ZOË RICE: I have finally enjoyed something from Abby Elliott: her Rachel Maddow impression. Wiig tickled with her Pelosi expressions–it’s in the eyes. Kenan was a bit meh, but you know… and Hader should have been a bit more orange, don’t you think? I didn’t double over with laughter, but I thought it was a decent open.
HOWARD MEGDAL: No argument here from me. It’s been a frustration of mine when SNL gets the basic political premise of a bit wrong, because the subsequent target obviously suffers. But they got this one right across the board. I enjoyed this.
ZOË RICE: I wish I liked Anne Hathaway more than I do. She seems like a likeable person, and she’s lovely to look at, but she’s just so actorly. I usually find her a bit overdramatic, sneaking dangerously close to hammy. She struck me that way in her monologue too, and I really only enjoyed Wiig’s last line and parting smile.
HOWARD MEGDAL: I happen to think she’s a fine actor, though, so though this monologue left much to be desired, it is hard to fault Hathaway for it.
ZOË RICE: I particularly enjoyed Moynihan here. A cute idea.
HOWARD MEGDAL: And well-executed. Not a second longer than it should have been. Timely, too. Great job with the zeitgeist humor, SNL.
THE MILEY CYRUS SHOW
ZOË RICE: Oh good, it’s back! Vanessa Bayer just makes me giggle, like with her “I’m sexy now” and the Batman screen test. Anne Hathaway as Katie Holmes initially elicits a laugh with the sideways smile and hair-tucking, but with all its pauses her impression doesn’t hold up as well as Bayer’s Miley.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Normally, I get frustrated with SNL’s repeated skits, which seem to proceed along identical tracks each time, meaning that there’s not a single surprise laugh to be had in the whole thing. But this one did work second time through. I also really like Bayer. I have my doubts about this skits ability to be funny the 12th time through, but that is not the fault of the skit. No skit can expect to be repeated that often and maintain its charm.
ZOË RICE: Anne Hathaway annoyed me here, I have to admit, with her over-acting. But despite its predictability, Penelope’s one-upmanship continues to amuse me. Her past Liza Minnelli moment will be hard to top forevermore, but I can handle more Penelope. Especially floating in her little celery. I think the sketch would have benefited from some trimming–perhaps the football bit–and it doesn’t hit like it used to, but Penelope’s inventive boasts still tickle.
HOWARD MEGDAL: And this is what I mean. An amusing idea, often funny, but we’ve seen it too many damn times. Even with the silliness quotient in the inherent verbal battles, did any of the lines catch you by surprise?
ZOË RICE: It’s kind of funny to imagine the Queen and Prince Philip all crass and cockney, but the writing just wasn’t clever enough here. Their alterna-royals dialogue never quite hit–what’s that about Debra?–and so the highlights for me were the Princess Diaries call out and the line about Prince Harry. Heh.
HOWARD MEGDAL: This didn’t amuse me, even a little. So the royal family has some secrets? Really? Next up, SNL should amusingly point out that the government is being less than truthful about the Vietnam War. That would really shock people in 1965… just like this skit.
FLORENCE & THE MACHINE
ZOË RICE: I watched her performance at the VMAs and was rather enchanted, but the bloom has faded for me. I think Florence is a decent performer, and hey why not blue gogo dancers, but I can’t say I’m a real fan.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Fortunately for me, I didn’t watch the VMAs, so I didn’t need to feel the wrenching agony of falling out of love.
ZOË RICE: Since I have no idea who Guy Fieri is, Moynihan’s impression was mostly lost to me. I enjoyed Seth’s “Come on, Dictionary,” and I would imagine fellow word nerd Howard did too–although Seth could have done better than “gynosaur.” Just saying. The Four Loko dude was entertaining enough, but I’m not sure SNL has quite found its place for Jay Pharoah yet. His Thanksgiving raps “in the style of” felt somewhat forced. I think it’s what he does between the impressions that’s lacking.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Two strong disagreements. Went back and checked out Guy Fieri- Moynihan was absolutely amazing. Yes, I loved “Come On, Dictionary”. But I really take issue with your Jay Pharoah comment. And I do so as someone who has no hip-hop knowledge, and therefore had every one of his parody songs go over my head. But I shouldn’t be the target audience for that, and I wasn’t. My wife knew those performers, and was blown away by the impression each time. Great job by SNL, finding places for the ultra-talented Pharoah to shine.
TCM THE ESSENTIALS
ZOË RICE: Now that’s a Judy Garland impression; Anne Hathaway got the voice of 1939 Judy just right. And even better work from the SNL makeup and costume department. This was no budget Wizard of Oz simulacrum. Armisen was better for me here than he’s been for most of the season, and now I wish the original movie had featured a weather vane. I really enjoyed this.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Totally agree. Terrific use of Armisen- and like you pointed out, historically accurate. Wizard of Oz is also a lot more relevant than Vincent Price specials. Oh, and loved Sudeikis’ Robert Osborne. But then, I watch a lot of TCM.
ZOË RICE: This bit dragged for me, despite a slight payoff chuckle from Hader at the end.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Old people are useless, is the gag here, I suppose. Ha?
BLACK FRIDAY AT MEGA-MART
ZOË RICE: Funny and all too true. Well done.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Couldn’t agree more. This one builds. Particularly enjoyed the Kirk Douglas gag.
ZOË RICE: This faux commercial struck me as more bizarre than funny–and perhaps that’s why it was buried toward the end rather than the meatier part of the show where the commercials usually go.
HOWARD MEGDAL: I don’t even think I understand what the sight gag is supposed to mean.
FLORENCE & THE MACHINE
ZOË RICE: She’s wearing a pretty dress, and I want to think she’s cool, but oy this was shrieky.
HOWARD MEGDAL: To paraphrase Calvin Trillin, “Is that woman singing, or what?”
ZOË RICE: I usually enjoy SNL’s musician impressions, and this go-round did not disappoint. Solid work from Armisen, Hathaway, Sudeikis, and even Kenan. And special mention goes to Wiig’s perfect Cranberries and Adam Sandler’s well-pitched Robert Smith.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Again, this is probably due to my musical tastes deviating from my generation’s. But this one took a long time.