Monday Morning Quarterback: SNL Season 35, Episode 14

Posted by Jesse February 8th, 2010 at 01:03am In General SNL

Ashton Kutcher has now hosted Saturday Night Live four times. Does that seem weird to anyone else? I wouldn’t immediately guess that he’d be the That ’70s Show cast member to host most often, or that he’s hosted more than, say, Scarlett Johansson or Justin Timberlake, who both have their own recurring characters. Looking through the invaluable SNL transcripts site, I see that none of his episodes have been particularly memorable, though he did appear in a Falconer sketch as “the Muskrateer,” and his most recent appearance, in April 2008, was surprisingly decent.

This week’s episode, then, fits right into the Ashton Kutcher SNL oeuvre that we all forgot existed. It was surprisingly good in the sense that it was one of the least recurring-character-heavy episodes of the season, with only a typically middling and pointless View sketch and some amusing Update appearances representing the retread factors. The first post-monologue sketch wasn’t The View or a Kristen Wiig tic-fest, but a very funny bit with Kutcher playing a golddigging pool boy spurned by his departed 110-year-old lover. It exploited a funny idea without just hitting a single joke over and over; that sounds simple, but isn’t always as easy as it looks.

But also like some of his past appearances, the episode was a bit rote; nothing else matched that early high. The sketch with Will Forte as a Roman leader taking creepy pleasure from grape-feeding was appealingly weird, but thin; same goes for “What Is Burn Notice?” — the game show that challenges contestants to describe the apparently popular USA network series. Personally, I’d have more trouble with “What is Criminal Minds?” — a couple of my regular SNL-watching buddies actually love Burn Notice and it’s certainly among the top three or five cooler-sounding cable shows that I never watch but suspect I might like if I did, whereas I have no idea what separates Criminal Minds from its cop-show brethren apart from it not being set in the Navy, not involving crazy forensics or cold cases, and not, as far as I know, taking place in Miami. But anyway, it was still a kinda-sorta funny sketch poking fun at the show’s admittedly vague ad campaign.

The kinda-sorta-pretty-good stuff kept on coming all night. Andy Samberg’s Rahm Emmanuel impression isn’t one of his most dead-on, but the laughs it gets are certainly the most cathartic the show, which hasn’t been specializing in political humor since late 2008 at best, can offer these days. The Oscar nomination bit was funny enough. I liked that band of dads reuniting their eighties punk band at a wedding at the very end of the show. Kutcher didn’t do much to help or hurt, apart from a downright puzzling Mel Gibson impression — he got Gibson’s weirdo defensive posture right, but the voice was a gravelly mess.

So I guess Kutcher is a kind of gap-filler, inconsequential host; he hasn’t worked up enough strong material to qualify as a hosting event, like a Steve Martin or Alec Baldwin appearance, and he doesn’t give off that Jon Hamm major-repeat-host-of-tomorrow vibe, either. He just does pretty typical episodes that you probably won’t remember when he hosts again in a couple of years.

Episode Grade: B-


February 2010
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