10 Best 'Saturday Night Live' sketches of Fall 2014
Credit: NBC

10 Best 'Saturday Night Live' sketches of Fall 2014

Did your favorites make the list?

It’s time to honor the ten best sketches of the 40th season of “Saturday Night Live” thus far. Let’s make two things clear: We’re only ranking sketches that actually aired on NBC, which eliminates several stellar online-only segments, and you could make an EXCELLENT list composed entirely of those merely getting “Honorable Mention”.

It’s been a strong Fall run for the show, and exclusion off the main list speaks to the high quality of the program overall rather than any shortcomings of those on the outside looking in.

What do you think of the list? Which sketches would you add and which would you take out?

Read Full Post
Doctor Who - Last Christmas
Credit: BBC

Recap: 'Doctor Who' - 'Last Christmas' has a lot of layers, like an onion or parfait

What is reality? Are we awake right now?

Welcome back, Whovians! I hope everyone had a nice break, but it’s time to get back to it, at least for one episode. The last time we saw Twelve and Clara, they were recreating the darkest timeline version of “The Gift of the Magi.” The Doctor lied to Clara about finding Gallifrey so she’d want to stay with Danny and be happy, while Clara lied about Danny being alive so the Doctor would return home to his people on Gallifrey.

Everyone’s a liar and everything hurts. Break out the tissues because you’re going to need them during “Last Christmas.”


Like countless holiday specials before it, and countless ones yet to come, the episode opens with a decorated Christmas tree framed by windows. Outside it is snowing and dark. Obviously Christmas Eve. 

Clara is nestled all snug in her bed, when from outside she hears the sound of Santa and his elves bickering on the roof. Clad only in her nightgown and robe, she goes to investigate. Santa has crashed his sleigh and the reindeer are free at last and refuse to come down. Spotted by a human, Santa tries to defuse the situation by saying no, obviously he is not Father Christmas! For a magical elf whose livelihood is based in subterfuge, Santa sure is a terrible liar.

Sidenote: Are the tangerine gifts a British thing? We don’t have that tradition in the US. 

There’s a great bit of subversion for the kids on the cusp on disbelief while they watch this. The elves scoff at the fairy tale story that one night a year, all the parents in the world got together and decided to give their kids presents because they love them so much. Time to grow up and live in the real world. Obviously St. Nick is delivering the presents. Also, so adorable that Santa grew out the beard as a disguise and it backfired, making him more recognizable than ever.

In disappointed dad fashion, Santa pulls out a checklist and notes Clara stopped believing when she was nine. He seems so hurt. Clara states she just “outgrew fairy tales” and on cue, the TARDIS sound kicks on. Well played, Moffat.

Out bursts Twelve in a hoodie, which is odd and quite frankly dashing, and demands Clara stop talking to Santa Claus and get in the TARDIS. Just another Tuesday night at the Oswald home. Clara obeys, a sure sign that she is in shock. Twelve sizes up Santa, tells him “Happy Easter,” and climbs back into his police box.

Something major is up but Clara Oswald doesn’t care. After an indeterminate amount of time alone, without Twelve or Danny, she is back on the TARDIS. She’s been mourning the loss of the love of her life and her best friend, but now there’s an adventure to distract her again. The entirety of humanity may hinge on whether or not Clara Oswald believes in Santa Claus. You know, normal stuff.

For reasons unknown, we skip to a barren icy plane. I will assume this is the North Pole until told otherwise. In the midst of a blizzard sits a research facility. And something decidedly un-Christmas like is going down. A blonde lady — Shona — stands outside the infirmary with trepidation. Elsewhere in the facility, her associates provide moral support from the control room. Shona is about to go confront the four sleepers to try and get to…something? Someone? Either way, Shona will be fine as long as she doesn't look at the sleepers or think about them.

Oh great, it’s a purple giraffe situation. 

Also, for the billionth time this season the gender tables are turned. Professor Albert is the lone dude scientist. Ashley and Bellows are even displeased with his casual sexism. Either Moffat has actually turned a new leaf, or someone in a position of power at the BBC forced the issue of fixing Doctor Who’s misogyny problem.

To distract herself from not thinking about purple giraffes, or creepy sleepers, Shona is rocking out to Christmas music with her eyes closed. My biggest fear that she’ll accidentally flail into one of the creatures isn’t realized. Phew. Instead the Doctor and Clara appear at the door. Since they don’t know the rules, they immediately start looking at and thinking about the sleepers. Which means we also get a look at them. Basically some hapless humans have telepathic facehuggers attached to their skulls. 

Thinking about the facehuggers stirs them into action. Their human hosts are pressed into service, shambling towards the heroes. Shona distracts herself with Christmas music. Twelve tries to get Clara to think about math, but it’s not very effective. So he skips straight to insulting Danny Pink (whom he still thinks is alive). In shock, Clara slaps the hell out of Twelve and blurts out that Danny is dead. Now no one is thinking about the facehuggers at least?

WRONG. The rescue team bursts in, thinking about facehuggers like it’s their damn job. Just when it looks like everyone is gonna die, EXPLOSIONS. Santa Claus studied at the school of Michael Bay. Apparently no aliens invade the North Pole on Father Christmas’s watch.

Of course, this is a scientific research base full of adult humans, so they’re not exactly thrilled to see a figment of childhood imagination. Most of them settle for disbelief, but Shona is gonna cut a bitch over some My Little Pony trauma…I like her.

With introductions out of the way, Ashley takes the lead in explaining what is going on, using a dead facehugger as a visual aid. Shona gives Father Christmas the third degree while the Doctor learns everything the humans know about the Dream Crabs. They’re telepathic aliens that eat human brains. Ashley is having a hard time believing this. The Doctor says the problem is that it’s hard to tell fantasy and reality apart because they’re both ridiculous. I’m starting to get the sneaking suspicion we’re already in a dream and the Crabs have taken over the Earth. 

Meanwhile, Nick Frost is doing a fantastic job answering the questions all kids eventually have about Santa. Of course the North Pole is striped. How else would you see it in the snow? No, reindeer can’t fly. That’s why you have to feed them magic carrots, duh. No you can’t get around the world in one sleigh. You need two. Santa even gets in a dig at Twelve when the Time Lord asks how all the presents fit in the bag. “It’s bigger on the inside.”

Moffat firing on all cylinders tonight, folks.

Read Full Post
<p>Sunday&#39;s &quot;The Comeback&quot;</p>

Sunday's "The Comeback"

Credit: HBO

Recap: 'The Comeback' - 'Valerie Faces the Critics'

With Mark and Mickey, Valerie faces real loss

Two months have passed in "The Comeback" time: Valerie has been nominated for an Emmy for "Seeing Red," Mickey has been undergoing radiation, Jane has been editing the documentary so her camera crews have been absent, and Valerie and Mark are living apart and in therapy.

There's a lot of weight in the penultimate episode of "The Comeback," and it  builds to two rough scenes. In one, there's an incredibly tense moment when Valerie shows up at Mickey's apartment, since he hasn't shown up to do her hair, and it seems like she's going to discover his dead body.

Instead, he's there, drunk, passed out, and naked, as is his hookup, a guy who doesn't hesitate to advertise his hook-up web site. But Mickey waves all of this off; he doesn't seem to care if it'll be in the documentary or not.

One person does care: Mark, Valerie's now-estranged husband, who agrees to meet her despite their therapist's rules, and Valerie agrees to wear a mic so Jane's crews can film from outside the restaurant.

It is one of the few moments during "The Comeback"'s two seasons I've yelled at the TV: Don't do it!

The worst part is that Valerie initially says no for all the right reasons: "Absolutely not. This is private." Jane says, "I need this scene," and Valerie acknowledges that the footage has the potential to do damage. But Jane knows how to manipulate Valerie: "you're so close to having something special about you."

That's what Valerie so desperately wants, whether it's an Emmy or a critically acclaimed TV show or a documentary about her life. She needs external affirmation so much she's willing to sell everyone out.

Once again, "The Comeback" season two delivers this message with a heavy hand, though coming from Mark, it's justified. Once he finds out she's "wearing a wire"--she freaks out when he mentions his affair and her abortion, knowing that she's being recorded--he bails and then confronts her. "Is this even real? Is there any part of you that is real any more?" he eventually asks.

Of course, their confrontation/argument/airing of grievances provides Jane with better footage than she could have hoped for by shooting a dinner through a window. What's perhaps most shocking through all of this is how Valerie is aware that this could all go wrong again (Mark points out that she was "obliterated by that fucking Comeback disaster") but keeps going anyway.

During a junket interview in front of a bunch of bloggers who can barely look up from their laptops to ask a dumb or self-serving question, "The Comeback"'s not-so-subtle dig at the state of television criticism, Jane reveals that the documentary's working title is "The Assassination of Valerie Cherish."

That's what's definitely going to happen to her character once again, but this time, "The Comeback" seems to be arguing that Valerie is getting not only what she deserves, but what she wants. Even a televised character assassination is another way to be told that she matters, even if it's only enough to be mocked.

Read Full Post
Taran Killam and Amy Adams

Taran Killam and Amy Adams

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Amy Adams and One Direction

The 'Big Eyes' star returns to 'SNL' after a six-year absence

I’ve covered every episode of “Saturday Night Live” for HitFix for the past five seasons, and I can’t think of a more sustained level of quality than what the show has achieved during its Fall run. We’ve had two great episodes (Martin Freeman, Cameron Diaz), one interesting misfire (Chris Rock), and then six other episodes that have all had much more positive qualities than negative ones. The current cast doesn’t have a true alpha star, but that’s worked in its favor, as the ensemble measures favorably against any in the show’s history. This season’s focus on sketches that work regardless of the current pop-culture landscape has yielded segments that provide laughs now and will stand the test of time. It hasn’t been perfect, but “perfection” isn’t the point of “SNL.” The point is to constantly innovate within its established, successful framework, and this half-season has done that and then some. Will Amy Adams help continue that streak? Let’s find out.

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;The Comeback&quot; - &quot;Valerie Cooks in the Desert&quot;</p>

"The Comeback" - "Valerie Cooks in the Desert"

Credit: HBO

Recap: 'The Comeback' - 'Valerie Cooks in the Desert'

Reshoots push Valerie over the edge and "The Comeback" into sadness

"Valerie Cooks in the Desert" was an episode of "The Comeback" where even a fart joke was sad. A conversation between an HBO executive and Valerie interrupted by noises from Mickey in the bathroom was low-level humor at best, but quickly revealed itself to be something more: a consequence of Mickey's cancer.

Read Full Post
Martin Freeman, Charli XCX, and Kenan Thompson

Martin Freeman, Charli XCX, and Kenan Thompson

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Martin Freeman and Charli XCX

The star of 'The Hobbit' and 'Fargo' sets foot on Studio 8H for the first time

Martin Freeman seemed like a solid but unusual choice to host “Saturday Night Live” when he was first announced. Had you asked me twenty possible hosts for the show’s December run, I’m not sure I would have put him anywhere near that list. (I’d have gone with Ian McKellan returning to host over Freeman making his debut.) Quite frankly, I’m surprised the star of “The Hobbit”/”Fargo”/”Sherlock” even had the time or energy to host at all. We’ve seen his comedic chops in all of those programs, as well as in the original version of “The Office,” so we know he has the bonafides to host. But how will he integrate with the show’s current cast? That’s what we’ll find out tonight.

As always, I’ll be liveblogging as the episode progresses, assessing grades to each segment. As always, you the readers will weigh in as well, and in no instance will a disagreement between the two sides be anything less than civil.

Read Full Post
<p>The &quot;Sons of Anarchy&quot; finale</p>

The "Sons of Anarchy" finale

Credit: FX

'Sons of Anarchy' Series Finale Recap - 'Papa's Goods'

The Jax Teller journey comes full circle in series finale

And that was the way the world ended: not with a bang but a whimper. If you had that famous phrase stuck in your head while tuning into the series finale of “Sons of Anarchy,” we wouldn't blame you. Not with everything that went down last week. But if you still haven't tuned into Tuesday's final episode, well ... do it. Immediately. As for everyone else, well we all deserve some hugs, Brutha. 

Read Full Post
<p>Lisa Kudrow on HBO&#39;s &#39;The Comeback&#39;</p>

Lisa Kudrow on HBO's 'The Comeback'

Credit: HBO

Recap: 'The Comeback' - 'Valerie is Taken Seriously'

Valerie Cherish mistakes praise for criticism

The brilliance of Lisa Kudrow's performance as Valerie Cherish is that it's cartoonish and absurd, yet through her behavior you can see Valerie's complicated motivations underneath it. Some people dislike "The Comeback" because they can't get past that facade--it's overwhelming, and really grates, whether it's intended to be comedic ("Jane, Jane...") or just annoying ("Jane, Jane...").

Both in season one and now, Val's behavior is largely an act of self protection. Her image matters to her, and she desperately tries to shape it, usually failing. Then, though, her behavior at least turned out to be somewhat justified: all of her raw, unflattering moments were used against her by the reality show. Even though it was a hit, you can see how that sort of betrayal would send her even deeper into self-protection.

Throughout most of "Valerie is Taken Seriously," Valerie is doing damage control for what she thinks is more potentially damaging footage. A New York Times reporter who's seen the first episode of the faux HBO series "Seeing Red" tells her that her performance is "brave," and Val takes that as Hollywood code for a woman who looks ugly on screen.

But the reporter is really referring to her acting, which is extraordinary. To add an additional layer of meta, which "The Comeback" loves to do, the scene Val watches shows her character, Mallory, talking to the Paulie G character, Mitch, and saying, "I'm your way out, and you're too fucking stupid to even know it."

It's a powerful moment, even for us as viewers of "The Comeback." Mickey is stunned. "Red--all these years! You can really act," he says. "It's wonderful." A quick glimpse of Jane shows that she, too, is impressed.

That line we hear Mallory deliver is key because that's what she, Mallory, is for Valerie: a way out of the caricature, a way in to earned respect. Her acting is so strong it will undoubtedly lead to better things for Valerie Cherish. Val's character might as well be speaking directly to Val, but of course Valerie doesn't get it, reacting instead to her physical appearance, and in particular how the light makes her look.

Of course, Valerie finally learns to stand up for herself and push back at exactly the wrong time, again getting in her own way. Her self absorption ensures that, as usual, she prioritizes her own insecurities. That leads to Paulie G.'s biggest flip-out to date. She's been warned that Paulie G. is struggling with "Seeing Red," falling behind by two scripts and even being replaced as director, but she still tries to convince him to change the lighting to make her look better--even though, again, what they've created together is pretty impressive.

Paulie G.'s flip-out opens up an opportunity for a cameo from Paulie G.'s old writing partner, Tom, who delivers one of "The Comeback"'s most overt lectures on Hollywood's dysfunction. Now executive producing a Nickelodeon show, Tom finally flips out himself, yelling, "I don't get this business. Why does everybody make excuses for that guy?" The episode answers that by showing that Paulie G. still has talent, despite his awfulness, and that talent may just help both him and his past and present nemesis.

It's ironic that Val would finally choose to confront Paulie G. about making her look bad because of something that does exactly the opposite. Yes, there's a somewhat humiliating scene of Val, in full green screen attire, turning into a CGI monster and literally tearing a to-be-added-in-post child apart--a representation of their relationship and of Paulie G.'s "inner child." At one point he tells her, "You're the monster, Val, you got it? You don't have to do anything because you're the monster--you. Clear?"

By the end, Valerie finally is clear: "Jane, I'll do whatever you want."

Read Full Post
James Franco and Cecily Strong

James Franco and Cecily Strong

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – James Franco and Nicki Minaj

The star of 'The Interview' becomes a threepeat host

Although he appeared in last season’s best sketch (“Monster Pals”), James Franco hasn’t actually hosted “Saturday Night Live” in almost exactly five years. With “The Interview” just around the corner, don’t be surprised to see Seth Rogen show up tonight. (I’d be more surprised, but also more delighted, if co-star Lizzy Caplan shows up for a “Masters Of Sex” parody as well.) Franco has been up for anything in his previous “SNL” appearances, and just released a fantastic “SNL” documentary now available on Hulu Plus, so he’s a good host to kick off this final leg of the Fall 2014 season.

As always, I’ll be liveblogging each segment. This week, I’m giving everything a “B” just to appease those that quibble with the individual grades I assign. Oh wait, that probably wouldn’t be any better. Grades are imperfect, in-the-moment reactions and nothing more. This has been a strong overall season, one that’s been a lot of fun to recap thus far. I’m hoping Franco, Martin Freeman, and Amy Adams bring things to an equally strong conclusion.

Read Full Post
<p>Charlie Hunnam of &quot;Sons of Anarchy&quot;</p>

Charlie Hunnam of "Sons of Anarchy"

Credit: FX

Recap: 'Sons of Anarchy' - 'Red Rose'

Jax makes his decision and the body count mounts on the penultimate 'Sons' episode

Waiting to sit down for that 80-minute movie event that was the penultimate “Sons of Anarchy” episode? Better eat up those pies, set down the gavels and smell the roses because you probably don’t want to be spoiled by the review that follows. 

Tuesday’s “Red Rose” was everything this season has been building to and more, yet true to the overall tone it took us a damned long time to get there. Although the set ups that went down in the first 50 minutes or so will inevitably lead to next week’s wrap-up, none of the real action took place until the last half hour. To be honest, I can’t decide if that slow burn made those final minutes more climactic or not, but either way those are the cards we’ve been dealt so let’s see how they were played — shall we?

Read Full Post