Sunday, March 9, 2014
Saturday Night Live: Lena Dunham & The National
Though by no means one of the season's standout episodes, this was a marked improvement over last week's limp Jim Parsons-hosted affair. Lena Dunham wasn't exactly asked to stretch, mostly just playing it straight (though she did get in a decent Liza Minelli impression towards the end), and was occasionally overshadowed by a surprising bevy of guests, but she handled herself well, even recovering nicely from a flubbed line at one point. It might just be the timing of it, but this seemed like a pretty strong episode, continuing the season-long up-and-down streak.
Liam Neeson popping up in the cold open made for a decent joke in and of itself (I'm a sucker for "actors are really their characters" bits), but the payoff (Obama starring in an action film parody) wasn't all that great.
That first pre-filmed bit was well-written, taking a genuinely surprising and dark turn just when it seemed like the central gag (Dunham getting interrupted by GPS whenever it was her turn to sing along) was running out of steam and there wasn't much more to it. A great example of an out-of-left-field ending that elevates a sketch, instead of just making it clear the writers had no idea how to end it.
The Scandal parody sketch probably would have been better, if I watched the show, but the main gag was still funny enough to keep it from being a complete waste for me. I'm aware enough of the show to get a kick out of the mooney interaction between Olivia and the President, and lampooning the hyper-efficiency of the supporting characters on these types of shows ("I can do it in 24 hours./I need you to do it in one minute./ I’ll see what I can do—it’s done.") certainly doesn't require specific knowledge of Scandal to appreciate.
Colin Jost seemed much more relaxed his second time behind the desk, and as a result, seemed a lot funnier. Taran Killam's Matthew McConaughey was eerily spot-on (especially in terms of the voice) and was easily the highlight of the episode. I wouldn't mind seeing him recur on Update a la Nicolas Cage. Bringing Fred Armisen back, meanwhile, (who I assume as there to pimp the new season of Portlandia) just to do that tired "childhood friends of the political villain du jour" bit seemed like a waste.
The Katt Williams sketch suffered from some pretty lukewarm impressions, but I can't deny I didn't laugh at Taran Killam's Harrison Ford shouting out his characters' well known lines.
This episode's now-regular "pre-filmed end-of-the-night sketch featuring some combination of the still-unknown white guy featured players" wasn't as bad as some of the more recent such outings, but a few bits aside, I just don't think whatever comedic aesthetic they're going for in these sketches is for me.
Least Favorite Sketch: “What Are You Even Doing? You’re Being Crazy!” - this wasn't awful (Bobby Moynihan's older brother was consistently funny), but the central gag felt too much like "Girlfriends Talk Show", which by now has far stronger and more realized characters. Not even a surprise appearance by Jon Hamm could save it (though I also enjoyed his frustration at the lack of pizza).
Favorite Sketch: the "O-o-oh Child" pre-filmed segment, for making me laugh both on the central premise and the twist ending.
Granny Dunham: In the 1940s, only cool girls went to third base. And I was cool as hell.
Kelsey: I wish my dating problem’s that my boyfriend’s the president
Matthew McConaughey: Don’t congratulate me, congratulate the man who never existed
Jost: Who’s that?
McConaughy: That’s me.
Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 5/15
Episodes Featuring a Talk Show: 10/15
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 7/15
Episodes with a Monologue Technically Featuring a Song That Is Not a Song for the Purposes of "Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song": 1/15