The 14th season of MADtv began on Saturday night, not quite live and about a half-hour before that other, longer-running, better-known sketch show. But these kids have spunk. And they certainly tackle current pop culture landmarks more frequently than their live competitors.
The show opened before a live audience, at least, with an otherwise lackluster entrance by Obama (Keegan-Michael Key) and McCain (Bobby Lee). That’s right. Bobby Lee as McCain! Media critics went all a-Twitter last year debating whether a black comic had to play Obama, but will they bother to critique FOX’s choice of an Asian comedian to play the former Vietnam War POW? Just wondering. In the hair and makeup, Lee does more than a passable job at playing the old coot. The duo then introduced the new cast members. Sort of. We met Erica Ash. This intro did prove, at least, that this first hour of the season would be the Key and Lee hour.
First sketch had Lee as a Thailand cable access host named Johnny Gan showing us his audition tape to take over for Jay Leno. It had an amateurish Tim-and-Eric vibe to it, albeit with a bad Asian humor accent.
Three separate bits poked fun at The Hills, with Nicole Parker as Lauren Conrad and that gal who couldn’t cut it as Don Draper’s secretary (Crista Flanagan) as Lo, interviewing prospective new roommates. Mocked the vapidness of it all, including the over-the-top music soundtrack selections. New cast member Lauren Pritchard played big and crazy. Fellow newcomer Eric Price played up a pervy Nigel Lythgoe (while Pritchard took a stab at Mia Michaels and Flanagan was a scream as Mary Murphy) in the cast’s special Presidential Election version of So You Think You Can Dance.
Jerry O’Connell, ostensibly promoting his new FOX sitcom, endured relentless questioning by Key in character as a dumb guy wanting to know about how the chubby kid from Stand By Me ended up with Rebecca Romijn. O’Connell also starred in a music video taking off from Coldplay and making fun of the John Edwards affair in "Viva La Cheater."
Key returned to the forefront as his overactive gym teacher (Coach Hines) filling in to deliver sex ed tips on a Saturday to his students (thank the recent Gloucester schoolgirl pregnancy pact for this premise), with Lee getting most of the other lines, and Price playing a closeted gay student. We got our first glimpse of newcomer Matt Braunger. But that’s it?! We want more Braunger next week!
MADtv loves to do red carpet ambushes, so Arden Myrin got to joke around and improvise with FOX stars at the so-called "Eco Party."
And in case you didn’t take the hint that Key is now the big player in the cast, the hour ended with outtakes and deleted scenes allowing Key to riff and flub his lines for additional laughs.