SNL Recap January 29, 2011: Jesse Eisenberg/Nicki Minaj

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Cold Opening – Congresswoman Michele Bachman’s Response to the President’s State of the Union: The Second Attempt
The concept of technical difficulties galore was good for a few laughs and then it got a little old, but not as old as it could have gotten. Bachman offhandedly confirming that Xena was on the same tape as the Obama clip and the crash in the background at the end were the most amusing bits, because of how goofy and unexplained they were. B

Jesse Eisenberg’s Monologue
When Zuckerberg joined Eisenberg, it felt like they were going for pretend awkward, but instead it was just actually awkward. (Why didn’t all three Zuckerbergs appear together at the same time?) Jesse’s struggle to paint himself as cocky was well-intentioned, but that too was also awkward. C

Estro-maxx
This was one of the weakest premises SNL has ever had for a commercial parody, but thankfully it was part of a trend in which weak premises are saved by great performances. Bill, Fred, Paul, and Bobby especially were completely wholehearted in their roles, particularly while wining. And of course Kenan’s look of joyful surprise was the best moment. B

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SNL Recap January 15, 2011: Gwyneth Paltrow/Cee-Lo Green

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Cold Opening – Fox News: Embracing Civility
Kristen, Bobby, Nasim, and Jason basically just sat there (and to varying degrees attempted an impression) while Bill took over the entire sketch as Carville. Which is perfectly acceptable, because it is a strong enough impression for that. I am surprised that Carville hasn’t been used in sketches before to antagonize Republicans like this. It seems like it would have been an obvious call. B

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Monologue
Pretending your way through something is ripe for laughs, but you can’t be lazy about it. When it quickly became clear that Gwyneth was obviously not immersed in country music, I laughed. But then she just mumbled through the song, and that was kinda funny. Jason’s Kenny Rogers was ultimately pointless. And Kristen’s Dolly Parton was not properly incorporated. C+

The Cape Spinoffs
This started out agreeably goofy, but since none of the premises were given time to develop, this was the ultimate in hit-or-miss comedy. There were a few hits, “The Water Bottle Holder” being the best of the bunch. I appreciated the line, “Viewers have spoken, and some of them say, ‘We like The Cape.'” B

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SNL Recap January 8, 2011: Jim Carrey/The Black Keys

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Cold Opening – A Message from Michael Bloomberg
The humor of snow bamboozlement is long overdue. There were several individual items in this sketch that were funny, but the list format rendered matters a little stale overall. This is a rare example of a sketch that was “too New York.” Fred’s Bloomberg impression may have been accurate, but I don’t really know. Bloomberg just isn’t as well-known outside of New York as, say, Giuliani was. B

Jim Carrey’s Monologue
This is exactly the sort of positive energy we could hope for when Jim Carrey hosts SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE! And Lisa Loeb’s sister sure is cute. Too bad she’s taken. B+

Bosley Hair Restoration
Here it goes, here it goes, here it goes again. Original Grade: B+

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SNL Recap December 18, 2010: Jeff Bridges/Eminem and Lil’ Wayne

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Christmas Eve in Washington, D.C.
Well, there you go. Sticking with the political angle for the opening, but actually doing something out of the ordinary with it. It is clear that the writers have plenty of material on Obama, Hilary, Rahm, Pelosi, and Biden, but the focus has lately been getting fuzzy when they try to make a sketch around it. The solution, apparently: keep it simple. B+

Jeff Bridges’ Monologue
It was a treat to see Cookie Monster appear, though I imagine folks who weren’t familiar with his campaign to host found it only about half as amusing as those who were familiar found it to be. It was beautiful that Jeff introduced him as his buddy who’s always wanted to be on the show. The two of them singing “Silver Bells” wasn’t particularly funny, but it was surreal (as with much of what is actually on Sesame Street). Who else was thinking of the time Isaac Asimov and Crystal Gayle sang the same? By the way, I think Jeff broke the record for longest time between two successive hosting appearances, a title previously held by, I believe, Drew Barrymore.  (Update: It turns out that Sigourney Weaver broke the record for longest gap when she hosted this past January, and the previous record-holder had been Madeline Kahn.  So, as far as I can surmise, the order for longest gaps goes: 1. Jeff Bridges [27 years], 2. Sigourney Weaver [24 years], 3. Madeline Kahn [18 years], 4. Drew Barrymore [17 years].) B+

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SNL Recap December 11, 2010: Paul Rudd/Paul McCartney

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A Message from the President of the United States
And is this what the world (or just the country) has come to? B

Paul Rudd’s Monologue
Good-natured, but too short. Jeez, let a premise develop, why don’t ya? B

Feline Culinary Creations
I’ll allow it, since it didn’t last very long, but it didn’t do very much. C+

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SNL Recap December 4, 2010: Robert De Niro/Diddy-Dirty Money

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Cold Opening – WikiLeaks TMZ
The cold opening should always be reliable, and Bill Hader playing someone with an English (actually Australian in this case) accent is certainly reliable. I don’t know if Julian Assange is anything like the way Bill played him, but the accent allowed him to be in his comfort zone. This worked best when the political figures had no idea why the cameras were following them, and thus, the first bit, with Fred as Qaddafi, was the funniest. B+

Robert De Niro’s Monologue
I was watching De Niro’s first appearance as host recently, and in that monologue, he looked incredibly stiff. It barely lasted a minute; it looked like he couldn’t wait for it to be over. This time, he was actually willing to be funny. And scary at the same time. Damn straight New York is the home of EPCOT. A-

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SNL Recap November 20, 2010: Anne Hathaway/Florence + the Machine

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As y’all probably heard, I’m sexy now.

Cold Opening – The Rachel Maddow Show
This is a step in the right direction for political cold openings. A parody of a cable news talk show is always an apt setup for a forum of craziness, although this time around the craziness was a little jumbled, with the Charlie Rangel parts not really having much to do with Boehner/Pelosi. B-

Anne Hathaway’s Monologue
Another monologue premised on the physical attractiveness of a female host and the possibility of nudity? It would have been funnier if Anne had not admitted to K-Wiig that she was not being serious with the guys. B-

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SNL Recap November 13, 2010: Scarlett Johansson/Arcade Fire

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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-

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SNL Recap October 30, 2010: Jon Hamm/Rihanna

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Uh-oh. Boner alert!

Cold Opening – A Message from the Vice President
Finally! A political sketch this season that is, well, decent. Hey, when all else fails, just turn to Biden. He can deliver the crazy, no problem. The Chilean miners served as a fruitful comparison. B

Jon Hamm’s Monologue
I wasn’t sure if the joke was that Hamm’s ad campaign ideas weren’t as good as he thought they were or if it was just the process he went through to come up with them. Anyway, the success of this monologue depended on delivery, which was superb when Kenan shouted, “Refrigerators!” and Andy snuck in with, “9-volt batteries.” B

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SNL Recap October 23, 2010: Emma Stone/Kings of Leon

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Cold Opening – Harry Reid for Senate Press Conference
The impressions are decent enough, so how about somebody comes up with some actual jokes for these guys? C

Emma Stone’s Monologue
Kenan, Bill, and Andy all had a good thing going with their nerd characters, but they were cut off prematurely, so there was no momentum. Andy’s violent shaking while trying to read his prepared statement was a high point. Meanwhile, Bobby’s Jonah Hill was a physical marvel, and Taran’s Michael Cera was freakishly spot-on. B

Babyspanx
Ultimately distressing. At there was Bill was his ever-reliable spokesman character. C+

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