Monday Morning Quarterback: SNL Season 35, Episode 19

Posted by Jesse April 18th, 2010 at 06:46pm In SNL

After a couple of shows that didn’t rely heavily on recurring characters, the Ryan Phillipe-hosted episode of SNL brought them roaring back. They even wedged three into Phillipe’s monologue, referring to his appearance in the upcoming MacGruber movie. MacGruber is the first SNL character to get a movie in about a decade, but Target Lady, Dick in a Box guy, and What Up with That host all wanted to know when they could cash their movie checks, prospects that seem unlikely, not least because I watch this show every week and I don’t know any of these characters’ names. Forte seems quite sage, in retrospect, putting his character’s name in the sketch title.

MacGruber himself was absent from the episode (I guess it would seem crass, although on the other hand, he shilled for Pepsi directly). But if you count Fred Armisen’s Larry King and at least one returning celebrity impressions from the Mort Mort Feingold sketch, there was a recurring character around for everything until the first Ke$ha performance (note: I’ve almost typed her name out as Ke&ha or possibly Kes&ha just about every time I’ve ever typed it; I think my normally decent keyboarding skills are trying to tell me something), plus several more post-Update.

This included SNL’s practice of returning to sketches long after they first aired, something that really began in earnest, I think, with Will Ferrell’s seven-year run on the show, and has blossomed as players like Forte and Armisen have come surprisingly close to the ten-year mark. Hence the Hip-Hop Kids, last seen fighting monsters from The Descent four years ago, made a surprise return appearance to deal with a bear problem, though without the help of Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph. More repeated but still sort of erratically is the sketch where four old friends reminisce while singing along to an inane rock song; the sketch has been done so often that what started with cheesy hits from the seventies and eighties has now caught up to Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Both of these were reasonably funny, though, and Phillipe, while perhaps not distinct in his performances, certainly jumped in and blended with the cast. Less successful was a return to the ESPN Classic sketch; hopefully this fifth goddamned appearance is the last we’ve seen for the season. Not because the sketch isn’t funny — Sudeikis and Forte’s cheerfully out-of-sync banter can get laughs no matter how many damn times they repeat it — but because I’m sick of seeing it (and writing about it) even though it is kind of funny, and as much fun as the leads can have, there are so many grimacing sports guises Kristen Wiig and some host can take on; that half of the sketch hasn’t been particularly funny for months.

The show also continued to indulge Fred Armisen’s unpleasant recurring characters, though his insensitive substitute host of Teen Talk is, admittedly, the funniest, most believable, and least all-out irritating of the characters he’s given us this year. He was also front and center for a Larry King imitation that, while not particularly funny, was notable for replacing his own crummy Obama impression, and starting the episode off with a few actual laughs, rather than prolonged discomfort.

The whole episode was like that: doing small things right, like the commercial for a DVD that loops the porny-looking Shake Weight commercial, and “I Got This,” an amusing little observational sketch about paying the check. They also introduced actual new characters on Weekend Update, including Forte’s hilarious Father Swimcoach Scoutmaster.

Little was flat-out brilliant, but on the other hand, nothing completely tanked for me; it was one of those solid episodes were every sketch had at least a few chuckles. Then, putting the show over the top into acceptable territory for me while utilizing that more measured approach to recurring bits was this last sketch of the night:

A strange combination of obscurity (spoofing an internet circulation) and easiness (Insane Clown Posse is not exactly the most nuanced target), yes, but really funny. Something to bask in while ignoring Ke&*a’s poor-lady’s Lady Gaga shtick and waiting for the writers to turn the charming Gabourey Sidibe into Kenan Thompson’s newest ghetto daughter next week.

Episode Grade: B

2 Comments

  • 1. Marisa  |  April 18th, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Every time they do the ESPN classic sketch, I hate it more. Will Forte’s cluelessness and Jason Sudeikis’s geniality are funny, I’ll grant. But I think there’s something creepy about the rest of it. It’s like they think that there’s something inherently funny about female athletes. Look at them! They’re not pictures of femininity! Tee-hee! Why is that funny? It’s the same thing with the ads for feminine products. The rhymes they come up with are silly, but it’s like they think the REAL joke is the fact that some of these products exist.

    I do like the Insane Clown Posse parody, though. Ass Dan, 1981-2010.

  • 2. sara  |  April 19th, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Fuckin’ magnets. How DO they work?


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