Oct 022011

Reviewing Saturday Night Live with Host Melissa McCarthy

Welcome to the After Party

Episode 37.2    Original Air Date: October 1, 2011  ◊  Musical Guest: Lady Antebellum

Expectation Rating: 7.0/10 Herring Bone Episode Rating: 8.0/10

Episode MVP: Melissa McCarthy Kristen Wiig Counter: 4 (Open, Monologue, Commercial, Last Sketch )

After Party Review

As far as hosts go Melissa McCarthy delivered the goods… and then some. Some actors and celebrities jump out of the door, trot down the steps and proclaim “I’ve always dreamed of being here hosting Saturday Night Live!”, but she arrived with a purpose and her exuberance beamed through all night. Everything she did was at the top of hosting performance scale and SNL’ers everywhere stand prepared to welcome her back.

She also knocked out two significant stigmas of SNL followers in a single show:

1. Female hosts are ALWAYS less funny.

2. Big girls aren’t funny except to make fun of.

McCarthy was just plain good and entertaining. When I previewed this episode I went over some of the other “big” girls who have hosted (Roseanne, Gabourey Sidibe of note) who had delivered extremely poor performances. She defined herself over 90 minutes as the finest plus size host to ever take on the late night gig. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I hope her star power endures long enough for a few more chances to strut her stuff. I also think she’s been lined up for cameos down the road. All around a solid show that didn’t even have what I would consider a “terrible” sketch. Thanks Melissa! Come on back!

Odds on Sketch Comedy!

I typically put together a list of odds of things we might see during the episode, so here’s some notables that either did or didn’t come to fruition last night:

1) McCarthy did zero impersonations so my odds on Rosie O’Donnell (1/1), Roseanne (0.5/1), and Megan Mulally (4/1) all fall flat.

2) Odds Jay Pharoah has taken over Obama: 9/1.

  • UNKNOWN. Still no appearances by the President on SNL.

3) McCarthy was also involved in zero sketches where she was Bobby Moynihan’s significant other (0.5/1).

4) There were no sketches about black men liking big, white women (20/1)

Show Breakdown

Best Sketch: I’ll give “Taste Test” a slight win over “Arlene” and the “Chris Rock on Broadway”. I severely underestimated McCarthy’s improv background (Groundlings) heading in and she really excelled throughout the show and in particular the as the awkward, out of her mind, broke taste tester for Hidden Valley. It’s so much fun when a host sells out in a bit and she did it all night long. Grade: 8.6/10

Hidden Valley Ranch Taste Test:

Worst Sketch: “The Comments Section”. This show did not include one “brutal” sketch, and I loved the premise here, but it seemed to fall flat. The concept definitely could have used some fine tuning and edgier commentary to top it off- should have been left in the cooker for a future show. I kinda hope it makes a comeback later this season with better material. Grade 6.0/10

The Comments Section Internet Talk Show

Best Sketch Runner-Up: “Chris Rock on Broadway”. Jay Pharoah made his long-awaited début in Season 37 and (bonus!) did an unseen impersonation in (bonus!) a new and original sketch. Great Rock impersonation and this will probably will be the most e-mailed/embedded clip from this show over the long haul. Welcome to the party Jay! Grade: 8.5/10

Chris Rock on Broadway

Cold Open: “The Lawrence Welk Show”. Looking back I should have seen it coming: Female host = 50/50 shot at the Lawrence Welk Show starting things off. It was cute and Taran Killam is out to a great opening to this season- he’s killing everything they give him. Grade 7.5/10

Commercial: “Lil’ Poundcake”. It was just ok. Decent premise again (toys that inject the HPV Vaccine into little girls), but overall it felt a little lacking in some areas and not totally worth re-watching. It belongs with the “Internet Commentary” in that it felt a little thrown together and might have been better with some more time and effort. Grade: 6.5/10

Weekend Update: Second week in a row the thing seemed a lot shorter that we’re used to. Is Seth short on material?(according to Twitter he’s jet setting during the week between shows) The bit with Gaddafi’s friends is cute, not great, and the Tyler Perry piece got a few chuckles. I think Seth and Kenan were noticeably upset that their joke “Seth, did you get on the express train on accident?” got no audience response. Anyone who’s lived in NYC should let our a loud roar upon hearing the quip, so I have to assume the people in the crowd were losers from Jersey and Connecticut (kidding, kidding- Hoboken, NJ resident in the house at Herring Bone!). Either way it was my favorite line in the Perry/Meyers exchance. Grade: 7.0/10

Digital Short: “Stomp”. For their opening act it was a little less than what I expected. Maybe it’s a leftover idea from last season as the Lonely Island gang has been busy with multiple projects. It was clever and well produced, but lacked the “wow- did you see that?!” factor that gets these clips play over the long haul. Grade: 6.5/10

Other Sketch Ratings:

Arlene. I almost gave this the “best sketch” win because it was funny and I can’t imagine anybody else in entertainment who could pull this off. The character contained elements of previous great females, notably some old Molly Shannon ladies, but the twist of her size and timing just made it hilarious. If she was a cast member Arlene would be a go-to regular on the show. Grade 8.5/10

Netflix Apology. It was well executed by the writers and Armisen/Sudeikis with the relevancy aspect that makes SNL endure. They went to the well with internet porn jokes, but it’s just so damn easy when making fun of popular website changes. Solid sketch and it definitely hit home for millions of Americans still steaming at the DVD rental giant. Grade 7.5/10

Lulu Diamonds: Obviously they wanted to maximize potential out of McCarthy’s physical brand of comedy and leaned on it heavily in this throwback bit. I actually found Sudeikis’s lines the funniest and he was great all night.  Grade: 7.0/10

Complaints: I kept thinking “doesn’t this seem more like a great Digital Short than live sketch?” I started picturing the Lonely Island guys hitting on celebrity hotties while the SNL girls came in and dropped bombs about their sexual past. Oh well, it was still witty and McCarthy took it home perfectly.  Grade: 7.0/10

Other Notes:
  • Just as I make a website detailing Kristen Wiig’s overexposure on the show she starts fading into the background. Maybe they wanted to let the alpha female do her thing, but Wiig was essentially gone after the monologue. It wasn’t just McCarthy’s presence- Wiig normally grabs one of the roles in the Chris Rock bit, “Complaints”, or even Elliot’s role in “Taste Testing”. It will be interesting to see how long this lasts.
  • It was excellent to enjoy an entire show without any clunkers. A few ideas weren’t quite ready for prime time, but the writing team had their heads in the right place this week.
  • Already noted- Taran Killam has established himself as a bona fide star at SNL. That’s been tough to do with four extremely popular and high quality veteran males in front of him. Kudos on the fine work so far in Season 37 and keep it coming.

Next Week: Ben Stiller/Foster the People

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