Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Saturday Night Live Season 20 Reviews: Episode 2 - Marisa Tomei/Bonnie Raitt (Guest Blog)

“I am not a cowboy nor is my wife a horse. We are simply just two people trying to make love in a school cafeteria.”

Clinton Health Care

2 Stars: President Clinton addresses the nation about how his universal health care bill is good for the nation; you get a first aid kit and can call the health line, which is very similar to the movie phone line.

In 40 years of SNL we have had 7 presidents.  Chase as Ford, Carvey as Bush, Hammond as Clinton, and Ferrell as W. Bush have been the standouts at impressions, not because they sounded or acted exactly like the president they were emulating but because they were caricatures.

This is something SNL has forgotten in years where they don’t have a firm handle on what is funny about the president.  McKean, himself has said he did a subpar Clinton and I would argue that it wasn’t his impression that was off but rather there wasn’t anything to make light of until the Lewinsky scandal broke.

The president talking to the camera cold opens don’t work unless there is something to make fun of.  This is very weird in retrospect to have the president talking about how Universal health care has failed, considering we’re having the same issue now, 20 years later.  Also weird, 20 years later, remember when Moviefone was a thing?

Marisa Tomei Monologue

2 Stars: Tomei defends her Oscar win and recounts her other accomplishments.

Back in 1994 Marisa Tomei was a bit of a punch line.  She won an Oscar for a comedy and the controversy was that Jack Palance read the wrong name off the teleprompter.  Her other wins include winning the Heisman trophy, the year it was hosted by Jack Palance.  She then talks about how she is a real New Yorker, telling everyone about the secrets of Cats, Sara Lee cheesecake and TV guide.  She comes off as cute and very excited to be here.

Paradox Commercial

3 Stars: Car commercial for an ambiguous car

The Paradox car was designed by two teams, one made it affordable one made it expensive, one made it a 2 door one made it a 4 door, so you have no idea what you’re buying.  I think this was a parody of something at the time but I can’t remember what.  Still, I liked this commercial because you don’t have to know the reference to enjoy it.

OJ Simpson Trial

4 Stars: Robert Shapiro invites Mona Lisa Vito to testify at the OJ Simpson trial

The only news story of the year was OJ Simpson but they actually did something with it this time.  This is a definite step up from last week when they had nothing to do, but felt they needed to do it anyway.

Marisa Tomei was an Oscar winner for a court room comedy and now that there is a real court room comedy it is happenstance that the two meet.  I liked Mike Myers in this as Judge Ito, his fawning over Tomei and his outburst of “Shut up Miss Clark”.

The energy is definitely up this week.  I liked the concept of this sketch, that there is absolutely no reasonable doubt that OJ is guilty, but they try to prove one.  Tim Meadows has nothing to do except be a black guy, jumping in as OJ Simpson at the end.  I also liked Michael McKean’s excited Robert Shapiro.

Piercing Today

2 Stars: Talk show about piercing

Tomei comes off as very likeable in this as the host but the whole joke is very 90s, the piercing community is weird.  There were a couple good jokes but it seems written by people who are afraid of a culture they don’t understand, like if your mom wrote a sketch about those crazy hippies and their drugs and sex.  It also lands in the often done talk show sketch land heap.

Bonnie Raitt

Last week we had Clapton and now Bonnie Raitt.  Way to keep in touch with the young crowd.  But as a 30 year old man, who was never into pop culture, nice job SNL.  Bonnie delivers two great blues pop songs.

Weekend Update

4 Stars

So it was Norm’s incessant OJ jokes that got him fired, allegedly, and this one starts off with two.  After the joke about OJ’s newest video, “Dorf on Stalking” the audience boos to which Norm replies, “The crowd is torn”.  Norm seems to be falling into his rhythm here, he’s more comfortable and is letting the gags sink in a little, although he does stumble over some of his lines.  Then something happens after Tim Meadows leaves, Norm is on fire with great jokes and a fast delivery.

Best jokes – Christie Brinkley says that her marriage to Billy Joel was over long before their divorce.  The key moment happened when she realized that she was Christie Brinkley and she was married to Billy Joel.

The FDA states that while 1 ounce of Special K with 4 ounces of milk is a good source of protein.  1 ounce of Special K with 5 ounces of milk is deadly poison.

John Wayne Bobbitt will be playing himself in the John Wayne Bobbitt story; the part of his severed penis will be played by Pauley Shore.

Tim “Lil’ Hockey” Meadows

Nice short little desk piece, the main joke is that black people don’t care about hockey but Tim is distraught about the hockey strike.

Cool Guy expresses his thoughts about popular culture not with words but with facial expressions.

This is less a David Spade character and more of a comment on Norm interacting with guests.  I may be reading too much into this but it’s almost like this is a comment on Norm berating a desk piece.  Norm comments on the fact that this is a bad bit and then after he leaves he says, “You know what’s great about Cool Guy? He’s cool.”

Sex Education Class

4 Stars: Ellliot and Garofalo teach an Adult Education class about sex, Farley and Sandler are disruptive students.

This is an Elliott sketch all the way.  Garofalo called this season “a buy’s club” and I can probably pinpoint this sketch as to why she stated that most of the sketches were homophobic, I mean, the end joke is pretty much a man getting raped.  This is Elliott being Elliott and his seduction dance and his frightened statement of “Sir, that is not a horn” when Farley and Sandler take advantage of him were hilarious to me.  Elliott could have been the Will Ferrell of the cast, and in most ways, he was.  He just wasn’t on at a time when they were looking for that.

Daily Affirmation

4 Stars: Stuart Smalley counsels Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley.

This was a huge story at the time.  Michael is obviously a huge pedophile, allegedly, and he married the daughter of Elvis.  I liked Marisa’s Lisa Marie especially their awkward kisses.  Franken’s Smalley starts to lose faith in his relationship prospects by seeing how in love they are.  It’s a great peek at his character, he always sees the good in people while also being extra hard on himself for being 40 pounds overweight.  This is probably the most fully realized character ever on SNL and the best fit for a movie, he went way beyond a catchphrase.

Monsters of Monologue ’94

2 Stars: Spaulding Gray and Eric Bogosian square off in a wrestling style monologue off.

Michael McKean does a good Gray impression and Adam Sandler does a great Adam Sandler impression.  McKean is talking so fast and doesn’t seem to be reading off of cue cards.  This was interesting but could have been executed better, McKean is committed but the audience is silent.  This may have been too high brow for the show, especially this late in the night.

Bridal Fair 2000

1 Star: A commercial for a convention of knock off brand bridal wear

This is almost un-rateable and reminiscent of the Sports Cruise commercial in the last episode.  It is basically a list of cheap bridal gown stores read by McKean very fast, almost too fast because the speed gets in the way of the jokes.  A scroll of names is not really funny, it would have been better to take the funniest ones and show some stills of the store interiors.

This is just a commercial parody that is only funny for the words, this concept was also done better on an episode of Mr. Show.  Tomei appears at the end of the sketch for no reason.  This could have been a sketch but instead the show decided to scroll names across the screen.

High School Dance

2 stars: Tomei and Sandler are slow dancing at prom.

I thought that this sketch was going nowhere, then it seemed to be going somewhere, then it turned into a gay joke, then it ended.  How great this could have been.  Adam Sandler definitely cracks himself up.


“Yum, Yum, give me some”

Average – 2.7

MVP: Michael McKean (Clinton Cold Open, Paradox, OJ Simpson Trial, Monsters Of Monologue, Bridal Fair 2000).  Although Franken and Elliott were the highlights of my two favorite sketches

Best Sketch: Sex Education Class

Worst Sketch: Piercing Today

How I would have Lorne Michaeled it: Not a bad episode but I definitely would have swapped Piercing Today and Daily Affirmation in the line up.

Host Analysis: Marisa Tomei was very cute and bubbly and really fit in nicely with the ensemble.  She didn’t overpower the show and the cast really got a chance to do their thing this week.  In hindsight, knowing now that Tomei is a very good actress it is easy to forget that she was a bit of a punch line when she first started.

Final Thoughts: This was a bit mediocre but not horrible.  If you took out Piercing Today and had a better cold open then the episode average would have been a bit higher, for statistics fans, if I hadn’t have rated Bridal Fair 2000, this would have gotten a solid 3 star rating.  What you have here is a cast that doesn’t quite gel together.  Elliott, McKean and Franken are all pretty much on their own and for the rest of the sketches you have the old guard of Farley, Sandler, and Myers who seem to be waiting out the clock.  There’s really no fun being had here, it seems like ‘work’ for a lot of the cast.

Up Next: John Travolta hosts at the peak of his new found fame following “Pulp Fiction”.  I remember enjoying this episode the first time I saw it.  I recall a Welcome Back Kotter crossed with Pulp Fiction sketch that was funny and remember Travolta having a good time.  So far, this season isn’t bad, it’s hit and miss but so is every episode of SNL.

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