I know I probably shouldn't admit this, but I like Anne Hathaway on Saturday Night Live. She always seems game (though very actressy, which I usually can't stand) and doesn't appear to need to call attention to herself as being in "comedy mode" (see: Scarlett Johansson from last week). She's also more versatile than a lot of female hosts, able to disappear into different kinds of characters including some that the regular cast couldn't pull off. Her appearance this week was nothing special, because SNL hasn't known what to do with (or hasn't shown the slightest interest in) a guest host this entire season, despite the fact that they've pulled out a few heavy-hitters. I know it's the same criticism people have leveled against the show for decades, but Saturday Night Live is at a low point right now, and something needs to change before it digs its way out.
Let's not blame Anne Hathaway, though. She did her best this week and seemed genuinely happy to be hosting. Plus, she came back to appear in the season-ending "Goodnight, Saigon" sketch a couple of years back. For that, she will have my good will for at least a few more Bride Wars. Just kidding. I'm dead inside.
- "Cold Open: Rachel Maddow" - I'll admit to getting a thrill when I saw that Abby Elliott -- who finally joined the full cast this year, only to be used for less than five minutes of screen time total in the entire season thus far -- was opening the show. It was, of course, pretty much the last time she would be seen all night. The sketch was yet more of SNL's toothless political satire. This week, they combined a bunch of political figures into a talk show format (can you believe it??), presumably because they couldn't choose a single character to build a sketch around. This wasn't the worst cold open of the season, but it's consistently the weakest sketch every week. Way to draw in the viewers. (Watch the "Cold Open: Rachel Maddow" video)
- "Anne Hathaway Monologue" - Did you know Anne Hathaway takes her clothes off in her new movie Love and Other Drugs? If you didn't, here's a whole monologue devoted to telling you. So please go see it, right guys? If the central joke wasn't weak enough (and again, it wasn't the worst), the punchline was insultingly lazy. (Watch the "Anne Hathaway Monologue" video)
- "Miley Cyrus Show" - I told you it would be back. I want to dislike this sketch, because it's lazy. It's a talk show parody that depends entirely on celebrity impressions -- two things that SNL has leaned on particularly hard this season. Still, though, there's something I find funny in Vanessa Bayer's Miley Cyrus impression. I'm hypnotized by what she does with her mouth, which is carefully studied and kind of subtle but also incredible. Plus, Anne Hathaway's impression of Katie Holmes was awesome, and reminded me that Anne Hathaway is pretty good on Saturday Night Live. The actual content isn't all that great, and the Billy Ray Cyrus cutaways don't work, but I'm not burned out on the sketch yet. I will be by the end of the season. Until then, I'm serious: watch Vanessa Bayer's mouth. Brilliant. (Watch the "Miley Cyrus Show" video)
- "Penelope Thanksgiving" - Just when I had let my guard down and thought to myself "so far, so decent," SNL suckerpunches me with another terrible Kristen Wiig Penelope sketch. My heart didn't so much sink as it did kick me in the nuts. This character once showed promise, mostly because I've known one-uppers like Penelope. It's become so repetitive and formulaic now, though, that all they're really changing are the words. The structure, beats and jokes are the same. Stop it. (Watch the "Penelope Thanksgiving" video)
- "Visiting the Queen" - Did you know that in private, the Queen of England and her husband are actually low-class Cockney thugs? I'll wait right here and finish my yogurt while you throw up laughing. (Watch the "Visiting the Queen" video)
- "Update: Jay Pharoah's Thanksgiving Rap" - I'm as happy as anyone to see Jay Pharoah getting a showcase week after week (both he and Vanessa Bayer have gotten a lot of air time as featured players), but I'd sure like to see him do something that doesn't depend on an impression. I also really don't think this Thanksgiving rap piece -- which owes a lot to the "Update" songs performed by Adam Sandler and Jimmy Fallon in the past -- worked at all. Maybe it's because the rapper impressions sounded pretty similar (and I'm not saying all rap sounds the same; I can tell the difference between the Fatty Boys and The 2 Live Crewers) or maybe it's because the raps themselves weren't that funny. I guess if you really know the nuances of Jay-Z and Drake, this was hilarious. I think SNL might be overestimating the rap savvy of its audience. This is a very white show for very white people (a problem since the days of Eddie Murphy), and though I appreciate that Jay Pharoah is trying to change that, I worry that he's up against a wall. A very white wall. (Watch the "Update: Jay Pharoah's Thanksgiving Rap" video)
- "The Wizard of Oz" - This quality of this sketch surprised me, because usually when there's a piece with very elaborate sets or makeup, it's going to be terrible (all the work is done, see, so the writing gets a pass). Fred Armisen's annoying Weather Vane character got funnier as it went along, though, and Anne Hathaway's Judy Garland was very accurate and didn't push for laughs. (Watch the "Wizard of Oz" video)
- "Camel Tame" - Congratulations, America in 2010. You can now watch an entire comedy sketch built around Kristen Wiig's vagina bump. If you're going to base a sketch solely on a sight gag, it better be a pretty great sight gag. Kristen Wiig's vagina bump didn't make the cut. (Watch the "Camel Tame" video)
- "Black Friday" - One of the best sketches of the night came late in the show. It takes a fairly easy target -- the insanity of Black Friday shopping -- but adds some funny jokes and builds well. I kept hoping it would go a little further, but something about beggars and choosers. (Watch the "Black Friday" video)
- Original Air Dat: 11/20/10
- Host: Anne Hathaway
- Musical Guest: Florence and the Machine