Only two Mondays into 2010 and things are already shaping up for the Muppets in the new decade. When we decided to institute Muppet Mondays we feared that we wouldn’t have enough material each week, or at least enough relevant material. But with Disney making the Muppets the face of their new volunteerism initiative, it seems like there’s a new Muppet story every day, and certainly no lack of content for Muppet Mondays. So thanks, Disney! And keep it up!
Speaking of Disney and Volunteerism, Disney was nice enough to post some rehearsal video of the new “Honorary VoluntEars Calvacade,” which, of course, stars Kermit and Miss Piggy (and, somewhat surprisingly, Sweetums). I was fortunate enough to get down to Disneyland last month, but it looks like I’ll have to make another trip (pilgrimage?).
However, while I previously emphasized the abundance of current Muppet news, I think for today we’ll highlight a classic clip, Pete’s insightful words of wisdom from The Muppets Take Manhattan:
Really makes you think, no?
Alright, that headline is an obvious and deliberately misleading statement, you got me. However, even more than being technically correct, this weekend’s show actually earned the distinction. I previously stated my disbelief over the choice of Barkley, NBA Hall of Famer, current commentator and compulsive gambler, as the first SNL host of the decade. It not only seemed completely out of left field, but even if Barkley was relevant among SNL‘s core demographic, you’d think they would have still chosen someone hipper, funnier and actually from a performing background for the first show. At least save Sir Charles for 2010 week 2.
But I was wrong. What I failed to realize is that Barkley was likely to succeed precisely because of his limitations. It’s the extreme version of Christopher Walken or John Malkvovich, where the fact that it’s the host in a specific role is more of the joke than the sketch itself. And with Barkley being a good sport ex-athlete instead of an eccentric actor, the writing staff was able to even more successfully use Barkley’s personality and performing constraints to his advantage. It’s like the Jets plotting a game plan whereby Mark Sanchez has to just manage the game, hand off the ball for the majority of the snaps and avoid turnovers (bet you didn’t see that sports analogy coming. Well, some of us care about football 3 weeks out of the year. Mostly for the nachos). And this is different from writing for an actor who just isn’t particularly talented when it comes to comedy. Despite her SNL showing, January Jones is still a better acting talent than Charles Barkley; it’s just that SNL could use Barkley’s weaknesses to its advantage. With Jones they could only try to minimize the damage by having her look pretty and leave the funny to the cast.
All those platitudes aside, while it was a surprisingly good episode by SNL standards, it wasn’t wall-to-wall successful, and I’d still rather see a host earn the laughs with natural comic ability as opposed to lack of it. However, Barkley really was impressive, and set the bar high for 2010 (tall guy joke!).
More: Highlights! Racism! Cake! Chopping Broccoli!