Every year I am amazed that Saturday Night Live returns. Last week was a rerun of what many called the best show of last season, the episode with Will Ferrell. We watched only because I had just finished reading Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. We both thought the show was pretty lousy. The only redeeming segment was the commercial for Para Tri-Cyclen, birth control for women who sleep around (it was funnier than it sounds). The rest was labored, and it just reminded me why the Ferrell years never appealed to me.
Like so many perennially disappointed SNL viewers, I decided to give them another chance with the new season. Being an SNL fan is like being a Chicago Cubs fan (I used to be both, but I haven't paid much attention to either since the early 1990s). The verdict? At least it was better than the Will Ferrell episode. The opening press conference was okay, but I was disturbed to see so many cast members introduced at the beginning--the show was so much better with fewer players (granted, Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph have limited roles at the moment due to past/current pregnancy). The monologue featured a song, and I hate it when the host sings. Nine times out of ten this type of monologue is lame, and tonight was no exception.
There were a few entertaining sketches, though. One had Amy Poehler on the JetBlue plane that recently made a dramatic emergency landing watching live CNN coverage of the drama. I liked the over-the-top graphic simulation that showed the jet bursting into flames repeatedly. The Robert Smigel cartoon showing John Roberts obfuscating throughout his personal life (beyond the Senate hearings) was funny. The sketch near the end with Debbie Downer meeting her ideal mate at a wedding was entertaining, as was the sketch with the fighting Needlers (a skit only a married person could truly understand).
I was anxious to see Kanye West, not because I thought he would say anything controversial, but because I have been living under a rock and never heard his music despite living in Chicago. I was impressed--it was definitely not your run-of-the-mill hip-hop, and I can appreciate artists who push the boundaries. West was backed by a large string section comprised of women dressed in black with red rectangles around their eyes. They reminded me a little of the women from Robert Palmer's 1980s videos.
The rest was forgettable, sometimes regrettable, particularly the "Girls Gone Wild Katrina" commercial--that not-so-funny joke was already worn out about a week after the flood. Weekend Update was weak, even worse without Tina Fey than it was last year. Sorry, I was a big fan of the Dennis Miller era when Update had some teeth.
Okay, I promise I won't post a review of SNL every week. I should write about Live From New York instead since the book was much more interesting than the show has been in years.