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Monday, February 3, 2014

Saturday Night Live: Melissa McCarthy & Imagine Dragons


By now, the SNL writers clearly know what to expect from Melissa McCarthy, and wisely write to her strengths. The end result is an episode dominated by McCarthy (she appeared in every non-pre-filmed sketch, including the cold open, save for Weekend Update), one that eschews much in the way of clever structure or recurring characters (just one recurring sketch) and just lets McCarthy come in and play her distinctive style of wacky, over-the-top characters. It may not be the most original episode, but it's still one of the funnier in this mostly mediocre season.

Amidst all the McCarthy hijinks, the show bid farewell to Seth Meyers. While Seth has been an able and effective Weekend Update anchor, both in his own right and with various partners, that segment of the show should be fine: Cecily Strong has acquitted herself well in her brief tenure behind the desk, visibly growing more confidant with each outing, and there remains a decent stable of recurring Update guests that don't require Seth's presence from which the show can draw.

But I am curious to see how Seth's departure as head writer affects the show, simply because his voice has been a dominant one in the writer's room for so long now (almost ten years). He also leaves the show in a transitional period, as it continues to work out exactly what its strong, large, but relatively new cast is capable of and what its voice will be in the wake of so many long time (and dominant) cast members departing.

So far, this has been a mostly mediocre season, but with so many new faces on hand and old faces gone, being mediocre, rather than downright awful, is a success in its own right. It'll be interesting to see what impact, if any, Seth's absence as a writer and guiding voice will have in that development. Is he responsible for keeping the new cast out of the dumps, or will the ascendancy of other voices allow the cast to come into their own? Only time will tell.

Other Thoughts
I'm enough of a musical theater geek that the cold open absolutely killed me. Not even for the relative cluelessness of the actors regarding football ("score a tackle"), which is an easy joke, but just for the way it also lampooned the structure of musicals, complete with the reprisal of earlier songs sung in the round as the show climaxes. And a man dressed as a cat.

The monologue, however, was arguably the low point of the show. I enjoyed the "flashback" to McCarthy angrily storming out (llama in tow), but everything else was just a little too far on the random/weird-for-the-sake-of-weird scale for me. Still, better than another song.

Loved the CVS commercial, because seriously, who the hell buys that Valentines Day crap that every drug and convenience store puts out this time of the year? The Black History month video was also strong, especially Bobby Moynihan's reaction to reasons 2-28 and his attempted rap rebuttal that is quickly shouted down (“I hear what you’re saying and that’s real hip/ but allow me to play devil’s advocate”). 

Stefon's return to Weekend Update was expected but no less welcome for it, and I couldn't stop laughing when he hissed at Cecily ("Human DVRs" was also a pretty great Stefon-ism). And watching everyone else get choked up as Seth said goodbye got me a little verklempt.

Also, Taran Killam as Buford Callaway was a strong Update guest, mainly because, as a Minnesotan, I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around the apparent anarchy that was triggered by two inches of snow. Like, it sounds as though Atlanta turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland (or Detroit) for what we'd refer to as "a dusting" of snow. I get that Southern cities are ill-prepared for any snowfall, but this just sounded insane. 

Frida Kahlo=Latino Bert from Sesame Street. Love it. The rest of the sketch? Pretty meh.

The one recurring sketch on the night was the Girlfriends Talk Show (though McCarthy's character in the out-of-control Congresswoman sketch was apparently the same character as the angry basketball coach from her last hosting stint), and while not as strong as some past installments, for whatever reason Cecily Strong's repeated delivery on "awesome" cracked me up more than usual this time.

Least Favorite Sketch: This was going to be the live painting sketch, just for being the weakest (and most technically-challenged) of the various "Whacky McCarthy" sketches, but then they dropped another dry Kyle Mooney video sketch that I don't get into the last position, so it once again takes this "honor". 

Favorite Sketch: The woman's group one, both for the juxtaposition of the other women discussing things like learning how to use their Kindle or their ideal kitchen with McCarthy's revenge plans and the way McCarthy stayed committed to the bit but kept it relatively underplayed.

Stefan: Keep my man’s name out the mouth!

Morgan@NotAllowedtoUseTwitter.Cool: I’m dating the woman I’m becoming and I love every moment with her!

Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 5/13
Episodes Featuring a Talk Show: 9/13
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 6/13
Episodes with a Monologue Technically Featuring a Song That Is Not a Song for the Purposes of "Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song": 1/13  

7 comments:

  1. That was Imagine Dragons, not Arcade Fire.

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  2. @Anonymous: Now why the heck did I write Arcade Fire? That was dumb. Anyways, I've fixed it. Thanks for the heads up.

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  3. Because you'd imagine a dragon would set an arcade on fire?

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  4. @Dr. Bitz: Because you'd imagine a dragon would set an arcade on fire?

    Heh. I like that explanation more than "because I was dumb".

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  5. It'll be interesting to see what impact, if any, Seth's absence as a writer and guiding voice will have in that development.

    I think we've already been seeing that. As I recall, Seth stepped down from the head writer chair at the end of last season in anticipation of his, then, impending departure. I believe he's had less of an impact on the writing this season.

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  6. Great first half, possibly the best the show has consistently been all year, then very disappointing second half by comparison...

    I thought the cold open was strong. My guess is it worked best if you either love or really hate musicals. How could they not have a number called "Omaha" though?

    While I loved the CVS and Black History Month videos, Stefon's return was for me mostly lame. (I would've liked one more Really?!? with Seth and Amy, too, in the name of Seth getting a variety of things off his chest before he left.) Of course I have a heart, and Update was obviously emotional there at the end, but as a bit I have to say that it just didn't all hold together.

    I agree with your favorite and least-favorite sketches, although if we're counting taped segments for the latter then we should for the former and I might give Black History Month an edge over the women's group.

    Thanks for reminding us that you don't have any East Asian cast members, monologue!

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  7. @Cerebro: As I recall, Seth stepped down from the head writer chair at the end of last season in anticipation of his, then, impending departure. I believe he's had less of an impact on the writing this season.

    Yeah, I believe you're right. Still, I imagine he had some kind of voice in the writer's room that will now be absent.

    @Blam:
    I agree with your favorite and least-favorite sketches, although if we're counting taped segments for the latter then we should for the former and I might give Black History Month an edge over the women's group.


    It was really close, and I went back and forth between them several times. And honestly, I'd be lying if I said the fact that I so often single out the pre-taped bits didn't factor into my decision a little.

    Thanks for reminding us that you don't have any East Asian cast members, monologue!

    Ha! Indeed.

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