Coming off last week's worst episode of the season so far, Saturday Night Live just barely rebounded this week with host Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Settling once again for mostly repeated sketches, the episode had a few flashes of life -- usually only a joke here or there, as I don't think there was a single sketch that stood out as being consistently good this week. As a host, Levitt was rather intense and energetic, and I honestly couldn't tell if he was genuinely thrilled to be on SNL or if he was just compensating (the third option being that he's just odd). Like most hosts that they haven't written jokes for, the writers had Levitt perform a song for his monologue -- Donald O'Connor's entire "Make 'Em Laugh" routine from Singin' in the Rain. It was an impressive feat of physicality -- dig those off-the-wall flips -- but I'm not sure what it had to do with Levitt as a person. Oh well. As with most of the show this week, it wasn't great but it could've been worse. Is the bar already this low?
- "China Cold Open" - Just once this season, I'd like to see SNL break with its own self-imposed tradition and not open the show with a political piece -- mostly because there hasn't been a good one yet. This week's is no exception; the big difference is that it's kind of racist, too. I'm happy to see Will Forte and Nasim Pedrad getting laughs, but maybe not like this. (Watch "China Cold Open" video)
- "Secret Word" - When Saturday Night Live isn't doing a talk show parody, it's usually because they're doing a game show. This one is nothing special; Kristen Wiig is mildly amusing as a self-involved actress (Oxymoronsayswhat?), but no one ever found a way to make host Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Cuban musician character work. The sketch just fizzles out more than anything, and -- like a lot of sketches on SNL lately -- seems more than happy to find one joke and repeat it over and over. Oh well. (Watch "Secret Word" video)
- "The Mellow Show" - I want to like "The Mellow Show," because I'm all for making fun of what the sketch is making fun of. Unfortunately, it's lazy: Andy Samberg's Jack Johnson impression doesn't make sense, and all the other "guest" portrayals find nothing to say about their subjects. I suppose everyone thought it was a giant coup to get musical guest Dave Matthews on here playing Ozzy Osbourne, but so what? There have been 100 bad Ozzy impressions over the last decade. This is just one more. (Watch "The Mellow Show" video)
- "What Up With That?" - Don't say I didn't warn you. Just a few weeks after this sketch showed up for the first time and got some positive feedback (including from me), SNL has already taken to repeating it. Believe it or not, they didn't even come up with a new joke for it. The novelty has worn off, and now it's just like every other repeated sketch they do -- forgettable. Al Gore showed up, because he's a good sport. And I've got a great idea! Let's have Mindy Kaling show up and not give her a single line. She never makes anything funny! And there's no way SNL could use the help! (Watch "What Up With That?" video)
- "Digital Short: Two Worlds Collide" - I got burned out on Andy Samberg's funny rap songs a while ago, because he and his Lonely Island buddies rely too heavily on them for their weekly Digital Shorts. Still, this one unfolded in a pretty funny way, and I liked the eventual contrast between Samberg's lyrics and Kenan Thompson's.
- "Weekend Update: Al Gore" - I guess SNL is smart to get as much use out of former Vice-President Al Gore as possible, and he's always amusing on the show -- he showed more confidence and natural comic timing here than January Jones did in her entire hosting gig. (Watch "Weekend Update: Al Gore" video)
- "Woman to Woman" - Well, here's an actual original sketch. I was excited for a few seconds to see Nasim Pedrad getting her own sketch, but it was short lived as she was written out of it and replaced by a (funny) Fred Armisen. Another funny idea at work, and Armisen's bad advice made me laugh, but once again it was a single joke repeated too many times. Is it so hard to just twist a joke each time you tell it? Sketches like this feel as though they were written by filling in blanks. You know, like Mad Libs. Still, one of the funnier skits of the night. (Watch "Woman to Woman" video)
- Original Air Date: 11/21/09
- Host: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
- Musical Guest: Dave Matthews Band