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TV Review: Saturday Night Live – Jake Gyllenhaal/The Shins

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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.

Sure, Laser Cats! 2 is sophomoric – that's why the sketch is as good as it is. There's a right way and a wrong way to use Andy Samberg, and Laser Cats! 2 isn't the wrong way.

I wouldn't be surprised if the SNL Digital Shorts rate a best-of within the next year or two.

Stock Footage Awards – Not a bad follow-up to Laser Cats! The concept is in the title, but the execution of said concept was surprisingly good. I liked the fact that the same stock footage of a clapping audience was used throughout the sketch. Best of all, I imagine this sketch was incredibly cheap to produce.

The Shins MG Segment #1 – The Shins aren't bad for indie rock. Considering I'm not a fan of indie rock and vice versa, I'm surprised to find the band's music as good as it was. I can understand why people are buying Wincing the Night Away.

Weekend Update – Good for Update. Weekend Update is better this season than last season, but most of the Updates aren't standing out from each other. That's good in a way – WU needs that sort of consistency – but it looks like Poehler/Meyers isn't going to be the best part of Saturday Night Live like with Norm MacDonald's or Kevin Nealon's Updates. This week featured Fred Armisen as a creepy Steve Jobs (with his nigh-godly iPhone) and Maya Rudolph's Whitney Houston impression.

"Law and Order Acting Workshop" – Did what it said on the tin. Fred Armisen as a Sam Waterston impersonator thinking he's Sam Waterston due to a mental disorder stole the sketch.

"Wheelchair Date" – Anyone with a disability can relate to this sketch, even though the previous sketch did deal with a mental disorder. That must have offended all the Sam Waterston impersonators that think they are Sam Waterston. Bad move, NBC!

Two party hosts try to hook up their wheelchair-bound friends, the hosts being absolutely horrible in their attempts at political correctness. There was some overacting here, but it helped the sketch somewhat. Maya Rudolph shouting "HOW DO YOU GO TO THE BATHROOM" was the best part of the sketch due to its delivery, being blurted out randomly.

I'm surprised this sketch was shoved into the bottom half of this week's SNL. Was the "restaurant patrons on drugs" sketch that much better by comparison?

The Shins MG Segment #2 – Not as good as the first song. Didn't seem like much of anything, honestly. In short, typical indie rock.

Kaplan, Leibowitz & Dolemite – That is a good premise for a lawyer sketch, much better than the "Stanfield and Partlow, Cat Lawyers" sketch from the Annette Bening episode. Too bad the sketch was shorter than the opening credits. Also, the sketch would have been funnier had Dolemite himself actually been the lawyer – as if it's hard to get Rudy Ray Moore to cameo. Sort of a wasted premise, this sketch, but Kenan Thompson's lines as the grandson of Dolemite were decent.

One other thing before I piss off into the sunset: wouldn't a band like AFI make more sense as a musical guest for somebody like Adam Sandler? Why saddle Jeremy Piven with those guys? Doesn't he deserve better? I can't see the Piven fanbase and the AFI fanbase meshing well with each other. Then again, I hate AFI.

Also, ten bucks says Piven's going to reference his roles in the late-1990s ABC series Cupid and/or Ellen. That seems like a smart bet.

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About Cameron Archer

  • Lono

    I loved it. It was cool of Gylenhaul to immediately address the elephant in the room… the whole gay thing. I thought he handled it beautifully, by doing the gayest possible bit – a broadway tune in drag. I respect the dude for having the security to prove he isn’t gay by referencing his gay movie with a super gay drag scene. I think it was clever because it wasn’t the obvious choice.

    Lasercats rules because it is the stupidest thing on the planet. It is even more sophmoric than the Sandler and Breur years. That is what is cool about it. They never pretend for a second that it is good theatre. They take pains to make the special effects insulting to the viewers. Great! If i want real sci-fi I will watch one of the 30 Star Wars movies. SNL’s duty is to deliver stupid and silly. Well played.

    The rest, as usual, was just ok. As always, the news part is the high point. I was kind of disappointed by the Shins. Though I enjoy their music, that was the most boring performance I have ever seen. I think maybe Beck set a new standard of excellence so high it may not be achieved again for years.

    Anyhow, those are my two cents. As always, I watched the show off the DVR on about a 30 minute delay. the purpose is to be able to fast forward through painfully bad skits… like ‘Stock Footage Awards’. Funny premise, and the first 60 seconds were clever. After that… it just dragged.

    If you ever need a night off from watching SNL, drop me a line. I never ever miss it. Generally, I am only really dazzled about once a show… but those moments are priceless to me.

  • chantal stone

    damn…i’m sorry i missed it

  • Baronius

    I flipped past it twice: they were making fun of Donald Trump and Whitney Houston. I can’t imagine anything further from the cutting edge.

  • Bullopololpopl

    I LOVE AFI! someone with no music taste at all would hate afi. you should be shot!
    lots of love, Bullopololpopl

  • sahara

    Jake Gyllenhall was BRILLIANT