Monday Morning Quarterback: SNL Season 35, Episode 22

Posted by Jesse May 16th, 2010 at 07:04pm In SNL

For a nerd like me, Alec Baldwin hosting SNL, as routine an occurrence as it’s become (and sustained, thanks to the cross-promotional opportunities with 30 Rock), is far more exciting than Betty White doing it. So it’s with a heavy heart that I report that Baldwin’s episode wasn’t much better than White’s; it just wasn’t as overhyped.

Of course, while White’s episode suffered from multiple sketches essentially hitting the same joke (old lady talkin’ saucy!), the many one-joke sketches of Baldwin’s record-tying fifteenth hosting gig at least provided a variety of single jokes. Some of them worked beautifully, like the escalating absurdity of an infomercial for the Timecrowave, a food-heating device that can also wreak havoc on the space-time continuum, or the extremely, hilariously length set-up in the old movie clip about Baldwin reforming a prostitute (or rather, pretending to, and then trying to get a handjob). Others half-worked, like Baldwin as a belligerent swim coach, berating his young charges one by one; and another kinda felt flat, like the sniper sketch where the single joke was Baldwin saying “take the shot!” semi-comprehensibly. The majority, then, fell somewhere between middling and quite good, which is a pretty good track record for these types of sketches.

The one-joke indulgences can come crashing down, though, when you barely have any idea what that joke is supposed to be. In the worst sketch of the night and possibly of 2010 so far, Kristen Wiig debuts a delightful new character named Starfish. Get this: she’s awkward and clueless, and talks weird! If that sounds too much like other Kristen Wiig characters, how about this: she also has buck teeth! And if that doesn’t sound enough like eighty other SNL sketches since the beginning of time, don’t worry: the premise is that she keeps ruining takes on a set and the director has to keep yelling “cut” — a structure inexplicably beloved by comedy writers. I cannot remember the last time this device was funny and would love any recollections about when this was in the comments section below.

In the meantime: Jesus, that sketch was really, really bad. And it was the first real in-show sketch of the night! And it ruined a perfectly rhythm set up by an amusing (and quick!) non-Obama cold open, a typically smooth Baldwin monologue with a Steve Martin cameo, and a hilarious Digital Short going more Broadway than fake rap. Well done, SNL writers: your treatment of Kristen Wiig can officially be called enabling, bordering on self-destructive.

I suppose I should be happy that the only recurring characters of the night were those that haven’t nearly worn out their welcome (Nasrim Pedrad’s mature fourteen-year-old Bedilia; Bill Hader’s mouth-covering club expert Stefon) or those that consistently display a degree of infectious joy in their performance (Kenan’s old-man sexpert Grady Wilson; Wiig and Armisen as underprepared musical duo Garth and Kat), and that Wiig tried out a new character instead of trotting out Penelope, the Target Lady, or the chick who ruins surprises. But boy, did that sketch leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Among the peaks represented by Timecrowave and the valleys represented by Starfish, we had pretty much the entire season: some brilliant invention, some passable one-joke material, a musical guest that doesn’t inspire me to say much, and a dash of awful hackery. In short, Baldwin hosted Saturday Night Live in 2010, and it was okay. I’ll try to put up a season-in-review later this week, but for now, this episode’s grade sort of suffices in that department.

Episode Grade: B-

4 Comments

  • 1. Maggie  |  May 16th, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Ditto on that horrible sketch. Really started things off on a bad note. Kristen Wiig can be very funny, but she needs good writing, and apparently no one feels like providing her with any. Everyone needs good writing. Except for Nicholas Feyn.

  • 2. Bayard  |  May 16th, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    When I saw the title (it had Arizona in it) I thought that it was going to be something clever about the immigration law. After two “cuts” I started to fast forward on the DVR – it was unbelievably bad. And the sniper one didn’t make much sense either.

  • 3. sara  |  May 16th, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    The belligerent swim coach sketch cracked me up excessively. And although I have no use for Jersey Shore, I love Bobby Moynihan’s Snooki.

  • 4. jesse  |  May 17th, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Moynihan’s Snookie is one of those impressions that actually doesn’t resemble the actual person very much at all (from what I’ve seen), but is kind of great anyway and has become its own, probably funnier thing, maybe because of that lack of resemblance.


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