‘SNL’ Trying to Get Viewers Drunk. Can’t Hurt.

Was that an infomercial for Bud Light Golden Wheat or an episode of Saturday Night Live?  It was a little hard to tell at times, as the newest member of the Bud family served as the sponsor of the show, and also brought us “never before seen” SNL moments, aka past cast members and hosts breaking during dress rehearsal (although Will Ferrell as a fashionista cracking up Sean Hayes and Jimmy Fallon is actually available on the Best of Ferrell DVD, so not entirely new to SNL completists).  What would John Belushi have thought of this corporate shilling?  Probably wouldn’t have minded too much, as long as he got to sample the new beverage.  But the sponsorship gave the show a weird vibe that almost overshadowed what turned out to be a (if you can believe it) a decent outing.

So far this season you were probably better off being drunk for SNL (and indeed even on this night that’s probably the only thing that would have saved the “new secretary” sketch late in the show that featured another eccentric Kristen Wiig character with another crazy voice.  But you’d probably need to be really drunk).  It was, however, an ominous start, with the cold opening offering a reprise of the “Rock Obama” sketch featuring Dwayne Johnson.  Indeed, I checked the DVR info to make sure this was, in fact, a new show, and not a repeat that had somehow slipped in.  Cold opens almost always feature political Gerard Butlerfigures, Obama more often than not, but it’s rare that they go with a recurring character like “Rock Obama, ” so this seemed like a bad sign for the rest of the show.  Indeed, as the signature kickoff phrase, “Live from New York it’s Saturday Night!” was basically jammed onto the end of the sketch without context it really did appear that they had nothing better for open and thus forced “Rock Obama” into the leadoff slot.  Not very confidence instilling.  Indications that another night of boring repetition seemed to be in store occurred when Gerard Butler launched into what must be the 1,000th monologue musical number.  He proved capable at carrying a tune and fighting off attacking forces (like Fred Armisen’s ninja) but they might want to give the song routine a rest for a season or two.  It’s especially predictable when featuring a macho male host, and this was no exception.

But, despite this yawn-inspiring start, the show turned out to be pretty average, which is a compliment.  While Alec Baldwin need not look over his shoulder, Gerard Butler proved to be an adept host, and clearly had a good time taking a break from his normal diet of thrillers/dramas/rom-coms/action movies.  He also showed he’s not afraid to poke fun at his past roles, including King Leonidas in the 300 parody, “The Spartans.”  A play on “don’t ask, don’t tell,” in the fierce Spartan army, it perhaps wasn’t the most clever vehicle, but it worked.  Cause who’s to say you can’t be gay and be a fearsome warrior?

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“The Spartans” was actually the second segment to riff on “don’t ask, don’t tell.” For the second week in a row Bill Hader’s spot on “Weekend Update” was a highlight (see last week’s James Carville visit), this time returning with Fred Armisen as “two guys from New Jersey (who are obviously gay (with each other)),” but now they are also in the military.  We’ve seen these two characters before, but since it wasn’t just another rehashing of the same jokes, i.e. Judy Grimes and Jean K. Jean, and instead a tweaking of the premise, it was a successful trip to the Update desk.  Hooah!

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(Update also featured a very likeable bit with Gerard Butler as he spoke to his friends and family in Scotland and Seth Meyers (poorly) translated.  As Meyers noted via his Twitter, it’s “rare to have host at Update desk and he killed it.”)

Finally, maybe I’m a sucker for Disney parodies or actors in a candelabra costume or maybe I’m just sick of recurring characters, but I rather enjoyed the “Beauty & the Beast” sketch.  It was a simple idea, the Beast thinks that Beauty is actually the beast, but played well.  Probably didn’t need to become about the Beast’s (as well as Lumiere’s and Cogsworth’s) predilection for big asses, but perhaps having Jenny Slate play a teapot with a large derriere was a bit of rookie hazing (and, maybe, punishment).  Either way, measured against the season so far, it was a minor success.

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For a similar but far superior review see Ken Tucker’s EW blog.

SNL is off for a few weeks, but then, who knows, maybe after resting and relaxing the next episode will be even better than decent.  Maybe even good!  Well, we’ll see.  Might want to save a few Golden Wheats, just in case.

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Filed under Analysis, Good Humor, Saturday Night Live

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