Reviewing Saturday Night Live with Host Anna Faris
Posted by Steve Herring on October 16, 2011
Welcome to the After Party
- Episode 37.4
- Original Air Date: October 15, 2011
- Musical Guest: Drake
- Expectation Rating: 6.5/10
- Episode MVPs: Vanessa Bayer & Bill Hader
- Kristen Wiig Counter: 7 (Sketches 1-4, 6, 7 & the Digital Short)
- Herring Bone Episode Rating: 7.5/10
After Party Review
The Episode Preview noted this was the fourth consecutive week with a new Saturday Night Live. This is not common for a number of reasons, most importantly that the notorious schedule kept by the staff and writers can leave them mentally obliterated by the end of three weeks, much less an entire month. This calendar will keep them from having a true “Halloween Episode” because they’re taking two weeks off and won’t be back until November 5th with host Charlie Day (worth the wait).
It would seem that the depleted pool of ideas in the writer’s room was most glaring in this week’s political commentary. No, not the Cold Open with Bloomberg, but the “2nd Cold Open” featuring the GOP candidates later in the show. Their anti-Republican schtick clearly wore off in a bit that felt mostly tired.
Even with all that, the program was mostly entertaining and exceeded expectations. Anna Faris wasn’t asked to do too much, but I think all who tuned in can agree that last night was more successful than her turn 3 years ago.
- Vanessa Bayer. This is purely conjecture - She’s writing all the sketches she’s getting on air OR has teamed up with one of this season’s most featured script authors because the young gun is all over the show. We’ve seen Bayer surpass Nasim Pedrad and Abby Elliot (who are cast members) in screen time almost every episode. Bayer is an interesting case at this point – she’s not the best “live sketch” performer and many would claim that she’s at the bottom of the four woman list in that category; she’s gotten better and clearly put in the work necessary for improvement. It would seem that she spent all summer cranking out fresh, creative ideas and jammed them into some of the typical SNL formats. I wouldn’t be surprised if she wrote this week’s best sketches “What’s Wrong with Tanya?”, “J-Pop Talk Show”, and the diner song and dance that will be on the Facebook page of every American female over 19 in the next 48 hours. (Editor’s Note: As of 8pm EST Hulu had not made this clip available.)
- Kristen Wiig - Her weekly counter (above) was the highest of the season, but that number is misleading. Wiig was merely a miniscule piece in some of the night’s scenes and she’s not dominating the show in the same fashion as last year. This is likely due to Bayer’s emergence, but no matter the cause it’s not allowed this website to follow up on the “Kristen Wiig has got to go!” theme proposed during the pre-season. Outside the night’s final sketch (which was awful) she didn’t play any truly prominent roles, but was very good in everything else. I’m enjoying the amount and quality of her work in most of what she’s done.
Odds on Sketch Comedy!
I typically put together a list of odds on things we might see during the episode and here are some that did or didn’t come to fruition:
- Drake appears in a sketch: 3/1 – He appeared in the Digital Short and rapped hilariously with Jay Pharoah on Weekend Update.
- Drake plays himself in the sketch: 1.5/1 – He was definitely himself in the Digital Short, and was a werewolf version of himself in the rap Update rap with Jay.
- Anna Faris plays a dumb blonde: -100/1 – The character she played in the final sketch is debatable. I’ll call it a push because I don’t think the premise was based on the ”dumb blonde” routine (was there a premise?).
- Jay Pharoah has taken over Barack Obama: 25/1 – Still no appearances by the Commander-in-Chief in Season 37 (more below).
Best Sketch: Really hard to give it to just one of these tonight, but I will hand the medal to the fine little number with the ladies in the diner. The entire bit was well executed, 100% creative, and a stage filled with five women at one time may have flashed fans back to the late 90′s in a very good way. We haven’t seen something similar and this good in a while. Grade: 9.5/10
Editor’s Note: Nasim Pedrad is just stunning. Watch her in this bit and convince me she’s not the most attractive SNL female ever.
- (Pending it Being Posted to Hulu.com…there might be something we don’t know since it’s also been cut out of the full episode if you download it online.)
Worst Sketch: ”Ferrari Calendar Girls”. The point? The punch-line? This idea was based on? They couldn’t put their lines IN the calendar so that Wiig and Faris’s eyes weren’t darting all over the studio when they’re supposed to be focused on a piece of paper? Hader, like he routinely does, was the best part of this entire scene. I give all the actors credit for working with a pile of rubbish. Grade: 1.5/10
Worst Sketch That They Wanted to be Really Good: “GOP Debate II” aka “Cold Open Part Two”. We get it – the writing staff at Saturday Night Live’s filled with ”ultra-cool” liberals who are so much more interesting than the Republican nominees. You’ve beaten it into our heads for a month now and we’re all well aware of your political agendas. Mitt Romney is a “salad with no dressing”…did this really kill in the read-through? Give us something new please as the entire sketch seemed recycled and old when the election is too far away for your presidential commentary to be falling flat. Grade: 2.5/10
Election 2012: Jason Sudeikis – Please, if you’re going to be Mitt Romney for the next 12.5 months (or longer…) then take this impersonation somewhere..anywhere. It really just seems like you with some white in your hair, although the writers aren’t helping much.
Thus far into the 2012 Election we’re seeing the exact opposite of what we got with Palin in 2008. Those sketches were fun, entertaining, and beyond relevant. It’s not a stretch to say they directly affected the election. SNL is off to a meek, boring start that is obviously one-sided. We haven’t even seen Barack Obama this season. That means the show heads into November without a single impersonation of the current President since May - six months! Saturday Night Live can definitely do better than this.
Best Sketch Runner-Up: Teenage Werewolves. What a shocker- Jay Pharoah gets on the show and kills it. Anything with Jay Pharoah impersonating or rapping has come out superb since he showed up in New York and you can just add this to his highlight reel. “I eat so much chocolate, my blood type Nutella”. Classic Pharoah. Grade: 8.5/10
Teenage Werewolves on Weekend Update
Cold Open: Mayor Michael Bloomberg Discusses “Occupy Wall Street”. Eh, it was just ok. Can’t knock Armisen’s impression and the uncanny way he holds his upper lip in place to hold the look. The script included a few good one-liners, but it felt long and needed something or someone to break it up. Grade 5.5/10
Sports Fan Note: It’s so cute when the Ivy League writers try to be funny about sports. They will show no fear in providing thesis on the most obscure political goings ons, but when it comes to sports they routinely swing at the giant softballs as opposed to getting gritty. So, the New York Yankees bowed out of the playoffs and they wanted to take a swipe at the pinstripes (good idea). Who do they go after in the Cold Open? Alex Rodruguez…yawn. Step it up and take a hack at Derek Jeter people. He makes nearly as much as A-Rod and has much crappier numbers. Try to be as bold in this realm of the American conscience as you are in others.
Monologue: Not the best start to the show, but it definitely got better quickly. Grade 2.0/10
Commercials: No commercial this week. Grade: 0.0/10
Weekend Update: Par for the course with Seth – great jokes, solid delivery but still not as aggressive as we’re used to. Throw in a great showing by Bobby Moynihan in his always good “Anthony Crespino” and the Drake/Pharoah rap and you’ve got the best Update in Season 37…so far. Grade: 8.5/10
“Anthony Crispino with Second-Hand News”
Digital Short: “Interviewing Drake” It was fun, definitely re-watchable, but not totally memorable. Grade: 7.0/10
Other Sketch Ratings:
Lifetime Game Show “What’s Wrong with Tanya”: What one would imagine was a Vanessa Bayer vehicle was also in the running for ”best sketch of the night”. Can we make is so that Bill Hader hosts every Saturday Night Live game show (except Jeopardy) forever? This was Faris’s best showing on the evening. Grade 8.5/10
What’s Wrong with Tanya?
Manuel Ortiz Show: This show can’t help being amusing every time out. Armisen distributes so well, Wiig was comical, and Hader knocked it out of the park. The cut away to Hader and Faris was well placed, but Faris left a little to be desired when she made it to the stage. Grade 7.0/10
J-Pop Game Show: As noted, I’m guessing this was something Vanessa Bayer worked on during the offseason and finally got a chance to début. Very clever and smart, with the shot of Armisen as Killam’s “asian girlfriend” a fantastic touch. Sudeikis’s timing was perfect. Grade: 8.0/10
Wyndemere: Hey, it’s Paul Brittain. The cast member who has to work the hardest to make it on the show came through last night in this off-the-wall number. Everything about it was clean, quality fun. It may not get the online traffic of others from tonight’s show, but the effort was appreciated. Again, Hader steals some scraps because he’s just too good. Grade: 8.5/10
Full Episode Rating: 7.5/10
NEXT EPISODE: November 5th: Charlie Day & Maroon 5 (Whoa -expectations through the roof. Three weeks between shows, living comic genius (Day), and celebrity hot-shot Adam Levine = chances for the next great Digital Short and great show.)
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