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Saturday Night Live Episode Recap

Episdoe 1596: Helen Mirren/The Foo Fighters


Helen Mirren hosts Saturday Night Live
Photo courtesy NBC

Watch the full Helen Mirren SNL episode

It's odd how single-minded Saturday Night Live can be at times. The sketch show has an occasional tendency to reduce their guest host down to a single trait and then write pieces with only that in mind: Jennifer Lopez hosts, and every sketch is about her being Latina. Elton John hosts (last week, no less) and every sketch is about him being gay. This week, Academy Award winner Helen Mirren hosted for the first time ever, and every sketch seemed devoted to the fact that for an older lady, she's very, very foxy. Apparently, everyone affiliated with the show seemed to think that the disparity between her age and her desirability was funny enough, and the episode coasted on that single idea, more or less. That said, it wasn't the worst thing they've done all season, and when there were actual jokes a lot of them worked. I just wish that the guest hosts would be given more characters to play and more room to be funny (which Mirren wasn't, for the most part) rather than being asked only to play against a single idea.

Sketch Highlights

  • "Cold Open: Presidential Address" - Was this a sketch or a cry for help? This week's show opens with Fred Armisen's Obama pointing out how unhappy we all are. It had few jokes but was filled with hopelessness, and the cynic in my suspects it existed to lower the bar not for the night's episode but for SNL at large: "Everything is terrible, including us. Let's all get used to it." (Watch the "Presidential Address" video)
  • "Helen Mirren Monologue" - NBC hasn't made video of the monologue available this week, because it quickly turned into a group sing of "Nothing Like a Dame" from South Pacific. I only mention it here because it set the tone for the whole night: Mirren showed pictures of herself in a bikini, then spent the rest of the (very, very brief) monologue pointing out that for an older gal, she's very hot and wild. Pretty much every other sketch would try and underscore this point. I was also surprised that last week, non-comedian Elton John was given what felt like 10 minutes to do Catskills jokes about being gay, whereas this week Oscar-winning actress Mirren couldn't be given anything funny to say. Actually, she was given very little to say -- the monologue was handed over to the male cast members very quickly.
  • "Celebrity Taxes" - SNL has loved playing "Spot the Impression" this season, so I guess I shouldn't be too put off when they led off with this minor, otherwise forgettable repeat sketch. I was reminded, though, that Jay Pharoah does a very, very good Will Smith impression. I was also reminded that Jay Pharoah is still on the show. (Watch the "Celebrity Taxes" video)
  • "Fox and Friends" - This was a mixed bag. I was excited to see three of my favorite and most underrated cast members being asked to carry a sketch, and I was excited to see SNL making fun of Fox and Friends, because MAN. But like a lot of other attempts to goof on Fox News lately, it felt kind of toothless. Actually, it felt pretty much like an episode of Fox and Friends. (Watch the "Fox and Friends" video)
  • "Digital Short: Helen Mirren's Magical Bosom" - I wanted to be above this, because it's another cheap sketch about Helen Mirren's silver-haired hotness. Sadly, I'm not above it, and I liked how the video clips got increasingly goofy. Then Andy Samberg had to insert himself into the thing grape jelly style and derailed things until Dave Grohl got a good laugh and the Kristen Wiig punchline actually worked. (Watch the "Helen Mirren's Magical Bosom" video)
  • "Mary Shelley" - The only sketch that didn't exploit Helen Mirren sexually required her to play a stuffy British author. The writers were really thinking outside the box this week. The show has done this kind of 'incorrect history' thing before (and even did it again in the same episode), and while Fred Armisen played Frankenstein's monster as one of his three or four stock characters. Still, I liked that his feelings were hurt by being turned into a book. (Watch the "Mary Shelley" video)
  • "Underground Festival Easter" - Like so many sketches that start out with a cult fanbase, SNL has officially run the "Underground Music Festival" sketch into the ground. It's still not terrible, because it works as a joke carrier, but it's a shadow of its former self (which was a whole season ago, I think; this show wastes no time in ruining things). The jokes and references felt lazier, and Jason Sudekis has given up on playing a character and is just screaming and shouting at the camera. The whole thing is pitched so broad at this point that it makes the original incarnation feel kind of subtle. Still, RIP Ass Dan. (Watch the "Underground Festival Easter" video)
  • "The Roosevelts" - There was something about this sketch I really, really liked. I can't quite put my finger on it. Mostly it was kind of lame, but there was a moment that it became my favorite sketch of the night. I don't remember what it was. Oh well. (Watch the "Roosevelts" sketch)
  • "Perspectives Photo Studio" - For people who still think penises are funny. (Watch the "Perspectives Photo Studio" video)
  • "Strip Club" - There didn't really seem to be any jokes here. The sketch's only function was to have every female cast member play a stripper. Did this week's episode rub anyone else the wrong way, or am I being overly sensitive? Hopefully, when the show comes back in a couple of weeks the writers can focus more on being funny and less on being horny. (Watch the "Strip Club" video)
  • Original Air Date: 4/9/11
  • Host: Helen Mirren
  • Musical Guest: Foo Fighters
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