I was afraid this might happen. After two good-to-great hosting gigs and several hilarious 30 Rock appearances, expectations were high for Jon Hamm’s third go-round at Saturday Night Live, and while it didn’t completely fall flat, it was arguably the weakest overall episode of the season — and certainly the most disappointing.
Hamm’s monologue, in which he attempted to prove his learned advertising acumen by coming up with product slogans from “audience” suggestions, was in keeping with his past comedic work: daft, a bit strange, and more than willing to deflate his smooth Mad Men image. That strength turned up again in the sketch about two actors with a bizarre list of what they will and won’t show or do in a stage play; Hamm, with his crazed earnestness, more or less saved it from becoming another Kristen Wiig tic-sketch. There was also another go-round with Vincent Price and his Halloween special, and, as usual, it was pretty amusing.
So after a decent opening thirty or forty minutes, I was primed for the really good stuff to happen after 12:30, which is when we got weird little masterpieces like “Jon Hamm’s John Ham,” “Hamm & Buble,” and the closet organizer sketch (and its strangely low-key sequel sketch in the same episode). But the show failed to deliver anything on this level, and after Hamm’s past triumphs, it was a little deflating.
Unlike last week’s Emma Stone episode, this one faltered in the post-Update section — the popular and usually incorrect idea of what SNL is like in its final half-hour. I admire that in general, this season has been light on recurring characters (both Vincent Price and the Rihanna-only Digital Short character Shy Ronnie have been used sparingly enough to remain funny), so I appreciated the attempts at originality in sketches like “I Didn’t Ask for This,” “Highway Cops,” and, well, okay, SNL doing its umpteenth bit about low-rent lounge singers doesn’t exactly qualify as original, but points for giving Hamm a series of bizarre parts.
The one that came the closest to working was the odd “Highway Cops” bit, but that was hamstrung by that triple-joke structure where basically the same thing happens three times — only “Highway Cops” barely escalated the jokes, barely made any jokes, in fact, so it just went on a long time. I chuckled at the wide-eyed innocence of Hamm and Sudeikis, and Kenan Thompson’s conversations with the photo of his dead wife, but the sketch just didn’t add up to anything. It was sort of cute, but last week’s Paris teenagers and “My Brother Knows Everything” sketches were cute and actually funny.
Really, one out-of-the-park sketch in that last thirty minutes would’ve made a huge difference; the episode wouldn’t become a season highlight, as last year’s Hamm visit indisputably was, but it would’ve seemed a little light rather than a substantial bummer. Instead, we’re left picking through the scraps (lots of Hader! Hamm is good in pretty much everything!) and noticing how the “Shy Ronnie” song is arguably just as catchy as Rihanna’s actual music.
Episode Grade: C+
6 comments October 31st, 2010