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Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Zooey Deschanel and Karmin
Did a former Oscar winner and a future Oscar winner save the show?
Here’s my solemn promise to you, “Saturday Night Live” fans: Not once during tonight’s recap will I use the word “adorkable” to describe anything related to Zooey Deschanel’s performance as host. Not gonna do it. No way, no how. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of “New Girl,” but that doesn’t mean 95% of the material written tonight for Deschanel will appeal to her manic pixie dust girl persona. Right? Right? (Please say I am right or I’m burning this site down to the virtual ground.) Tonight’s musical guest is Karmin, whom I’ve literally never heard of because I’m old and lame. If “SNL” started booking Huey Lewis and The News, maybe I’d have a shot at having pre-determined opinions on the show’s musical acts. OK, second promise: no “don’t squeeze the Karmin” jokes in tonight’s recap. We good? Good.
Onto tonight’s recap!
Romney: Believe In America: Romney appears in his den, “not looking ill at ease,” in order to spin the poor primary results this past Tuesday. It goes over about as well as you might expect, with the “Debbie Downer” music adding to the non-hilarity. Just to break up the monotony, the world’s ANGRIEST DOG comes on, which actually allows Jason Sudeikis to show some spark onstage. I have no idea how this sketch was actually supposed to end, or if this was indeed the intended result. But “Do you want to go back on the roof?” felt like an improvised line, and was the only time I so much as smirked during this cold open. [Grade: C-]
Monologue: Oh God, she’s wearing a dress with hearts on it. And she wants to sing. I think “SNL” is trying to kill me. Once she puts the ukulele away, the song turns into a perfectly acceptable, albeit bland, song about a guy who forgets about Valentine’s Day. Fine, but predictable, and with almost no energy whatsoever. Points for having a great voice, but little else, on display in the monologue. [Grade: B-]
Chrysler Ad II: I’m not sure how many people in the live audience understood what was being parodied here. Even so, Bill Hader’s Clint Eastwood barely got a chance to riff off the controversy instigated by his Super Bowl ad before it was over. These early bits are SHORT, right? We’re on track to have 110 individual segments in a 90-minute show at this rate. [Grade: B-]
Piers Morgan Tonight: Taran Killam busts out his impression of Morgan, for what I believe is the first time. He interviews Nasim Pedrad’s M.I.A., who gave the middle finger during the Madonna halftime show at the Super Bowl. I’m a fan of anytime Pedrad doesn’t play a 13-year old boy, so color me happy to see her puncture M.I.A.’s carefully constructed anarchy. LMFAO come on to help contribute to the discussion, and I will admit I actually LMFAO’d a little at seeing Sudeikis and Fred Armisen dressed up as them. Deschanel appears as the one person in America offended by the middle finger, complete with a “Fargo”-esque accent. She introduces the “decency strap” for her hand and announces the formation of the protest group “One Finger, One Million Moms,” which sounds like the name of Gene Simmons’ biography. She’s great, as is Killam’s take on some of Morgan’s vocal tics. Finally, Kristen Wiig appears as Madonna, alongside her exposed crotch. We even get Andy Samberg as that creepy gymnast from the halftime show. Remember what I said about short sketches? Forget about it. Quite frankly, at this point, the sketch is longer than the halftime itself. But it’s mostly funny, so all is forgiven. [Grade: B+]
Les Jeunes De Paris: It’s back! My favorite sketch series in recent memory, now with 100% more Jean Dujardin. And 100% more Joan of Arc! Well, not the real one, but still. This sketch is too odd for some. I get that. And it’s not traditionally funny enough for others. That’s a perfectly valid opinion. But there’s something classically entertaining about this iteration, combined with its more modern sensibilities, which hopefully converted a few haters. Choreography that wasn’t about comedy but about actual craftsmanship? Check. Humorous set-ups that packed a postmodern punch? You betcha. Everything about that made me smile. [Grade: A]
Chrysler Ad III: Oh, this is a thing, I guess. Now Clint’s pants are higher and he’s lambasting people that self-pleasure to Go Daddy commercials rather than make cars in Detroit. Then he turns the proceedings into an ad for Little Caeser’s. “Pizza Pizza!” indeed. OK, if these get progressively weirder, I’m good for about three more, maybe because I’m still basking in the glow from “Les Jeunes de Paris.” [Grade: B]
Daily Post, 1941: It’s a quick-talking sketch set inside a newsroom. Well, everyone talks fast except Deschanel, who doesn’t know what anyone else is saying due to the speed. Sudeikis and Wiig nail the patter’s rhythms, while Zooey wonders if everyone’s on cocaine. It’s a one-joke sketch, but there’s some real skill in both the writing and performance to recreate the old-school vibe. Deschanel’s character is a misfire, but that fault lies with the writing, not the performance. There’s no reason for her character to be acting modern in a 1941 office. If the idea was that people only talked this way in 1941 in this particular office, maybe it would have made more sense. Then again, here I am, arguing about logic in an “SNL” sketch. Never mind me. [Grade: B]
Chrysler Ad IV: “The game is over, America.” Damnit, we lost to Mexico by 30 points! I don’t know how we did that, since Mexico doesn’t have a professional football team. Maybe it’s because we’re too busy using those marital aids that will blow your hair back as your pants rise to your neck. Damn you, MumbleBane and the rest of “The Dark Knight Rises”! [Grade: B]
Hey, it’s Karmin, and whatever the heck died on top of the lead singer’s head, performing “Brokenhearted.” This is one slick pop song, which isn’t an insult. I’m guessing the Zac Efron stunt double playing the keyboards is one-half of the songwriting duty. (Don’t mock. I’m here with my pants over my chest yelling at Karmin to get off my lawn.) Every time she raps, a little part of my soul dies. And it seems clear that her backup singer is doing a lot of the heavy vocal lifting here. But I’m not interesting in veracity when it comes to this type of song. It’s about production, not performance. And this wasn’t half-bad. [Grade: B-]
Weekend Update: Arianna Huffington appears, since she loves to be on “media things”. Pedrad’s Huffington describes “Smash” as “ten gay weddings in one hour,” which is a show I’d actually watch instead of what “Smash” actually is. Her version of “Let’s Stay Together” has me waiting for a “Now That’s What I Call Huffington Post Music” sketch before the season ends. Next up: “Get In the Cage” alongside the actual Nicholas Cage, which I’m pretty sure I predicted in this space at some point in the recent past. If they touch, will reality actually cease? They explain this phenomenon via a cloning experiment gone wrong, and it allows the real Cage to get in some digs on Samberg’s impression. Everything about this is brilliant, right down to the proposed three-way with the Declaration of Independence. Bravo. [Grade: A-]
Bein’ Quirky with Zooey Deschanel: Oh, so it’s the “actors playing versions of other actors onstage with them” portion of the show. Deschanel shows up at Mary Kate Olsen, and my God the resemblance is uncanny. “It’s not garbage if it’s new to you,” sayeth Olsen, before jumping into a “Wide Eye Off” to the joy of Killam’s Michael Cera. I am a fan of any sketch that references Mayim Bialik as the godmother of twee girls everywhere, so this is right up my alley. I wasn’t sure we needed Björk added to the mayhem, until she knitted a sweater for an octopus that had an extra arm for its dreams and ideas. Hot damn, after a slow start, this is one of the strongest shows of the season. Having typed that, I probably just cursed everything that will follow. Apologies in advance. [Grade: A-]
Verizon Commercial: Has Bill Hader actually been in a live sketch tonight? I don’t think so. But he’s been all over the place in the pre-taped bits. So now I’m worried he’s trapped in a well somewhere and no one can find him. Sadly, my prophecy from last paragraph came true. This was an “impenetrable jargon is funny” sketch. Here’s a pro tip: it’s not. Other than mistaking living on a financial settlement versus living on a Native American settlement, no laughs to be found here. Least it was short. [Grade: C-]
Crab Blast 2012: Jay Pharaoh sighting! Jay Pharaoh sighting! Too bad he’s in a sketch that is DOA. I can’t believe I praised this show. I know better than this. The entire point is to stretch out the introduction of crab into a party, but all the sketch does is stretch out past the point of anyone laughing. I’m not wasting any more words on this. The sketch already wasted enough time in our precious lives. [Grade: D-]
After that sketch, a short, silent shot of Whitney Houston in a Mary Katherine Gallagher sketch appears before the show goes to commercial. I wondered how the show might address her death, if at all. Doing it inside a sketch or during “Update” had too many risks, and could either bring the mood down or risk being tasteless. This was about the best the show could have done under the circumstances.
We’re Gonna Make Technology Hump: Wow, of all the sketches I didn’t expect to make a second appearance, this was high on the list. Swapping out Emma Stone for Zooey Deschanel yields…well, pretty much exactly the same sketch, which I didn’t like the first time around, either. The audience sounds like they found themselves suddenly watching erotica at a family reunion. So much awkwardness. This sketch needs to never, ever return. God, this episode has gone downhill rapidly. THIS IS ALL MY FAULT. I AM SO SORRY. [Grade: D]
Oh, screw you, Karmin, and your kowbell. (See what I did there?) They are back with “I Told You So” (at least that’s what I think this song is called), which features NotEfron rockin’ the “Grease” look. I’m too busy being hypnotized by Amy Heidemann’s pants. (Thanks, Wikipedia, for letting me know what her name is. Apparently the other guy is Nick Noonan, but “NotEfron” is more amusing for me to type.) I can’t tell if they know this song is terrible or not. If they know, awesome. If not, oh dear. [Grade: B+ if they know; D- if not]
Letters Between Sisters: Two sisters exchange letters about their ill-fitting suitors in 1860’s England. Deschanel’s character wears a helluva lot of eye makeup for someone of this era. I must confess that I’m not paying much attention, since there’s currently a war on Twitter about the name of that Karmin song. Even my Shazam app is completely stumped. I think we’ve someone reached the limits of knowledge. It’s lonely out here. Oh, this sketch? Eh. The miming in the background never truly lifted off, and the letters themselves didn’t have anything particularly bizarre about them to make this a worthy addition to the 12:55 am annals [Grade: C]
Best Sketch: “Les Jeunes de Paris”
Worst Sketch: Crab Blast 2012
Most Pleasant Surprise: The show didn’t lean on Deschanel’s persona too much, which would have been the easy way out.
Least Pleasant Surprise: It’s twenty minutes later and the Internet still can’t agree on what to call this song. We need to get the news outlets to investigate this. Anderson Cooper needs to talk to a fifteen-person panel spread out of three parts of the CNN studio to debate this. I am tempted to call the song “Staring Into the Vast Void Of Meaninglessness” before I start sipping absinthe to full the pain.
What did you think of Deschanel’s hosting performance? Did Karmin make you smile or make you reach for the remote? Are you anxious for more “Les Jeunes” sketches or do you hope it stays in mothballs alongside humping technologies? Sound off below!