Tina Fey returned to Saturday Night Live this weekend to play vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The episode, which was hosted by House Bunny actress Anna Faris, was a slight return to form for the show. While I have been disappointed in the lack of laughs from the show as of late, this one managed to bring a few more than usual. Saturday Night Live may never return to the greatness it achieved in its early years, but with a little effort it can be funny.
Cold Open: "Katie Couric Interviews Sarah Palin" (Grade B)
As I stated earlier, Tina Fey once again donned the Sarah Palin (or Tina Fey) glasses and '80s hairstyle to portray Sarah Palin. She was good, but it just wasn't what it was the first time. Personally I think Fey returned too soon; it has only been two weeks since her first appearance as Palin. I thought they would wait until after the vice presidential debates (which are this week) to bring her back. Sometimes less is more. The sketch itself was pretty funny, particularly the parts lampooning Palin's assertion that she has foreign policy experience because Alaska is in between Russia and Canada. Anyone who didn't watch the Katie Couric (played by Amy Poehler in the sketch) interview may not have gotten as much out of the jokes, as this was very specific parody.
Opening Monolgue: Anna Faris (Grade D)
I was really looking forward to Anna Faris hosting the show because she showed a natural comedic talent in the Scary Movie films. Unfortunately this opening monolgue didn't showcase any of that talent. The bit revolved around Faris playing herself, a ditzy blonde who is actually smart, but then turning to a hidden camera to reveal she is actually stupid. The bit didn't suit Faris at all. She seemed awkward during the whole thing, and none of it seemed genuine.
"Making New Friends" (Grade B)
A couple (Anna Faris and Jason Sudeikis) were driving home from a party. Having dropped another couple off, they discuss what they thought of their "new friends" on the way home. This sketch was kind of clever in the way the things they thought the new friends wouldn't like about them increased in outrageousness. At first the husband was worried that he shouldn't have asked how much money they made. By the end the couple wondered if "saying the 'N-word' nine times" was "too much." There were several laughs in this one. However, the ending shot of their car driving over a cliff and then bouncing back to the top before exploding left me scratching my head.
"Obama and McCain Presidential Debate" (Grade C-)
Thinking back to the "lockbock" and "strategery" debate sketch between Bush (Will Ferrrell) and Gore (Darrell Hammond), I was looking forward to seeing what they would do with the most recent presidential debates. This sketch turned out to be a disappointment. Granted, the debates were held on Friday, giving them less than twenty-four hours to come up with something. It was apparent a good portion of the sketch was written before the debates occurred, because little in this sketch referred to what was actually said. It was nice to see Chris Parnell return to the show to play debate moderator, Jim Lehrer. Fred Armisen, who usually does a good job playing Barak Obama, seemed off his game in this sketch. While he had the facial expression and arm movements down pretty well, the vocal impression didn't sound anything like Obama. Darrell Hammond played McCain as a guy who can barely muster enough energy to speak, which doesn't fit McCain's character. There wasn't anything in the debates to imply that McCain "just doesn't care anymore." They need to turn these candidates into characters the way they have done in the past with Bush, Carter, Bush Sr., Dole, and Ford. It would surprise me if anyone involved in this sketch watched more than a few minutes of Friday night's debate.
"First Date" (Grade C-)
In concept this sketch probably sounded funny. It's a musical in which the two main characters (Anna Faris and Kenan Thompson) are out on their first date. Said date happens to be on a rowboat in the middle of a lake. As the date progressed the audience learned that the man was actually a hired hit man, and the girl's ex had information that could convict drug kingpins. The girl thought she had met the man of her dreams and the hit man was having second thoughts about his hit. All this was told through song. Some of the lines were kind of amusing, but as a whole it was all too bland to be funny.
Musical Performance: Duffy – "Mercy"
"Weekend Update" (Grade A-)
This week's "Weekend Update" was finally funny. The thanks for that primarily goes to Darrell Hammond. Hammond's portrayal of Bill Clinton was a look at political humor done right. Hammond was hilarious playing Clinton double-speaking his away around officially endorsing Obama for president. "Barak Obama is the only — Democratic nominee for president." Staying true to the SNL version of himself, Clinton said he can't endorse McCain even though he is "hilarious and cool." He also said there are plenty of differences between himself and McCain — McCain likes to watch CSI and he likes Californication. Another highlight of "Update" was Kristen Wiig as travel writer Judy Grimes, who is so nervous she keeps making stupid jokes and then adding "just kidding" after each one. There were also several funny jokes during the news portion of the sketch.
"Scores" (Grade C+)
In this sketch, strippers (Faris, Wilson, and Wiig) from Scores are worried they will lose their clientele due to the recent economic crisis. The joke is the strippers come up with a good plan to save the business, something all the politicians in Washington are unable to do for the country. The idea was okay, but there weren't really any funny jokes in the sketch beyond the main premise.
"Deep House Dish" (Grade B)
"Deep House Dish" has been around for a long time, and I have to admit I used to not like it all that much. Maybe because it's become familiar, or maybe because the show has gone downhill, but over the last season I started to find it funny. It's a good parody of the MTV spinoff channels (in this case MTV 4) and the way they have to showcase music that no one really cares about. The musical parodies they come up with are always pretty clever and accurately performed. Kenan Thompson is funny as the host D.J. Dynasty Handbad, who does the weakest "raise the roof" I have ever seen. Andy Samberg is also good has his clueless sidekick.
"Googie Rene's Slightly Stained Wedding Dress Basement" (Grade D-)
This one was my least favorite sketch of the night. It was just a bunch of people who bought stained wedding dresses at a huge discount. The only genuinely funny line came from Kristen Wiig who said that someone had tried to friend her on Facebook and she "hit ignore so hard she broke her wrist."
Musical Performance: Duffy – "Stepping Stone"
"My Ex-Boyfriend" (Grade B)
This is the kind of sketch SNL has done many times, but it usually works well. A couple was meeting their friend's new girlfriend for the first time, and all she can talk about is how great her "ex" is. No matter what subject is brought up, the girlfriend had something to say about her previous relationship. It's the kind of sketch everyone can relate to and it was well played by the cast. Jason Sudeikis and Casey Wilson did a good job of playing it straight as the couple put in the awkward position of trying to make normal conversation. Hader, who rarely plays straight roles, was also good as the boyfriend who couldn't escape the "my ex was so great" talk. Faris was also very convincing as the oblivious girlfriend.
Overall this week was an improvement over the first two episodes this season. Missing in this week's episode was Andy Samberg's digital short. In fact Samberg was fairly absent from the entire episode, but I guess everyone has a down week sometimes. It would be nice also to see more from Will Forte. Although he's hit and miss with his ideas, Forte brings an absurd element the show needs. Though the show needs to focus on sharper writing, this week was an indication the show could be headed in the right direction.