Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen

Kristen Wiig And Fred Armisen

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Kristen Wiig and Vampire Weekend

The former "SNL" great returns to host for the first time.

There’s no way to write about the history of “Saturday Night Live” without including Kristen Wiig. Her overall place in that story is for individuals to decide, but to remove her from the conversation betrays a fundamental misreading of her overall importance to the history of the show. From 2005-2012, she quickly rose from “solid ensemble performer” to “the absolutely go to person week in and week out”. For her last few years, she was the center of the program, carrying the biggest workload and often getting the biggest laughs. The sheer number of characters that she created, the professionalism and integrity that she brought to each show, and the way she helped the show survive the loss of such female “SNL” standouts such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph cannot be overstated.

And yet her returning tonight might still be a disaster of epic proportions.
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Zach Galifianakis and Jason Sudeikis

Zach Galifianakis and Jason Sudeikis

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Zach Galifianakis and Of Monsters and Men

Is the third time hosting the show the charm for the star of "The Hangover Part III"?
Tonight marks the third time that Zach Galifianakis has hosted “Saturday Night Live,” with each of his prior appearances coming in solid if non-classic installments. Aside from Jason Sudeikis, there are few remaining cast members with whom Galifianakis has extensive sketch experience. That means there’s plenty of opportunities for new combinations onscreen tonight for the bearded member of “The Hangover”’s Wolf Pack. The two constants in his first two outings: a pre-corded sketch involving a dramatic piano theme, plus a bizarre shaving ritual just before the final sketch. He’s already shaved his beard and head on “SNL”: what’s left?
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<p>Kevin Bacon of &quot;The Following&quot;</p>

Kevin Bacon of "The Following"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The Following' Finale - 'Final Chapter'

After this finale, will you be saying "Nevermore"?
The best part of this episode -- "Final Chapter" -- is Claire frankly telling Joe that his writing sucks. I mean -- YEAH OF COURSE IT DOES! -- but considering that the writers of "The Following" are the ones writing Joe's novel, it's strangely self-critical to have another character point out that the plot, like, you know, totally reeks. Self-critical, but also hilarious. Joe raving to Claire that the lighthouse is A MOTIF and trying to defend his narrative linking of his character and Ryan's characters through the love triangle with Claire is quite funny, except when you realize that if even the writers of "The Following" think that their endgame is a silly, tired plot, then that means no one, anywhere finds this gory, horrific cliffhanger compelling in the least.
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From Timberlake to Kroll - Actors we'd love to see join 'Saturday Night Live'

From Timberlake to Kroll - Actors we'd love to see join 'Saturday Night Live'

Some realistic and unrealistic options to reinvigorate the 'SNL' cast

As we come to the close of another season of “Saturday Night Live,” it’s time to think ahead to what changes will happen in the show’s cast when it returns for its thirty-ninth season this Fall. While Lorne Michaels traditionally likes to draw nationally unknown talent from the nation’s top improv troupes, is it time for him to think about drawing from a better-known pool of talent? After all, there is precedent for this in the show’s history, even if Michaels himself wasn’t involved in bringing in cast members such as Christopher Guest and Billy Crystal.

Looking at already-known actors might seem counterintuitive, and logistically implausible. But let’s imagine that a full season commitment wouldn’t be necessary. Imagine if intermittent stints on the show were allowed, providing a constantly rotating pool of talent that would not only provide comedic depth and breadth for the show, but also make each installment unique unto itself? Let’s look at some names that might fit the bill, looking at the likelihood they would be good full-time participants or simply part-time players.

<p>Monday's &quot;The Following&quot;</p>

Monday's "The Following"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The Following' - 'The End Is Near'

In its penultimate episode, 'The Follow' ups the body count
Readers, I have a confession to make. I have been wrong about "The Following" this whole time. Completely wrong. Absolutely wrong. A critic's worst nightmare, the totally inaccurate judgment call. Up until now, I've assumed that when an episode has more content, it means that it's better -- the fast pace tends to elide "The Following"'s major dialogue issues, and the bloody, violent action, as reprehensible as it is, moves the warmed-over, half-dead plot a few staggering steps forward.
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'Saturday Night Live' power rankings: Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Nasim Pedrad, more

'Saturday Night Live' power rankings: Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Nasim Pedrad, more

We analyze the current cast’s overall importance to the show

We’re heading into the home stretch of the 38th season of “Saturday Night Live”. With only a few episodes left, it’s time to look back at the season as a whole and analyze the cast’s overall importance to the show at this point in time. These Power Rankings have absolutely nothing to do with the comedic skill of anyone currently on the show’s cast. These rankings reflect how “SNL” perceives them in the pecking order, based on overall appearances, number of signature roles, and other intangible qualities that can be assessed by watching each episode. Wonder why certain cast members only seem to appear during the host’s goodbyes? Has it ever seemed like certain not-ready-for-primetime players seem to be at the forefront of each sketch? These Power Rankings might help explain why.

Check out our rankings blow. Do you agree or disagree? Who are you favorite "SNL" players?

<p>Warren Kole of &quot;The Following&quot;</p>

Warren Kole of "The Following"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The Following' - 'Havenport'

Roderick has to play both sides, while Ryan gets closer or whatever
Well, I'd like to start off this discussion of "Havenport" by discussing what I think has been haunting me since the very first episode of "The Following" -- What was James Purefoy thinking, signing up for this show?
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Vince Vaughn and Bobby Monyihan on this week's "Saturday Night Live"

Vince Vaughn and Bobby Monyihan on this week's "Saturday Night Live"

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Vince Vaughn And Miguel

The "Swingers" star swings by Studio 8H for the first time since 1998.
It’s been more than fourteen years since Vince Vaughn last hosted “Saturday Night Live.” In between then and now, Vaughn has starred in dozens of movies, many of them funny, and most of them even intentionally so. (“Domestic Disturbance” is fairly hysterical, although that doesn’t seem to be the goal.) His upcoming movie “The Internship” won’t be out until June, but ostensibly one or two people from the upcoming “Anchorman” sequel might pop up in order to support Vaughn’s appearance tonight. Was milk a good choice for me? We’ll have to find out. Along for the ride is musical artist Miguel. Let’s just both assume I know nothing about his musical output and that I’ll be going into any performance by him with the wide-eyed innocence of a newborn babe.
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<p>Valorie Curry of &quot;The Following&quot;</p>

Valorie Curry of "The Following"

Credit: Barbara Nitke/FOX

Recap: 'The Following' - 'The Curse'

A familiar face returns, the FBI gets closer and Claire confronts Emma

To quote "The Curse": "???????????????????????????"

In all seriousness, "The Curse" is one of "The Following"'s better episodes, but I have to agree with Claire -- Joe's writing is atrocious. If it weren't for that little aside in tonight's episode, I'd question the writers' decision to include the manuscript. Well, okay. I question it anyway. But I question it a little less now that I know at least Claire hates Joe's work, too.
"The Curse" is clearly one of the few episodes in "The Following's" arc that was planned out right from the start -- I feel like we've been waiting for this episode for weeks now, slogging through a few filler episodes that crammed in a kink club and a few more dead women for no clear reason. By comparison to those catastrophes "The Curse" is downright masterful -- thematically consistent and even compelling, at times. For once, it feels like things are happening -- plot devices that seem to push forward the creepiness, rather than continue treading water with empty horror and needless gore.
Nothing is very creepy, of course. But the episode is playing with a few of the major characters' morality, revealing some of the tension between good and evil that drives the characters forward. I'm not convinced that a morality tale is really the best way to move forward a suspenseful plot, but it provides an avenue for the killers to get inside our heads, with their twisted logic. It also gives the killers to get a chance inside Ryan Hardy's head, who is our Everyman stand-in, more or less.
The terrible book Joe is writing is his attempt to finish the chapter of the story with Ryan Hardy. But dude, Joe is stuck. He has writer's block. Murderer-writer's block. Because Ryan, his main character, is a dark, twisted personality whose motivations are very difficult to determine, apparently. I really did like how this storyline ended up, but I have to call shenanigans on the idea that Ryan is all that difficult to figure out. Joe already knows about his survivor's guilt, and he has all kinds of intelligence from Molly, the nurse that sleeps with Ryan.
According to the exposition, though, Joe is unraveling. Along with the writers' block, his followers are not as reliable as they were when they started out. Roderick is a wildcard, motivated by… something… to be randomly murderous and vicious; and as the FBI inches closer to finding the cult, Roderick's weaknesses as a manager and the cult's (obvious) vulnerability as a target are becoming more important. Joe's not in a very good mood much of the time lately, and that apparently leads him to do something drastic -- to go out in public himself to lock down the leak. (I have to say, the subplot this week about how exactly the FBI gets into the same space as the killers is very hard to follow. There's a lot of running around in abandoned hallways, but more than that, I can't tell you. Fortunately, it doesn't matter much.)
The climax of "The Curse" is two separate but simultaneous confrontations -- Jacob with Agent Parker, and Joe with Ryan, over a gagged and bound Agent Weston. It's the type of showdown we've seen on television before, but I liked that both conversations are mini-dramas themselves, where each character is trying to manipulate the other. Ryan's trying to draw out Joe to protect Mike, and Joe is trying to goad Ryan into admitting more details of his particular version of survivor's guilt. Parker is trying to wheedle some humanity out of Jacob, and Jacob is trying to convince her that she's in real danger.
"The Following" wants to be a show that plays with morality. It's not subtle enough to get into the nuances of life and death, good and evil -- but what it lacks in subtlety it makes up for with shlocky exposition and sound effects, which you know, can work if you're in the right mindset. I didn't love the flashback to Ryan's father's death, but I like knowing that he killed a guy with heroin as a teenager, because that's kind of interesting. My problem is that it's hard to get into this morally gray area when the "bad" characters who you are supposed to be interested in and sympathetic to act like they are unhinged, alien, or psychotic. This isn't a war between good and evil, this is a battle between the clinically insane and the slightly less crazy.  If "The Following" can sort out who its evil characters are supposed to be, it might have a shot at getting coherent before the end of the season.
This is most obvious with Joe, who is the most inconsistently written character on the show. He's by turns calculating, genius, ruthless, sympathetic, and loving. I think the idea is that because James Purefoy is a recognized actor, those hiccups will work themselves out. But lately it seems like Joe is just a random series of traits strung together. Who would have guessed that the misogynist murderer from the pilot would be writing a really bad book as a way to carry out his nefarious plan? It doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?
Still, I'm taking a feather from David Sims at The A.V. Club and trying to keep a sense of humor in mind. Because as the season draws to a close, the ridiculous elements of "The Following" are getting more and more hilarious. Random, overwrought hooking up between Joe and Emma? Yes! Fistfight between Emma and Claire because Emma wants to be "friends"? Excellent! Jacob tearfully calling his dad? Awesome! Roderick wearing his uniform all the time for no reason? Why not?! The laughs just keep coming.
Odds and Ends:
*** Is it just me, or is Agent Weston way unstable after coming out of the hospital?
*** Agent Parker is still the only character who feels real and relatable to me. And even she has some hilarious lines in this episode, like "I once got hit in the face with a bat and it hurt, dude, it hurt." Okay, that wasn't a real quote. But you get the idea.
*** I hear a heroin overdose is not such a bad way to die.
What do you think? Are Ryan and Joe both motivated by death? And if so, do you care?
Tonight's host Melissa McCarthy

Tonight's host Melissa McCarthy

Credit: AP

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Melissa McCarthy and Phoenix

The star of the upcoming film "The Heat" makes her second appearance as host.

It’s been almost a month without new episodes, but “Saturday Night Live” returns tonight with host Melissa McCarthy and musical guest Phoenix. McCarthy was a game host during her first gig in the Fall of 2011, but the episode itself was a mixed bag. In that episode, she played quite often against Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg, both of whom have since left the show. She and Jason Sudeikis also had a lot of interactions last time around, so it will be interesting if “SNL” holds onto that dynamic or pairs here up with the many new cast members that have popped up in the interim.

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