SNL had some gems, but some flops too
Overall, I think the SNL premeire wasn't as friendly to Kerry as I thought it would be.
And I was wrong about the Hardball sketch. I was disappointed.
The cold opening debate sketch only half worked. Seemed like some Jim Downey was in there. The audience only really laughed at a couple points. They are killing the value of their Bush by using that guy whose name I won't bother to learn. The height difference gag at the start was mildly funny but the Bush character was only funny when it went completely absurd. It isn't like Bush is Dukasisized. There were a couple gags that did get laughs, and probably did zing the president. But this guy seemed to bomb in a few places as bad as Bush did. No sir, I don't like him.
The audience immediately connected to the flaying of Kerry because it was much closer to reality. The hand movements by whatisname playing Kerry started out good and got good laughs but it wasn't used well except at the beginning. The political position of Kerry was pretty well written and got good laughs. After a hilarious recap of Kerry's "one" position by Kerry, Jim Lehrer got in the best dig at Bush when he said to him "Kerry just made several nonsensical remarks, any of which could have been easily refuted by you, yet you said nothing."
The Kerry Campaign sketch seemed like Jim Downey work to me as well, but I forgot to check the credits at the end. Affleck as Carville was hilarious.
Best line of the show goes to Affleck doing the ragin' cajun:
Kerry: I won the debate!
Carville: You beat Jawge Boosh in a tawkin match! That's like Wilt Chamberlain playing basketball against Stephen Hawking and winning by 2 pawnts! The man can't talk, John!
When Darryl Hammond came in as Clinton the intelligence of the writing was obvious. Carville was hilariously berating Kerry for not taking on the Bush campaign in specific instances, and treating him like a subordinate. When Clinton came in, it was obvious who was in charge. The sketch ended with Clinton leaving and ordering Carville to follow him with the room service cart, and Carville immediately complying. The subtext here was...delicious.
The weekend update was also pretty interesting, with James Gandolfini showing up to editorialize as Tony Soprano about the NJ Mcgreevey scandal. Phone lines lit up, I am sure, as he was pretty much in character. Several groups should be upset. But the Soprano character was perhaps the perfect choice to do this bit, and amidst offending a bunch of special interest groups he also pulled off the message: "It takes one to know one. McGreevey is a crook". The weekend update is now cohosted by Amy Poehler, and I think they had good chemistry and good writing. I don't think Fallon will be missed much. Horatio Sanz as Elton John worked well I think. Affleck's cutting message to Matt Damon was worth some laughs.
Hmm, the monologue wasn't too bad, with a Baldwin cameo (surprise)...
The Debbie Downer is a classic example of SNL formulaic writing. One sketch works for whatever reason, you will see iterations of that sketch until you hate it. Then you will rent the movie at Blockbuster and hate it. The thing is, this sketch more or less stank the first time it aired. The writers may have convinced themselves that their comic genius propelled that sketch to the top of the Best Of for last season, but that wasn't it.
I watched that first skit live, and found it hilarious. It wasn't the writing though...if Rachel Dratch hadn't flubbed her line about North Korea that sketch would have completely died for the rest of its long length. I knew that as I was watching it and when I saw Debbie Downer II come on tonight I knew it was going to eat it.
And it did. No one flubbed a line. No one had trouble keeping a straight face. Whatever laugh value the sketch premise actually did have was used up the first time they wrote one. It should have been a one-off. The insensitive lines that characterize Debbie Downer were barely met with silence. To the writer of the sketch, I would like to say that I understand what you are trying to say. The "clever metaphor" satire you are likely using to defend the genius of the bit. You made your point. Now shut up.
I'm leaving out a lot, but the rest of the show was a mix for me. I'm probably leaving something out I wanted to comment on but I'm flaggin' a bit. The first sketch of the classic SNL was (I think) yet another Jim Downey original...Rockstars to Help Explain Whitewater. A sketch that was probably funny to me at the time more for the characters played by the cast members than the content, but now seems hilarious for its intelligence.
I wanted to criticize the 'escalator' sketch from tonight but I haven't decided whether I am insane for seeing subtext in the writing that might not really be there. It was an ok sketch, a clever premise, but a little shaky. Some solid writing, and some shaky writing. I'll give 'em some time to work on it. There's potential there for this season, I think. That's about how I felt about the sketches I haven't mentioned.
I still wish they had done a Hardball sketch. Pffft.
posted by M@ at 2:19 AM