The Honeymoon is Over
I suppose we all knew it was coming. Saturday Night Live has been riding pretty high this season -- both in the ratings and in the quality of some of their sketch writing -- so it was only a matter of time before they hit rock bottom. This weekend's episode, hosted by country music star Tim McGraw with musical guests T-Pain and Ludacris, found the sketch comedy at its low point for the season.
McGraw can't faulted. For a non-actor (though he was pretty good in Friday Night Lights, he did a fine job and was game for anything. His performance was actually responsible for the funniest sketch of the night -- a commercial for a record of the world's tamest and friendliest prank calls.
Still Trying to Make Politics Work
No, this week it was the writers coming up short. Still determined to squeeze some political juice out of this season, Saturday's show delivered sketches about Congressional hearings, auto industry bailouts, and a "Weekend Update" segment where former Georgia senator Zell Miller endorsed Saxby Chambliss in the upcoming special election for a Georgia senatorial race.
Read that again. We've gone from George W. Bush and Sarah Palin to Zell Miller and Saxby Chambliss. Yes, I know the joke is that the two men have "funny" names, but it seems pretty apparent that SNL's political stage is shrinking. What's next -- hotly contested PTA races?
It all helps underscore the idea that Sarah Palin was a gift. When you think about it, the show never really did figure out how to make John McCain, Barack Obama or Joe Biden all that funny. Palin did most of the heavy lifting herself; Tina Fey just needed to come in and bat cleanup. And now I've gone ahead and confused my sports metaphors.
Other Sketch Highights:
- "Clear Rite: - Kristin Wiig (now the only non-"featured" female cast member) auditions for a commercial for a new breakthrough in dentistry in her bathroom mirror. The way her mouth keeps drying out is kind of funny, but it never really pays off. This is the kind of sketch you'd usually see at 12:55, not leading off the show. It did give us our first official look at new cast member Michaela Watkins. (Watch the video)
- "Turkey Day" - I don't even know what to say. This is one of the worst sketches I've seen on SNL, essentially about a bunch of turkeys running away from people trying to shoot them. There is no joke here, and matters are made worse by technical glitches (pay attention to the screen behind the cast) and a feeling that people are making this up as they go along. This sketch will haunt your dreams. (Watch the video)
- "Blizzard Man" - Andy Samberg brings his '90s-era white rapper back for some more lame rapping. The joke is that he's lame. And then when everyone thinks he's good, it turns out that no, he's lame (a friend calls this the "Lazer Cats" rule). The sketch is worthwhile primarily for musical guests Ludacris and T-Pain's commitment to the bit and comedic ease. (Watch the video)
- "Bond Casino Showdown" - A funny idea -- a typical James Bond/villain scene continually interrupted by an "everyman" -- is undermined a little by the propensity to push the humor too far into Blue Collar Comedy territory. McGraw's reaction to Kristin Wiig's character name provided the biggest laugh of the night. (Watch the video)
- "Weekend Update: Arianna Huffington" - Worth mentioning only because it finally gave a showcase to new cast member Watkins (Abby Elliott got to speak about four words the whole night). And while, yes, Watkins does an excellent impression of political pundit Huffington, there wasn't much else to the joke. Plus, SNL is banking a lot on assuming that most of America is familiar enough with Huffington to find the impression funny. (Watch the video)
Saturday's show provided a pretty big misstep, but that's all it was -- a misstep. The good thing about Saturday Night Live is that it has a blank slate each week. Unfortunately, shows like this one make viewers more reluctant to tune in again.
Original Air Date: 11/22/08
Host: Tim McGraw
Musical Guest: Ludacris & T-Pain