE: Ah, it’s been a while since we’ve seen Surprise Sue, but the ironic problem is that she has no surprises left for the viewer. Wiig’s very talented, but we keep seeing the same iterations of that talent, and it’s getting boring, which is a shame. I hope she has some new characters on the horizon.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Exactly. At least the SNL writers know what surprises are. Why they can’t utilize that knowledge to retire this sketch, I couldn’t say.

SEX ED VINCENT
ZOË RICE: I didn’t laugh but I didn’t quite cringe. A throwaway.

HOWARD MEGDAL: And a repeat character who shouldn’t repeat. No thanks.

THE BLACK KEYS
ZOË RICE: Their indie rock sounds less self-conscious than most. I continue to dig it.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Assume this will be less-offensive music in some stores I shop in soon.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM SHEILA AND SHEILA
ZOË RICE: But who are these people? What’s their situation? Why are they shooting a video holiday card? Without any context at all I’m left rather confused.

HOWARD MEGDAL:
I’m happy to see Steve Buscemi onscreen. But that’s all this had going for it.

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