Big name guest hosts like Daniel Craig appear on "Saturday Night Live" in order to build buzz for their latest movie. The big screen Bond is lucky that his character is so iconic, because this week's episode was so dismal it could have tanked a lesser star's career. Rather than play up that suave super spy persona, "SNL" bizarrely put their lead actor into increasingly awkward and horrifyingly bad situations.
Best of the Night
The oasis at the middle of the show, the "Saturday Night Live" Weekend Update had plenty of laughs tonight. The political debate inspired an episode of "Winners and Losers," the best winner being everyone excited by the DVR-worthy potential of "Joe Biden thinking he has to save the day." Seth Meyers had gleeful fun describing the VP taking his shirt off for votes and greasing up so "he's tougher to grab."
The politics capped off with a visit from Big Bird to comment on Romney's desire to end PBS funding. The sight of the Sesame Street character was funny enough, but it was a shame that the PG humor didn't get a little edgier--even Elmo has had more bite.
Weekend Update also included great one-off jokes like the reporting of a woman who attempted to smuggle 70 glass vials of cocaine tucked into an intimate area--"Police were tipped off when the woman walking by sounded like someone adjusting a chandelier." Kate McKinnon had an amusing bit as the heavily accented artist Cecilia Gimenez, who did a Mr. Bean-esque "restoration" on a painting of Jesus: "I think he's had some work done, but it was not my place to say."
On another night this would have been a mid-level sketch, but tonight this taped bit was a highlight. All the "Saturday Night Live" gals lined up as "lesser-known Bond girls," and it was fun seeing how Ellen DeGeneres, Diane Keaton and a completely-turned-off-by-Bond Jodie Foster would fare with 007. Nasim Pedrad and Craig hammed it up with the "SNL" player's version of Lea Michele, as he tried to stop her from singing and dancing her way through espionage.
Worst of the Night
"Saturday Night Live" keeps thinking that Fred Armisen playing a woman is funny, but mostly it's just revolting. This week he brought out his cross-dressing for a role as the guest host's snooty girlfriend at a party, who pretends to have big opinions about "Syria" and "books." The misplaced snobbery might have been a way to go, but instead the sketch had Craig constantly asking his friends and family to watch his girlfriend's exaggerated "O" face as he kissed her neck or rubbed her back. Armisen also rolled around so much his skirt hiked up to reveal unpleasant views of his pantyhose. This is the kind of stuff you can't unsee.
The "Saturday Night Live" writers had the host doing a lot of blustery, shouty, not-very-bright characters tonight. The worst was as a construction worker who was very bad at heckling women. There were a few funny lines from the other guys on his crew, but James Bond stammering his way through lines about "steaming piles of meat" and "pooperizing" was just painful to watch.
The monologue also hovered over the line of bad taste with an In Memorium segment on all of Craig's onscreen victims. Once it got rolling, it made a few good jabs at the senseless violence and deaths of nameless guys referred to by descriptions like "Mr. Stairs," but the whole sketch was awkwardly paced and the audience clearly never warmed up to the premise.
Like many a "Saturday Night Live" host before him, Craig attacked each sketch in earnest, doing his best to sell the crap he was given. Somehow the earnestness made it worse, because viewers could feel the actor dying a little bit with every unfunny line. With his un-Bond-like quirky personality, the star could have dialed it back slightly and settled into Christopher Walken territory, making even poorly-read cue cards all part of the joke.
The new women in the cast are showing promise, though hopefully "SNL" won't go overboard in giving McKinnon all the big female roles. Armisen clearly needs to move on, as he always seems to be doing his own one-act play in the middle of any sketch he's in.
Muse performed "Madness" and "Panic Station," and both numbers were way more accessible than some of their more grinding, complexly cacophonous symphonies. For me, Matthew Bellamy's voice is always so beautiful in a hauntingly ethereal way that it transcends whatever backdrop they choose for it. "Madness" was a fairly uncluttered piece, and highlighted those stellar vocals--and a bizarrely glowing bass apparently played by touch screen. "Panic Station" was classic, infectious, early-80s inspired rock made all the more riveting by adding that complicated Muse vibe.
What did you think, "Saturday Night Live" fans? One of the worst episodes of the series or just misunderstood?
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