Monday Morning Quarterback: SNL Season 34, Episode 18

Posted by Jesse March 16th, 2009 at 10:01am In SNL

With former longtime cast member Tracy Morgan back for his first hosting gig, Saturday Night Live took a turn for the retro. I don’t really mean the agreeable if somewhat uninspired revival of Morgan’s Brian Fellows and Astronaut Jones character, which come from his early-aughts heyday on the show. This outing more closely recalled episodes from the late nineties when Morgan was more of a background-dweller and Will Ferrell was ascendant, in that the first hour was packed tight with recurring characters and easy laughs, while the last half-hour went in stranger directions. In other words, don’t look for Family Flix in E! reruns next year.

That power half-hour kicked off with a quick, funny digital short full of literalized cliches, and then saw Morgan moving into Dr. Spaceman territory with an ad for Suppressex, an erection-reduction drug. The High IQ game show and Family Flix talk show sketches were similar in that they both featured a gleefully oblivious Morgan character derailing a recognizable format, but they each took this idea in separate, hilariously unhinged directions.

It was a good thing, too, because while there were some funny moments in the View and Dateline sketches, the re-return of Kenan Thompson’s scared-straight character was classic recurring-bit hackery: take a tired concept with a thin and not particularly funny character and have a guest star play… that character again, at the same time. Even the actors seemed bored, which is probably why the most spontaneous and amusing moments were Bill Hader (rarely one to break character Fallon-style) struggling not to crack up as Morgan seemed to improvise some physical schtick, and everyone else trying not to lose it a few minutes later, as Jason Sudeikis contributed some goofy body language of his own.

In the scattered spirit of Tracy Morgan’s cue-card readings, the rest of my thoughts on this episode will be in note form:

-As far as semi-obscure impressions go, I prefer John Malkovich to the cast of Big Love, although I have to say, Abby Elliott does a pretty decent Chloe Sevigny and Casey Wilson does a commendable Ginnifer Goodwin. But these young kids, why don’t any of them know how to imitate politicians?

-Tracy Morgan used to play Star Jones on View sketches. Now he plays Sherri Shephard, who plays his character’s wife on 30 Rock. Also, he used to be the only one doing a View character in drag. In this episode, it was three out of five.

-Update was kinda weak, save the Malkovich bit and Tracy Morgan’s misinterpretation of the “Really?!?” feature.

-Lots of sketches tonight, and yet they still had to repeat two fake commercials. You’d think they’d try to stockpile more of those at the beginning of the season.

-Maggie wondered which sketch(es) garnered Tina Fey her additional material credit. Looking over the sketch list, I really don’t know. Maybe the View thing, since she used to write the Cheri Oteri-era incarnation? Nothing else really pops out.

-Kelly Clarkson has cemented her status as Earth’s most tolerable American Idol, but she should probably stop dressing like Stevie Nicks.

Episode Grade: B-

3 Comments

  • 1. Maggie  |  March 16th, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I watched the second half of the episode again when Kyle got home, and I vote for Suppressex as Tina’s sketch. Maybe because it reminded me of Seasonale?

    You lumped together my favorite and least favorite sketches. I hated, hated, hated, hated High IQ. A series of people in silly costumes dance. There are no JOKES there. Nothing about it was funny or surprising or original; it was just a bunch of people prancing around. On the other hand, Rocket Dog may have been my favorite sketch of the season — something about the repetition of “Life is a Highway” and death montages in the middle of scenes made me totally giddy.

  • 2. jesse  |  March 16th, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Come on, you weren’t at least a little bit surprised that a game show sketch ended with people dancing dressed as Harry Potter and Neo for some reason?

    It wasn’t a well-thought-out sketch, I’ll give you that. But I give it major points for Kristen Wiig’s perfectly mediocre performance, and for ridiculous escalation. Also, I get so tired of the game-show sketch format, so to see them pretty much go right into madness and take it so far made me laugh.

    I think I also liked it because it reminded me of Blurnsball in Futurama. (“Third ball locked! Multiball!!!” ::cue motorcycles and giant spider::)

  • 3. sara  |  March 16th, 2009 at 11:08 am

    I think the bacon and egg costumes in the High IQ sketch may have been left over from “Lunch Lady Land.” Cannot imagine how bad those things must smell.

    I was really underwhelmed by the episode as a whole. But after last week, which was consistently great, I guess it’s to be expected. I actually paused the live show at one point to watch “I’m On a Boat” and “Iran So Far” again on Hulu.


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