Oooh Child. Things are Gonna Get Easier? (SNL September 27, 2014)

Chris Pratt joins the cast for the 40th premiere episode of NBC’s premiere weekend comedy show.   How did they do?

When you hear there is going to be a guest like Chris Pratt hosting, and that it is the 40th anniversary of a show that has brought us some of the most memorable laughs and performers of the past 4 decades, you gotta think there is going to be something special going on!  They are going to pull out all the stops, put on a kick ass show, and showcase one of the most talented comedic leading men of the last few years.  This is going to be great right?

Wrong.  This was honestly one of the worst episodes I have ever watched.  What was going on?  The show was off from the cold open.  Line flubs were everywhere.  The cast is extremely green, and it shows.   I can’t wrap my mind around how this episode came together.  Every sketch was completely different in style and tone.  There was one thing all of the sketches had in common, however, and that was a lack of Chris Pratt.  The one bright spot was the well produced “Marvel Can’t Fail” trailer promo.  “Shopping Carts” had me laughing.

Pratt’s monologue was ok, but I kinda gotta complain about the musical monologues.  They always seem a bit disappointing, Pratt did a decent job as he can be quite funny on guitar, but you could really tell how tense he was up there in front of the live audience.  There was a cute nod to his wife Ana Faris, who was present front row and center in the crowd.  I think they could have gone funnier with this song as it was a bit safe.  From someone who is pretty infamous for behind the scenes hijinks, this entire episode felt pretty tame.  Maybe Pratt’s new PG-13 goofy every guy leading man persona is led to some creative issues?  We don’t want Star-lord, friend of children in hospitals, making obscene jokes?

The Sketches

State of the NFL Cold Open

A political talk show to start the show?  This has always been a standby for SNL, format is simple, can have some funny impressions and stay topical.  Ok, what is topical this week?  The NFL is certainly in some hot water over its handling of some of the recent player misconduct, let’s highlight that!  I can’t even really remember much that happened here, Chris Pratt played a bewildered impression(?) of Roger Goodell, Jay Pharoah was a cartoon version of human cartoon Shannon Sharpe, and Keenan Thompson was Ray Lewis, both ex NFL players with their own legal troubles.  This was a mess, the subject is way too unfunny and touchy that they couldn’t do more than have Jay Pharoah giggle in conniption fits and make sight gags with a new “NFL Fights 4 Women” ad.  Kenan Thompson shined here, as a Ray Lewis that wouldn’t say much other than exact details of how children go to school and return.  I thought that was pretty funny, excellent comedic timing from the cast’s veteran.

 Cialis Turnt

Ahh Erectile dysfunction.. comedy gold.  I have never seen any jokes about ED on late night TV lately!  I will give plus points to both Killam and Bryant for definitely getting “Turnt” in this one.  Both Killam and Bryant have a unique skill of being able to play both extremely believable straight characters and off the wall insane people, this is a skill they should utilize more.  Some good sight gags in here, overall a pretty good way to kick off the show proper.  Remember if you are “Turnt” for more than 6 hours, you are legally now Lil Wayne.

He-man and Lion-O

This was the first sketch of the night, and the sight of Taran Killam in perfect comic-con worthy Lion-O cosplay got a chuckle on its own.  The basic idea of the sketch is “what if toys really came to life, wouldn’t that be horrible?”  Now, I don’t want to completely accuse anyone here of anything.  But as this sketch went on.. I started to get a vibe that I had seen this somewhere before…

Ahh, another hilarious sketch about toys coming to life… that was written by Andrew Friedman and Mikey Day. Mikey Day is currently a staff writer for SNL, and boy I can guarantee he had something to do with this stinker of a sketch. This was basically a less funny and less weird version of the original. This is lazy and terrible. C’mon guys, write some original sketches for your show! Unbelievable. I am really disappointed. Did they think that nobody would have remembered this video (with nearly 5 million views)? Self Plagiarism is a real thing. It is dishonest and lazy. Step it up guys.

 Vet Office

This is apparently the second time they have used this sketch and characters.  I haven’t seen the first one.  I have not seen SNL a lot recently, but I plan to watch and review the entire 40th season.  This sketch was really bad.  It is a lame setup with too many characters.  Chris Pratt had barely any lines, and one prop gag with a dead tortoise.  I don’t get the point of this scene, and it was clear they had no way to end this.  There are funny characters, and then there are people delivering lines in funny accents.  These are not equivalent. Uggh.  This one did nothing for me.  Kate McKinnon (my current favorite cast member) delivered a line that made me laugh because I am an idiot “Birder”  That is when a bird is murdered.  You can’t just stuff some weird people with accents in a scene and expect it to be super funny, the accents only go so far.  Scenes that trap actors in locations have to move somewhere crazy situation wise for them to be memorable. The reason Target lady worked so much is because you could see a ridiculous depth of character in that insane target person Wiig played.  I miss Kristen Wiig.

 

Marvel Trailer

This was the high point of the night.  Loved it.  It got weird, fast.  “Pam 2: The Winter Pam” and “Shopping Carts” got some really loud chuckles out of me.  This one hit all of the right notes, Aidy Bryant was again pretty great with her physicality in this one.  Also, secret sketch MVP is Bobby Moynihan as “Guy In a Grimace Costume”

Weekend Update

Weekend Update felt like it went on for a long time this week! (20 minutes)  There were 3 guests, 2 of which basically performed their stand up for 3 minutes a piece.  This was the debut of the new Weekend Update team.  Call me crazy, but I still like the single host format a lot more, but this is what we are going with this year, so l will give them a chance.  Back on the table is Colin Jost, joined by newcomer and ex-daily show correspondent Michael Che.  Che was definitely off to a shaky start, and I was very cold on him as a host.  As the segment went on, Che found his rhythm and I liked him more and more.  Jost had the perfect Seth Meyers-esque snarky yet genuine grinning delivery, and they both did some great stuff with the material given.  Some of the jokes felt really flat though, and the audience didn’t react to some of the punchlines well.

I think some of the reason that Cecily Strong was removed from the desk was to make room for the newcomer Che, but the real reason was to allow her to continue her awesome character work with the “Girl You Wished You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With At A Party”.  I really missed this when she was on the WU desk.  Though, I am going to miss her mangled pronunciation of “Seth”.  Leslie Jones returned to do some stand up about being single.  It wasn’t great, there was a lot of yelling and bluster, but not much in the form of humor there, all frosting and no cake.  On the other hand Pete Davidson’s solid and completely reasonable argument about how it isn’t that bad to be gay for pay was quite funny, if not lazy for being a stand up bit.  The worst weekend update segments are people doing stand up, this is a sketch show.  Bring characters please.  It is the first show, but two stand up segments is too many.  No need to drag out weekend update, just write another sketch.

Booty Rap

If you are like me, and missed the establishing line.  “You’ve seen movies and music videos, you know how to flirt” this sketch was pure nonsense.  What are these people doing?  I remember halfway through the sketch thinking.. why are these two people doing this?  At least it wasn’t a dating game set up?  I was so confused, and while it was nice to see Aidy Bryant delivering some hilariously dirty hip hop lyrics, and Chris Pratt awkwardly explaining what ‘Plow through your panties like I am running on diesel”.  But the staging was insane here.  Was this two people meeting at a bar?  Was this two fighters returning to their respective corners after throwing their punches?  You have to meet the show halfway sometimes with staging as it is performed live on an actual stage, but this was a bit weird.  There were no real characters or progression here, just a reason to say some insanely dirty things in a fun way.  Just a simple “look at these white business people say rap things”.  It wasn’t very well thought out.

 

Bad Boys

I completely loved this mid-late nineties after school special send up. They went weird with it and committed like hell to the stilted dialogue and cookie cutter characters.  Kudos to whoever decided to cast Pratt’s new bad boy friends as real children.  That was a fun touch, and added to the over the top weird factor.  Excellent job on the soft focus camera and sitcom angles used in the filming of the video.  I wish that there would have been a punch line, or that they would have taken the weirdness a step further. I was expecting the typical back to school “Are you doing pot?” accusations, but it never escalated that far.  The ball theft was particularly great though.  Really loved this one.

 

NFL Intros

Same concept, better joke.  Lazy.  They didn’t go weird enough here.  You could tell they were dancing around this touchy subject.  Ozamataz Buckshank is very disappointed.  This is just Lazy guys.

 

Video Game

This sketch finished off the night.  This was a simple concept for a fun sketch.  It got weird, and it got weird in a fun way.  Well paced.  Killam did a pretty good job of talking down to the kids, and Pratt and Bayer got gross, and the cast members reactions really sold the weirdness well. The kissing of the scar got a too-loud laugh out of me.  Moynihan had some amazing reaction faces here.  This was o.k. but a bit similar to the Booty Rap sketch in concept.  Do weird stuff, get reactions. etc.

 

Wrap-up

Overall the show was pretty weak.  There were moments in sketches, but overall the show failed to showcase much of the new talent effectively.  I am very anxiously waiting for where they are going with this season.  Don Pardo passed during the break this year, and SNL alum Darryl Hammond took over annoucing duties.  Good for him, and good for them.  Pardo, you will be missed.  I think that the insane changing of the guard we have seen cast wise might be leading SNL into a new dark era.  The cast from 2 years ago vs. now is drastically different, and it shows.  Everyone is so young, and nobody is standing out like a Samberg, a Wiig, or a Ferrell.  I do like that they tightened up the cast a bit, but man things really need to move forward in a new direction here to return SNL to the relevance it deserves.  The sketch comedy TV show world is insanely hot with competition right now. (Ahem.. Key & Peele, Inside Amy Schumer, Kroll Show and more)

I don’t want to come off as overly negative, but SNL needs to be the creme de la creme of sketch TV shows.  I know they are live every week and deal with rotating guests with varying degrees of comedic abilities, but this should be the top of the mountain, and we should treat it as much.  I am going to try to be fair with these reviews, but I am not going to be writing some fluff pieces.  I am going to call out bad sketches and shitty stuff.  I am not going to dissect sketch structure, I am just going to give my honest opinion as a long time SNL fan.  I am going to hold SNL to the standard set by the past 40 years of shows.

I will see you next week. Sarah Silverman hosts.

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