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Last week, I told you that I went through all my old recaps to start compiling my Best of The Season list and I realized that, all in all, the good this year outweighed the bad. But I also realized, when reading old recaps, how often my opinion of a sketch changed after writing my initial reaction. For better or for worse, I almost always write these recaps after seeing the episode live so there’s no time to digest a sketch or rewatch it later. Take the Divorce Meeting sketch from the Paul Rudd episode, which I didn’t even rate in my initial review. I just didn’t get it. But now, after a few more viewings, I’d give it a solid four stars. It can happen on the other side too, in a lousy night of SNL sometimes a sub-par sketch gets a ratings boost just because it made me laugh unlike the previous hour of material.
Oh well. Tonight, in the season’s penultimate episode, we have Charlize Theron and the Black Keys. Theron is a bit of an SNL wildcard, although she did host in 2000, but she’s currently promoting a giant Seth MacFarlane comedy, so perhaps her comedic chops are better than expected. I mean, MacFarlane hosted one of last season’s best shows (Anthony Peter Coleman, reporting for duty), so let’s hope Theron follows in his footsteps.
Like always, I’ll be writing the recaps “live,” meaning I’ll watch a sketch and immediately write a short blurb reviewing and recapping it. For each segment, I’ll rate it on a scale of 0-5 stars. At the end of the piece, I’ll share some quick overall thoughts and the best/worst sketch of the night.
Mother’s Day Message from Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton: * *
I can see where SNL was going with this. They haven’t done a Michelle Obama/Hillary Clinton cold open yet and that’s prime material for them to tackle. But despite some fine performances, the cold open just felt too mean-spirited, too harsh and too awkward to really succeed. I know I’m always harping on SNL for being too benign and toothless, but there’s a difference between pushing the envelope comedically (see Black Jeopardy or one of the Not Porn Stars sketches) and just being uncomfortably spiteful.
Opening Monologue: * * *
Oh the nostalgia, remember Gemini’s Twin? After a quick Google search, it turns out Theron’s first SNL hosting gig in 2000 also contained the DeMarco Brothers, Mr. Peepers and an Al Gore sketch. That brings me back. Although not really. I was ten when she last hosted and only discovered the DeMarco Brothers and such through the magic of reruns. Anywho, I’ve gone on a tangent now haven’t I? Tonight’s monologue is basically an SNL version of A Chorus Line’s “Sing” with the basic punch line that Theron can’t carry a tune. She’s beautiful, she’s a great dancer, she has great sex. Yes, all that. But she can’t dance. I guess that’s funny.
Come Do A Game Show With Your Mom: * * * ½
I like the concept of this sketch: a mother (Kate McKinnon at her Kate McKinnon-est) hosts a game show in which her teenage kids have to answer questions about her like “who’s that guy I like?” and “which email did I send you?” But despite some good performances, the sketch never quite takes off. I can’t blame it on Theron’s lackluster line reading, although it was present, but for some reason it just never gelled. Funny but unmemorable.
Girlfriends Talk Show: * ½
I was always so-so on the Girlfriends Talk Show sketches but did quite enjoy its last outing that featured Melissa McCarthy and talk of her outstanding Hawaiian beau. The latest incarnation, with Theron as a sexually liberated ex-drama teacher, showed that the McCarthy version was an anomaly and that Girlfriends should say goodbye for a while. The timing was all off, the sexual nature of the sketch never quite worked with the prepubescent tone of the characters and my only real laugh was when Morgan admitted to googling “Ron Weasley topless.” I have a feeling we’re in for a rough night of SNL.
Dragon Babies: * * * ½
Oh Mike O’Brien. What goes on in that kooky, kooky brain of yours? While Dragon Babies – a fake Making Of feature for an upcoming animated kids movie starring a retired Chicago cop as the film’s lead – isn’t anywhere near Monster Pals or Blockbuster, it’s a fairly solid effort nonetheless. Rick Shoulders, the aforementioned ex-cop, is a pretty funny character with all his coughing and all the arguing with his wife. It seemed to take a while to get going and on another night, I may have called this more of a dud, but tonight’s pretty grim so Dragon Babies is getting a mild thumbs up.
Heshy The Motivational Speaker: * ½
Speaking of characters I didn’t think I’d see again and didn’t really want to see again, here comes Heshy, Nasim Pedrad’s motivational speaker from the Kerry Washington episode. While I wasn’t crazy about Heshy in her first appearance, at least the random sound cues and frumpy look made me giggle. Tonight it all felt stale and bland. Theron had her best performance all night as Heshy’s new confidant, though.
Weekend Update: * * ½
The good news is that Jost and Strong are getting better each week and the new This Week In Nudes bit brought something fresh to bring to the WU desk. But you know what wasn’t fresh, another Drunk Uncle appearance. Look, I love Moynihan and Drunk Uncle was a great SNL character but he’s become dull and predictable in a way that Drunk Uncle should never be. And Barbara Walters made (what I believe was) her first appearance on SNL, doing a bit with Strong about her retirement. Besides a funny (but merciless) joke about the view that landed with more gasps than laughs, there’s not much more to talk about.
Bikini Beach Party: *
Remember that sketch with Kristin Wiig where two acupuncturists stuck a client with needles and he started bleeding profusely? That was pretty funny. This skit, about an exploding dead whale, wasn’t. Moving on.
Whiskers R’ We: * * * * ½
I’m grumpy, it’s nearly one in the morning and I’ve barely chuckled all night at SNL but – awwww, look at the cute little kittens! They’re so small and so adorable. Sorry. Excuse me. It’s been a long night. Actually, I really enjoyed this sketch and not just because of the kitties. It’s mostly due to McKinnon and Theron as two awkward cat adoption agency ladies (I mean this in the best possible way but McKinnon was born to play a crazy cat lady) whose simple infomercial keeps getting derailed by Theron’s simmering anger and sexual frustration. The dark overtones kept this sketch fresh and the descriptions of the cats were the funniest thing all night, especially the feline sociopath. This may not make the best of the year list but it was, without a doubt, the best of the night.
Tourists: * * * ½
I’m not sure what to make of this. Was it particularly funny? Not really. But it had a laid-back, sweet aesthetic that I really dug. I always like when SNL thinks out of the box in terms of prerecorded sketches, whether they fully work or not, and Tourists is no exception.
Best Sketch: Whiskers R’ We.
Worst Sketch: I think I gotta go with Bikini Beach Party.
Musical Guest: The Black Keys
Look, I don’t know much about the Black Keys so it’s not really fair to comment much on their two songs, “Fever” and “Bullet In The Brain.” If you’re a Black Keys fan, let me know in the comments how these two songs stack up.
It seems SNL is just tired. With only one more episode to go, our penultimate show featured way too many returning characters and paint-by-numbers sketches. While Girlfriends, Heshy, Drunk Uncle (and a dress rehearsal Mornin’ Miami) have all been reliable sketches in the past, it seems SNL relied on easy laughs much too often. And when they did try new material, it mostly feel very flat with the exception of the cat adoption sketch. A quick side note: It seems SNL has been making more dress rehearsal skits public on Hulu recently which is a great thing since they’ve cut a few comedic gems. This week we got a funny Mornin’ Miami (which should have aired instead of Girlfriends) and a really wacky melodrama called Cocktail Hour. When you’re on Hulu, I’d check out the cut Wings and Nickelodean Show.
Next Week: SNL alum Andy Samberg returns to host the season finale.