"Saturday Night Live" was a revelation with host Christina Applegate. Whether the sketch comedy's writers got out all of their bad stuff for last week's dismal episode, or they found the "Up All Night" star particularly inspiring, they finally managed to strike the right balance between jokes, parody and weirdness. The guest got to make the best use of her talents, we saw a nice variety of cast members take the lead, and best of all, it was consistently funny all night.
Best of the Night
I've been desperately hoping for a return of Nasim Pedrad's Arianna Huffington, and this week I got my wish on the "Saturday Night Live" Weekend Update. What I love about Pedrad's drawling, haughty performance is that aside from parodying the media mogul, it also makes her really entertaining, with smart and sassy commentary on current issues and a lot of flirting with Seth. This week Arianna tackled women's rights, declaring that if men could get pregnant, abortion clinics would be as ubiquitous as Starbucks, and the Morning After pill would come in Sea Salt and Cool Ranch flavors. Watch her hilarious rants here at the "SNL" site. Bonus points for affectionately calling Seth her "potato pancake."
The "Give Us All Our Daughters Back" trailer combined the star power of "The Expendables" with the revenge themes of "Taken" and gave us a hilarious set of impressions from the entire cast. Applegate got the biggest laughs with her "Kill Bill" version of Uma Thurman, at one point stalking around in her yellow and black jumpsuit, shouting to a kidnapper on the phone that "You'll recognize me--I'm dressed like a taxi." Jay Pharoah did a flawlessly arrogant, clipped-tone Denzel Washington, and Taran Killam had fun with his "fighting and growling" Liam Neeson. Watch it here.
I thought that "Saturday Night Live" had worn out the welcome of "The Californians" with its last installment, but it seems to be funny or not based on who's in it. The former "Married with Children" star was the perfect fit for the distorted Valley-Girl-esque speaking patterns and over-the-top soap opera expressions, and the other cast members seemed to enjoy working with her. The sketch works best when everyone fully commits, and once Bill Hader, Applegate, and Fred Armisen started drawing out their vowel sounds to ridiculous lengths to crack each other up, this sketch was golden again.
The political cold open was also a hit for "Saturday Night Live" this week, with Jason Sudeikis perfectly hamming up his Joe Biden performance for the debate, an event the VP prepared for with energy drinks and "Yosemite Sam" videos. Kate McKinnon also had some fine moments as the hardcore moderator Martha Raddatz, who instructed Killan's creepy-eyed, water-chugging Ryan to stop staring directly into the camera because it was scaring small children.
The Tech Talk show seemed poised to be a snoozer of a sketch as tech aficionado guests ranted about the inadequacies of the new iPhone, like that weird tint on photos when you "aimed the camera directly into the sun." Their silly critiques turned out to be a set-up for the real hook, however, whereby the host brought in three of the Chinese workers who actually made the phone. The three peasants had fun playing their pity violin and doing the "sarcastic dance" as they listened to the tech geeks' petty complaints. "Saturday Night Live" did a great job here, giving us an unexpected jab at how silly we Americans can look (and are) with our first world problems.
Worst of the Night
There weren't really any total tanks on "Saturday Night Live" this week, just a few middling sketches that weren't as good as the rest. The Gillette Pro-Glider commercial seemed poised to be amusing with its impressions of Adrien Brody and Andre 3000, but after they threw Sandusky into the mix it never went anywhere. It almost seemed as if something had been edited out of the video, so perhaps pedophilia jokes were considered too inappropriate even for late night TV.
Applegate threw herself into the late-late sketch about a tangentially famous dancer teaching Fosse-inspired moves to a class of four in a strip mall. Her eccentric techniques embrace the bizarre stylings of the dance, but confuse her students, and that's perhaps where the breakdown occurred. The students' bewilderment wasn't quite funny or genuine enough to make this sketch a winner, despite the guest host's limber performance.
Passion Pit performed "Take a Walk" and "Carried Away." While both tunes had rhythmic and catchy melodies, lead singer Michael Angelakos had basically no voice or tune whatsoever, requiring three loud back-up singers to help fill the space between the instrumental notes. It must be said that it's also tough to get "passionate" about a bunch of guys in wool sweaters, whose "wildest" member stands out with his bedhead hair and old-man cardigan.
What did you think, "Saturday Night Live" fans? Will this still be a candidate for "Best Episode" by the end of the season?
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