After a slight hiccup with overlap, SNL’s return came twenty minutes late. Was it worth waiting for? I’m not a huge fan of Charles Barkley hosting, but I think there were some pretty funny sketches tonight. Here’s the good, the bad, the Update and the music.
- Cold open: A Message from Rick Santorum. Quote of the night right here: “I hope that one day my kids can look me up on Google, and find something that’s, you know, different from what’s up there now.”
- Chantix Medication Commercial: Not really a fan of pill commercial parodies, but Kristen and Bill make it work, as always.
- White People Problems: Another great quote: “Awkward is a white people word that can be applied to every situation.” It reminded me of Portlandia, the show about white people problems, and I loved it. I can see this recurring, if written well, though I’m afraid it has the potential to get offensive.
- Sports Analysis Pre-Taped Short: This was pretty enjoyable, if only because Barkley actually showed some emotion. It must be because he wasn’t reading straight from cue cards. The jokes were pretty good, too.
- Adult Video Awards: This was one of the better pre-taped montage sketches the show has done in recent years, though I’m still deciding how I feel about the subject matter. Regardless, everyone did a great job with their characters. You just can’t beat Kristen Wiig on skates.
- Mayan Calendar (Writers’ Sketch): For a writers’ sketch, this was actually pretty good. By this point in the night, though, I’d kind of lost interest, so I had to fight to pay attention. Worth a watch, though.
- Opening monologue: Is this seriously the third time Charles Barkley has hosted? I know a lot of people like him, and he was a great Monstar, but he is really awful at hosting SNL. I have to admit, though – that Ann Taylor graphic was pretty hilarious. Maybe the running joke now is that he’s so bad that people enjoy watching him.
- NBA Analysis on TNT: Kenan was Barkley, and Barkley was Shaquille O’Neal, which was pretty funny. I know SNL has to appeal to a wide audience, but I’m not sure the overage of sports jokes was the right tactic. But, you know, a Free Willy reference and a slam on Shazam won’t go wrong here.
- Joann’s Announcement: Charles Barkley in drag as a lesbian coming out to her family and boyfriend: I don’t know what else to call this sketch, so there you have it. Not a fan, but I did enjoy learning that Barkley’s hand is larger than Paul Brittain’s face.
- Lord Wyndemere: I just feel bad for Paul Brittain during this. Not bad – I feel humiliated for him. Since this is the second time he’s done this sketch, I assume he has to take what he can get, but it’s just so odd. Bill Hader made some hilarious faces, though, as always. People seem to really respond to this, but I think Brittain could be doing better things.
- Digital Short – Convoluted Jerry: Digital shorts tend to be hit or miss, and while this wasn’t the worst, it was fairly middle of the road.
Maybe I’m just desensitized by how awful the rest of the episode was, but I thought Update was fun. The wacky news this week made for some great (and unoffensive!) jokes, and Seth had a few great guests on: Wiig’s Michelle Bachmann blinking for the first time in years after announcing her drop from the presidential race, the always-great and entirely improvised segment with Fred Armisen’s political comedian Nicholas Fehn, and Bobby Moynihan appearing as the drunk uncle wearing a pair of 2007 glasses. Bobby’s appearance made me realize how underused he’s been this season, and I hope he’s on more.
Musical Guest Kelly Clarkson
Well, as unconvincing as Barkley is with improv, you always know you’re going to get a good performance from Kelly Clarkson. The original American Idol looked incredibly beautiful (great bangs!), and as always, had a great stage presence. I know it’s hard to sound great on the SNL stage, and many have failed, but when you have someone with such real talent, she will prevail.
Clarkson’s songs were “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)” and “Mr. Know-It-All” from her new album Stronger. The first was in her signature power ballad style, but the second sounded almost a little stripped at points, which I appreciated.
Her outfit for the first was smart and sexy while still leaving the focus on her voice, which is a gripe I have with a lot of artists, and her second was another sexy but stage-appropriate dress.. When you get on the SNL stage, all you really have to stand on is your voice, due to the acoustics, and a true performer like Kelly knows how to use that to her advantage. Two fantastic performances.
Overall, this wasn’t the best episode of the season. We’ve had a pretty fantastic season so far, and I thought this was kind of a low point, especially for the return episode. We had some great performances, but some of my favorites were rather lacking in appearances, though both Jay Pharaoh and Paul Brittain appeared more than once (finally). I would have liked to have seen some more recent classic sketches to make up for Barkley’s bland performances, but I did overall enjoy the show. I’m sure the version available for online viewing will include the better performances, so I’d recommend watching it.
At the very least, watch Clarkson’s two musical performances, as they were the definite highlight of the night.
Did you watch SNL last night? What did you think of the sketches? And the big question – where do you fall when it comes to Charles Barkley’s hosting skills, or lack thereof?