Middle East: quit goofing around!

Cold Opening – G20 Press Conference
This was so identical to last year’s Obama/Hu Jintao press conference sketch that I almost thought I was watching a rerun. Logically, I knew that that could not be true. I knew that I was watching a new episode and that Bill Hader had not played Hu in the last sketch, but perception is not always completely rational. Anyway, last year’s sketch was strongly decent; this one suffered from being exactly the same. B-

Scarlett Johansson’s Monologue
The premise of ScarJo keeping it classy was promising enough.  I guess.  Maybe.  Abby’s Ke$ha was right on, but I don’t think she really fit in this bit, because I don’t think Ke$ha particularly cares if she appears classy or not. B-

MTV: Maternity Television
The titles and introduction of each of the pregnancy-centric shows, along with Bill’s ever-reliable voice-over, were all entertaining, but the clips mostly fell flat, with the exception of Snooki, of course. B

Millionaire Matchmaker
This was the lead sketch after the monologue? A parody of a show that most people have never seen, let alone heard of, that lasts only three minutes?  It was far from the worst sketch ever, but who decided that it belonged in the first half of the show?  ScarJo’s impression may or may not have been accurate; either way, it was kind of stupid.  At least Vanessa was able to do her thing as the dowdy lawyer, and Taran was a great match. C+

The Manuel Ortiz Show
This is the epitome of a one-joke sketch, but it is a one-joke sketch that I do not mind SNL getting away with, because Fred is just so great at playing ethnic people.  But seriously, what is it doing this early in the show? C+

Unstoppable Trailer
Jay’s Denzel is pitch-perfect, especially in this case considering how Denzel was given free rein to be as crazy as possible in Unstoppable. This was also a sharp breakdown of the old fart/rookie teamup premise. However, when I watched this sketch a second time, after seeing the actual Unstoppable, ScarJo as Rosario Dawson’s fixation on the Chrysler Building was annoying, considering that she only mentions it once in the actual movie. B

Hollywood Dish
The Hollywood Dish sketches usually have a slapdash feel, this time especially so.  I think that it is usually on purpose, but a slapdash representation of slapdashery generally does not work.  The misleading editing job at the end was disappointing this time around. C+

Arcade Fire performs “We Used to Wait”
Where the hell was Win going?  Wandering offstage that early in a performance rarely happens, and nobody seemed quite sure what to make of it.  At least the song was great. Three violins, eh? B+

Weekend Update
-The Jokes: I can’t remember one memorable joke, and I don’t feel that there is a need to check to make sure whether or not I am forgetting one. C-
-The Segments: -George W. Bush and Kanye West: This was just a little slice of Americana. Do I smell a sitcom? B
-Gladys and Frank Madden discuss the cruise ship fire: My focus was fixed on Fred for most of this bit.  He owned that crossword.  Vanessa deserved better material. B-

St. Katherine’s Middle School
This was nothing more than a virtuoso showcase for Kenan.  The decision each time to cut to a close-up as soon as he was on the floor was undeniably perfect.  His cries against the idiocy of his friends were filled with emotions that not every man can summon. B+

Digital Short: What Was That
This sketch caught our attention by breaking down the problems of the world and making them appear so simple, thus stoking our hope that entertainment can indeed change the world for good.  But in making everything seem so simple and not suggesting any concrete solutions, it may have been problematic itself.  Either way, there is meaning to be found here, and that is art. A-

Paula Deen’s Big Ol’ Soakems
Her dishes are almost entirely butter and oil.  Ha-ha. C

Arcade Fire performs “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”
What Régine Chassagne does on the stage while taking the lead on vocals does not appear to be too difficult, but how many singers are there out there who put their faces right up to the microphone, throw their arms about, and appear cute and badass at the same time?  Everybody seemed to be having a grand old time, and that little synth riff captured that feeling perfectly. A-

Stars of Tomorrow
Vanessa’s voice as Laura sounded just like some voice I have heard before, possibly multiple times, from where I am not sure. Anyway, it sounded like the perfect voice for a precocious child actor. If Laura Parsons were real, she would undoubtedly be entertaining while performing Forrest Gump, A Raisin in the Sun, and Brokeback Mountain, even though she clearly has no idea how the roles were originally meant to be played.  ScarJo really was no match at first, but she caught up somewhat by the end. B+

Mike’s Busteria
Finally, Mike and Lexie show up.  Fred is just as great as he has been with telling people how to make their homes more fancy, but sadly, Lexie’s “dis one, or dat one” shtick felt tired. B

This episode appeared to be going nowhere at first, and then there was a massive turnaround after Update, with an unbroken string of great sketches (save for Paula Deen) to finish things off.  Arcade Fire were thrilling, naturally.  How has Scarlett Johansson hosted three times?  She is not the sort of host who should be on when she has nothing to promote. Mike and Lexie are memorable recurring characters, but they do not justify having Scarlett on for the rest of the show.

Ethnic cleansing: talk to the hand!