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”.
Could 'SNL' make use of the 'Modern Family' star's particular gifts?
Welcome back, “Saturday Night Live” fans. When last we met, the show had put forth a subpar effort involving Jonah Hill. If “SNL” couldn’t produce a funny program with Hill as the lead, then it was probably time to take a good, long break. And lo and behold, here we are nearly a month later with the first new show since that debacle. Sofia Vergara makes her debut hosting appearance tonight, and I’m sure not once will her ample…talents be the focus of most of the sketches. Nope. No way. Just like there’s no way “The Manuel Ortiz Show” won’t make an appearance tonight, either. What WILL make an appearance? Musical guest One Direction, Myles McNutt’s favorite band, and the reason I imagine 80% of you will be reading this recap in the first place.
Let’s see if the time off did the show any good. As always, I’ll be grading each sketch in real time. Let’s see how many fun ways my word-processing program can auto-correct “Vergara.” This should be fun. Onto the recap!
Why tonight's episode was the best of the season, and why that is such a tragedy
Olivia Dunham has recently found herself unable to remember the events of her life since David Robert Jones’ cortiphexan injections helped awaken her to her past reality. In semi-related news, I found myself in the curious position tonight of no longer really remembering what happened on “Fringe” before Peter fused the two worlds together. And honestly? I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. On one level it was almost definitely a good thing: “Everything In Its Right Place” had problems but definitely stood out as one of the season’s strongest entries. But it’s also one of the strongest entries precisely because I no longer find myself wondering when things will return to normal. While that might be music to some of your ears, it sounds like Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” to mine.
A few unfortunate narrative developments cloud some of the season's strongest emotional work
The first fifteen minutes of “Fringe” sent me on a rollercoaster of emotions. On one hand, I couldn’t believe they were finally going to tell a “Lost” Sideways tale in this fourth season. Given the conceit of this year, it’s hard to believe it’s taken them this long. But while I was semi-intrigued about how that type of story might play out, the show seemed to be restaging one of the first season’s least exciting episodes. However, most of my worries washed away when the show unleashed its best scene of the season: Walter giving Peter all the gifts he bought for his thought-dead son. I don’t like the overall structure of this season, but Lord in heaven that was a simple, powerful, evocative moment.
The show gives some answers, but also provides a sub-par case of the week
Well, now we've got two of our real characters back. So that’s a start.
I’m accentuating the positive because I know if you’re still around, you still like “Fringe” and have little interest in reading anything negative. I don’t see a way in which this wasn’t the start of the show’s final stretch, but I really and truly hope there’s a fifth season of this show. Why? Well, for starters, it beats the hell out of another Gordon Ramsey-hosted cooking show populating the airwaves. Second? It might give the show a chance to go out on something besides a 22-episode recovery from a fundamental narrative mistake.
Did the '21 Jump Street' star deliver? Did The Shins change your life?
The good news for Jonah Hill? There’s almost no way his hosting duties on “Saturday Night Live” will receive the scrutiny that befell Lindsey Lohan’s attempt last week. So even if Hill falls flat on his face tonight, it’s not like people will treat him any worse than her. Or, you know, the way people treated him on “Allen Gregory.” So there’s that! Coming along for the ride is the band that changed Zach Braff’s life, and perhaps yours as well: The Shins. It’s yet another artist I actually know, and not because I spent six months trolling hospital waiting rooms hoping some girl would put her headphones on my ears and start up a wonderful yet complicated romance whose end was anything but certain.
As per usual, I’ll be reviewing each sketch. As per usual, you’ll get outraged by the grade I give each one. Why ruin a good thing now, right?
Did we just witness the start of the LiLo comeback?
Onto the recap!
The show doubles down on its season-long arc heading into its winter hiatus
I’ve been watching TV all of my life. Growing up, we had a TV in every single room of the house that wasn’t a bathroom. Poor parenting? More like preparation for a life in TV criticism, I say! In terms of writing about the medium, that started about six years ago. In that time, I’ve tried to not only get better at what I do, but also constantly try to reevaluate the medium itself and what about it appeals to me. I look back at articles written three or four years ago in horror, but also fascination. Horror because Lordy, some of those essays were atrocious. Fascination because it often sounds like someone that no longer shares the same tastes as I do now.
'Glee' crashes and burns in its winter finale
No no no no no no.
You don’t get to do that, “Glee.” No way, no how. Even by your standards, that was patently ridiculous.
Which of her impressions was Maya still able to use?
A few weeks ago, I would have been eagerly anticipating the return of Maya Rudolph’s impression of Whitney Houston as part of her hosting duties. Now? Yeah, not so much. There’s just no way to bust that out this soon, right? Not that Rudolph’s a one-trick pony by any stretch. She’s one of the show’s most versatile performers, and part of an era in which the women straight up ruled “Saturday Night Live.” I’ll be interested to see tonight if her presence allows the strong, if often underutilized, female members of the current cast to shine. It’s of course possible that Rudolph’s presence pushes them even further to the periphery, but I hope that’s not the case.
Along for the ride is musical act Sleigh Bells who, from the three minutes of research I just did on them after learning they would be on the show tonight, seem very nice. I bet they call their mothers every Sunday.
Onto the recap!
A strong episode for Anna Torv, but one that also missed some big opportunities
Know what? I like me some Anna Torv. I don’t say it enough, so I’m probably overdue in saying it. But watching her play a cool, calm, suddenly whole Olivia Dunham reminded me just how much I’ve missed that character on my television screen this season. So, do you reward a show for giving you what you want, or curse it for making you wait so long for it? That’s the choice before me with “Fringe.”