Well, the streak continues. I went pretty easy on last week's Justin Bieber-hosted installment of Saturday Night Live, because it seemed like the very talented cast rallied and had a good show despite the Bieber-sized black hole at the center. This week had a much more talented host in Oscar-winning actor Christoph Waltz, but he's not a natural at comedy and the episode fell back into some bad habits. Watching the episode, I was pretty sure it was one of the weakest of the season. Looking back on it the next day, though, I'm realizing that it wasn't. It was pretty weak overall, but I was definitely being too hard on it. It was in keeping with this season overall.
Christoph Waltz seems like a really nice, happy guy -- a man who is enjoying the success he's found in recent years and who's willing to try anything. Those qualities served him well as host this week, even though he never really settled into a groove with the comedy. Thankfully, the writers did try and give him a couple things to do instead of just making him the straight man in every single sketch. Those moments were usually the highlights, because it was fun to see Waltz be silly. The cast continues to be very strong, but a lot of the episode just felt uninspired. It will be interesting to see what happens when Kevin Hart hosts for the first time.
- "Cold Open: Stranded Cruise" - What a relief that Saturday Night Live went with a topical cold opener that wasn't the State of the Union this week, because their political pieces are pretty disappointing these days. And while this nightmare cruise sketch wasn't a home run, it had a couple of funny jokes (the best bit as Jason Sudeikis and Cecily Strong reading the headlines and discovering that the world had gone to hell in the days that the passengers were stranded) and a funny idea at the center. Unfortunately, it went on waaay too long and introduced far too many supporting characters. It was a pretty good predictor of what the rest of the night would look like: a couple of laughs, a lot of problems. (Watch the "Stranded Cruise" video)
- "Christoph Waltz Monologue" - Ah, the singing monologue. Between having the guest host sing and doing a game show, SNL only missed out on the talk show parody to have the holy trinity of overused sketch devices in a single week. Waltz was pleasant and upbeat but a little awkward, and most of his monologue depended on some tired German jokes. I did like Taran Killam's Casual Hitler character, not so much because it was all that hilarious but because of the way he tossed off "Beil!" before leaving. Very funny. Then Waltz sang, and it was pretty lame. (Watch the "Christoph Waltz Monologue" video)
- "What Have You Become?" - Man, does Saturday Night Live love to do game shows or what? As these sketches go, this one was not bad. Waltz felt a little stiff as the host, but the reveal of what the game actually was worked. Much to my surprise, Kenan Thompson was the MVP of the thing, with the slow look of horror crossing his face as he realized what was going on really selling the premise (by contrast, Bill Hader overdid it, which is hardly ever a problem for him). Bringing the family members out was a nice touch. Once Waltz started having his breakdown, I found myself really wishing that SNL would put his considerable acting abilities to work and have him go super, super dramatic, but even his turn went for silliness. This was a funnier idea than it was an executed sketch, but the idea is really funny. That can go a long way. (Watch the "What Have You Become?" video)
- "Retirement Ad" - Yes, the Pope is quitting, and SNL came up with a pretty clever way of covering that story. I wanted there to be more jokes in this commercial parody, which was mostly happy to show Christoph Waltz doing silly things in his pope outfit. He wasn't even allowed to speak German, which was an odd touch. Not bad, really, but not as funny as it could have been, either. (Watch the "Retirement Ad" video)
- "Tippy" - Nasim Pedrad's latest attempt to get a recurring character to catch on felt a lot like a number of other characters the show has done over the years -- specifically the ones that Kristen Wiig used to play. There's nothing wrong what Pedrad does; the character is funny in her own low-key, and what few laughs there are in the sketch come from the performance, but it's the same awkward-person-at-a-party scene we've seen done a bunch of times already. (Watch the "Tippy" video)
- "New Tarantino Movie" - Is it just me, or did this feel like something MAD TV would have done back when that show was on? Waltz made a name for himself as the Academy Award-nominated (he actually won for Inglourious Basterds) star of two Quentin Tarantino movies, but this video piece was mostly just empty references to the director's movies. Some words would be changed, so Taran Killam (doing Brad Pitt) said "Romans" instead of "Nazis" in a play on the monologue from Basterds, but that was about the extent of the sketch's invention. Plus, Robot Chicken already did a Jesus/Tarantino mash-up with Kill Bunny a couple of years ago. (Watch the "New Tarantino Video" video)
- "Jamarcus Brothers CD" - I perked up at the very start of this sketch, which began with Taran Killam and Cecily Strong (currently two of my favorites in the cast) sitting on a rug addressing the camera. They're both incredibly funny; how could this go wrong? Well, they were just the 'filler' piece of a bigger sketch that featured Jay Pharoah, Kenan Thompson and Christoph Waltz as cheesy soul singers. The joke was an obvious one, but a few of the fake song titles written by Waltz were kind of amusing. There's not much more to say about it. (Watch the "Jamarcus Brothers CD" video)
- "Weekend Update: Marco Rubio" - Saturday Night Live had nothing new to offer on the subject of Senator Marco Rubio taking a weird drink of water during his State of the Address rebuttal earlier this week, but Taran Killam was really funny in the bit and made it work despite the familiarity with the joke. The way his voice started to give out when his mouth went dry and the way he kept leaning further and further across Seth Meyers were both funny, but it took a long time to get to even that point. Still of the three (three!) guests on "Update" this week, he was by far the funniest. (Watch the "Weekend Update: Marco Rubio" video)
- "Fox and Friends: State of the Union" - It was unusual to see "Fox and Friends" this late in the show, since it's usually used as either the cold opener or the first post-commercial sketch. It wasn't a particularly good installment, either, going on too long and not even featuring guest host Waltz (instead casting Fred Armisen to play a British guy; with all of Waltz's talent, I have to believe he could do a good British accent, but so it goes). I like the "three dummies" routine as much as anyone, but it just feels like the same thing every time the sketch goes up. (Watch the "Fox and Friends: State of the Union" video)
- "Regine" - Here's a Fred Armisen character we saw debut on the Daniel Craig episode earlier this season -- which, ironically, was a show that suffered from a lot of the same problems as this week's installment. The idea of the character is funny, because she's pretentious and attention starved and the worst, but it mostly ends up being an excuse to show the cast grossed out while Armisen makes an exaggerated "O" face. The novelty this week is that many of the cast members spent half the sketch trying not to break and laugh, suggesting that they were having more fun playing the piece than we in the audience were having watching it. (Watch the "Regine" video)
- "Secret Admirer Letter" - Maybe it was just the exhaustion settling in, but I thought this was one of the best sketches of the night. It had an original premise, gave Christoph Waltz a character to play and had some funny jokes. It even had a punchline -- not a particularly good one, but at least it was something. If every sketch could have been at least up to the standards of "Secret Admirer Letter," this would have been a passable episode. Instead, it's another pretty mediocre show in an increasingly long run of mediocre shows. (Watch the "Secret Admirer Letter" video)
- Original Air Date: 2/16/13
- Host: Christoph Waltz
- Musical Guest: Alabama Shakes