Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bryan Cranston/Kanye West - Sketch-by-Sketch Review

Cold Open - This week's cold open centered around Rahm Emanuel's resignation from his position as White House Chief of Staff. I always enjoy Andy Samberg's impression of Emanuel, but I didn't really feel like it was up to par this week? Maybe it just wasn't as deliciously vicious as usual? Anyway, it had some funny lines such as, "But remember, there's a big difference between arguing a point passionately and committing actual physical violence. And that's a difference I completely lost sight of." Bobby Moynihan played Emanuel's successor and had some funny moments - his facial expressions were pretty hilarious. But for me, it lacked some of the punch that last week's Christine O'Donnell-centric open had. 

Monologue - Bryan Cranston proves himself to be a decent song-and-dance man in this monologue which lampoons the fact that he's not exactly a household name. Enjoyable beginning and nice way to top the show.

Pepto Bismol Ice - This commercial parody features a Pepto Bismol malt liquor that one can enjoy in the clubs when they experience the discomfort of indigestion. Amusing premise and Nasim Pedrad did a great job as the commercial's spokeswoman. 

The Miley Cyrus Show - I've always been surprised that Miley Cyrus hasn't been the subject of sketches on SNL. Her persona is ripe for parody, as proven in this sketch where newbie Vanessa Bayer imitates Cyrus to perfection. Bayer did a really terrific job and successfully carried the entire sketch.Paul Brittain had his first starring role on SNL with a pitch-perfect impression of Johnny Depp while Bryan Cranston was equally enjoyable as Cyrus' father Billy Ray Cyrus ("You make me smile!"). I felt like the "pretty cool" catchphrase was unnecessary but the faux clip from the fictional movie "Goodbye, Jeff" was pretty hysterical. A worthy successor to The Dakota Fanning Show.

What Up With That? - Next, we were treated to Season 36's first installment of What Up With That?, a sketch that just never grows old for me despite the samey nature of the sketch. This week's guests were "93-year old sex machine" Ernest Borgnine and Morgan Freeman as well as the perennially bumped Lindsey Buckingham. Freeman's cameo was priceless and his disillusioned expression was delicious. Borgnine was delightful and seemed to be enjoying the whole spectacle very much. And how could you not with appearances from Mary Kay Letourneau and her student lover (Abby Elliott and Paul Brittain) and Do-Do Man and Zwiggy (Bryan Cranston and Jay Pharoah). Much-deserved kudos to Kenan Thompson who, as always, brought an unrivalled energy and enthusiasm to the stage. 

Shanna - Kristen Wiig reprised her character Shanna i.e the sexy girl with an unsexy manner. So, I was a little "meh" on this sketch, just because I didn't see the point in it being brought back and I didn't think the material was there. But, what I will say is is that Wiig always commits fully to this character even as it has devolved into a semi gross-out sketch and leaves her vanity at the door. Any comedy in this sketch is wrung from her performance and for that, she deserves her due. But, for me, this was the weakest of the night. 

Digital Short - A marked improvement on last week, but still not reaching the heights of last season. This had some very funny moments though such as, "You've purchased 99 child's tickets for Rescue Dogs 3D" and "Haven’t heard from U in 5 years. Rescue Dogs 3D?! Are U 4 real?!". But I feel like the premise wasn't fully realised and as a result was a little jumbled and silly. Still though, better than last week's.

Weekend Update - Not as strong as last week's - but then again, last week had David Paterson and Amy Poehler. Some nice jokes this week courtesy of Seth Meyers such as, "This week marks the 50th anniversary of The Flintstones, the seminal animated series that inspired, among other things, the creationist movement." Bobby Moynihan was on hand to reprise his Second-Hand News Correspondent character Anthony Crispino. That had some fun moments like Crispino confusing the Ground Zero Mosque debacle with Muslims wanting to show Jim Carrey's movie The Mask at Ground Zero. It wasn't uproarious, but like I said, it had some fun moments and Moynihan did a great job. Also on hand was Andy Samberg who came to deliver his swansong performance as Cathy. Again, this was fun but to be honest, I'm relieved we won't be seeing more of Cathy. All in all, a fun installment that failed to reach the heights of last week's. 

Kid Smartz - Here, Bryan Cranston played an overly kissy-kissy children's quiz show host while Kenan Thompson played the sassy Janelle who was having none of Cranston's inappropriate antics. I thought this sketch was fun and had a great premise. My favourite moments were undoubtedly between Cranston and Samberg's dim character Roger, who obliged Cranston's requests for kisses. I thought this was executed reasonably well, but it didn't go as far as I would have liked. Maybe it was just me but I felt like it ended a little abruptly? I don't know. 

Sparkling Apple Juice - Here, Cranston and Fred Armisen played two singers in Minneapolis, MN who sang one song over and over - "I sent a bottle of sparkling apple juice to your house?/Did you get it?" On paper, that doesn't sound great, but I actually enjoyed it a great deal. Maybe it was the live element, which saw Cranston and Armisen coax the crowd into singing the song with them, but I just found myself smiling throughout. Simple premise that was executed well and great job by Cranston in particular.

Henry - This saw Nasim Pedrad debut a new character - a small, nerdy 10 year old named Henry who's learning self defence from his father. Now, here's what I'll say about this - I didn't necessarily think the content was there but the level to which Pedrad committed to the character and carried the sketch was more than impressive. So for me, the brilliance of the performance outweighed the middling quality of the writing. 

i-sleep-pro - I'm unsure as to why this didn't take prominence over Pepto Bismol Ice, because for me, this was way sharper and more inventive.  This featured  a sleep aid that played sounds black people are used to and can therefore get to sleep to. Sounds like "Muffled Tyler Perry Sitcoms", "Old Lady Complaining About Foot Problems" and my favourite - "Bass". Simple, sharp and concise. Great job.

Overall, I thought this was a very enjoyable show. Bryan Cranston fit in seamlessly with the cast and proved to be a great utility player. Would I have liked him to be featured more than he was? Yes. I don't think he got the opportunity to showcase the breadth of his comedic talent, but at the same time, he proved to be a worthy host and I sincerely hope that he's invited back again. 
If Cranston wasn't showcased, then by God, were the featured players showcased with Vanessa Bayer, Paul Brittain, Taran Killam and Nasim Pedrad all getting ample face time. Bayer, Killam and Pedrad were particularly impressive in their respective sketches and made me eager to see more of them both. This featuring of the featured players players may have come at the expense of the repertory players with there being a conspicuous lack of Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis this week. Hopefully this will be remedied soon. 
But what everyone's talking about this morning is Kanye West and his two killer performances. Honestly, it's rare for the musical guest to take centre stage and steal the show, but that's exactly what West did last night with his impeccably staged and performed Power and Runaway. It was a true spectacle and the white background/dancers were genius touches. Any animosity between West and SNL should be forever buried because the boy brought it and tore up Studio 8H last night. A great television moment.

Grade - 7.5/10

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