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Monday, January 20, 2014

Saturday Night Live: Drake


Despite being the first episode back from the holiday break, the majority of the enthusiasm and energy in this episode came from the host. I had no idea Drake was such a comfortable performer (then again, I know very little about Drake, including, until now, his turn on Degrassi), and his energy helped lift some otherwise middling sketches on a night that otherwise fit the mold of the season: consistently solid, with neither very high highs or low lows.

Other Thoughts
This was the debut episode of Sasheer Zamata, the first female African-American the show has had in its cast for years, who was hired during the break as part of an audition specifically geared towards finding a female African-American cast member. Now that she's here, all the shows problems with diversity are solved, right? Right.

Hosts popping up in the cold open are a rare thing. Drake's A-Rod was pretty solid, and though Kate McKinnon's Bieber was a scene stealer, I really enjoyed the A-Rod material (easy mark, granted). That said, they really didn't know how to end this, as it just sort of fizzled into the "live from New York" declaration.

So we got another monologue song, which, given that the host is primarily a musician is fine, but the fact that the song came in the midst of a monologue sketch was just weird. I assume they've done that kind of thing before, but I sure can't remember the last time I've seen it (an actual sketch, that is, and not just the host walking off stage to another set, ala the Five Timers Club).

I would love to see more of Keenan's Reginald VelJohnson. Heck, let's see an entire Family Matters sketch.

Noel Wells' Nancy Grace was fun, and a decent impersonation thereof (granted, what I know of Nancy Grace I know from The Soup). As a framework for building a sketch around the issue-du-jour in a given week, I wouldn't mind seeing it again, certainly moreso than Piers Morgan.

"The Resolution" was an okay pre-recorded sketch, kind of the night in microcosm in that it was neither exceptional nor awful (though I loved the larping bit towards the end).

We got a pair of recurring sketches that I don't object to seeing again: Vanessa Bayer's poetry teacher (on the same set as the Shallon sketches) and "Mornin' Miami". I enjoyed the later more, as while the structure remains the same, the specific subjects the hosts are teasing remain variable, thus making each iteration of the sketch a little different.

Least Favorite Sketch: The final sketch of the night ("I Know"), mainly because, not only was it not very funny, it didn't even seem to be trying to be funny.

Favorite Sketch: Probably the slumber party one, just on the strength of the performances from Aidy Bryant and Drake, who played a surprisingly-effective and funny straight-laced dad. That said, you could probably make a case for several other sketches deserving this title, since nothing really knocked my socks off.

Chris Christie: I’d like to apologize to the people of New Jersey for this entire incident and also it’s over so shut up.

A-Rod: I’m also suing steroids for being inside of me.

Melanie: Kyle is a whisper of a boy. Mr. Gorman is a shout of a man.

Lena: Actress Jeanne Tripplehorn is back from the dead to tell us how we were wrong and she never died.

Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 3/11
Episodes Featuring a Talk Show: 8/11
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 6/11
Episodes with a Monologue Technically Featuring a Song That Is Not a Song for the Purposes of "Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song": 1/11  

4 comments:

  1. Well, frankly, I'm appalled that you would even have the audacity to suggest that an actor who was an integral part of the formative years of Degrassi: The Next Generation would be anything but comfortable, enthusiastic, energetic and effective. That stem cell therapy must be doing wonders too because he's walking around like a champ!

    It was odd to see Drake pop up in the cold open. Right or wrong I always view that as a special honor. I feel like you either need to be a beloved recurring host or an ultra-super-mega celebrity. But my perception might be off. Especially since it's seemingly occurring with more frequency. 4 times this season now (off the top of my head).

    Anyway, I thought the cold open was funny but during the Justin Bieber part it occurred to me that their "celebrities deceiving people" angle would have fit in perfectly with Shia Labeouf and there is a ton of humor to be mined there by SNL. I actually got angry that they didn't go there.

    I also would've had Weekend Update forget about Jacqueline Bisset and then have her show up randomly in a sketch later. But that's just me. What do I know?

    Beyond that I don't have much to say as, like you, the majority of the show was just average.

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  2. @Dr. Bitz: It was odd to see Drake pop up in the cold open. Right or wrong I always view that as a special honor.

    Yeah, I've always felt like it was a big deal if a host showed up in the cold open, but like you say, maybe not.

    Anyway, I thought the cold open was funny but during the Justin Bieber part it occurred to me that their "celebrities deceiving people" angle would have fit in perfectly with Shia Labeouf and there is a ton of humor to be mined there by SNL.

    I wonder if they felt like working him into a sketch was just feeding a troll?

    I also would've had Weekend Update forget about Jacqueline Bisset and then have her show up randomly in a sketch later.

    I would have liked that more than what they did, which was the obvious joke (she finally gets to the desk, then gets played off before saying anything relevant).

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  3. I was surprised by Drake's charm and versatility, too. Scoring on both host and material, I'd probably rank this outing almost (if not actually) even with Kerry Washington's as the best so far this season, although there have been episodes with better stuff.

    The sketch within the monologue was weird, but like you I'm pretty sure it's not the first time it's happened.

    +1 to Dr. Bitz's ideas. I also was hoping to see Bill de Blasio and family myself, but maybe the writers don't think the situation would have enough recognition outside NYC.

    As solid as Sasheer Zamata was, I found it really odd that with her, two new black female writers, and the host adding to the pool of multicultural talent almost every nonwhite character in the episode had a negative or stereotypical aspect. Hip-hop culture is built around money and violence and skin to an extent, sure, and with a parody of an actual person like Rihanna or Li'l Wayne you use what you got, but it just seemed to me that there was a lot of borderline what they used to call jiving. While Zamata is clearly talented, her first appearance in the monologue sketch as the date of Drake's uncle who ha ha is cheap/broke and left his wife at home, hardly felt auspicious.

    I don't think that the lack of hosts in cold opens is a matter of policy so much as circumstance. Since they tend to reflect current events, and therefore require particular impressions or continuity of portrayal over multiple episodes, I suspect it's just more natural for them to be filled out by cast members.

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  4. @Blam: While Zamata is clearly talented, her first appearance in the monologue sketch as the date of Drake's uncle who ha ha is cheap/broke and left his wife at home, hardly felt auspicious.

    Yeah, on the one hand, I appreciate that they just treated her first episode like any other, "here's a bit part on the level we'd give any of the featured player" type thing rather than throwing her into a sketch as Michelle Obama right off the bat or something.

    On the other hand, it is disconcerting that her first appearances were so tied to stereotypes. The key, I suppose, would have been to feature her in bit parts of sketches that didn't involve race in some way, but we can't have that, can we? :P

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