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Saturday Night Live Episode Recap

Episode 3811: Jennifer Lawrence/The Lumineers

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Jennifer Lawrence hosts Saturday Night Live
Photo courtesy NBC

Academy award-nominated actress Jennifer Lawrence hosted Saturday Night Live for the show's 2013 debut after a month-long break, and, I'm sorry to say, it was a rough night. I've tried to be very positive and optimistic in my SNL coverage here, because I do still love the show (or, at least, the institution of the show) and hope for the best every week. But there's little way to avoid saying that this week's episode was pretty terrible, made all the worse by the fact that it was the first new show in many weeks. Despite her nerves, Jennifer Lawrence gave it her best shot, but the episode fell flat so much of the time that I started to wonder if any of the failure would be laid at her feet. Would she be called a terrible host, or will people recognize that it was the material and not her? And if she is faulted for a bad appearance, will it risk her chances of winning the Best Actress Oscar, for which she is currently considered a front runner? And, if that were to happen, would it be the first time that a Saturday Night Live appearance has influenced the outcome of the Academy Awards? The night left me with a lot of questions, is what I'm saying.

Sketch Highlights

  • "Cold Open: Piers Morgan - Things started well enough this week, with SNL openly acknowledging that a lot of weird things had happened during the show's month-long break and there was a lot of catching up to be done. Covering the unusual news stories within the context of the Piers Morgan Show was a smart move, because it allowed the sketch to bounce from story to story with ease (including Jason Sudeikis as Lance Armstrong and Kate McKinnon, whose impressions are beginning to blend together, as Jodie Foster) and because Taran Killam's Piers Morgan is funny (the thing where his voice keeps going up never ceases to make me laugh). It wasn't the best possible take on any of these stories -- they were all so bizarre that I couldn't help but wish for more from the show -- but it was a decent opening to the episode. Things started to go downhill pretty quickly after this. (Watch the "Cold Open: Piers Morgan" video)
  • "Jennifer Lawrence Monologue" - I'm a fan of Jennifer Lawrence, because I, like every other person alive, admire her talent and because I have eyes. She seemed very nervous during the monologue, and though she sold it as well as possible, she never really settled into a groove. It might not have helped that she had material that clearly made her uncomfortable; though her trash talking her fellow Oscar nominees allowed for a few decent roast-style jokes, the bit where she punctuated every bit with something complimentary never quite came across as a joke. I'm sure she meant what she said, but it felt more like a concession for all the shots taken rather than a conceived bit. Still, not a bad opening, even if Lawrence's apparent nervousness made me nervous, too. (Watch the "Jennifer Lawrence Monologue" video)
  • "Starbucks Verismo" - Based on this sketch, the experience of going to Starbucks in New York seems different than it does her in Chicago. Still, there are something things that are universal, and the joke about the unrefrigerated half and half, scattered stirrers and half empty pack of sugar rang very true and was very funny. (Watch the "Starbucks Verismo" video)
  • "Girlfriend Talk Show" - I'm not the least bit surprised that this sketch was already brought back after premiering on the Anne Hathaway episode a month ago; I guess it's the new go-to sketch any time a young, pretty female host is on the show. It wasn't as good as it was the first time, because it was trying to approximate some of the weirdness that once happened almost by accident and it felt like that -- a group of people faking it. Cecily Strong's character is funny, but a lot of what she does on the show is starting to run together. (Watch the "Girlfriend Talk Show" video)
  • "Hunger Games Press Conference" - I get that SNL would want to do a Hunger Games sketch because the star of the movie was hosting, but the fact that the show already did a Hunger Games sketch almost a year ago (when Sofia Vergara hosted) -- and that that sketch was funnier and smarter in the way it commented on the book/movie -- is saying something about the relevance of this episode's offering. Tim Robinson's reactions after asking how the other contestants (who are dead) were doing were funny, but the rest of the sketch fell pretty flat. (Watch the "Hunger Games Press Conference" video)
  • "'50s Diner" - The night's first original sketch -- not based on something else, not repeating a sketch that's already been done -- had a good idea at its center, but never did anything with it. Aidy Bryant and Nasim Pedrad did great fake-sass, but the sketch needed to go darker with host Lawrence's genuine hate. You can always tell when the writers aren't quite sure what to do with a sketch when it pretty much just stops without any kind of punchline, which was very much the case here. It was all premise, little follow-through. (Watch the "'50s Diner" video)
  • "More Hobbit" - Is The Hobbit really something that anyone is still talking about? This sketch might have made sense a month ago before the break, but now it just feels like a leftover -- especially when the central joke is "Boy, they really are breaking up the movie into too many parts." At times it went too far and at others not far enough; I liked the bit where everyone tries to split the check, but most of everything else was pretty lame (though the line about Peter Jackson's patented "Shit Vision" was good...I saw the movie in 48fps, and the joke is pretty spot on). (Watch the "More Hobbit" video)
  • "Top Dog Chef" - I literally am not sure what say about this sketch. Everything about it felt like some weird Andy Kaufman joke -- like SNL was experimenting with anti-comedy. From the awful dog puns to the elaborate but embarrassing makeup to the very concept, this felt like a sketch pulled out of a bad high school variety show. I had sympathy nerves for Jennifer Lawrence for much of the night, but this was the moment where I actually started feeling bad for her. (Watch the "Top Dog Chef" video)
  • "B-108 Morning Show" - This is a sketch that the show has done a couple of times (most notable in the Lindsay Lohan-hosted trainwreck last season), typically in the back half of the show when it seems like everyone has given up. It was a huge step up from "Top Dog Chef," so it had that going for it, and actually allowed Jennifer Lawrence to be kind of funny for one of the first times in the night. Bobby Moynihan and Taran Killam are so funny in their characters, and the idea (that these guys are lame morning men on a 5 a.m. radio show in a snowy Minnesota town) is a good one; I don't mind that the jokes aren't that great (though I do like their interplay with a very normal Vanessa Bayer). You know that the episode isn't going so hot when this sketch turns out to be one of the high points. (Watch the "B-108 Morning Show" video)
  • "Danielle: A Free European Woman" - There are a few ideas at work here. The recreation of the '70s European sex movie and late-night Cinemax vibe are amusing, as is the close-but-not-quite dubbing of the voices. I think there's a joke here about how everyone, man or woman, is at least a little attracted to Jennifer Lawrence? But, as with a lot of video pieces on the show, it's all style and no substance -- everyone was so happy to get the form correct that they overlooked the content. The results were repetitive and boring. I kept hoping that a lot of sketches this week would get really weird and out there, because there were clearly so many opportunities to do so. It's amazing that this many unusual premises could be played so safely. (Watch the "Danielle" video)
  • "Love Letters" - Yes, this was a very typical 11:55 sketch (Central time, of course). It seems like Tim Robinson is getting a lot of showcases in this slot, which makes me wonder if these are the sketches he's writing, and, if so, if it's an indication of his comedic sensibility. I'm on board for all of it, but I also wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't last that long at the show as a result. Weird doesn't always have staying power at Saturday Night Live; look how long it took for Tracy Morgan to find his place. There were a couple of chuckles to be found in this, but the show was really running on fumes at this point. (Watch the "Love Letters" video)
  • Original Air Date: 1/19/13
  • Host: Jennifer Lawrence
  • Musical Guest: The Lumineers

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