When "Saturday Night Live" decides to do single-billing, with a performer doubling up as both host and musical guest, I always get worried. It’s not that people can’t pull double duty, but I sometimes wonder why they’re doing double duty: is it because they are particularly good at both, or because they’ve (like Jennifer Lopez) hot both a movie and an album to promote at the same time and need the entire hour and a half to do their promotional machine justice? Heading into the show, I don’t know which I’m more concerned about: her music has never inspired my interest, but neither has her acting, and while she’s not going to have trouble embracing the zaniness of "SNL" I don’t know if she is capable of any nuance from a comic perspective (have you seen "Mother-in-Law"? No? Good. Me neither. But I’m sure it would make this argument work better, so let’s pretend we did).
In other words, I was not “Waiting for Tonight.”
Full details on J.Lo’s "SNL" single-bill, with infinitely less song title puns, after the jump.
First and foremost, the big news of the night had nothing to do with Jennifer Lopez. In the Digital Short, “Flags of the World,” there was a brief mention of the ongoing campaign to get Betty White to host the show (which is getting close to a quasi-conclusion). The “We Love Betty White Flag” was easily the highlight of the night in terms of newsworthy content: the Digital Short itself was solid, with some fun gags (like the “Confused Fan of Lost-A Flag” for example) and a short enough running time to keep from outstaying its welcome. Samberg knows how to keep this stuff mostly fresh, and the sketch hit more than it missed. [Grade: A-]
From the cold open, though, things were not off to a great start. As expected, Lopez is capable of playing certain roles, channeling Rihanna with a couple of vocal embellishments in the “We Are the World 3: Raising Awareness of the We Are the World 2 Disaster” sketch, but there is no sketch around her: none of the other impressions were all that impressive (even Bill Hader didn’t do anything with Eddie Vedder), and about three quarters of the jokes weren’t actually, well, jokes. Some were too obscure, some lacked any humour, and others died purely based on the lack of audience response (which is rare for SNL). The sketch was certainly not an outright failure, but neither the song nor the impressions felt like they added up to anything worth watching. [Grade: C-]
And Lopez got off to a similarly rough start in what was, perhaps, the weakest monologue in recent memory for the few reasons. First, they just did the “I’ve matured” monologue with Ashton Kutcher in the last new episodes, and second there were no actual jokes: Lopez never had to break a sweat beyond a superfluous (but appreciated) spin at the end to show off her figure, and the joke with Dante was not actually, you know, funny. The fake Jennifer Lopez Drag Queen names (Annifer Bropez and J.Blow) were enough to save it from outright failure, but it was darn close. [Grade: D]
In terms of recent "SNL" recurring sketches, the ESPN Classic sketches are kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, I think the sketches are problematic in that there is only two jokes: rhyming ad slogans about vaginal cream and Forte’s Stink not knowing anything about the sport in question. However, I think Sudeikis sells the rhymes, and my love for Curling (especially with Canada winning Olymic Gold earlier tonight) meant that I appreciated Stink not knowing anything about the game since no one knows anything about the game. So with my love for Curling, this sketch worked, but I don’t know if the sketch has quite the longevity they believe it does. [Grade: B+]
A sketch with absolutely no longevity, meanwhile, is Hollywood Dish. I legitimately don’t get this sketch: Wiig and Hader aren’t particularly funny, celebrities playing themselves (shilling their wares, even) is rarely "SNL" at the height of its humor, and the ending (where the most embarrassing part of the interview is placed out of context) is never worth it. It’s not funny, it plays to no one’s strengths, and they didn’t even do a There Will Be Blood joke with Hader (who has a mean Plainview) in the presence of a milkshake. [Grade: F]
As far as the Telemundo sketch does, I think you get into a bit of a difficult position here: the joke is that no one cares about the Winter Olympics, but the joke spends less time on Vancouver-specific humour and more on general “people who speak Spanish don’t understand Winter” jokes. Lopez was lifeless here, and I felt they missed the boat: there’s a lot of great Olympic material (see: Evgeni Plushenko and Evan Lysacek’s battle for figure skating gold) that could have been mined here which wasn’t dealt with. And yet, there was another extended curling segment, so who am I to complain? The answer: an intelligent person who watches this pretty lifeless sketch comedy show. [Grade: C]
As someone who watches TV, the "Undercover Celebrity Boss" sketch was more effective than the cold open: better impressions (Hader’s Richard Branson was a lot fun), and CBS is enjoyable to make fun of. The problem, really, was that no one but Ana Gasteyer should be playing Martha Stewart, especially considering her fundamental lack of current cultural cache. [Grade: B-]
As for Weekend Update, I’ll give them this: they stuck with two “interview” segments, which works better at the end of the day. Plus, I got some nice nostalgia from Slim Jims (anyone who didn’t immediately think of Macho Man Randy Savage clearly never watched professional wrestling in the 1990s), and they managed to land a Tiger Woods joke fairly successfully. Unfortunately, the Governor Paterson joke is getting old for us non-New Yorkers, which makes his impending exit convenient even if "SNL" seems to be in love with the sketch. Overall, some decent jokes, and the “Woman mistakes Matthew Fox for Jorge Garcia” gag gets it a "Lost" bump. The curling joke would have also gotten it some extra points if not for my quote of Curling bonuses for the evening. [Grade: C+]
I really don’t know what to tell you about the Univistion “Besos Y Lagrimas” sketch: it wasn’t funny, it didn’t make any sense, and outside of Kristen Wiig’s excessive poisoning it had nothing to recommended it but a cute dog. And frankly, that’s not enough. [Grade: D]
I don’t have particularly high opinions of Kenan Thompson, so any sketch that relies entirely on his particular comic charms is coming back from a bit of a disadvantage. The problem with the creepy Ventriloquist skit was that it wasn’t actually all that funny outside of his reactions, and his reactions were at times a rote examination of the situation and at other times a retread of past sketches (like Will Ferrell twirling on the lazy susan). Not terrible, but entirely uneventful. [Grade: C-]
And then we get to the night’s oddity. I totally get that most people probably thought the Smash Mouth sketch was not all that funny, and that it seems entirely irrelevant in this day and age. The problem, of course, is that the song actually remains pervasive, so analyzing its cultural impact and importance in the context of this sketch (where it is equated to monsters in the closet) actually makes sense at some level. Of course, they didn’t get to do much with the material, but the idea showed enough thought that I’m willing to give them credit for it. [Grade: B]
Honestly, by the end of the night I was pretty exhausted, but the car horn sketch made me laugh a few times with its to the point car horns. The characters themselves were grating, but the horns (especially the French and Science ones) made me chuckle enough to keep me entertained. [Grade: B-]
And to leave the “best” for last: I had some friends who were kind enough to stick it out with me for the hour and a half, and they immediately wanted to know what I was going to write about her often pitchy, often flat, and at times excruitating performances (in particular, “J.Blows” was thrown out). To be honest, I’m impressed she sang live at all, even if I was a little bit upset that I was away from my DVR for the evening and was unable to skip through the performances after a certain point. I don’t know if I can really give her a letter grade, but…let’s be nice. [Grade: C-]
*** Lopez thanked Darrell Hammond first during the curtain call: will he never leave?
*** If you’re tired of the negativity, worry not: next week’s show features an actor I appreciate and a musical act who’s got a great album out, so I’m actively looking forward to it. I am aware this will only lead to disappointment.
What'd you think of the double J-Lo "Saturday Night Live"?