SNL


COLD OPEN
ZOË RICE: Even having followed the Jeremy Lin craze only peripherally, this hit really well. A spoof on sportscasting, news puns, and even racial issues. Well done.

HOWARD MEGDAL:
Can’t think of anything better than this, which became even more prescient following the ESPN incident. Strong open, SNL.

MONOLOGUE
ZOË RICE: Doesn’t Maya Rudolph seem like she’d be the best girl friend? Here, she looks stunning, and she provides fun and energy. Not as clever as it could be, and a wasted cameo by Paul Simon (was he winking about Stefon?), but a nice finish with Wiig. Seth looked so happy to be let out from behind the desk.

HOWARD MEGDAL: This was a long song without a ton of laughs, but Maya Rudolph is enjoyable enough onstage that I didn’t mind.

BRONX BEAT
ZOË RICE: An inevitable choice. I’ve never considered this sketch to be a home run, but it’s a good vehicle for Rudolph, and there were some amusing moments, including solid ad libbing from Poehler. The random Timberlake appearance, however, coupled with Samberg, took the sketch to a whole new level. By the end, for me, it went from okay to super Timber-berg fun.

HOWARD MEGDAL:
Justin Timberlake is the Jeremy Lin of SNL skits.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD LAUGHS
ZOË RICE: Love. Just adore. A Maya Angelou prank show is bound to be funny on concept alone, but the understated execution (starting with Pharoah’s Morgan Freeman) led the clever concept to its fullest potential.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Oh, this was perfect. Wow, hard to remember a show that started this well.

BEYONCE AND JAY-Z
ZOË RICE: Finally a proper vehicle for Pharoah’s impressions – I’m just not familiar enough with Jay-Z’s mannerisms to know how good his take is. Pedrad, however, just keeps bringing it! Her Nicki Minaj was epic. Taran Killam whipped out an awesome Brad to go with Abby Elliott’s Angelina – where’ve you been hiding this Brad, Taran? Wiig’s Taylor Swift captured her essence, and Timberlake as Bon Iver made me laugh out loud. A timely, natural vehicle for completely solid impressions – worked from start to finish (excepting the final Beyonce “Bye!” beat).

HOWARD MEGDAL: Very strong, start to finish. Nothing felt forced.

SLEIGH BELLS
ZOË RICE: Apart from the female vocalist’s highly unattractive sneakers, I can kind of dig the vibe. Her voice meshes well with the electronic effects. I’m not rushing to download, but I think I get it.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I’m glad you do, at least. I don’t think this is Christmas music at all!

UPDATE
ZOË RICE: Really!?! With Seth and Amy generally promises a treat – and this iteration was no different: sharp, biting, and adorable. As for the jokes, I give special mention to Shakira’s hips and the subway benches.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Glad they gave Amy some anchor time, too.

WHAT UP WITH THAT
ZOË RICE: No one should ever let Bill O’Reilly talk that long. I know this sketch is popular, but it strikes me as more spectacle than comedy. Music, lights, dancing, funny faces. I wound up a bit bored.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I think it’s fairly appalling that Bill O’Reilly clearly gets that he’s a joke, yet inspires real hate. Whatever, good to see him interrupted, while Kate Upton, who is obviously ridiculously attractive in the American way, has to find a persona beyond “I know exactly how attractive I am, and won’t let you forget it for a second”. It is not going to wear well. Just an observation. It was annoying in a skit where she doesn’t talk!

SUPER SHOWCASE
ZOË RICE: The concept of a Price is Right spoof could work – and the sketch captured how absurd the show’s prizes are. But I didn’t quite get the models’ funny voices, and it seems that’s what set the cast to breaking. I did crack up with Wiig’s Chicken Man moment, I admit, but as a whole the bit became a bit too sophomoric.

HOWARD MEGDAL:
Glad they were having fun, but this simply didn’t work. Who was the target? Spokesmodels? Sorry, Steve Martin did that much more effectively in L.A. Story, and more than two decades ago.

THE OBAMA SHOW
ZOË RICE: SNL, thank you for this. I fell in love the minute Obama/Cosby came into the frame. Are most of the show’s viewers old enough to have watched the Cosby Show as kids? Because I am, so I believe I was the target audience. Armisen’s got the Cosby dance shuffle down, and “Joe Jamal-Biden” elicited an audible guffaw. The hoagie and healthy eating juxtaposition worked perfectly, and the Hilary cameo gave me a happy. Poehler could not have been used better this whole episode.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Agree. This is the skit that we see in SNL retrospectives from this show.

SLEIGH BELLS
ZOË RICE: This song was a bit droney for me, but it had some ethereal, dreamy moments.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I mean, I have no philosophical opposition to it if they can earn money by doing that.

HOW’S HE DOING
ZOË RICE: Not an amazing sketch, but solid for the end of show. The concept of “What would it take” hit best. Overall, I left these 90 minutes feeling quite satisfied. Who do I get to hug during the last minutes?

HOWARD MEGDAL: This was actually some really sharp satire, responding to the occasional, ridiculous, stories that try to pretend Barack Obama isn’t going to have the same kind of support from the African-American community. They usually try to couch it in terms of turnout instead of pretending some of Obama’s votes will go to Romney/Santorum. Doesn’t make it any less ridiculous.

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