Face it. When you heard Jon Hamm was hosting with Rihanna on Oct. 30, 2010, you figured this was a slam-dunk of a Saturday Night Live. Set the DVR, because even if you did happen to be in front of a television on Saturday night, you'd want to relive the memories. Hamm hit homers the first two times he hosted. How could the third time not be just as charming? And yet. Not his fault. But something wasn't quite right at times in the fifth episode of the thirty-sixth season. Maybe I'm holding Hamm's episodes up to too high of a standard too soon.
Let us not belabor the points. Let us recap and renumerate them.
In the cold open, Jason Sudeikis, as VP Joe Biden, made two points. 1) "When things can't get any worse, it's Biden time!" 2) "Don't be whiners, think about the miners." Which is to say, just because the Democrats cannot write their way out of this with a joke, it could be much, much worse. And Jon Hamm is hosting!
In the monologue, Jon Hamm mentions this is the second Halloween episode he has hosted. He also says he is becoming like Don Draper in thinking of ad campaigns, so let's watch him do that off the cuff with suggestions from audience members played by SNL cast members Bill Hader, Nasim Pedrad, Kenan Thompson and Andy Samberg. No problem, Hammer. Wham bam, thank you Hamm.
The Lonely Island is still working at SNL and proving it up at the top with the return of Rihanna and Shy Ronnie, this time in a music video in which they hold up a bank. Most of the cast appears in non-speaking parts as the bank employees and customers. I like it better stylized on tape than the earlier live version. Looking good. "Oh, no. Boner alert!"
Oooh. During the commercial break, we see we're getting another Vincent Price special. Should be good for some laughs.
In this installment set in 1960, Bill Hader continues to play Vincent Price. When Hamm appeared previously for Halloween, he impersonated James Mason. This time, he's JFK. No, not the airport. The dead president, sillies. Pedrad plays his date, Candy. Kristen Wiig plays a pill-popping Judy Garland. And there's Fred Armisen as Liberace again. Cue the sex jokes. Sex jokes are easy. That's what she said. See what I mean?
So far, s'ok. But wait, it gets better! Immediately better!
OK. This sketch is more like it. With Back to the Future celebrating 25 years, and the recent revelatory footage of Eric Stoltz, who starred before they decided he shouldn't star in it, a nice chance to see what other celebrities would have looked like in screen tests. But first, hey look! It's writer Colin Jost in front of the screen. And now, Hader as Al Pacino as Doc Brown. Jay Pharoah as Eddie Murphy as Marty McFly. Wiig as Jennifer Tilly as McFly's future mom. Bobby Moynihan as Sam Kinison. Small time-traveling problem with this one, since Kinison wasn't well-known in 1984. Robin Williams, was, though, and there's Hamm with an impersonation.
Auditions can be tough. Jason Sudeikis is looking for an actress. Abby Elliott briefly appears, but she's not auditioning. Kristen Wiig is. And she is willing to do and show just about anything for the part. But she won't do that, Meatloaf costume. Won't wear a costume? On the Halloween episode. Hamm appears as her supportive husband. With a nice revelation: Wiig was playing the woman in a Stanley Steemer commercial! Gives the whole sketch a different feeling.
Hey, more BTTF screen tests. Andy Samberg as Nicolas Cage as Marty. Bill Hader as Alan Alda as Biff! Soooooooooooooo gooooooooooood. Fred Armisen as Prince. Kenan Thompson as Bill Cosby, which since he played Fat Albert, well, obvs. Taran Killam as Gilbert Gottfried as Biff. Abby Elliott as Joan Cusack as Marty's mom. Killam as Pee-wee Herman.
Rihanna performed her first song, and kept asking us what's her name. All I know is what I wrote on Twitter as it happened live on Saturday: Rihanna took great notes from Kanye West in the backdrop department and from Katy Perry in the bouncingboobs department. Rob Delaney knows what I'm talking about. Someone should have a GIF for this already, right? Right?
Weekend Update brought back a couple of favorite characters in Hader's James Carville and Garth and Kat, the improvisational musical duo from Armisen and Wiig.
Carville is a good choice for the Saturday before or after any election. As for Garth and Kat? Something didn't seem just as magical about their improv this time around. They did mix it up from the usual by throwing in one planned verse. But I'd like to see a real mix-em-up, like having Armisen have to follow Wiig's lead.
"I Didn't Ask For This" is a talk show hosted by a guy who became famous on YouTube in a video in which he got pranked. Moynihan plays the host. Newbie Paul Brittain plays his producer. Wiig plays another YouTube victim. But really, it's just a long way to go to get to a play on "Best Cry Ever," an actual YouTube sensation with more than 10 million views, that's six months old. Also featuring Killam. Nice cry by Hamm, though. Nice cry.
Exhibits A and E: The original "Best Cry Ever" as taken in a clip from A&E's Intervention.
So, Highway Cops. A spoof of a 1970s NBC show, where the cops are secretly gay. That's about it, right. Sudeikis, Hamm and Thompson have some 'splaining to do. Well, at least Thompson made some nice big-eyed faces when he picked up the phone each time. Otherwise, this was fairly horrible.
When someone yelled out "move on!" I thought, finally someone has sense. Oh, wait. It was Thompson playing an audience member in the lounge trying to put up with the banter between Hamm and Wiig as nightclub singers Darlique and Barney. Barney Fott. Did Hamm request that he only work with Wiig in every sketch, or is this a mandate from Lorne? I don't know. Or do I?
For Rihanna's second song, her dress matched her hair. If you know what I mean. I'd make her feel like the only girl in the world. Is she single again yet? Asking for a friend.
At this point, there's only a couple of minutes before 1 a.m. Certainly they're done.
And yet. After a quick ad break, they're back with…David Spade? Yes. Appears they've brought back "Hollywood Minute," but this time, Spade is there in voice only, voicing a small dog in a woman's handbag, dishing dirt about celebs. It's called "Dog In Purse." Hey! Wait a second! I know what this is! It's from something called "Beyond the Comics" that I wrote about back in June. Created by former SNL head writer Fred Wolf. Aha! You can look up "Dog in Purse" here. I wonder if this was a planned deal, or if Lorne and Co. knew that they had these all at their disposal just in case they had a spare minute to fill. Hmmm.
Well, that's that. Roll the credits. No credits! The BTTF video was great, as were Hamm and Rihanna. Great great. But the last half-hour felt like one of those nights when I understand the viewers who claim they always turn off the TV after Weekend Update.