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‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: “Christina Applegate”

NBC

After the disaster that was last week’s Daniel Craig episode, it’s great to have Christina Applegate hosting this week’s ‘SNL.’ With her background in television and her experience hosting the show before, we should be in for a more competent — and confident — outing. So how did she do?

Cold Open: Vice Presidential Debate

Kate McKinnon is debate moderator Martha Raddatz and Jaso Sudeikis and Taran Killam play Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, respectively, with Sudeikis really playing up the obnoxious responses from Biden.

Did it work? The debate itself was already pretty funny, but this skit takes the most absurd parts and turns them up to 11, focusing primarily on how creepy Ryan is, how intense and boisterous Biden is, and the funniest answers — primarily Ryan’s explanation of why he’s against abortion, comparing his baby daughter to a bean. Usain Bolt stops by for a quick joke, but the best part is Biden wiping Ryan’s “fake” widow’s peak off his forehead.

Opening Monologue

Right off the bat, Christina Applegate starts talking about the Yankees to win over the audience before reminding them that it’s been 19 years since she last hosted, and that episode marked the first appearance of Chris Farley’s motivational speaker character Matt Foley.

Did it work? Applegate breaks into a song about how it’s almost Halloween and we still have time to relax before the holidays. It’s a ridiculous idea for a song, and I’m not sure it entirely works here. Bobby Moynihan, Kenan Thompson, and Bill Hader come out with the “Fruppets,” fake Muppets, and then Jason Sudeikis does his Dane Cook impression. It’s one of those opening monologues that tries to throw as much at the wall as it can, but not much sticks. Applegate is really into it, though, which bodes well for the rest of the episode.

Gillette Pro-Glide Styler

In this spoof of the Gillette Pro-Glide Styler razor commercial, Taran Killam is Adrien Brody, Fred Armisen is Gael Garcia Bernal, and Jay Pharaoh is Andre 3000 — obviously. But then Jason Sudeikis pops up as Jerry Sandusky…

Did it work? It’s about time someone made fun of this commercial, which is currently the silliest thing on television. They don’t work too hard to take it over the top because the big gag here is that Jerry Sandusky is also a well-groomed guy using the razor to keep his face looking suave and what not. And Sudeikis really sells it with his little cuffed-up walk in his prison jumpsuit with that silly excited face of his.

The Californians

Our favorite direction-giving Californian airheads are back! Fred Armisen, Taran Killam, and Bill Hader star, and Christina Applegate seems to be replacing Kristen Wiig.

Did it work? Hader is, as always, the MVP of this sketch and convinces me that he could do a great Michael Shannon impression. I’d have more respect for the sketch if it weren’t so obvious that Applegate were clearly replacing Kristen Wiig’s previous character, with almost identical inflection. It’s best when a cast member disappears to not try and replicate them in any way and instead create new characters in those sketches if you insist on using them. That said, Applegate is fine and does give some good overly-dramatic faces when she’s called on to do so.

Tech Talk

Christina Applegate hosts a show called “Tech Talk,” where the day’s topic is the iPhone 5′s design flaws and glitches. On her panel are Kenan Thompson, Kate McKinnon, and Bill Hader as various tech experts and bloggers. Eventually the criticizing of the iPhone takes a turn when the underpaid Chinese workers who built the phones are brought in to face-0ff with the over-privileged first-worlders.

Did it work? First off, this isn’t Applegate’s shining moment, and she’s relegated to the job of sketch-runner, basically, in that her only function is getting the sketch from points A to B to C. The real stars are Hader’s remorseful panelist and Fred Armisen, Cecily Strong, and Nasim Pedrad (her first appearance of the episode!) as the Chinese workers. And yes, their impressions borderline on stereotype, and yes, it reminds us that there are no Asian cast members on ‘SNL,’ but beyond the impressions are some great points about the conditions these people live in while making us phones that we then complain about for not working faster than the speed of light. Excellent satire of first-world problems, for sure.

Give Us All Our Daughters Back

‘SNL’ spoofs the action film with this pre-recorded bit, in which the CIA’s entire daycare center have been abducted, so a whole bunch of action stars are going to make threatening phone calls for 90 minutes! Taran Killam is Liam Neeson, Bobby Moynihan is Steven Seagal, Christina Applegate is Uma Thurman, Jason Sudeikis is Mel Gibson, Fred Armisen is Harrison Ford, Jay Pharaoh is Denzel Washington, and Bill Hader is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Did it work? This is the best sketch of the night — it has to be because I watched it three times before moving on. It’s always a blast when they let Pharaoh do his Denzel Washington impression, and who knew that Bill Hader could do such an awesome Schwarzenegger? I’m a little confused on Applegate’s Uma Thurman, since that part doesn’t require her to do an impression and instead just relies on some weird joke involving really long fingers…? The pull-quotes might be the best part, though, including “Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gives it one review,” and “‘You’ve got movie!’ says parody reviewer A.O.L. Scott.”

Weekend Update

Nasim Pedrad gets to dust off her Arianna Huffington impression to comment on Martha Raddatz’ moderating skills at the vice presidential debate. French Def Jam comedian Jean K. Jean (Kenan Thompson) pops by to comment on the Lance Armstrong steroid controversy.

Did it work? Pedrad’s Huffington is awesome, especially when she talks about how popular abortion clinics and pills would be if men could get pregnant, saying that the morning-after pill would come in flavors like “sea salt and Cool Ranch.” Thompson’s Jean K. Jean is just an evolution of his Pierre Escargot character from ‘All That,’ right? It doesn’t matter. His mixture of ghetto and French speak is so on-point. Zut alors!

Odysseus and the Sirens

Odysseus (Jason Sudeikis) and his crew — Armisen, Killam, and Moynihan — encounter the dangerous sirens and their sexy song that causes men to make bad decisions. Strong, McKinnon, and Applegate are the sirens, and they sing 90s pop songs.

Did it work? I automatically give aces to anything that incorporates Lisa Loeb’s “Stay.” Admittedly, the sketch is a bit one-note and thin, but the use of 90s female pop songs and Odysseus trying to convince the other dudes that lady music is really awesome is kind of hilarious. One of the better lines might be when the ladies sing, “This ain’t no disco… this ain’t no country club either,” and Odysseus responds, “I know! It’s the ocean!” And immediately followed by the women wearing silly hats and singing a TLC song? Sold.

The Hell-oween Ball

It’s a school dance at Booker T. Washington High and Principal Fry (Jay Pharaoh) is on hand with some special announcements. This time he’s joined by Christina Applegate as the school’s librarian.

Did it work? It’s probably one of my least favorite sketches in general because it hinges on the repetition of Pharaoh’s “attention teachers and students” and his specific delivery of that line, but the rest of the dialogue is never really that funny. This time is an exception. This sketch has found the sweet spot: making things as specific as possible — a Madden NFL booklet, a King magazine, two students fornicating inside of a Mufasa costume (and Pharaoh almost loses it at that line). The trick with stuff that’s trying to be nostalgically funny is getting as bizarrely specific as possible. Well done.

Jillian Chizz Dance Studio

Applegate is a former Broadway performer turned dance instructor now teaching a small class including Thompson, Killam, Pedrad, and Moynihan.

Did it work? Has Applegate taken a lot of dance classes before? She seems to be pulling some awesome inspiration from somewhere — it’s wildly eccentric. Hell, even I think I’ve had this dance teacher before or at least have met a human being just like Jillian Chizz. It’s Applegate’s best stuff of the night and wisely planted at the end of the episode so audiences will likely recall it first when thinking of how she did as a host this week.

 

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