SNL Season 34, Episode 1.
September 13, 2008
Host: Michael Phelps
Musical Guest: Lil’ Wayne
OPENING: After weeks of cracking out on political coverage, I was really excited about the season premiere of SNL. And like many others, I had my fingers crossed that Tina Fey would do a cameo as Sarah Palin—and ideally face off against Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton. Much to my delight, the opening sketch was EXACTLY what I wanted to see. Fey’s delivery was spot on (love the accent!) and there were lots of great gags.
Palin: Can you believe it, Hillary?
Hillary: I CANNOT!
Hillary: I probably should have wanted it more.
I really WANT Tina Fey to come back for more!
MONOLOGUE: I usually don’t pay close attention to monologues and don’t expect much from the guest, except for them to not come across as a jerk (see Ashton Kutcher’s recent monologue). Michael Phelps certainly passed that test, and seemed enthused enough. POSITIVE NOTE: Amy Poehler as Phelp’s mom was cute.
COMMERCIAL BREAK: I’m always cranky when the first commercial of the show is a REAL one and not a parody. It’s a lost opportunity.
QUIZ BOWL: With so much anticipation about a new season of SNL, in part due to all the political news and my ongoing desire to see the show hit new creative heights, I couldn’t help but be disappointed when I saw the first sketch was ANOTHER game show about stupid contestants. A million new viewers checking you out and this is how you want to lose them? It wasn’t a horrible sketch, but it felt like a parody of SNL itself. POSITIVE NOTE: Kristen Wiig and some funny answers from the home schooled contestants.
LOCKER ROOM: This was like a dare to change the channel and stop watching the show forever. They already did this exact same sketch last year. Changing the sport and celebrity guest doesn’t warrant doing it again! I know it’s a long tradition of SNL to bring back popular characters and scenarios. But I somehow doubt the Peyton Manning bit was so beloved that people were begging them for more. And to start the show off with such derivative material is a bad show of faith from the writing staff. This sketch may have been the death nail in my growing dislike of Will Forte. I think he is a funny guy, but he is currently most guilty of beating the same jokes and characters to death (Tim Calhoun, McGruber, The Falconer). POSITIVE NOTE: Glad Michael Phelps got to dance—but it was too little too late.
I SAID WEEE! Last year, Kristen Wiig became my favorite cast member on SNL. But this ugly girl character doesn’t do it for me. It feels too derivative of stuff by Gilda Radner, Cheri Oteri, and a million others. Just slurring words and being short tempered isn’t enough of a twist on an old formula. It also felt more mean-for-meanness’-sake than funny. This sketch would have felt more at home on Mad TV but it still would’ve been a waste of talent. POSITIVE NOTE: Reaction shots of Kenan Thompson looking terrified.
COMMERCIAL: Not their best, but I’m always glad when they have a commercial parody.
MUSICAL GUEST: Didn't watch.
WEEKEND UPDATE: I can’t believe how little political humor there was! Will Forte as a Lumberjack and then the next thing you know it’s all bizarre local news and whatnot. After a whole summer off, this was all the news they had to comment on? I was very disappointed. Andy Samberg as Cathy was okay, if not completely dated. Not a lot of people keeping up with comic strips these days (sadly). But he gets points for the sweat drop reference. POSITIVE NOTE: Fred Armison’s political commentator character always surprises me in a good way. I usually roll my eyes when I see him, and then find myself very impressed by how many variations on the beginnings of sentences he can do. I’d love to read his script for these bits.
CHARLES BARKLEY SHOW: Always good to see Kenan Thompson in anything. This sketch had good moments but never really found a groove. Darrel Hammond as Béla Károlyi was a solid impersonation of my favorite Olympic personality and yet kind of wasted because he had no good lines. I did like the gag about the Jamaican runner coming and going too fast, and Barkley reflecting on his Olympic memories.
DIGITAL SHORT: As a fan of randomness and power ballads I wanted to like Space Olympics. But adding the word "space" to things doesn’t guarantee it’s funny (ask the Jetsons...or Astronaut Elementary). So even though it made me smile toward the end, the overall vibe it gave off was pointlessness. If Space Olympics was a random clip on Awesometown it would have been OKAY, and not memorable. But in the context of SNL it just feels out of place and more of a let down.
PEPPER SKETCH: This ALMOST made me laugh in between the moments of agony. “Come on, let’s just go see The Women” may be the most forced dialogue ever. POSITIVE NOTE: I always give new performers the benefit of the doubt and give them a few weeks to find their footing. I hope this pepper/hostess character isn’t the reason why Bobby Moynihan got hired. I’ll be very happy to never see that again. My sister pointed out that Moynihan looks like a young Artie Lang.
T-MOBILE COMMERCIAL: This should have been right after the monologue, or at least a lot earlier in the show. It was one of their strongest sketches because everyone who saw the commercial about “who’s in your five” probably had the same reaction to the dad character. This is the kind of funny-because-it’s-true observational humor that goes over very well! Much more so than Will Forte dancing for 10 minutes. NEGATIVE NOTE: the commercial is kind of old at this point.
MICHEAL PHELPS’ DIET: Not really much to comment on this one. I’m sure some people found it cute. Definitely belonged at the end of the episode.
CLOSING THOUGHTS: I’m really surprised that Casey Wilson is still a featured player considering how much screen time she got! I hope Amy Poehler’s baby isn’t due until at least mid November!