Some people like to analyze Saturday Night Live so much that they forget that, for casual viewers young and old, it's just an entertaining way to wrap up a Saturday night at home in front of the television. They don't assign points to cast members. They certainly don't hit the pause button to take notes. They just sit back and laugh. Or not laugh.
Even in their own casual viewing experience, audience members at home are still critics, doing so by turning off the TV after Weekend Update, or turning to the friends and/or loved ones around them to say, "Oh, Gilly again?" or even by tuning out by having the show on in the background as their house party becomes more interesting than what's on the TV. Increasingly now there's even another subset of audience members for SNL who don't even watch the show on TV on Saturday, but rather log onto their computers on Sunday (or Monday) to seek out individual sketches online based on what they've read and heard their friends talk about, or just based on what gets their attention from a screencap and a headline.
I've been trying to think about all of these people, because I'm them. I am you. And I'm not just saying that to, in my own way, parody Christine O'Donnell's campaign ad. Although that works, too! No, no, I say it because I remember how I watched SNL as a kid, alone in my bedroom; as a college student, on the big screen with a couple of dozen friends in a common room; in an acquaintance's apartment during a Christmas party, avoiding small-talk by noticing Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg sing about their gifts in boxes, on a TV next to the acquaintance's Christmas tree; or at home last night, reclining on my sofa, while looking at the Twitter feed on my iPhone. Of course, none of these few hundred words tell you anything about what happened in the third episode of the thirty-sixth season of SNL. So let's get to recapping, shall we?
The soothing sound of Higbone's voice assures me that the cold open is not going to open cold on some dumb political message of the day. Oh, no. We open with a parody of attorney Gloria Allred, as played by Nasim Pedrad, taking potshots at herself by trying to defend her career as an attention-seeking attorney who defends people who are themselves attention-seekers. I've seen, we've all seen enough of Allred herself on the TV, but I don't think she's one of those people that really registers with people, not enough for us to go, oh her again. Which is to say, I didn't feel like looking up YouTube video of the real Allred to see if Pedrad nailed the impersonation. Not important to me. I just enjoyed seeing Pedrad take the piss out of Allred, and that it wasn't a dumb political cold open that already sent viewers looking for the remote control.
And now for our host, Jane Lynch! Lynch does look excited to be here, hosting SNL. You probably know her from her Emmy-winning turn as Sue Sylvester in Glee. She's the one who doesn't sing on Glee. So right off the bat, you know we're going to get to hear Lynch sing on SNL. In fact, we're going to get to hear Lynch sing multiple times on tonight's episode, and curiously, multiple times it's singing theme songs for things that don't have theme songs. Such as, well, Glee. Take it away, Jane! She gets spoken-word and guitar help from Fred Armisen. Jason Sudeikis shows up in a short permafro to fake the trumpet, which must make the real trumpeter in the background not so gleeful. Meanwhile, I'm curious who is playing her background dancers. I won't tell you which one is my favorite. But I definitely have one.
We go straight to our first videotaped ad spoof. It's a filter for when your mom becomes your Facebook friend. I get it. You get it. Even my mom probably gets it. And she's on Facebook. Or she was on Facebook. I don't think she's still on Facebook. That's how much my mom got this joke. Which is weird, mostly because I feel like this joke could have been done a season or two ago, but with the Facebook movie out this past weekend, maybe it's just the right time for this joke. Then again, SNL did do a mom-translating-technology sketch a season or two ago (Season 34, Episode 22: "Mom Translator"). Meanwhile, for you SNL trivia fans, in this sketch, Jane Lynch plays Andy Samberg's mom, and he isn't happy about it. Coming up in just a bit, she'll play his mom, and he's over the moon about it. She'll also play his maternal therapist in a dream sketch, which just weirds him out again. These two: Get a room! Am I right? No? I'm not right? Samberg does seem to be Lynch's favorite tonight. You just go ahead and try to prove me wrong. Bill Hader and Taran Killam get speaking roles in this ad spoof, too, you know!
Meanwhile, can someone explain to me how Jane Lynch can win an Emmy for playing Sue Sylvester on Glee, and yet, when SNL does its spoof of the show, her character, playing her character, isn't funny at all? Maybe it's because this sketch is a reintroduction of Gilly, Kristen Wiig's mischievous prankster that I'm not sure anybody really likes. Wait. Is there someone out there who still likes Gilly? Since Will Forte isn't around anymore to play the teacher, we've got Sudeikis (in the same hair from the monologue? do not discuss) as Glee club teacher Mr. Schuester, Kenan Thompson as Mercedes, Abby Elliott as Rachel, Samberg as Kurt, Killam as Finn, Vanessa Bayer as Quinn, and Armisen as Artie. I had to look most of this up. People in the studio audience are laughing at the first part that's a fairly straight-on Glee parody, and a few of them are even happy to see Gilly play the new student/singer. It appears people are laughing at the sketch's conceits, having the cast break into song or having the kid in the wheelchair not acknowledge that he's in a wheelchair. Oh, also, having Bobby Moynihan go over-the-top as Kurt's loving father. Of course, since they're singing actual songs, such as Journey's "Don't Stop," they have to secure the musical rights to put this sketch online. Maybe we'll all get lucky and that won't happen, so we can just pretend it didn't happen.
Amazingly, we went 19 minutes before the first actual commercial break. Someone who loves arcane trivia can comb through the archives to figure out which episode(s) of SNL opened with a longer first segment.
Thankfully, we come back from the commercial break with a great sketch called "The New Boyfriend Talk Show," hosted by Zach (Samberg), who surprises his mom's new boyfriend at the breakfast table with an interview. This is Lynch's second sketch as Samberg's mother. Sudeikis emerges with a big ol' case of bed-head, a nice mustache, robe and boxer shorts. Oh, he also delivers some great lines and reaction shots at what he's stumbled into. We get some heightening, including an off-stage appearance by Gene Simmons (Armisen), Verne Troyer (Moynihan, playing it as Mini-Me), and Magic Johnson (Thompson), which leads to an unspoken extra joke. AIDS. It's AIDS. I don't know if they'd ever bring this sketch back with a different mom, or if you'd want to see another episode. But you don't need to. This one did just fine on its own.
Kristen Wiig gets her second run at Christine O'Donnell in a parody of O'Donnell's actual U.S. Senate ad that opens with O'Donnell claiming she is not a witch. Do witches have orange skin on their chest and pale skin on their face? Or is just weird lighting? Turns out that's just weird lighting as the camera pans back. Good to know. Good to know.
You know what I really like? I really like how SNL is one of a few shows (PTI also comes to mind) which gives us an extra bonus candid sneak peek at what's going on between segments, with little interstitial moments. Maybe you'll see Lorne Michaels standing alone on a set that's being moved into place. Or you'll see a cameraman's clipboard with notes. Hey, look at what Johnny — and his horse "Palie" have got coming up: It's the camera blocking rundown for another "Secret Word" sketch, and Jane/Fred/Bill/Kristen/Paul will be in it!
Wait. Do we like the "Secret Word" sketch? This is the retro game-show spoof from 1964 that stars a newer Wiig character, Broadway actress Mindy Grayson, who keeps getting invite onto the game show even though she keeps saying the Password when giving her clues. Why would they invite her back? Is it because she "sleeps with her face in Mayo-naise"? Bill Hader plays the host, who adheres to old-school man attitudes. Lynch shows up looking like Phyllis Diller as a Catskills comedian named Peggy Ziller. You can't fool us all. Armisen and Paul Brittain play the civilian contestants. Ziller Diller cracks jokes for her clues. If you enjoy Wiig and Lynch competing for attention, then sure, why not.
An SNL Digital Short puts Samberg on the couch, as Lynch asks him to close his eyes and relax. She is not his mom in this short. That would be weird. Nay. That would be absurd. This video! Weird. Absurd. Just when you think it's a little too weird, too absurd, they roll it all back to one of the most mainstream gags a video can ever go to for a giggle. You're welcome.
And the award for featured player who's in the opening to a sketch only to leave and be forgotten entirely goes to Bayer, who is there just for someone to be there before Lynch's character and Moynihan's character at a Macy's return counter can reveal the conceit that Denzel Washington is doing research for a movie role. Total set-up! And here's the new guy, Jay Pharoah, nailing his Denzel impersonation. It's one of his better ones. It'll be interesting to see where they go from here with Pharoah. Slightly weird with the dismount on this sketch, though.
Halfway through the show, and no music or Weekend Update yet? Is this episode going to 1:30? We could only hope. Oh, there's Bruno Mars. He sure didn't look or sing like he was on cocaine. He looked like he was ready to doo-wop. Or maybe he saw the TV ads for "Jersey Boys" during the break and decided to buy his band matching suits. Yep. That's most likely the answer. It's always the easiest explanation that's the right one. If you really wanted to know, the first song was kinda pretty.
Seth Meyers went after O'Donnell up top, then promptly pulled out a one-term Obama joke. Look out! Nobody's safe tonight!
Mark Zuckerberg (Samberg, who's turning up everywhere tonight!) clears up the story of whether he started Facebook to make it with the ladies. Of course he did. He explains why, and also apologizes for the "poke" feature. Finally.
I stopped paying attention during this next guest appearance, as Armisen played Mexican tourist official Miguel Conjeros. As I load it for Hulu.com, should I have given it a second chance? Let's see…nope. I see why my mind wandered off now.
My parents enjoy seeing Kristen Wiig play Suze Orman. Her guest this evening is the woman who was her first "roommate" (wink) and "shared expenses with" (wink wink): Roma Dunk. Ah, not-so-closeted lesbian love. Really not too good at the closet part. Bill Hader plays Roma's gay husband. Don't worry, though. It's OK for Roma to be gay, because Lynch is gay. And they have the gayest of lesbian handshakes, don't they?
Slightly off topic tangent: This was the second sketch in which Lynch's lips, er, move while someone else is delivering his or her lines. The cruelty of live TV can make anyone look like a bad ventriloquist.
If there's one sketch I could see NBC playing on Sunday night, it's a sketch making fun of NBC's "Sunday Night Football," with Sudeikis as Al Michaels, Hader as Cris Collinsworth, and Lynch singing a parody version of the "Sunday Night Football" song. She's no Faith Hill. But wouldn't you know it, they came up with lyrics for this Sunday's actual teams (Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers).
Bruno Mars sang another little ditty.
When you have three minutes left in the show and still have one more commercial break to squeeze in, this is when live TV really hits another groove. Those "Tax Masters" ads are weird. And this idea is pretty simple. There must be a reason the Tax Masters guy only looks at the camera from one angle, without turning to face the camera. Jason Sudeikis gets orange to play Patrick Cox. And with time running out, I imagine someone (maybe even Lorne) waving his hands frantically at Sudeikis to speed it up on the third take to get the sketch in on time. I think I even heard someone yelling to Armisen at the end. No matter what or where you think this sketch may have taken its cues from, I firmly believe that it's an homage to the 1982 horror film, Basket Case. What do I win for my prize?
Which means we got a super-quick goodnight from Jane Lynch and the gang. Do not roll credits. Do take next week off. That's all, folks!