Don't know about you, but after Thursday's amazing "Miracle on the Hudson" plane crash and seeing several of the SNL crew in jovial spirits on Wednesday night, perhaps my expectations for this week's edition of Saturday Night Live were too high. Because I certainly expected more. That's not to say it was a complete dud, but compared to last week's show with NPH, well, it had a difficult time measuring up. Let's begin at the beginning, shall we? As I always let you know, if you cannot watch videos on Hulu, try NBC's online home for SNL. OK? OK!
The cold open — ABC's Diane Sawyer (Kristen Wiig) gets the final interview with retiring Vice President Dick Cheney (Darrell Hammond) — is a great sketch idea for two solid reasons: 1) It runs counter to all of the final days of Bush and his antics we've seen in the past week, which would be both too easy to duplicate and too difficult to top, and 2) We haven't seen hardly any of Darrell Hammond in recent SNL weeks, so hooray for that reminder. Although, checking my notes, this is also the only sketch for Hammond tonight. If this is not Lorne Michaels telling us to prepare to finally say goodbye to Hammond, I'm not sure what this is. Any regrets?
In Rosario Dawson's monologue, she tells us she grew up right here in the Lower East Side when it wasn't the trendy place to make your home, and that she also helped register Latinos to vote — which gives SNL a reason to trot out Fericito, Fred Armisen's Venezuelan drummer and nightclub comedian character.
We then get a fake ad for North American Savings Bank, which, get this, puts your money under a mattress, and doesn't approve loans. Pretty safe, huh? Plenty of cast members get to take part in it, at least.
After the first break, it's an episode of Discovery Kids show, "Da Learnin' Train," hosted by Dawson, with Riznatch the Rabies Raccoon (Kenan Thompson) as her rapping sidekick, Bill Hader as the DJ, and Andy Samberg, Bobby Moynihan and Abby Elliott playing the kids. Forget RIF, kids. "You can dance on top of a book!" Thompson raps. Harry Connick Jr. (Jason Sudeikis) appears, why, I'm not sure, except to point out that these hip-hoppers are all quite dumb and illiterate. Fred Armisen appears as a mailman with a delivery from Alphabet City. It's the letter K (Will Forte), who also raps. It's a big, colorful set. But what's the joke, again? Hip-hoppers are dumb. Oh. I'd never be accused of being politically correct, so I'll refrain from typing what comes to my mind watching this.
A second fake ad, but this one is much better than the first. Jason Sudeikis plays a CIA agent overseeing the Camp Gitmo going out of business sale! This should have played earlier, maybe? "Git'Mo of everything you need!"
After another break, Aladdin (Sudeikis) and Jasmine (Dawson) are on a magic carpet ride for their 10th anniversary, but the magic has left this marriage. Plus, it's a musical number! Written to the tune of "A Whole New World"! Nice quip: "I wish I was dead, but I already used all of my wishes!" They also get in a few light jabs on Robin Williams and how he played the Genie.
The SNL Digital Short, for fans of Forte and particularly of his quirky songs, will be your favorite. Because it's essentially Forte singing about a short conversation between Samberg and Armisen. Wait for the plot twist at the end. It's worth it!
Forte then opens the next sketch as a teacher in an elementary school where him and the students (Moynihan, Thompson, Dawson) and even another teacher (Casey Wilson) are tormented by a student with a funny look on her face and a big ol' hairdo. Care to guess who that might be? It's Gilly! (Wiig) Of course, it is. Getting the feeling that SNL feels they can take Wiig's mugging and slap any character onto it at this point. "Sorry," Gilly repeatedly deadpans. Yes, please be sorry. You're not fooling the audience this time.
Will Ferrell's Broadway show ads are running multiple times, though not the "D-bag" one that got banned on other networks.
Fleet Foxes remind me of all of those alt/folk rockers of the 1970s. You can imagine them doing really good covers of "Dust in the Wind" and "A Horse with No Name." Just saying. No wonder the audience loves them, too.
Weekend Update! I had Twittered my hopes that SNL would manage to get one of the survivors from the US Airways flight that splashed down in the Hudson River on Thursday, and really thought it'd be a coup to get the pilot "Sully" to make his big cameo arrival, though I knew that'd be tough. Also probably not so hopeful to create a new sketch after Thursday, either. But you can get jokes and characters on Update at the last moment. And I guessed that the goose would be the best target. So here is Samberg as Larry the Goose (did they take the turkey outfits and alter them, or make a new goose?).
And here is Armisen and Bernard Madoff, ingratiating himself to Seth Meyers and noting that even his apology is a pyramid scheme. Oh, I guess we don't have that.
Judy Grimes (Wiig) appears with travel tips. This character sounds like a combination of Kevin Nealon's "Subliminal Man" with the fast-talking guy from FedEx commercials a generation ago with a hint of what Penelope would sound like if she felt guilt about her lies. At the end, Meyers hints that he won't have Grimes back on the Update desk. Are they kidding? How would we know?
After a break, an episode of La Policia Mexicana, a cop show with Armisen, Dawson and Hader, written by a fourth-grade Spanish class. Which explains the dialogue and slow-moving plot. Moynihan plays the suspect. Hader's Spanish is not a far cry from his Italian, which is worth a laugh. Also must reward them with a kudo or two just for doing a sketch in Spanish.
The women of The View return, and I have to say that Thompson is funny as Whoopi Goldberg, Armisen is more than a little amusing as Joy Behar, Wiig gets the crazy in the Hasselbeck down, but wow, Michaela Watkins is emerging more and more as a great hire, isn't she? Her Barbara Walters here. Plus, as we see in a Web Exclusive (read: bit that got cut from dress), she also has a take on Ann Coulter. Which makes me wish they had done this bit filmed to have Michaela play both sides of that TV fight. They had Dawson play Salma Hayek instead of having her or anyone else play Sherri. Hmmm. Sudeikis shows up with a beer in hand as Ricky Gervais. Again, hmmm. Here is Watkins as Ann Coulter:
Twice during this break, we get glimpses from the SNL set, including a musical interlude. Who timed the ad breaks? Fleet Foxes does a second song. Good, sweet stuff.
Our final sketch of the evening is a show from Ch. 25 in Logan, Ohio, called "Good Excuse." Forte and Wiig host and offer up horrible excuses to guests played by Thompson, Dawson and Sudeikis. Would be a horribly weak closer, only saved by the shots of the audience, which consists almost entirely of cats.
That's it! No Mark Payne sketch tonight. We'll see you back here Jan. 31, with host Steve Martin and musical guest Jason Mraz.