How would Saturday Night Live deal with the hubbub and extra attention over the ending of last week's debut? Did you guess ignoring it completely? Did you also guess not letting Jenny Slate say a single word? Slate did appear in one live sketch and one SNL Digital Short, but otherwise, it was full speed ahead. In fact, this week's show offered plenty of its own pleasant surprises. Yes, much better! How much? Well…
Kristen Wiig showed she could be funny without being cliche crazy. Ryan Reynolds showed he could be funny as a supporting player. Lady Gaga proved herself a trooper in two live sketches, one of them also featuring another lady who makes people go ga-ga for her. Now that would have been an afterparty!
By the way, Weekend Update Thursday was much shrewder this past week — decided to stick to the desk and not completely cannibalize the main Saturday edition by doing too much. Although plenty of opportunities for the cast to shine in celebrity impersonations. Among them: Whoopi Goldberg (Kenan Thompson) and Joy Behar (Fred Armisen) to expand upon Whoopi's awkward defense of Roman Polanski; Jason Sudeikis as a pilot colleague of Capt. "Sully." Suze Orman (Kristen Wiig); John Malkovich (Bill Hader) and Dennis Franz (Darrell Hammond), with Maya Rudolph also returning to appear as Oprah, talking up Chicago's Olympic bid and down on Rio; and Hall and Oates (Will Forte and Armisen) to sing about health care. Now, as for Saturday…
For our cold open, Fred Armisen's diminishing returns on President Barack Obama resulted in a speech about Obama's work performance that managed to echo his impersonation: "almost a year and not much to show for it." It was a sketch that played well to politicos and cable news folk, and proved that SNL is willing to make fun of Obama. But the show got much better from here. How much? Well…
Ryan Reynolds hosted. He's got comedy chops and we know he knows how to use them. The monologue compared his two summer movies (Wolverine and The Proposal), mining the comparisons for laughs. "If there's one thing that kids love, it's lanterns," he said, and after a pause, pointed into the audience. "That guy knows what I'm talking about."
FAKE AD! The recession means tough choices, and in times like these, why not pay less and feed your dog "Mostly Garbage"? Jason Sudeikis is the human spokesman with the spokesmanest:
Then some real ads…and it's GSN airing a 1981 repeat of Celebrity Family Feud. WOW. Just wow. What a way to tackle the Mackenzie Phillips incest story. Having the Phillips family take on the Osmonds. With Sudeikis as Richard Dawson, blowing kisses but not landing them. Innuendo, innuendo and more time-dated innuendo! Heightening the creepiness until even Dawson gets it, and that's your ballgame. The scores and protocol of the game didn't need to matter, did they? No. No they didn't. The Osmonds: Donny (Reynolds), Marie (Abby Elliott) with Wayne (Bobby Moynihan) and "the other one" (Armisen) The Phillips: Papa John (Hader at his creepy best), Mackenzie (a muted Wiig), one of John's wives (Nasim Pedrad) and Mackenzie's young hubby (Andy Samberg).
An SNL Digital Short. Time for Lonely Island to deliver another Samberg rap parody. This one's in the loopy vein of previous short in which Andy punched people in the face; this time, he's throwing perfectly good things onto the ground. Where did they get that cell phone? That was one old-school BlackBerry. With a cameo from Elijah Wood, who along with Reynolds, tased Samberg in his behind. Sure. Yeah. Why not, Mr. Brotastic? Let's move along.
Porcelain fountains. Armisen owns a store selling porcelain fountains, and as soon as I saw it, I realized I had seen this before…the week Scarlett Johansson hosted. She's married to Reynolds now. So. Cameo alert! Johansson's appearance was a great reminder of how a hot actress can do comedy on SNL. Where was this on last week's episode with Megan Fox?
Deep House Dish on MTV4. You know, I've never really been a big fan about this sketch. Actually, let me clarify that. The running dialogue between host DJ Dynasty Handbag (Thompson) and T'Shane (Samberg) is painfully unfunny. Always has been. But it's usually redeemed by the musical segments in which the celebrity host and other cast members portray electronic music performers. And this week, even more so, as Lady Gaga and Madonna got into it, for realsies. But first, Miss Ice Tia (Wiig), and then Danny McCooz (Reynolds) with their own fake songs. Really, though, this was all about Lady Gaga and Madonna. And the fact that, say what you want about Kenan Thompson, but he is a bonafide lead player, with a great big smile on his face as Lady Gaga and Madonna kiss him and Madonna doesn't have time for no cue cards and I don't know, but they were hot, and this was live and weird and funny because of it.
Lady Gaga's first musical performance, "Paparazzi," was s'ok. But the one you'll be talking about comes later in the show.
Weekend Update Saturday? Darrell Hammond showed up again (I told you he'd still be around, and when you think about it, he's been on the show as much this year as he was last year, when he supposedly was an official cast member!) to play Gov. Ahnold.
Thompson did Charles Barkley to joke about China, because, why, who cares.
Seth Meyers gets props from me for his A-Rod joke. And Nasim Pedrad got her first featured sketch, sitting at the desk and talking up a storm as the wife of Iranian President Ahmadinejad (played by a mute Armisen). Considering Pedrad is Iranian, this was right in her wheelhouse, and something you'd never seen before on SNL.
So You Committed A Crime & You Think You Can Dance? Although, honestly, this is more of a stab at Dancing with the Stars, so to speak. Stab! With host Kevin Federline (Samberg in a fat suit!), judges Nathan Lane (nice voice, Moynihan!), Nancy Grace (nice face, Elliott!), and Phil Spector (Hader). And Aussie choreographer Dixon (Reynolds) without sleeves (the ladies liked this). Pedrad got paired up with Forte as a sex offender of some sort. Armisen plays a Bernie Madoff type, paired with Wiig. And handcuffed to a cop played by Sudeikis, who grabs Wiig's boob! And Thompson has a big Kimbo Slice beard to be paired up with Slate. BTW, not for nothing: Reynolds as Dixon gets bleeped a couple of times on tape.
International Masterworks on PBS, hosted by Hader as someone fancy. Norwegian actors doing American cop drama. "You would never guess the actors are speaking their second language." With Armisen, Samberg, Reynolds and Wiig showing off their ability to speak like ordinary Americans. Offbeat. It must be after midnight. And it is.
OK. That Lady Gaga medley? Let's talk about it. Seth Meyers himself was quick to offer his own superlatives via Twitter within minutes. She looked great. Had no problems being nearly naked (literally and figuratively) on live TV, sitting at a piano with those freaky shiny hoops blocking the view, singing about her love for New York City. Nicely done, Lady. Nicely done. Ga-Ga-great.
How's this for an encore? The last sketch of the night has Lady Gaga and Samberg both wearing bubble suits in the hallway, as Gaga reads the Rolling Stone with her wearing bubbles on its cover, and before you say llama, Lincoln and showgirls, Gaga and Samberg are not kissing. And Wiig with Lorne Michaels in a bubble tie.