This week's episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Madmen star January Jones, was the worst of the season so far. That's interesting, because it was almost this exact week a year ago that the show hit its season low with its Tim McGraw-hosted installment. Is it something about Thanksgiving? A post-Halloween sugar crash?
I have never seen an episode of Madmen (I will, I promise), but I have to assume that January Jones is very good on it. That show is the most critically acclaimed on TV, and she's a professional actress. It's her job! But as host of SNL, she was lost from the very first sketch. She was stiff and nervous and always checking the prompter and laughing quite a bit. I'm often giving credit to hosts for committing to sketches, even when the show is bad or the sketch doesn't work. If you've always wondered what I meant by that, check out the January Jones show; she never really commits to anything, and you can feel it. Plus, the show seemed determined to limit her screen time; for a host, she had shockingly few lines. Maybe everyone had just gotten their scripts on Saturday. That's not a lot of time to practice! Still, this show should have been better.
- "Monologue: Madmennies" - From her opening moments on the show, January Jones felt stiff and nervous. She barely spoke in this monologue, and when she did she couldn't even make eye contact with the camera (her eyes were constantly just above it). It looked like it was going to be a long night for both of us. (Watch "Monologue - Madmennies" video)
- "Today Show" - What's six minutes long and not funny? This sketch. I die a little each time they open with a Today Show sketch, and not even Jenny Slate stepping in for former Hoda Kotb avatar Michaela Watkins was able to pick me up (though Slate does seem to bring a certain point of view to the character that Watkins never did; no disrespect to the dead intended). The only thing more awkward than the Black Eyed Peas' cameo was January Jones, who only had about four lines in the sketch and delivered them all terribly. Between this and the monologue, I was beginning to question whether or not the producers were flat-out limiting how much Jones actually got to speak as the host.
- "Rear Window" - Here's a sketch that makes The Today Show piece seem inspired. Jason Sudekis plays Jimmy Stewart (where's Dana Carvey when you need him?) and host Jones in Grace Kelly in this behind-the-scenes riff on the making of Rear Window in which Grace Kelly can't stop farting. I'll wait for you to stop laughing, because I have a lot of time. Jones was stiff (stiffer than Princess Grace) and broke a lot, seemingly unwilling to commit to such a stupid bit. I'd applaud her if it didn't bother me so much. Only Bobby Moynihan's non-existent attempt at a Hitchcock impression outdid her in suck, though I might argue that the badness of the impression was entirely the point.)
- "Around the Town" - And the beatdown continues. Another repeated sketch in which Kristen Wiig's newswoman has some newfound sexual feelings towards an interview subject. There was one or two funny lines, but once again Jones barely spoke and didn't do so hot when she did. I was actually starting to feel bad for her at this point. Maybe she didn't want to be there.
- "Ladies' Guide to Party Planning" - Redemption! The best sketch of the show and a chance for January Jones to carry something (and even be funny doing it). It's entirely dependent on anachronisms, but there were some real standout jokes here. This was pre-taped; maybe January Jones just doesn't do well with live TV?
- "Update: Lou Dobbs" - I suspect there's a large segment of SNL's audience that doesn't even know Darryl Hammond left the show, as he's been back just about every week. Still, I have to ask: he came back for this? A less-accurate Lou Dobbs impression (say, from Bobby Moynihan) wouldn't have been the worst thing about the sketch.
- "Update: Kim Kardashian" - I'm rooting for you, Nasim Pedrad (though if it comes down to you or Abby Elliot -- or even you and Jenny Slate -- I may not be so nice), but you don't appear to be the best impressionist on the show. This was halfway to a good Kim Kardashian, but Pedrad added a strange nasal affectation that didn't work. Plus, only the most obvious jokes are made: she's vain and has a giant ass. Zing!
- "Dr. Jekyll" - A funny idea that puts Bill Hader center stage, meaning it should have worked. It doesn't really. January Jones is once again given nothing to do and nothing to say, and can't even handle that much. (Watch "Dr. Jekyll" video)
- "Digital Short: Get Out" - Fred Armisen keeps walking in on Andy Samberg on the toilet. Not terrible, but not terribly good, either. A good dose of absurdity helps, though I might have liked it more if it didn't end with a punchline predicated on America's love of homophobia-as-humor. (Watch "Digital Short: Get Out" video)
- "Cloud Gazing" - I suspect a lot of people didn't like this sketch (those who even made it to the end of the show, and I'm doubting everyone did), but this was second only to "Ladies' Guide to Party Planning" for me. It's basically the same joke, but January Jones finally came alive and was funny and adorable. Too bad it was this late in the show. And is it me, or was this a particularly Sudekis-heavy week? I don't know how I feel about that. (Watch "Cloud Gazing" video)
- Original Air Date: 11/14/09
- Host: January Jones
- Musical Guest: Black Eyed Peas