Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge Jeremy Renner fan. My obsession with the Avengers star may not rival that I have with Michael Fassbender (I like to watch this clip when I’m feeling blue — completely family friendly, I assure you), but it’s up there. I mean, have you seen Renner’s arms? Just… sa-woon. Oh, and he’s a pretty good actor too (you know, if those Oscar nods are anything to go by). But wow, that was a painful episode of Saturday Night Live, wasn’t it?
I’m not even sure who to blame for it. There was a lot of speculation about what kind of host Renner would make because he’s mainly known for being an action star (indeed, the actor even said so in his opening monologue), but I know for a fact that Renner can do comedy. Maybe I was the only one who watched the short-lived cop series The Unusuals, but that show was funny! And Renner, playing Detective Jason Walsh, was funny in it. (If you’ve never checked out this procedural, please do.) Of course, live comedy is a different beast, but I still can’t help the feeling that Renner was wasted.
The fault doesn’t only rest with Renner, though. The Petraeus scandal is big news, but did we really need three and a half (more on that half below) sketches about it? Particularly after it’s been done to death on late night already (my favorite was Jon Stewart’s take). Obviously, that’s the peril of airing on Saturday nights, and this is not the only time SNL has suffered for it, but the material wasn’t even that good. Sex and the CIA — you’d think they could have done something more exciting than a book reading and Wolf Blitzer interviewing the self-appointed mayor of Tampa. I have to give it to Seth Meyers, though. He was on a roll with his Petraeus-based “Winners and Losers” segment. Too bad he was the last to tackle the subject.
The cold open set the tone for the night, and that tone was dull. Aidy Bryant played an eager hostess welcoming Paula Broadwell, the woman behind the Petraeus biography All In, to read a series of selections from her book. However, these so-called selections turned out to be less dry biography and more soft-core porn in the vein of Fifty Shades of Grey. “No David, it makes me feel like a dirty girl,” Broadwell, portrayed by Cecily Strong, droned. “But you are a dirty girl, Paula, he replied.” Later: “Like most people, my feelings about erotic asphyxiation have always been somewhat complicated.” The repulsed audience members abandoned the reading one by one, until only Fred Armisen was left, wearing a rather enthusiastic grin. And… that was it. Cecily Strong just reading from a book. Maybe it’s because I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey, but I just wasn’t scandalized.
Next up was Renner’s monologue, which, alas, is not online due to song rights issues. I had my problems with Renner as a host, but he was quite charming here, performing theme songs from his action movies “like Adele.” After a mishap with the piano (did anyone notice the band member facepalm in the background when he realized the piano wasn’t hooked up to sound?), Renner sang songs from The Avengers, The Bourne Legacy, and The Town (sort of). The best line by far was The Bourne Legacy’s “You know I’m going to shoot somebody,” set to “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon, though I’ll give the runner-up to “The Avengers, they’re always there, from the Hulk to Iron Man to Captain Amer.” The biggest surprise? Renner can really sing. He needs to be in a musical, stat.
We cut to a fake commercial — a tourism ad for… “the paved streets of your hometown!” Yes folks, the holidays are right around the corner and what way to make you feel better about heading home than this nightmarish ad? It was right on point, however. Why must parents insist on using your old room for exercise equipment? Your room is doomed to smell like sweaty old socks forever. And my grandpa always sent me home with food — none of which I liked.
It was when we came back from real commercials, though, that the show took a turn for the worse. The only thing that was funny about this tired “Californians” skit was the fact that Armisen could not keep a straight face. Except, I couldn’t figure out what he was laughing at. Certainly not what was happening on stage.
After “The Californians,” we got our second Petraeus sketch of the night. This time, we headed to Wolf Blitzer’s “The Situation Room.” Hey, Jason Sudeikis! Good to know you’re still around. While I appreciated the parody of the news media’s coverage of this scandal, after a while it started to hit too close to home. Is it funny to see that repeated video of Jill Kelley when that’s basically what was actually played on TV during the week? It just felt like another (the first being the book reading) lazy way to treat something that could have been incredibly funny with the right skit (like a “Real Housewives of Tampa,” or something). And then they completely lost me when Renner made an appearance as the self-appointed mayor of Tampa with a, erm, appreciation for Kelley. “She fun.” No, this sketch wasn’t fun at all.
I couldn’t decide how I felt about this post-Andy Samberg digital short with Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan, and Jeremy Renner holding each other at gunpoint. I admit, at first I thought it was kind of stupid. But when they ended up naked in the shower together? That was my first genuine laugh of the night. And did you catch the grandma’s face at the Thanksgiving dinner? I hope this Thursday is just as exciting for me.
Maroon 5 took the stage in red for a rather lackluster performance of “One More Night,” and then we returned from commercial break for a fabulous segment of “Weekend Update.” Meyers seem to relish laying into all involved with the Petraeus scandal or, as he referred to it, “a sexy new reboot of You’ve Got Mail.” He landed plenty of zingers, but his riff on Florida (“of course you’re involved, Florida!) was especially wonderful. “Sex scandals are like Jewish New Yorkers. Eventually they all make their way to Florida.” And then… Chris Christie! And not Moynihan, but the real Chris Christie, fleece and all. (“It’s basically fused to my skin at this point.”) I’m not sure if his appearance meant as much to the rest of the 50 states, but as an NJ resident, I have come to enjoy Christie’s brusque addresses. (When I have power to see them that is. PSE&G, thou art a flighty mistress.) And to close with him quoting Bruce Springsteen lyrics — that was genius! (Christie’s obsession with The Boss has been well documented in the past weeks.) Meyers pointed out that Springsteen’s not exactly a poet. “He’s more of a saint,” Christie gushed, starry-eyed. Who wants an SNL hosted by Christie with musical guest Springsteen? I’m starting the campaign now.
You knew it was coming. How could they have Renner host without an Avengers skit? But while some were hoping he’d assemble the team for SNL, we were instead treated to Sudeikis as Iron Man, Bill Hader as “anyone have a scrunchie” Thor, Taran Killam as Captain America, Kate McKinnon as Black Widow, and Moynihan as the Hulk. So why exactly is Hawkeye a member of the Avengers, given that his only power is that he’s a really, really good archer? Well, after he’s killed his requisite eleven aliens with arrows (to re-use them would be unsanitary, hello), apparently he’s good for smashing the baddies as well. It wasn’t an awful sketch, per se, but like so much of SNL last night, it didn’t live up to its potential. They have a cast member married to one of the Avengers, for Pete’s sake! (Killam wed Cobie Smulders, aka Maria Hill — a character that actually did feature in this skit, played by Vanessa Bayer — in September.) How could they not capitalize on that, at least in some way? And the Hawkeye running out of arrows plot felt incredibly stale to me. Surely that’s been made fun of before and in better ways than was done so here.
The final three sketches were all kind of a blur to me. Sudeikis as an over-eager actor on “Movie Set”? Boring. Plus, poor Renner was relegated to repeating the same line over and over again. The “Cartoon: Drones” sequence? Look, I know it wasn’t about Petraeus, not exactly. But the fact that it involved the CIA, however tangentially, made me feel lukewarm towards this animated clip from the very start. And finally, what was that “Coroner” sketch? I don’t even have any notes on it other than “WHAT THE $#@!?” in all caps.
Oh yeah, and Maroon 5 performed again, this time all in gray and playing “Daylight”:
I so wanted to Renner to succeed, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Were you? What was your favorite sketch of the night? It was a lean evening, but I think I’ll have to go with “The Stand-Off” if only ’cause it gave me Renner just the way I like him: shirtless in a shower.