Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Charlie Day and Maroon 5
A middle-of-the-road return for the show, which kept host Charlie Day boxed in all night
“Saturday Night Live” is back, after a much-needed two-week hiatus. On tap tonight: Charlie Day, best known for his work on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, and Maroon 5, best known for having its lead singer be one of the judges on “The Voice.” I kid! Day also has plenty of recent cinematic experience with one Jason Sudeikis, so look for a lot of pairings between them. Then again, there was very little interaction between Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig a few weeks back, so anything is possible. What’s a definite: if “SNL” attempts a dumbed-down “Sunny” sketch, I might hurl my laptop at the screen. Hopefully there’s something in my HitFix contract that states they will reimburse me if that happens.
Onto the recap!
“A Message From The Ghost of Moammar Gadhafi”: The world may be through with him, but Fred Armisen sure isn’t. He trots out this impression for what I think will be the last time. Then again, “Ghost Gadhafi” has an inherently infinite shelf life, so who knows. A lot of his advice to the living consists of easy targets: never dare people to kill you, never refer to your citizens as rats, etc. The monologue actually scores a few points for essentially calling the United States government out for leaving him in power for over four decades, but the sketch was generally as toothless as Armisen’s take on the dictator. [Grade: C+]
Monologue: Man, the crowd LOVES themselves some Charlie Day. He starts off with some decent jokes about being a toddler in NYC (“Everyone was MUCH bigger!”) before fellow “Sunny” star Danny DeVito comes in to help coach him through the monologue. This ends up being the best of both worlds: it’s something featuring a “Sunny” cast member, but plays up the chemistry between the pair without resorting to turning them into their characters from the show. In the end, Day gets on the piano/harmonica, Billy Joel-style, to declare it “Charlie Day Day.” If you didn’t know Day before this monologue, this had to give you confidence that the show was in good hosting hands. If you already knew Day’s talent, this monologue still was a hell of a lot of fun. [Grade: A-]
“Kim’s Fairytale Divorce”: Nasim Pedrad, Abby Elliot, and Vanessa Bayer already own their impressions of the Kardashian Sisters. (“I get the free one!”) But the real stars here were Wiig, Taran Killam, and Andy Samberg giving hilarious takes on Kristen Jenner, Bruce Jenner, and Kris Humphries. (Can’t wait for Wiig to run this one into the ground as well.) Also? I am now terrified E! is developing “Brody Jenner, Khloe & Kris Take Vitamins” as a real show. This was an easy target, but well done all the same. [Grade: B+]
“Dr. Oz”: Ooooh boy. This sketch was….well, let’s just say it resembled the subject matter at hand. Poop jokes, poop jokes, and more poop jokes. Terrible, unfunny, and this is the LEAD SKETCH AFTER THE MONOLOGUE. The best thing about it? It was fairly short. And yet somehow, waaaaay too long. [Grade: D]
“Greek Gods Meet To Solve Financial Crisis”: This wasn’t a sketch so much as a chance to cast as many members of the cast as Greek Gods. Ostensibly, the sketch was about the gods trying to solve the financial crisis in Greece, but it was mostly an excuse to riff on the odd assignations of Greek mythology. There ARE a lot of gods related to aspects of warfare. More then a few tend to turn into animals and impregnate humans. Also, Hermes is apparently THE WORST. (Also? Adam Levine makes a great Yanni. Who knew?) This was never boring, per se, but Lord was it too long. Half of this sketch could have been lopped off in the writer’s room and produced a more streamlined version. However, the point of this wasn’t to streamline things but give a bloated, shaggy, “everyone’s onstage at once and isn’t this awesome?” feel. Were this a true ensemble cast, maybe seeing this many of them would work. But since so many of them tend to operate in their own orbit, even while surrounded by their fellow players, this didn’t have the intended effect. [Grade: B-]
“It’s Getting Freaky with Cee-Lo Green”: Man, Jay Pharaoh’s already been in three sketches tonight! I barely had time to raise my “Free Jay Pharaoh” sign up into the air. Good times. I guess someone at “SNL” decided that “What’s Up With That?” was in danger of being overexposed, so here we are. And “here” involves Freakasaurus, a pile of ladies, and a horny dude that looks like Colonel Sanders in an orange suit. And yet, somehow this still felt less weird that Cee-Lo Green’s performance at this year’s Grammy Awards. This was fine, but I would have rather seen Bill Hader as Lindsey Buckingham instead of Colonel Nasty. [Grade: B-]
“The Kings of Catchphrase Comedy Tour 2”: OK, this sketch beat me over the head until I finally gave in. I really hated the first version of this sketch the last time it aired, and I wasn’t feeling it this time around. And then, out of nowhere, I started to laugh. I think it was around the time that Pedrad did her Sarah Silverman impression, or a hawk attacked Adam Levine. I can’t be sure. There are some weeks in which it feels like only two or three of the cast members actually appear. But we’ve had several large casts in these sketches tonight. Too bad their use has been largely individual: everyone appears, does their thing independent of everyone else, then leaves. It’s great to see everyone strut his or her stuff. And I bet taping this bit was a freakin’ blast for all involved. I just wish they were bouncing off each other more, versus taking turns in the spotlight. [Grade: B-]
It’s 12:10 am EST, and we finally get Maroon 5 performing “Moves Like Jagger.” I wouldn’t let Levine come within 25 feet of my wife, even if I was around to punch him in the face if he tried to hit on her. But damnit if he and his band don’t come up with earworms that JUST WON’T LEAVE MY BRAIN. I completely understand if hearing this song causes you to kick off a seven-state killing spree. But I dig it, even without Christina Aguilera there to perform her part. No one ever accused me of sophisticated taste in music. And after this, that won’t change anytime soon. [Grade: B+]
“Weekend Update”: Governor Rick Perry comes on to defend himself against accusations stemming from his odd speech in New Hampshire. He blames his performance on a spiked pizza courtesy of Herman Cain, and seems to believe the citizens of Hawaii all speak Spanish. Whether it be Perry or Stefon, Bill Hader is ALWAYS on the verging of breaking into laughter on “Update.” Next, Seth Meyers busts out a new segment: “A Closer Look at Europe,” because even he realizes the earlier sketch didn’t come close to actually explaining what “austerity measures” are. It’s a “Really???” knock-off, but it works due to the specificity involved and the sheer speed and increasingly manic energy that Meyers employs during the bit. Sadly, said energy gets sapped by the return of Judy Grimes, she of the “just kidding” catch-phrase that should have been lumped in with the “Kings of Catchphrases” sketch a little while back. [Grade: C+]
“Because of One Dolphin”: Ah, the old “something is wrong, and each repetition of the act only produces more problems” sketch. Fun! Except not. These sketches have to build from relative normality into frenzied farce, but this sketch actually worked backwards in that respect. Also? Either Charlie Day only does one thing, or this show only asked him to do one thing. I’m guessing it’s the latter, since the former is just too depressing. [Grade: C-]
Maroon 5 is back, this time with the Gym Class Heroes’ Travie McCoy to play the current hit “Stereo.” I’m pretty sure Travie and I are currently wearing the same flannel pajamas. This…this is weird. But it’s distracting me from the song, which just isn’t all that strong save for Levine’s hook. Nothing else is that memorable: it’s not abrasive or offensive, but it’s pretty forgettable. And that’s only fitting, since “not abrasive or offensive, but pretty forgettable” pretty much sums up this episode of “SNL.” [Grade: B-]
“Seinfeld Apartment Murder”: I have no idea what “SNL” called this sketch in the writer’s room, but this is what I am calling it. Because it makes me happy. Here’s a great example of what the dolphin sketch didn’t do: take a basic premise and then ramp it up to maximum effectiveness by constantly increasing the lunacy. I rolled my eyes at the concept of a cop so out of touch he has never heard of “Seinfeld,” baseball, or World War II. But as the cop started to make unwitting references to all of them, I started to laugh uncontrollably. A lot of this had to do with the clever writing, but most of it was due to the Day/Sudeikis chemistry. Why “SNL” picked this week to spread the wealth versus focusing a show around these two confuses (and depresses) me greatly. [Grade: B+]
“Lil Poundcake”: We’ve already seen this commercial. I’m guessing the show had 90 seconds to fill. Thus, this. I don’t grade material that’s already aired. Sorry. [Grade: N/A]
Best Sketch: The monologue. Nothing else matched the energy or the promise of it. “Seinfeld Apartment Murder” came the closest, but didn’t top it.
Worst Sketch: “Dr. Oz”. Wow. That might be a candidate for “Worst Sketch of the Season” when all is said and done.
Biggest Surprise: No Adam Levine/Lonely Island digital short. I would have bet good money on that.
Biggest Disappointment: The one-note way in which Charlie Day was used. Maybe I’m giving him too much credit as an actor, but I have to think he can do more than what was on display tonight.
What did you make of Charlie Day’s “SNL” debut? Did the show simply play to his strengths, or did his cavalcade of similar performances wear you down? Did you enjoy the ensemble sketches, or was it too much of a good thing? Sound off below!