For the last week we’ve been taking a look at NBC’s Thursday night comedies, but with Kristen Wiig’s sendoff on ‘SNL’ this past weekend we decided to add her departure to the conversation.
It’s not worth going into detail about how the season finale of SNL – and the season as a whole – was middling. The Mick Jagger-hosted episode was a hit-or-miss mixed bag which typifies nearly every episode and every season. As we’ve learned from several seasons of recaps and now over a decade-and-a-half of religious viewing, that’s the show. It will never be too far up or too far down, so just try to enjoy it. What is worth discussing, as all of the internet has been doing for the past two days, is the exit of Kristen Wiig after seven stellar seasons, leaving behind a body of work that positions her as arguably the strongest female cast member of all-time.
More: Kristen’s gone and we feel fine…
Well, we had little hope that the SNL would rebound from its disillusioning Dana Carvey episode last week. For some reason, lately we’ve been giving the show the reverse of the benefit of the doubt, the doubt of the benefit if you will. And when we casually started the episode late Saturday night, it seemed that our prognostications would be proven valid, that we were in for another ho-hum effort with a perfectly fine but completely ordinary host. But, while Russell Brand would prove to possibly be the weakest part of the show, the episode turned around on the basis of two sketches, two pieces that will no doubt sit atop our best of the season list.
Coming up: What sketch did we watch four times? And we hand out the season MVP award early.
Over on the wonderful Splitsider it’s “Women in Comedy Week,” so perhaps that’s why today we had the search term “best female cast members in snl history.” If that’s the case, we welcome those readers. And if that’s not why you’re here, we’re still thrilled to have you.
What would bring you to this site would most likely be a pair of in-depth SNL posts we’ve presented in previous years. The first, Lorne Michaels Dismisses Michaela Watkins and Casey Wilson & It Makes Sense: SNL Past, Present and Future, we put together in the fall of 2009 to address concerns of SNL restricting its female constituency. The second, The Real Women of SNL: They are Fambily; Plus: a Totally Unnecessary Look Back at the History of Female Not Yet Ready for Primetime Players, we posted last November following the SNL compilation special celebrating its female cast members, capitalizing on the momentum begun when Betty White hosted earlier in the year. We think that both posts are two of our best, most informative pieces, so we’re happy to have the chance to link to them again. And, for further reading, we recommend The Groundbreaking Women of Sketch Comedy, one of contributions to the aforementioned Women of Comedy Week on Slipsider.
And, of course, we’re going to leave you with an SNL sketch focused on the female contingent. But instead of looking back on the past greats, let’s look forward to the future of women on SNL:
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We expect to often see search terms like “justin bieber” and “miranda cosgrove,” and to a lesser, but more encouraging, extent “rashida jones” and “tom westman,” but it surprised us how often one of our top results has been “nasim pedrad,” the talented and pretty comedian now in her sophomore season on SNL. Not that we think that she doesn’t warrant that kind of attention, but it’s intriguing that web surfers have taken a particular interest in Pedrad, considering that SNL has no shortage of attractive and funny female cast members (Kristen Wiig, Abby Elliott, Vanessa Bayer, Jenny Slate until this season). Then again, it’s not terribly shocking, as Pedrad has continued to impress us with her diversity and poise, deftly portraying women like Kim Kardashian, Azam Farahi (aka Mrs. Ahmadinejad) and Cristiane Amanpour, as well as performing Lil Blaster in the Underground Records commercials.
Pedrad has also fallen into the unfortunate pattern of playing hyperactive, loquacious, often male, teenagers, which has been the only knock against her so far. However, despite that, our favorite performance from Pedrad was as wise beyond her years teenager Bedilia, a confident young lady who exhibits just a little too much appreciation for her parents.
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See? She more than holds her own against Alec Baldwin there. If Pedrad can excise those other, more annoying, less successful characters then we see no reason why she won’t be one of our most popular search terms for years to come.
Two weeks back we talked in-depth about Jon Hamm’s third hosting appearance on Saturday Night Live and how in the third go-round we often see a distinct sense of adventure, how the host is now comfortable with the cast, the cast is at ease with the host, they’re all on the same page and are willing to try something that might be hit or miss, but is often still entertaining in the attempt. We also mentioned that this past weekend would be Scarlett Johansson’s third hosting turn, so it’d be interesting to see if she took the same kind of leap as Hamm, or if she settled into a more predictable role, functional, competent but not exceptionally ambitious or outrageous, more along the lines of Drew Barrymore’s SNL resume. Well, it certainly wasn’t the former, but not so much the latter either. We’re kind of confused actually. Cause, really, more than anything, it seemed like a showcase for Johansson’s hair, her sense of style, her brassy broad persona and her variations on NY-NJ accents.
Continue: Whose hair was Johansson ripping off? How many accents could she employ in one night? Where’s Ryan Reynolds?
Well, despite our reminder to you last week, we eagerly arrived home on Monday night only to be severely disappointed when we realized that we had neglected to set our DVR to record the Women of SNL special. We had been looking forward to it ever since Jon Hamm delivered his goodbyes the day before, but the thought never occurred to us that our SNL season pass would not apply to the female-centric primetime special. OUR BAD.
To add to our dismay, neither NBC.com nor Hulu is hosting the full special. However, it appears that the only original material included a few one-on-one interviews and this excellent take on the Real Housewives (we’re going to go ahead and say they’re primarily targeting RH of NJ over the other installments, with Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Laraine Newman channeling the nascent RH of Beverly Hills via satellite).
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Read on: We speculate on what was in the special and then give an SNL history lesson. Get out your notebooks!
First, let’s just get it out of the way and say that Emma Stone, whether or not she had (Easy) A material, was excellent in her first, of hopefully many, SNL hosting gig. Running the gamut from an uninterested sweepstakes winner to Lindsay Lohan to a Ke$ha-like pop-tart to a French hipster to a fixated teen to a hoochie spokesmodel, Stone was pretty flawless. What was written for or around her wasn’t always top-notch, but she was, and we think her debut was even more impressive than that of her BFF Taylor Swift last season, even if that one might have elicited a bigger buzz. Many have compared Stone to Lohan (as happened in the episode itself, and on this blog); let’s hope that she continues on the path of Lohan’s early career, which includes hosting this show many times, BUT then let’s pray that Stone goes left where Lohan turned right, eventually veering totally off the tracks. However, despite her charms, it wasn’t Stone that left us with the greatest impression.
Read on: SNL the new class? Plus, what sketch did they rip off this week???
UNLESS, Vanessa Bayer is Jay Pharoah.
I guess this is what you call a “fail?”
Well. That was that. We gave SNL the benefit of the doubt after a decent, if lazy, premiere, instead looking forward to the second show of the season as the real test. And, well, they pretty much failed.
As Alan Sepinwall noted in his tweets, it’s a shame that the show totally wasted Bryan Cranston’s immense talent. It’s not that he wasn’t in any sketches. And it’s not that he wasn’t good. He did everything he was asked to do to the best of his abilities. The problem was that the material was just uninspired, whether it was a retread or a weak stab at something original, it was all very stale. If this was them trying, then we’d hate to see them phone it in.
More: At least there was What’s Up With That? We never thought we’d say those words.
It’s hard to believe that a year has passed by since we waved goodbye to Michaela Watkins (we hardly knew ye) and Casey Wilson (probably for the best) and welcomed with skeptical arms the rookies Jenny Slate and Nasim Pedrad. And it’s sad to report that a year later we’re already saying goodbye to the former of that dynamic young duo. And once again, the changes are sure to raise eyebrows. However, this time around, we don’t have a good theory as to what precipitated the moves.
With Will Forte’s departure two weeks ago the whispers began to circulate and the dominoes began to fall. Except, they really didn’t fall so much as erect themselves next to already firmly planted playing pieces, with Taran Killam (best known from Scrubs), Paul Brittain and Vanessa Bayer from the iO Chicago, and Jay Pharoah, a comedian and talented impressionist, joining the cast, while veterans Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Kenan Thompson – rumored to possibly be following Forte out the door – remain (as of press time) at their posts. So it came as a bit of a shock when word got out yesterday that the show had released a cast member, but not one of its established male veterans with s burgeoning film careers (or even Kristen Wiig, who may have already over-stayed her welcome a season or two), but, instead, Slate, who had only put in a season’s worth of work.
Now, if you recall last year’s history lesson on women & SNL, you’ll recall that going into the season with four women (Slate, Pedrad, Wiig & Abby Elliott most recently) was on the high side. In fact, going a whole season with four veteran female cast members is just about as good as it’s ever been on the show. So, with the addition of Bayer, it’s not surprising that SNL & head honcho Lorne Michaels decided to cut loose a lady. It was a numbers game. That we understand. But then why add one in the first place?
Read on: The curious case of Jenny Slate. Also, Jason Sudeikis is the new Ben Affleck.