Is it Wrong to Want More Paul Rudd Than Paul McCartney? Also, a Look Back at the Last Three SNLs

Okay, let’s get this thing going right away. Here are the highlights from this weekend’s SNL hosted by Paul Rudd:

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And that’s it for the highlights.

That is unless you’ve never seen Paul McCartney perform, or can never see him perform too many times, or you’re an SNL cast member and you were basically treated to a private concert. Because, as I’m sure has already been written at length about, this was essentially the Paul McCartney show, with the occasional appearance by Paul Rudd. And, no offense to the greatest living Beatle (no offense to Ringo), but if we want to see the McCartney greatest hits we’ll tune into the Super Bowl halftime show. And if we want to see him on a comedy show, we’ll check him out on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, who did more with McCartney in three minutes than SNL did in ninety.  Or, if you’re going to dedicate the show to the music legend, then don’t do it when you also have one of our favorite actors hosting.  Bring on McCartney for a lesser Paul, like Walker or Reiser, or for someone terrible, like January Jones (sorry, January, you’re just never going to live that one down).  Or use McCartney to compensate for a host who can’t seem to memorize his lines or even read them off the cue cards.

Which is a great segue to our next point.  If you told me that out of the last three shows, hosted by Anne Hathaway, Robert De Niro and Paul Rudd in succession, the Hathaway one would be the strongest, I’d ask if you were just guessing or had a time machine and went to the future and watched them all, and if you had said time machine could I borrow it to travel to the year 2015 to buy a sports almanac?  But after suffering through all three shows, I’d have to say that the Hathaway outing was the best, by a slim margin, and using the word “best” only in strictly relative terms.  The truth is that neither of the three were memorable, but Hathaway’s episode at least showed a modicum of effort, and probably the best host performance.  Which brings us back to our above mention of a host who seems either unable or unwilling to learn his lines, that being De Niro (please don’t hurt us, Mr. De Niro).  His episode was truly awful, and his halting, stumbling delivery made us yearn for the smooth stylings of Charles Barkley.  I mean, somebody get that guy a pair of glasses!  Or large print cue cards.  Sure, he was a good sport, and genuinely tried (we guess), but it was painful.  Like Christopher Walken, but unintentional, without the wink-wink this performance is so stilted and awkward it’s funny and we’re all in on the joke sentiment.  Nope, just kind of uncomfortable.

So if the Anne Hathaway episode was mediocre, De Niro’s show was abysmal, and Rudd’s turn was dismal.  A truly sad stretch, in what has felt like a truly uninspired season.  In fact, De Niro’s episode may have featured one of the worst, if not the single worst, sketches we can remember, featuring Ben Stiller and a lazy, unfunny premise that went absolutely nowhere:

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Seriously.  After that sketch I was embarrassed for them.  The question is whether or not they were embarrassed for themselves.

And then this “Field Day” sketch from Rudd’s show gave that one a run for its money:

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We just don’t get it.  What’s funny there?  That the Principal keeps clearing his throat?  That Rudd is a white teacher at a black school?  If someone could enlighten us we’d be much obliged.  And maybe Jay Pharoah is just not for us.  That happens sometimes.  But, despite our earlier protestations, this sketch might have been better if he just played it as Denzel Washington, instead of a variation on that character.  And we never thought we’d say this, but thank God for Kenan.

Those were the two worst sketches of the last two weeks, but there were plenty of other dreary offerings and unnecessary retreads, including “Blizzard Man” and “Sexually Speaking.”  And the best they can come up with for the first sketch in Rudd’s episode is another Vogelchecks (aka the “Kissing Family,” aka it’s funny because two (or more) dudes are making out)?  We have a hard time believing that Rudd burst into the writers’ room and said “Hey guys, you know what sketch I want to do again?  The one where I French Kiss Fred, because it’ll only be MORE hilarious the second time.”  But we don’t know.  We weren’t there.  Maybe he did say that.  But, if he did, we just lost some admiration for that guy (which brings our level of admiration for Paul Rudd down to “a ton”).

We could go on for another thousand words talking about the bad sketches and weak attempts at humor, but that seems like a fruitless endeavor.  We just wonder what is wrong this season.  Sure, it seems that SNL is never good in the moment.  It’s perpetually over the hill, more terrible than it ever was, and then two years later we’re talking about how good it was two years ago.  But we really feel like they’re in a particular lull, and we liken it to a sports team that has the personnel and the talent, but just can’t quite put it together, a team that desperately needs a shake-up.  Sometimes you just have players that need a change of scenery, that may have been in one place for too long, and at the same time you have other guys who are ready to step up and need the path cleared.  We don’t know if it’s entirely fair or valid to compare the 35th season of SNL to the 2010 New York Mets, but to us there are definite similarities.  The Mets already cleaned house in their front office, and it’s likely they’ll jettison a handful of players before the season starts.  Certainly Lorne Michaels isn’t going anywhere, but it won’t be surprising to see the departure of a lot of the SNL mainstays – Armisen, Sudeikis, Samberg, maybe Hader and Wiig – before season 36.  Sometimes a change will do you good.  Can’t hurt at this point.

The show gets one more chance to turn things around before 2011 with Jeff Bridges this weekend, promoting both True Grit and (the vastly different) Tron.  Maybe this will be one of those episodes that surprises, hosted not by a comedian or an attractive young female, but showcases a talented, deft host and a game, motivated cast and crew.  We’ll see.  In the meantime, we’ll leave you with some of the few (and far between) bright moments from the last three shows:

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Oh, and do you think McCartney finally got this check?

Also, no Paul Reubens?  Big miss there, SNL.

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Filed under Analysis, Mancrush, Saved by the Bell

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