Sunday, May 25, 2014
Saturday Night Live: Andy Samberg & St. Vincent
This wasn't the best episode of the season by any means, but at least the show ended on a relatively strong note. Granted, the regular cast was barely on hand for much of it (I wouldn't be surprised if we've seen the last of some them; so long Noel Wells and Brooks Whelan!), as Andy Samberg returned and brought along a ton of his former cast member friends. While the highs weren't all that high, at least the baseline landed somewhere closer to "amusing" than "indifferent", which has been the case more often than not this season.
I am so tuned out of pop culture at the moment that I had to pause the episode and have Mrs. Teebore explain this whole Jay-Z/Solange thing to me before finishing the cold open. I am old.
The monologue was decent - I'd much prefer a string of impressions to a song any day, and Samberg showed an inviting sense of humor about himself and his place in the show's recent history.
Usually when a returning cast member, uh, returns, we're inundated with a bunch of their old characters or sketches, but Samberg (as he gamely noted in the monologue) was never really known for his sketch work. So we just got two Digital Shorts, but SNL has done plenty of pre-filmed bits since Samberg's departure (lacking the name "Digitial Short", granted). And the Vogelchecks sketch is a returning one, but never one specifically assigned to Samberg (I believe The Blizzard in the 2 Chainz sketch is also recurring, albeit a very minor one).
The big Andy Samberg character return we did get was "In the Cage with Nicolas Cage", and I was pleased to get it (when I heard Samberg was hosting, my first thought was, "oh, I hope he does Nic Cage again"). He livened up another dull Update, which had a few moments of excellence but continued to rely too much on Photoshop jokes.
In other Update news, I've never been a big fan of the "here's a guest who is a stand-up comic, and his schtick is that he's not actually very funny" guest, which nevertheless happens enough that it accounts for an entire subset of Update guests. When the gag is that you're not funny, it's not funny.
The lead sketch of the night, Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon as a pair of girls hosting a talk show at summer camp, wasn't fantastic, but like Bryant and Cecily Strong's "Girlfriends Talk Show", it had a nice energy, deeply drawn characters, and enough laughs that I wouldn't mind seeing it again.
I've never been a big fan of the Vogelchecks, which is the exact same thing every time out, built on a central gag that is never as funny to me as it is to apparently everyone else. That said, I can't deny it was nice to see the old gang reunited once again (all of whom clearly have a great deal of affection for one another), even if I'd have preferred they all come back for something better.
In addition to the likely culling of at least two or three of this year's featured players, this was likely Nasim Pedrad's final episode as a regular cast member; she's been absent much of this season filming Mulaney, a new sitcom from and starring John Mulaney (former SNL writer and co-creator of Stefon), which was picked up by Fox for next fall. Presumably, this will force her to end her time with SNL. It's a shame she didn't get more of a sendoff; though often underutilized, she had a knack for creating memorable oddball characters, and having been around since 2009, she's the current cast's third longest-tenured member. Also, no more Shallon, which is sad.
Least Favorite Sketch: I get what they were going for, and it wasn't horrible, but the Overconfident Hunchback sketch did very little for me, and reminded me (especially in that it had its own theme song) of the kind of schlocky recurring characters we got a lot of in the 90s.
Favorite Sketch: After the first digital short, with the DJ whipping the crowd into a frenzy of anticipation, I turned to Mrs. Teebore and said "I have no idea what the hell that was, but I liked it."
Andy Samberg: I performed in over 100 digital shorts and six live sketches. So this is gonna go great.
Nicolas Cage: I’m gonna T-bag the Magna Carta.
Legolas: A red sun rises. Blood has been spilt this night.
Taco Bell Employee: That’s just sauce.
Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 8/21
Up a bit from last year's five, but at just over a third of the season's episode, not nearly as dominate a thing as it sometimes seems.
Episodes Featuring a Talk Show: 13/21
Up slightly from last year's twelve, the talk show remains SNL's default sketch model.
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 9/21
Down from last year's ten, this is still a highly overused monologue device.
Episodes with a Monologue Technically Featuring a Song That Is Not a Song for the Purposes of "Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song": 1/21