Anne Hathaway has fast become one of my very favorite hosts on Saturday Night Live, largely because -- and I say this with the utmost respect and affection -- she's kind of a huge dork (and I don't think she would mind me saying so, because she is not reading this). She's never really proven to be a gifted comic actress on the big screen, but she fits so well into the cast of SNL that I'm starting to think she just hasn't been given the right opportunity (no, Bride Wars does not count). As a host, she's confident and comfortable and totally willing to look silly without calling attention to it or being impressed with herself for doing so.
This was her third outing as host, and she managed to once again be a very enjoyable presence on the show without getting very many chances to stand out in the week's offering of sketches. She got to sing in the monologue and be very funny in an "American Gothic" sketch, but otherwise was used either as a straight woman or in a bit part in somebody else's show. I'm hoping she becomes one of those annual fixtures on the show, like Alec Baldwin or Jon Hamm (or like Tom Hanks and Steve Martin used to be). She's one of the few female hosts I can think of that really deserves it.
- "Cold Open: Mitt Romney Balcony" - The 2012 presidential race has been going on for over a year; it finally came to an end this week (the President won), and this is all that Saturday Night Live has to say on the subject? It was such a strange way to cap off a long, miserable, often ugly election -- and not just because it seemed like the show wanted to give Mitt and Ann Romney a sweet send-off. I'm not suggesting they just pile on after a loss, but the whole thing felt toothless and the pacing and energy was entirely wrong for the opening of the show. There were scattered jokes that I liked -- the "can opening" sound every time Jason Sudeikis opened a new milk, or Taran Killam showing up again and again as different Romney sons, or the line about how "Donald Trump is doing something funny where he's racist" (I'm paraphrasing) -- but too much dead space between those moments. And that ending? Just bizarre. I don't get it, Saturday Night Live. I don't get it. (Watch the "Cold Open: Mitt Romney Balcony" video)
- "Anne Hathaway Monologue" - Ok. Every week, I complain about how Saturday Night Live is way too quick to fall back on the "singing" monologue, because a) it saves the trouble of writing jokes and b) everyone loves the dancing bear phenomenon, where it turns out that a celebrity can do more than one thing (she's dancing, AND she's a bear!). But I'm a hypocrite this week, because I loved this monologue. Yes, the use of a Les Miserables song was shoehorned in, because that's the movie that Hathaway was appearing to promote. I don't care. I liked getting to hear all the cast members sing, because they're really good at it. I liked getting to see the whole cast come out during the monologue. I liked all the jokes, like Kenan Thompson being excited about voting (even though the election is over) and Taran Killam and Cecily Strong (who I could listen to duet for a long time) planning to see Wreck-It Ralph and eat chili. Sometimes, Saturday Night Live will pull out a sketch that melts away all of my cynicism and remind me how much I love the show as an institution. This was one of those sketches. (Watch the "Anne Hathaway Monologue" video)
- "Girlfriends Talk Show" - I really wanted to like this, because it gave Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong (who was everywhere this week, while Vanessa Bayer hardly showed up at all). The dynamic was kind of funny, and Aidy Bryant appeared to be on the verge of breaking throughout. It wasn't very good, though, and Hathaway was disappointing. Big ups to Cecily Strong, though, who created a very specific kind of character with her vocal affect (which sometimes made her hard to understand) and who had my favorite joke of the night in this sketch -- the weird tangent about going to a steak house with her older boyfriend was completely insane and nonsensical and it's funnier every time I think about it. I'm guessing this sketch will show up again this season, and I hope there's more of this kind of thing. (Watch the "Girlfriends Talk Show" video)
- "Mokiki" - It's painfully obvious at this point that SNL is trying to keep the tradition of the Digital Short alive even after the departure of Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island crew. This smacked of one of their lesser efforts, with a single one-note character and a single joke (funny dance!) to carry it all. The production on it was good -- there were laughs to be found in the editing and in some of the low-fi special effects -- but it had a quality that some of Lonely Island's stuff used to have, where it was odd just for the sake of being odd. I'm normally game to watch Taran Killam do anything, but this felt like a bit of a stumble. (Watch the "Mokiki" video)
- "Homeland" - I don't have Showtime, so I've never seen Homelane (I know, I know). There was a lot here I couldn't appreciate, because it required some specific knowledge of the show to appreciate the jokes. Otherwise, all that was left to enjoy was Anne Hathaway pretending to be crazy, which wasn't all that great. I appreciate the gusto with which she embarrasses herself in the name of comedy, but it's just not the same without the laughs. (Watch the "Homeland" video)
- "McDonald's Firing" - Let's get something out of the way immediately: I liked that this sketch was the second time of the night in which we got to see the entire cast on stage at one time. Having said that, there wasn't much else that I liked (wait -- there's one more: Taran Killam's face during his little cutaway). It was a loud, one-note sketch, and we've seen Bobby Moynihan play this kind of character before. I can pretty much guarantee we'll see this pair quitting another job this season, because it's the kind of sketch that's pretty easy to write. The structure is built in; all one has to do is fill in the insults. (Watch the "McDonald's Firing" video)
- "American Gothic" - Call me crazy -- this was one of my favorite sketches of the night, mostly because it was really the only sketch in which Anne Hathaway was given a chance to shine. She did her crazy act during the "Homeland" sketch and she did a killer Katie Holmes during an "Ellen" sketch (Kate McKinnon also does a pretty good Ellen DeGeneres, but I don't really get why she has to keep saying "I'm Ellen!"), but got sidelined a lot in the episode. Here, though, she got to be silly and dorky and did a great bit where she crossed her eyes; it's not exactly Lucille Ball levels of physical comedy, but it's much harder than you might think. She was really funny in this one, and it made me wish she had been able to funny more often in the episode. The fact that I ended up liking the show as much as I did is a testament to just her presence -- having her around in sketches was pretty much enough to make everything better. Bring her back soon. (Watch the "American Gothic" video)
- Original Air Date: 11/10/12
- Host: Anne Hathaway
- Musical Guest: Rihanna