Posted by Jesse February 16th, 2009 at 07:56pm In SNL
Steve Martin may maintain the record (and others may, understandably, stay at a respectful distance) and Justin Timberlake may get the most press, but Alec Baldwin has been the outside personality most visible on Saturday Night Live for the past fifteen years or so — to such a degree that his eventual late-career peak as star of 30 Rock feels like a natural progression from his sketch comedy hobby.
Baldwin evidently feels so at home on SNL, in fact, that a parade of additional guest stars were all over this week’s episode to compensate for the host’s status as a semiregular. The first half-hour in particular was packed: Dan Akroyd presided over the Republican-mocking opening; 30 Rock scene-stealer (and, I’ve heard, one-time SNL audtioner) Jack McBrayer turned up for the monologue; musical guests the Jonas Brothers were the focal point of a sketch and the digital short; and Cameron Diaz reprised her Cougar Den character Kiki LaMore (which, sort-of-fun fact, she has never done while actually hosting).
Odd, then, that the show seemed to run out of material at the end. I don’t mean that the sketches floundered, like so many of last week’s. In fact, several of my favorite sketches happened post-guests and post-Update: the return of Will Forte and Bill Hader’s old businessman characters, Baldwin’s tips for mastering the art of the foreshadowing cough, and another go-round with Bill Hader’s Vincent Price variety special. Between Vincent Price, the old businessmen, Vinnie Vedecci, and that sex offender guy, Hader and Forte are the undisputed masters of the recurring character.
But despite their excellence, the show seemed to literally run out of material: in the final fifteen minutes they reran two old fake ads, and the credits/goodbyes, so often cut off, lingered on. For some reason or another, the episode was running short.
I wonder if the logistical challenges of so many non-cast players popping up, or perhaps anticipated Jonas Brothers fan riots in the studio, made the producers assume that sketches would run longer than they did — or maybe, as one of my viewing mates suggested, the Jonas Brothers were supposed to do still another sketch and pulled out. (Far be it from me to ask for mas Jonas, but how were they not involved in Cougar Den? Oh, right, they’re sanctimonious robots. Although both of their actual sketches were, admittedly, quite funny.) Also, Kenan’s Sir-Mix-a-Lot ad wasn’t a repeat, but it had the feel of something that had been kicking around the writers’ room for a year or eight.
In any case, even at just eighty-five percent complete and even with two songs’ worth of Jonas bleating, this was one of the best episodes of the season. Baldwin was typically game and versatile, the extra guests were funnier than they were gimmicky, and nothing really sucked. In short, it was what you might’ve expected from Steve Martin a few weeks ago; maybe Baldwin deserves to take that record after all.
Episode Grade: B+