I like Saturday Night Live's tastes in hosts more this season. The show doesn't stray too far from the mainstream in picking most of them – no one should expect otherwise from one of the longest-running television shows currently on air – but there's more of a focus on people who might do well under the SNL format. Bringing in a few ringers (Justin Timberlake, Alec Baldwin) doesn't hurt either, and it looks like Jeremy Piven will continue the trend of decent hosting choices next week.
The first four episodes of this season had me wondering where the hell the show was going, but so far there hasn't been stunt casting on the level of Lance Armstrong. Around this time last year Peter Sarsgaard's name was the centre of more sketches based on how funny his name was than necessary, and sketches like that are never necessary. If this SNL season isn't an improvement on last season, I'll change my name to Shecky Shabazz.
Bush Cold Opening – Dubya wants to draft anyone with a uniform and/or a gun (anyone – policemen, Civil War reenacters, mailmen, Crips, Bloods etc.) to bolster his troops for the War in Iraq. Stronger-than-usual political cold opening for this season as Jason Sudeikis' Bush is improving. His Dubya is going to be here a while.
Monologue – No one wants to promote Zodiac instead of going for the easier Brokeback Mountain jokes? At least that "gay cowboy" itch was scratched, and Gyllenhaal's performing a song from Dreamgirls wasn't nearly as bad as it should have been. He also didn't look that bad in a dress, not that I'm "that way" or anything.
Deep House Dish – This is worthy of being a lead-off sketch? It's been little more than a month since the last installment. Is this really necessary? Andy Samberg and Kenan Thompson are developing a routine within the sketch's format – Samberg's character T'Shane makes a bad pun and Thompson's DJ Dynasty Handbag shoots it down. The sketch still has a repetitive format (song, interview segment, banter between hosts, repeat) and it just isn't funny. Routine and annoying? More like "rounnoying!" CAN I GET A WHAT WHAT UP TOP, T-BAG?
Bronx Beat – Not a bad trial balloon for a prospective couple of recurring characters, Betty Caruso and Jodi Deitz. This felt a bit too much like Coffee Talk with Linda Richman but without the Yiddish and the references to getting verklempt. It's two ladies, they talk about stuff, the sketch is okay, no big whoop.
"Trump Press Conference" – Rosie O'Donnell put-downs! The Apprentice! More Rosie O'Donnell put-downs! The Apprentice! Barbara Walters is a gargoyle! The Apprentice!
"Smokin' Meatballs!" – Anthropomorphic meatballs (and chicken parmesan) perform for two restaurant patrons. Well, they're not actually performing – the two patrons are on 'shrooms. Really weird sketch, this, but it ended the only credible way it could. This felt like a relapse to earlier in the season, but at least this sketch wasn't "Big Wigs."
SNL Digital Short: Laser Cats! 2 – I never saw the original Laser Cats! short and one has to wonder if the writers for the SNL Digital Shorts are on 'shrooms, but this was entertaining.
What really made this sketch was the no-budget nature of Laser Cats! 2, with the NBC Universal offices in New York standing in (poorly) for a dystopian future, as a space base and as Doctor Scientist's lair. The little details like Doctor Scientist's laser cat being a dog for a second and "reloading" a laser cat by feeding it were in keeping with great bad shot-on-video efforts.