Monday Morning Quarterback: SNL Season 36, Episode 5

Posted by Jesse October 31st, 2010 at 12:29pm In SNL

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

  • 1. sara  |  October 31st, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    The Back to the Future audition tapes were the best part of the night, especially Bill Hader’s Alan Alda impression. Other than that I was really disappointed by the episode. The motorcycle cops sketch was just one lazy gay joke, and the lounge singers bits, ugh, AGAIN? I also hate Garth & Kat. I really hate them.

    Hmm. I wonder if Hamm & Bublé is online.

  • 2. jesse  |  October 31st, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    H&B is online, definitely — I looked up my previous Hamm episode post to watch it again this morning. So fucking good.

    I forgot about the BTTF auditions (they weren’t online, presumably for rights issues), which were good, although at this point the “find an excuse to do a bunch of one-note celebrity impressions” sketch is practically a recurring character itself. I mean, it’s fine, it’s definitely good first-half-hour material, and it did contribute to my hope that the second half of the show would get even better.

    I also forgot about that weird, weird little bit given over to David Spade and former SNL writer Fred Wolf, with the celebutante’s little dog? That actually made me kind of furious. Spade and Wolf haven’t been involved with this show in almost twenty years, but apparently they can call a favor in to Lorne and just get five minutes of SNL real estate devoted to them fucking around? Don’t they have someplace else they can sell that shit? Granted, if it had been like, Bill Murray or Will Ferrell or Norm MacDonald or Maya Rudolph, I probably wouldn’t’ve cared… but then again, those people probably don’t call up Lorne and ask to submit a stupid cartoon entirely separate from the current cast/crew of the show.

    I don’t know if the cops sketch was even really a gay joke, or at least it wasn’t a mean-spirited one… but it needed to move twice as fast. Also, Garth & Kat is pretty funny. But they could stand to not do that bit again for a year.

  • 3. sara  |  October 31st, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    I don’t remember anything involving David Spade and a little dog. When was that?

  • 4. jesse  |  October 31st, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    It was towards the end, either before or after the second Rihanna performance. I almost fast-forwarded through it (and maybe you did the same?) because it was a cartoon that looked like a crummy commercial.

  • 5. Fred  |  November 27th, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Hi, sorry you didn’t like Dog In Purse. But I haven’t been away from the show 20 years. Just 8. I do have a Norm MacDonald cartoon, maybe you’ll like it better Jesse

  • 6. jesse  |  November 28th, 2010 at 1:11 am

    Only eight? I thought you left around the late nineties or so? In any case, I would indeed look forward to a Norm cartoon even if it took up valuable new-SNL real estate! So what’s the deal with the cartoons and bringing ’em back to SNL? For what it’s worth, I’m a big fan of Dirty Work and, speaking of movies you worked on, I just watched The House Bunny again the other night. Good fun.


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