It’s All Downhill After Cookie Monster: The Rest of Jeff Bridges on ‘SNL’

Which isn’t to say that it was all bad.  It wasn’t.  It was a definite improvement over the previous three shows.

But that isn’t to say it was good either.  Very hit and miss, both between sketches and within sketches.  But for this show, at this point, average is above average, and we’ll take anything positive to close out SNL in 2010.

And what was positive, you ask?  Well you really can’t beat this, putting together our two probably favorite characters of the year, Gov. David Paterson and Stefon:

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That’s two “Weekend Update” appearances in a row for Stefon, and normally we’d be rallying against that kind of oversaturation, but we just can’t get enough of that weirdo.  Plus, this was a special holiday appearance, so the consecutive visits are really a case of extenuating circumstances (and if he comes back again on the first show in January we won’t complain either.  Call us hypocritical, fine, but we’d be totally cool if they just went ahead and made Stefon Seth Meyers’ co-anchor).  You can rest assured that this clip will appear on this blog for many Christmases to come, an instant holiday classic.

[As we began watching this episode our friend asked if we thought Stefon was destined for the feature film treatment.  We dismissed the notion, remarking that he’d at least need to be featured in a true sketch first.  Even Pat was more than a “Weekend Update” correspondent.  But after seeing Stefon in this holiday number we’re inclined to reconsider our stance on the matter.]

We generally prefer Norm McDonald’s Larry King impression to Fred Armisen’s – McDonald just seemed to capture King’s crotchety, scattered, non-nonsensical nature better than Armisen (although Armisen probably does edge out Will Ferrell’s version) – but the inevitable send up of Larry King’s CNN swan song was one of the higher points of the show.  Bringing on Jermaine Jackson, the Judd’s and Dog the Bounty Hunter for King’s (second) final show captured the aloofness and absurdity of the always-suspendered host, and allowed for a winning, shiny turn from Kenan Thompson as Jackson.

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We’ve never been overwhelmed by the Gathering of the Juggalos parody commercials, but we’ve never really been underwhelmed by the sketches either.  So to this point we’ve been more or less whelmed.  But this new spot, touting Under-Underground Records Crunkmas, had us just 20 seconds in by announcing that Third Eye Blind would be on the bill, and then sealed the deal with Koko B. Ware and Pizza the Hut.  By the time they got to Joanna Kerns it was almost overkill.  With those perfectly obscure yet resonant references this was the best Under-Underground Records sketch in the series.

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But if there was to be a theme for this week it would be “good, could have been better,” which we know applies to a lot of SNLs, but just as many, if not the majority, could be described as “bad, could have been good,” so it’s a valid and (unfortunately) somewhat positive assessment.  In many of the sketches from this show, including the ones we discussed, there were clever moments, and then other places were the jokes felt listless.  Like they were on the right track when writing the sketch, but then quit while they were marginally ahead (which, again, could describe most episodes).  For example, we have this sketch, which unearths the original It’s a Wonderful Life, initially produced as a Hanukkah film called “This, You Call a Wonderful Life?” (this sketch is reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz bit from the Anne Hathaway show, which revealed a fifth character, that of Fred Armisen as the Weathervane.  However, as we’ve already noted, that sketch was somewhat more successful).

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See what we mean?  A nice idea, with a few good chuckles, but just lazy and unfulfilling in most parts.

Or take “Jeff’d,” Jeff Bridges version of Punk’d.  We love the conceit, and the talking-head Ashton Kutcher shots are perfect, as is the music, but the actual pranks (or lack thereof, as is the premise) were rather clunky and flat.  We understand that the pranks weren’t supposed to be funny, but that doesn’t mean that those parts of the sketch can’t be.

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Or the Digital Short “I Just Had Sex.”  Which looked great, sounded great, and was just all around pretty great.  Except that, at this point, doesn’t it feel kind of obvious?  In fact, for a second we thought we had seen this one before (we sorta have).

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Or even the just-before-1am dead-zone sketch “General Store.”  The premise, the  introduction of gift wrapping into the Old West, actually had some potential.  But the execution was, not surprisingly, botched, and especially confounded by Jeff Bridges presence as the Old West’s first gay man.  Having Bridges play a flamboyant, Queenie character obscured what was a decent concept.  Although, to its credit, we will always, always, welcome a character named “Scooch.”

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So can we bury the” Miley Cyrus Show” yet?  Or just ban it til Spring?  With three appearances already it’s turning into this season’s  “What Up With That?”  Except this one doesn’t have Jason Sudeikis break dancing to save it.

So where we do we go from there?  Well, as we already discussed, it’s been an especially dismal season, even for a show that constantly seems to be in the midst of a dismal season.  The talent is there, but most nights the effort seems to be missing.  Or if the effort is there the material is lacking.  As we said, perhaps we won’t see any real change until changes occur after the season.  As for Jeff Bridges, he was as solid, if unspectacular, as we expected.  It wasn’t the most promising way to go into Winter break, but at least they didn’t skip out early.

But, the good news, as we’ll be writing about in one of our next posts, is that help is on the way.  For one week at least.

STEFON!

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Filed under Analysis, Bert-n-Ernie, Good Humor, Growing Pains, Saturday Night Live, Woody Allen, Bar Mitzvahs & Bagels, Yankee Swap

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