Recap: 'Saturday NIght Live' - Charles Barkely is back, but Alicia Keys steals the show
Watch: Keys teams up with Sandberg for a very funny SNL Digital Short
As a huge fan of Charles Barkley as both a player and a sports commentator, no one was looking forward to the NBA Hall of Famer's second stint as a "SNL" host than this pundit. Unfortunately, as we've discovered this season, the legendary show's writers aren't up to this NBA Hall of Fame player's stature. For the most part that is. Worst of all? Barkley even warned us in his monologue. But let's get started...
Yemen President Intro
Wolf Blitzer (Jason Sudeikis) is in The Situation Room and he tells us that Gen. Patrias is in Yemen to talk with that country's Present Saleh about what that state can do to crack down on possible terrorist cells within its borders. Cut to a press conference where Gen. Petraeus (Will Forte) President Saleh (Fred Armisen, who else?) have gathered to speak about a new agreement.
Petraeus: "The U.S. will be doubling $70 million of aid to Yemen."
Saleh: "Thank you."
Petreaus: "Can you tell us what steps you'll be taking to crack down on possible terrorists?"
Saleh: (Acting either dumb or thinking he's saying the right thing in English) "More Al Qaida."
Petreaus: "Not more Al Quaida."
Saleh: "Not more people come in. More people are kept out."
Saleh: "We keep out the infidels, the jackals!"
Petreaus: "But also...terrorists, right?"
Saleh: (looks puzzled)
The too long and short of it is that "SNL" is making a dig that Yemen will take advantage of the U.S.'s grants and really not do anything to beef up airport security or terrorists within their borders and play "dumb." The point is obvious more than half way through.
Grade: C. Uh - oh, this was not the way to kick off the show. And does Armisten need to do every Arabic character on the show? We only wish we had more Wolf and the Situation Room.
Charles Barkley comes out in a nice suit and tie. And yep, he really does need to lose 50 pounds as he's discussed on his full time gig TNT's "Inside the NBA." He reminds everyone how he first hosted 16 years ago when he was coming off an MVP season. Barkley: "Now I play bad golf, drink and sometimes get arrested."
Barkley notes they started a little late because of the end of the NFL game preceding but says, "But hey, I just won $20,000 grand on the game. Sorry pal (shot of Lorne Michaels)."
Barkley: "They don't have too many black hosts. Mostly they have white hosts. Over the past two years they have had one, two if you count the Rock, but he's Samoan. That's the same black to white ratio that went to go see 'It's Complicated.' I'm outspoken. I say what's on my mind."
Barkley then makes fun of some of the people in the audience -- proving his outspokenness -- including the only other person of color in the room who is in the audience (and refers to as a black nerd) until he calls Keenan Thompson to the stage.
Barkley: "Do it, do me!"
Thompson: "Can someone get me some Krispy Kremes I want to share them with my black nerdy friend."
Barkley ends: "We've got a great show. Well, some of it is great, some of it we're gonna do anyway."
Grade: B. Pretty funny. At least he was honest about the night ahead of us.
Thomas Peeper's Insurance
We see a conventional TV spot for what could be Farmer's or All State Insurance, but the voiceover reveals more.
"An insurance company that is there for all the special days. We're Thomas Peepers Insurance. We know that you are OK because we are watching. Especially in the middle of the night. Unlike other insurance companies. You play nothing, but we're still there. For that first kiss, when you are getting out of the shower. When you are clogging that especially clogged drain. We're keeping an eye on you."
Grade: B - Funny idea, but the joke was over before the segment is.
Bill Hader appears as the host of generic game show which has contestants demonstrate their knowledge of movie quotes. Barkley appears as a Blockbuster Manager and Kristen Wiig is a Wisconsin schoolteacher just happy to "get out." The gist of this skit is that Barkley's character doesn't know the right ending to any of the quotes and Wiig's character gives drawn out answers that really aren't quotes. Here's an example of one exchange.
Hader: "We're gonna need a bigger..."
Barkley: "...shark bag."
Hader: "Think water..."
Hader: "We're gonna need a bigger ocean?"
Grade: C+. First skit out of the monologue? Really? Yeesh. I'll give it this though, the speed round had a few chuckles at the end.
He's back...with the movie on the way! As with previous skits, MacGruber (Forte) is trying to diffuse a bomb while his companions -- this time Kristen Wiig an Charles Barkley as Darrell -- try to help him and panic at impending disaster. First, MacGruber keeps getting Darrell's name wrong and then he stops to tell a joke: "What do you get when you cross a mexican, a black african american, a jew and a...(you get the picture)?"
MacGruber: "I dunno, but I don't want them to move next to me...(ship explodes)."
Grade: C+. Does this really make you want to see the movie? They may need to stop doing this if they want people to actually pay for a ticket.
Barkley, Thopmson, Sandberg and Forte are four guys who are excited about sexy Shanna (Wiig) coming over to their lodge after a long day of skiing.
Is that all you ever talk about is Shanna? Barkely shows up as Mr. Bergs.
She's indeed sexy and giggles in a Wiig/Betty Boop manner. However, every time she teases them from trying to fix the fire to sipping her hot chocolate ("Lick of the whip cream!") she ends up doing something that disgusts the whole group. At one point she turns on some music, and stats dancing to Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" and then does the worst pole dance ever. The guys all jump ship, but Barkley's character is still turned on at the end.
Grade: C +. Funny at first, but by the time she got to talking to her intestinal wall it got went a bit to far. Unless of course, you love Wiig and you probably ate it up.
MacGruber is a Racist
Voiceover tells us our "hero" had to take racism classes because of what he did with Darrell. Now, They are in another perilous situation and MacGruber can't ask for a black pen to stop a bomb without calling it the wrong thing. When Darrell finally gives him the pen, he sprays him with pepper spray thinking he's going for him.
Grade: C+. This is not gonna convince people to see a 90 minute movie.
Inside The NBA
This was teased on NBA TV earlier in the week. Barkley as Barkley and Sudeikis as Kevin Harlan (sadly, nothing notable with his impression) as they call a Lakers/Magic game. However, they have a special guest, a "brave little guy and a big basketball fan. Please welcome Danny Hoover." Turns out Danny (Andy Samberg) is a Make-A-Wish kid who just wanted to be a sports announcer. At first it goes pretty well.
Danny "Nothing but the bottom of the net!"
Then, to Harlan's frustration, Danny keeps saying the same line no matter what happens. Harlan: "Not this time Danny."
[Note: The audience may not find it that funny, but Barkley can't stop laughing during the skit.]
They soon find out that Danny has OCD which gets Barkley mad. Barkley: Is that it for real? He's not gonna die he has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Danny Hoover is a world class baloney head."
Harlan is then given a note from the producers "Turns out there are two kinds of OCD and the kind Danny has stands for Overwhelming Corpse Disease."
Cue Danny dying during the broadcast.
Grade: C-. Yi, yi, yi. This should have been a slam dunk. Why didn't they mock the show with Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson? Strange.
MacGruber Facebook Friends Spike Lee
MacGruber shows up in an African tribal clothes after having gone on a long journey to find himself. Back in perilous situation with Darrell and Wiig, he says, "I know I have a way to go, but I'm headed in the right direction, so put it there."
MacGruber puts his hand out to shake on it. Just as Darrell puts his hand out to shake in return, MacGruber pepper sprays him and yells, "Oh, he's got a gun!"
Grade: C. Again, are we all excited about a "MacGruber" movie now?
Alicia Keys, "Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart"
The multiple Grammy winner starts out with this mid-tempo track in front of her trademark piano and a quartet of back up singers. he moves behind the piano for the end the song.
Grade: B. When she lets lose Keys sounds great, but the rest of the song she sounds uncharacteristically wispy almost like its an unbalanced mix of her vocals and the back up singers. Strange. Still, she's equal or better than any of the other performers this season (as expected).
Weekend Update with Seth Meyers
Some joke highlights:
"Appearing on ABC's 'Good Morning America,' Former New York City Mayor Rudy Gulianni said we had no domestic terrorist attacks during the Bush Administration I knew we would have a point where we forgot about 9/11, but I never thought you'd be the first."
James Carville (Hader) shows up in person for a rebuttal. Carville: "Look, I don't know what everyone is so upset about Seth. A guy put a bomb in his underpants and blew his privates off. Paint an airport on the side of a mountain and hope people fly into it. It's looney toons. Looney Toons!"
Meyers asks about body scanners at airports. Carville: "Just measure my penis and let me get on the airplane. Although measuring my penis is a long process. It's like a rain stick down there."
Meyers: "What about the Republicans claim there were no terrorist attacks under George W. Bush?"
Carville: "That's like the mayor of Pompeii saying we didn't have any volcanos. They are like a fat lady in a milkshake store, they are grasping for straws."
More jokes from Meyers:
Regarding the possibility of Jay Leno going to 11:30 and Conan O'Brien to midnight "It's a little weird to start 'The Tonight Show' when it's no longer tonight."
"New York City beat orlando as the top tourist spot in 2009 thanks to the 'PIrates of the L-Train' ride." (shot of period pirates in city subway car)
Nic Cage (Andy Samberg) then appears to discuss his new job as a U.N. humanitarian ambassador.
Cage: " I've always considered myself as a global ambassador. I'm gonna steal the Declaration of Independence. Look there should be an engraved piece under your desk! I don't have time to explain this to you! Don't you trust me?"
Meyers tells him to stop playing his character from "National Treasure."
Cage: "I'm sorry Seth I go very deep into my characters and sometimes they spring out. Let's talk UN."
Conversation with Cage digressing into his "Face/Off" character.
More Meyers jokes:
"Black people no longer the majority neighborhood in Harlem as evidenced by the new starting line up the Harlem Globetrotters (shot of all white kids)."
"Lady Gaga was named a spokesperson for Polaroid this week. It's a natural fit because just like a polaroid it takes a few minutes to figure out what you're looking at."
Finally after delivering an angry speech to lawmakers this week, NY Gov. David Patterson (Armisen) stops by once again to enlighten and entertain us.
Meyers: "You weren't kidding around on your state to the state address?"
Patterson: "I'm never going to be popular in Albany. When I hear boos I know I'm in Albany."
Patterson on the cast of "Jersey Shore": "The people on that show are the cream of the crop. The 'Jersey Shore' is their 'McLaughlin group.'"
Meyers: "But New Jersey just voted their Governor out this past fall."
Patterson: "Which is like the junkyard hiring a new night watchmen.
That's like when a striper calls herself Chastity."
Meyers: "What is your next plan?"
Patterson: "I'm just going to hold on till 2012."
Meyers: "There isn't an election in 2012."
Patterson: "That's when the Mayans say the world will end. Everything will be reduced to rubble and flaming piles of garbage or like I like to call it...New Jersey!"
Grade: B+. The guests made it work this week (as usual). What will we do when Patterson is voted out of office?
The Haney Project on The Golf Channel
Sudeikis appears as the noted Golf pro who tried to help Charles Barkley fix his notoriously golf swing which he describes as "someone had a heart attack mid swing and miraculously recovered." Turns out his swing isn't just a golf program. Filming of Barkley at home shows he can't sweep, he can't put magnets on a refrigerator or ice a cake.
Barkley: "Why haven't any of my friends told me about this?"
Haney: "Because it's highly entertaining."
Grade: B. Extra points to Barkley for mocking himself. This one might have also saved us from the rumored dress rehearsal skit which found Barkley in drag.
An SNL Digital Short
[Warning: Description below cannot do this short justice. Watch the video.]
Alicia Keys appears as though she's just arrived home and takes a seat on her couch. A voiceover begins.
Keys: "That was a crazy night. I'm a little tipsy. SHould I call him? No, I gotta stay strong. Maybe just this once."
"Hey girl. What's up?"
Split screen comes up and Andy Samberg's freaky Lionel character is on the other line. Some choice lines from the conversation which she is totally turned on by.
Lionel: "Is this a freakin' booty call? It so works out because I'm super horny."
Keys: "What are you wearing?"
Lionel: "You mean over the diaper?"
Eventually, camera pulls back to find out this sexually suggestive conversation has occurred while Lionel and a larger group of people are staging an intervention to get one of his friends of smack.
Grade: B+. Ha, Alicia Keys is already overshadowing Charles and there is still twenty minutes to go.
Alicia Keys, "Empire State of Mind, Part 2"
Decades from now, Keys will be known for this song more than any other. Instant classic and superb performance. And, you can tell by her smile she knows it too.
Grade: A+. 'Nuff said.
Macintosh Jr.(Thompson) is back to scare some young offenders into turning straight and this time he's got his dad, and Macintosh Sr. (Barkley) along to help. Not only does Barkley crack up in this skit, but Hader does as well having to cover his mouth for part of it. The whole bit revolves around Macintosh Jr. telling stories of what his life was like as examples to the kids, but they are really just plots from movies like "The Matrix," "Aladdin" and "Jerry Maguire." They also end with hilariously over the top gay subtext that is most likely why this funny skit has to run so late in the show (thank you NBC censors, most of the audience already changed the channel by now).
Grade: A-. Very funny stuff. Too bad there wasn't more Thompson tonight.
Barclays Bank? Screw that, how about Charles Barkley's Bank? He promises: "If you are looking for a new way to manage your money, I am either going to double it or loose it all. That's a promise."
Grade: C-. Semi-pointless, but at least it was only a minute.
Overall this episode was a big disappointment. The writers had the entire holiday break to try and come up with some inspired bits and instead seemed like even they didn't want to be there. Barkley seemed less comfortable than when he first hosted 16 years ago, but perhaps that's because he knew the material was much weaker? At least audiences got Keys. She made the 90 minutes watchable to say the least.
What did you think of tonight's episode? Share your thoughts below.
For the lates on entertainment news, Oscar, 'SNL' and more follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.
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