Sadly, not even Elton John can save NBC’s Saturday Night Live, nor can his several famous friends who show up to help him out. Last night’s show is one of the season’s weakest. Once again, I do not think it is the level of acting talent that is sinking, though I’m pretty sure John isn’t cut out to be a professional actor. It’s the writing that just isn’t delivering. Sure, the show has had ups and downs over the years. But this episode will definitely fall into the latter category.
Besides Sir Elton, other familiar faces show up. Tom Hanks, a many-time guest star and host, participates in multiple sketches. In fact, Hanks actually makes a few moments worth watching, including as a worried version of himself when Wilson the volleyball is taken hostage, and as Michael Caine. Hanks is pretty much all that is funny in this episode. Jake Gyllenhaal is in Weekend Update, looking confused, and I’m still not sure why he is on the show this week at all. Just to showcase Andy Samberg’s Nicholas Cage impression, perhaps? Carmelo Anthony, who is in the latest Laser Cats digital short, I have never even heard of. Wikipedia reveals him to be a New York Knicks player. SNL has always thrown in NYC references from time to time, but this may be one of their more obscure ones. Former cast member Will Forte is present, which is nice, because I miss him. Lastly, Leon Russell duets both musical guest segments with Elton John.
As for skits, the show begins rough and stays that way. The Lawrence Welk bit with the girl who has very small hands (played by Kristen Wiig) wasn’t funny the first time it was done, and only gets worse with each reincarnation. John chooses to keep the monologue mostly serious, speaking about his son, which is fine, but also tosses in a few one-liners that don’t even elicit a grin. The ESPN hosts continue to be more stupid than humorous. Cowboys and movie critics play on John’s homosexuality, but feel uncomfortable. I normally laugh at Laser Cats, but the musical version falls flat. Call me prudish, but I do not think the Queen of England bullying John is approaching amusing either.
Weekend Update is always the best part of the episode anymore, as at least Seth Meyers can deliver short quips with the best of them. Even he, though, fumbles a bit, and his final joke elicits no reaction from the live audience, making for a very awkward closing. But he starts fairly strong with his comparison of GOP potential presidential candidates to reality TV stars. I also do enjoy the zookeeper who loses the snake (Keenan Thompson), a reference to an escaped reptile in NYC last week.
Perhaps the sketch with the most potential this week is the overly long, convoluted one that begins with a BBC show called Fancy a Jar, Do You?, which is interrupted by a special news report, and then transforms into a council of modern British knights. The concept itself, asking the artistic types that currently hold the honor, to defend London from a dragon is brilliant. Sadly, the execution breaks down, wasting some characters, and just not doing justice to others. I wonder if this is a case of too many elements warring for attention, or simply a lack of follow through with the original idea. All in all, a failure.
When will Saturday Night Live begin its recovery? It was last great in the spring of 2009, and I anxiously await a return to those levels. Saturday Night Live airs Saturday nights at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
If you disagree with my review, I recommend reading Louis Virtel’s write up for TVLine.com. He offers some very different opinions from mine.