Maybe the SNL gang is still exhausted from its Thursday night Weekend Update specials. Maybe they simply wanted to dust off a few evergreen sketches that ended up working better on the page than on the stage. Whatever the reason, last night’s episode was weirdly inert and un-topical — though host Daniel Craig did try his best to bring some life to the proceedings. The fact that the season’s third episode is already rerunning fake commercials says a lot — even if that commercial is the very funny “Undecided Voters”.
The show never really recovered from its toothless debate cold open, which pictured Jason Sudeikis’s Romney droning on while Jay Pharaoh’s Obama worried, via voiceover, about missing his wedding anniversary and getting altitude sickness. Though comedians like Jon Stewart have been merciless about skewering Obama’s lackluster debate performance, SNL‘s own sendup was way too easy on both Obama and Romney — even if it was nice to see Chris “Dr. Spaceman” Parnell stop by to play Jim Lehrer.
After a goofy monologue about Craig’s badass film history — RIP, The Dog Who Saw Too Much from Cowboys and Aliens! — the first post-commercial sketch focused on a group of construction workers who heckle female passersby with varying success. Hearing James Bond speak in a thick Noo Yawk/Jersey accent was funny enough — and Craig really sold all of his ridiculous catcalls, from “They’re like two big, breasty Swiss rags!” (what?!) to “She’s like a big bowl of butt soup with extra nipples!” The sketch also gave us one of the night’s few glimpses at Bill Hader — has Saturday Night Live decided to finally give its MVP a break?
Then again, maybe the show is simply grooming a new MVP to take Hader’s place. Featured cast member Kate McKinnon appeared in five sketches last night, six if you count her walking past the guys in the construction site sketch — and each time, her performance was one of that segment’s major highlights. Her spot-on Jodie Foster and Ellen DeGeneres voices in that prerecorded “lesser known Bond girls” bit were noteworthy, as was her new character Theresa Caputo (a.k.a. the Long Island Medium. “But at Chico’s, I’m a large.”). It’s safe to say that McKinnon may have already won the race to be the next Kristen Wiig.
McKinnon also played a role in the MSNBC sketch, which imagined how the news channel’s left-leaning personalities were reacting to Obama’s debate crash and burn. There was more to this sketch than the debate open, and I think it would have made for a stronger cold open — at least here, there was a point of view. Also worth noting: New cast member Cecily Strong is a fine Abby Elliott replacement as Rachel Maddow, and even if Kenan Thompson’s Al Sharpton is sort of indistinguishable from all of his other impressions, his delivery can still make me giggle. Best line: “Denver is a mile high. Now, there’s no way to tell how many feet that is. It could be a million.”
The less said about that joke-free “Mission to Mars” sketch, the better. (Although I am curious to know what you all think of Bobby Moynihan’s Chris Farley impression.) Same goes for “A Sorry Lot We Are” and that interminable segment with a be-wigged Fred Armisen making weird faces. But “Weekend Update” featured two memorable guests — Big Bird himself and McKinnon’s wild-eyed, lisping take on Cecilia Giminez, the old Spanish lady famous for transforming a fresco of Jesus into a painting of a blurry monkey man. The Big Bird bit didn’t have a lot of bite, probably because Sesame Street is incredibly protective of its brand. Even so, who didn’t smile when the Muppet explained what he meant by getting “a million tweets” (“I’m a bird. That’s how we talk”)?
Oh, and last but certainly not least: Muse did its Muse thing, bringing power to renditions of “Madness” and “Panic Station.” My only quasi-criticism is that their songs featured no surprise marching bands — which is the one thing I’ll always associate with Muse, even if the band itself had nothing to do with that performance.
Were you also largely unimpressed with SNL this week? How do you think Craig did in his first outing as host? Now that we’re three episodes in, do any of the new cast members — aside from Kate McKinnon — strike you as breakouts? (My money’s on Cecily Strong.) And what will we have to do to stop the tyranny of bad Fred Armisen sketches set in that nice suburban living room? Air your thoughts below; I have to go buy anchovies.