The truth is, I don’t particularly enjoy reviewing ‘Saturday Night Live’ – something I’ve done now for four full seasons at three different outlets. Now, I’ve loved the show for my entire life and I love writing about the show, but it’s not easy to be critical of what these people do every week because it really is remarkable what they can pull off in less than one week on live television. (I’ve attended ‘SNL’ twice: Once in 2009 and then again for dress rehearsal last night. Watching the organized chaos that unfolds in person is almost overwhelming.)
The 2013-2014 season is now over and, no, it won’t go down in history as one of the better seasons in ‘SNL’ history. The show has lost too many stars over the past couple of years to recover that quickly, but they will recover. They always do. ‘SNL’ has always leaned heavily on recurring sketches, but what’s weird is how many recurring sketches are in rotation right now that not that many people love. When you think back, there’s always been a ‘Church Lady’ or ‘Wayne’s World’ or ‘Cheerleaders’ or ‘Stefon’ – but now, they don’t have that, and without that it’s been hard to sustain an identity.
Which might be why last night became nostalgic with Andy Samberg hosting. The season finale always brings out the cameos, but all of last night’s cameos were so specific to one era of ‘SNL’ (sans Martin Short). Put it this way, of the repertory cast from the 2009-2010 season, only Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis did not attend (though both were on Seth Meyers’ late night show earlier this week to perform a sketch). It’s probably not a great sign for current cast members that the cast from five years ago dominated last night’s show, but, I guess that’s where we are. Here’s the final Scorecard of the 39th season of ‘Saturday Night Live.’
Sketch of the Night
’Weekend Update’ (Jost, Strong, Mooney, Samberg, Rudd) Before the show starts, Colin Jost comes out to warm up the crowd. Here’s the funny thing: He’s so confident while he’s doing this – he really owns the crowd – it’s hard to remember he’s the same guy behind the ‘Update’ desk. Last night was Jost’s best performance on ‘Update’ and it was nice to see Jost being Jost – his “cowards” line about the identical twins holding hands had no trace of the Seth Meyers delivery he was emulating earlier in the season.
At dress, Kenan Thompson had a Magic Johnson segment that didn’t make the live show (which is online), but what this also changed was who interacted with what segment. So, at dress, Jost interacted with Kyle Mooney’s Bruce Chandling (which I kind of hated the first time around and this time I loved) and it might have been Jost’s best work to date. (For the record: Strong also did a good job with Chandling.) I’m kind of a proponent of when the real guy shows up to confront an ‘SNL’ impression, the impression is over. Once the real Nic Cage stepped Into the Cage, perhaps that should have been it for that segment. Then again, whatever, it was still fun.
’Andy Samberg Monologue’ (Samberg, Meyers, Hader, Short) You know, Andy Samberg’s impressions aren’t that bad! And with Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, Martin Short and Justin Timberlake (well, sort of) all showing up, the monologue really did set the tone for the entire night.
’Kissing Family’ (Killam, Samberg, McKinnon, Rudd, Hader, Wiig, Armisen) My ‘SNL’ podcast partner, Ryan McGee, wrote last night that this felt like an inside joke to him. At dress, yes, Fred Armisen did have a tough time holding himself together throughout this sketch and Bill Hader seemed determined to make Armisen laugh again and it worked. Though, this particular installment of the kissing family was interesting because, with the Michael Sam story, it seemed like this had something to say.
’Cold Open: Jay Z and Solange Message’ (Pharoah, Zamata, Thompson, Moynihan, Rudolph) Well, there was no way that this wasn’t coming. Also, Pharoah’s Jay Z is so great. After having seen this video around one hundred times in the past week, it was nice to see ‘SNL’ do something fresh with it – which basically consisted of revenge on Bobby Moynihan’s poor schlub of a security guard.
’Confident Hunchback’ (Samberg, Bennett, Pedrad, McKinnon, Bryant, Killam, Strong) At dress rehearsal, there was a sketch in which Pharoah’s Obama calls Samberg up mid-show to tell Samberg that he enjoyed ‘Confident Hunchback.’ Samberg responded, “Now I know you’re lying.” The thing is, in a sea of cameos and Digital Shorts, ‘Confident Hunchback’ really was kind of refreshing. I mean, yeah, it was silly, but silly isn’t always a bad thing!
’Legolas at Taco Bell’ (Samberg, Moynihan, Pharoah) Have you ever heard how sketches are rewritten between dress and the live show? It’s so fascinating seeing this play out. At dress, this was a much longer sketch – Legolas separately shoots and kills Wheelan, Milhiser and Mooney in the longer version, having mistaken them for Orcs – and by the time it makes it to air, it’s more of a quick segment and Jay Pharoah has a brand new punchline to end the sketch. Regardless, it probably works better as a short bit because the joke is just that Legolas is at a Taco Bell.
’Hugs’ (Samberg, Taccone, Schaffer, Williams, Rudolph) I dunno: This was certainly good, but it felt more like a commercial for The Lonely Island’s new record and not really a true ‘SNL’ segment.
’Bvlgari’ (Bayer, Strong, Samberg, Wiig) The best part about this recurring sketch is that Bayer and Strong just keep getting better at them. Also, I do love that they’ve created a recurring sketch that has aired a few times now that is meant for the 10-to-1 slot.
’When Will the Bass Drop?’ (Samberg, Thompson, Moynihan, Pedrad, Bayer, Bryant, Zamata, Milhiser) Parts of Samberg’s return to Digital Shorts were really great – especially the conversations that we can hear in the crowd, like Vanessa Bayer telling a friend, “This is real music,” as Samberg’s DJ teases everyone with the bass. Then the bass drops and everyone’s head literally explodes and that seemed a little predictable.
’Camp Wicawabe’ (Bryant, McKinnon, Samberg, Mooney) At dress, this played much later in the show and the response was okay. It’s fascinating that it got moved up all the way to the prime slot after the monologue (though, with real children in the sketch, perhaps this was a factor). My only real takeaway is that I’d watch an entire sketch of Kyle Mooney doing that almost perfect six-year-old voice.
’Kimye Talk Show’ (Pharoah, Pedrad, Samberg, Killam) Jay Pharoah does a great Kanye. I mean, really great. Nasim Pedrad’s Kim Kardashian is really great (though, like the real Kardashian, I can’t stand listening to the sound of her Kardashian voice). Killam’s Bruce Jenner is great. Even Samberg’s wedding planner is great. You’d think with all these greats, that would equal a great sketch. For whatever reason, I just don’t think this really works as a concept. Kanye is eccentric and Kim is not smart. We get it. I just wish there was something else going on here.
’Blizzard Man’ (Samberg, Bayer, Bennett, Thompson, 2 Chainz) It’s endearing how much Andy Samberg loves this character. Then again, it really is one of his few recurring characters he has for the live show. The problem is, they’re all pretty much the same. Though, there’s Samberg, be-deep-o-leepin’ his way through every line, looking like he’s having the absolute time of his life. Good on him. Though, for us, there’s nothing new here.
Average Score for this Show: 5.93
· Anna Kendrick 6.21
· Lady Gaga 6.06
· Melissa McCarthy 6.03
· Louis C.K. 5.93
· Andy Samberg 5.93
· Edward Norton 5.91
· Paul Rudd 5.90
· Andrew Garfield 5.88
· Drake 5.82
· Jimmy Fallon 5.80
· Lena Dunham 5.77
· John Goodman 5.76
· Josh Hutcherson 5.75
· Jonah Hill 5.73
· Charlize Theron 5.71
· Seth Rogen 5.68
· Bruce Willis 5.68
· Kerry Washington 5.60
· Jim Parsons 5.51
· Tina Fey 5.35
· Miley Cyrus 5.20