I’m not terribly interested in passing judgment either way on Lindsay Lohan in tonight’s “Saturday Night Live” recap. Plenty of ink, both actual and virtual, have been spilled in the name of detailing her every high and low over the past decade. What I’m here to do is judge this particular episode of “SNL,” and her hosting duties on it. There’s no doubt that there will be plenty of jokes made at her expense, either directly or indirectly. So I’ll talk about that as much as it pertains to the sketches. Other than that? It will be the usual complaints about the underuse of Abby Elliot and a general confusion about the musical guest. Oh, it’s Jack White? Sweet. Someone I actually know. It’s been a “get off my damn lawn” year for me, musically speaking, on “SNL”.
Onto the recap!
Fox Report With Shepard Smith: Another “out of touch” Romney sketch. Wheee. Irrespective of your political bent, you probably can’t be thrilled about the prospect of four years of this one-note joke should he win in the Fall. Next up, Romney’s five children, which delights Smith to no end. “I like creepy things, and I LOVE these guys!” Speaking of creepy, Smith has a corpse of his mother in the corner with whom he keeps having conversations. Finally? Andy Samberg’s Kid Rock appears. The two share Hep C, and Rock additionally shares an inappropriate new campaign song. But honestly? I just want a sketch with Shepard and that corpse reenacting scenes from “Psycho.” [Grade: C]
Monologue: Predictably, a lot of the monologue focuses on cast members making sure she is up for actually hosting. Kenan Thompson checks her eyes, Kristen Wiig does a full body search, and finally, Jimmy Fallon comes on the welcome the “new, old Lindsay Lohan.” He’s also there to make sure Jon Hamm is on stand-by should she collapse. “SNL” essentially gave Lohan nothing to do in this monologue, which either means they are trying to shield her from being along onstage or they actually don’t trust her as a performer to hold the audience’s attention for that long. Hard to tell this early on. [Grade: C+]
The Real Housewives of Disney: What a great idea for a sketch. And it does the one thing “SNL” doesn’t do nearly enough: put all the female talent in the cast together and let them loose. A Lady Gaga-wannabe Belle adjacent to a super drunk Cinderella near a Jasmine that slept with Iago the Parrot? Fantastic. Unfortunately, this went on a bit too long, which is odd for a pre-produced bit. Also? The edited nature of the piece meant that the interactions were often chopped up, not giving the interplay room to breathe. Maybe breaking this up over short segments throughout the episode might have kept things fresher. Still, a lot of fun all the same. [Grade: B+]
2012 Psychic Awards: What could have been a one-note joke turns into a clever upending of award show traditions. For instance, the nominee know who will win before it’s announced. Thank yous are doled out non-verbally. The “In Memorium” refers to people who will die in the future, not those that die in the past. And then the entire crowd dies in a fire thanks to the power of determinism. Not much to report on Lohan, who is getting the “host fades into the background while the repertory cast carries the load” treatment. This isn’t a slam on Lohan, as this happens to two-thirds of “SNL” hosts. Still, those are the two-thirds I like the least. Why bother having a host who doesn’t actually contribute something meaningful? Silly question, apparently. [Grade: B]
Scared Straight: Oooh, I’m excited. Love to see the return of MacIntosh with Lindsay Lohan as…Lindsay Lohan? Hey, not a bad way to get the “Lohan talks about herself” sketch out of the way. I love the interplay between Thompson and Jason Sudeikis, the latter of whom clearly enjoys the hell out of watching the former do his thing. Also? We’re three minutes into the sketch, and Lohan’s barely said anything. And when she finally runs through her entire movie career during her one time to shine, you can feel the crowd actually willing her to the finish line. But give Bill Hader credit: he didn’t completely break until the final ten seconds of this version of the sketch, which must be a record for him. I am obviously not in Lohan’s mind, but she looks scared to death out there. This isn’t about Schadenfreude at this point. The crowd really seems to want to laugh along with her, not at her. But it’s not happening yet. Instead, the vibe is just really, really awkward. [Grade: B-]
Jack White takes the stage to sing “Love Interruption.” He’s backed by an all-female band. The song is a good mix of rockabilly and gospel, with some great harmonizing with his back-up singer Ruby Amanfu. Whereas The White Stripes often feel as if their songs will burst at the seams, there’s a lot of musical space to play in here. Short, sweet, and something I plan on downloading after this recap is filed. [Grade: A-]
Weekend Update: James Carville appears to discuss Rush Limbaugh’s recent comments about Georgetown student Sandra Fluke. Carville compares Rush to “Cops,” something that is always on long after you think it’s been cancelled. In terms of Romney, he notes that we always don’t get the jobs for which we look right. “If that were true, I’d be King of the Snakes!” he hisses. He then goes into a loooong story about dating Newt Gingrich which gets weirder…and weirder…and weirder. It’s pretty incredible. (Just don’t ask him why he’s friends with alligators.) After that, Snooki comes on to discuss rumors of her pregnancy. “Never once in my life Seth did I once think…” she sagely notes, before her fetus punches Seth Meyers. Who is the father of her child? Jon Hamm???!!! YOU SLUT, HAMM. It’s OVER between us. [Grade: B]
Deliquent Girl Teen Gang: I’d trying hard to review this sketch, but I can’t hear over the sound of Abby Elliot’s plunging neckline. Good gravy. Basically, the sketch is an excuse for some fun period clothes and the “SNL” crew to repeatedly throw a mannequin in the shape of Fred Armisen. At some point, the repetition turns from completely awful to semi-amusing, with Armisen’s increasingly sober reaction to the insanity of the scenario. And since I’ve commented about Lohan’s invisible performance all night, I’ll note that she seemed most alive in this one. She didn’t have to do much, but she sold her part well. [Grade: B-]
Big Afro Wedding Invitation: Samberg and Wiig sit under what is the world’s largest afro. The song sounds like Wolfmother meets The Darkness, two bands I love. So musically? A+! The entire short is one continuous shot, with the camera pulling back to reveal more and more of the afro above them. Between each verse, Thompson pops in with a bizarre instrument and a comment about their ‘do. The final shot is a great punch line, as we learn the entire song is in fact a digital wedding invitation. That was only the second digital short of 2012. Remember when these WERE the show, from a pop culture perspective? Times change, and they change FAST. Just ask tonight’s host. [Grade: B]
B108FM: “It’s 5:02 am, and it’s dark as hell!” “Constellations are still discernable!” It’s the earliest hip-hop show in Minnesota, y’all. And they give mad props to fleece. As they should. Lohan plays intern “Illiterate Lisa,” a condition that doesn’t stop her from incorrectly announcing the show’s sponsors. Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan are FANTASTIC together in this. The material itself is hit or miss, but their energy is refreshing and infectious. But poor Vanessa Bayer: she’s stranded in this sketch, and has pretty much been stranded this year in general. [Grade: B+]
Chantix: I don’t review commercials that already aired, as this one did during the Charles Barkley episode in January. Just how I roll. [Grade: N/A]
Housesitter: Wow, is it 12:55 am already? What an odd sketch. Lohan arrives to watch the house for Wiig, who apparently has a dark past involving a car accident and mysterious phone calls. It’s basically an excuse for Wiig to make crazy faces and shout a lot, with Lohan standing in the background looking lost. “Megan, I’m sorry you’re going to die in my house!” Wiig’s character screams near the end. Then, we learn that everything has stemmed from 200 midunderstood butt dials over the previous five days. I didn’t see that coming, and it was a nice twist that grounded everything…right up until the point where Wiig’s character makes an outgoing call and goes crazy again. Ugh. Off to the topless forest retreat with you, sketch. [Grade: C+]
Verizon 4G LTE: Another repeated commercial. How many sketches got cut because they weren’t up to snuff? [Grade: N/A]
Jack White is back, with an entirely new band playing the same instruments. Never seen THAT before. This feels like an amalgam of White’s work with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and even The Dead Weather. I’ll be honest: I didn’t understand a damn word he sang, and therefore can’t help identify the name of the song. Not proud, but there you have it. The sound mix is way off, but even when I know the words to his songs, I often have a hard time making them out when he performs live. I tend to focus on White’s vibe and onstage presence, which carries me through whatever vocal muddiness there may be. [Grade: B]
Rude Buddha: Hey, Nasim Pedrad! Nice to see you onstage tonight. Too bad it’s in a sketch that’s DOA. Samberg’s Buddha isn’t really rude so much as horny. The slap at the end was slightly amusing, but done to much better effect in “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories.” We are limping to the finish line here. [Grade: D+]
A Weird Guy By A Fire: Wow, a second 12:55 am sketch? Well, more like a 12:57 am sketch. And it’s basically Sudeikis musing about 70’s easy-listening music and tending to a fire. “SNL” throws in anoth short iteration in which he burns his hand on said fire. Can I stick MY hand into the fire? [Grade: C]
Best Sketch: B108FM (It was that kind of week. Nothing in the “A” range at all, and I tend to be much more lenient in my grading than most.)
Worst Sketch: Rude Buddha.
Biggest Surprise: How well Killan and Moynihan worked together. Both have been individually great in the past, but I’m hard-pressed to remember a sketch in which they have popped this well in concert with one another. That’s something the show should tap going forward. If there’s any turnover between now and Season 38 (and you know there will be), Killam will be a full repertory player for sure.
Worst Surprise: How little the show let the female cast interact with Lohan. Aside from the pre-taped “Housewives” sketch and “Deliquent Teen Girl Gang,” there were few females outside of Wiig onstage at any time. Hosts such as Emma Stone and Anna Faris got ample time with the women of “SNL,” and those interactions produced some of the best moments of the season to date. Yes, I harp on this a lot. Yes, I’ll keep harping on it.
The Lohan Verdict: Look, she didn’t do great. But it’s unclear how much of that has to do with her and how much it has to do with the writing. On one hand, think about putting Stone or Faris into tonight’s episode. Would the show suddenly be much better? Probably not. On the other hand, hand either of those two hosted, perhaps the writing wouldn’t have been designed to shield them rather than employ them.
But I’d be very curious to hear on which side you came down tonight in the comments below. How did Lohan do, in your eyes? Did she fail, did the show fail her, or did both succeed? Sound off below!