Recapping Television's Hottest Shows with Monkeys as Critics
The comedy veteran hosts the show for the first time.
Kevin Hart and Jason Sudeikis on "Saturday Night Live"
After a two-week hiatus following its strongest episode of the season, “Saturday Night Live” is back with host Kevin Hart. I’ve seen Hart in "Undeclared" as well as in supporting roles in several films, but won’t pretend to be anything remotely related to an expert on his stand-up career. So I’m coming into tonight’s episode with a relatively blank slate. Anything is possible when it comes to this installment, so far as I’m concerned. And that’s a good thing, so near as I can tell. Sometimes the hype can be too much (as will undoubtedly be the case when Justin Timberlake hosts next week), and sometimes negative preconceptions can cripple an episode before it even starts (paging Justin Bieber, who lived down to that hype).
Tonight? I’m ready to roll with whatever the show has ready to offer. Along for the ride is musical guests Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who will obviously be playing deep cuts from their album “The Heist” and in no way will play “Thrift Store” in either slot. Nope. No way, no how. Oh, who are we kidding? They will probably play it twice, and it will be f#$^ing awesome both times. In five years (or, more likely, five weeks), we’ll look back and wonder why we suddenly all lost our minds and agreed to like this song. But for now, let’s just accept the fact that if we see a broken keyboard, we’re probably going to buy that broken keyboard.
Ryan is really interested in the Threesome, while Claire finds a fan
Natalie Zea on Monday's "The Following"
Last week's cliffhanger starts this week's "The Following
," in which Ryan unwittingly makes himself the centerpiece of a hostage situation. It's a tense episode that demonstrates a bit of a tonal shift for the show—one that moves a little bit away from Ryan's internal dramas and instead focuses on him as a hero. That's great, because it lets some of the other characters' narratives take up space for a change. Here's the good, bad, and meh:
Carroll sends a Poe-based message through his old lawyer
James Purefoy of "The Following"
Credit: Nicole Rivelli/FOX
This week’s episode “Siege” goes in a lot of directions. A few of those angles stick. Others don’t have the emotional impact that you might expect from so much blood and gore. By far the most powerful moment is at the very end, and the story is a little muddled getting all the way there.
How will the "Django Unchained" star fare in Studio 8H?
Christoph Waltz and Fred Armisen on "Saturday Night Live"
Let’s face it, “Saturday Night Live” fans: 2013 hasn’t been kind to the show. We’ve had three not-really-that-good-at-all shows thus far, with the pieces never really coming together to produce a solid, nevermind stand-out, episode. Will Christoph Waltz be the unlikely savior? I say “unlikely” not because he isn’t talented, but because I’m sure there are a lot of people tuning in tonight. Those reading this recap will probably know of his recent roles in “Inglorious Basterds” and “Django Unchained”, but the average viewer more familiar with the oeuvre of last week’s host Justin Bieber? Hard to say.
Then again, the idea of choosing a host based on skill rather than fame is one I applaud. In every major role in an American film (yes, even including “The Green Hornet”), Waltz has brought a comedic edge to his intense performances. For him to end up a great host wouldn’t surprise me in the least, just as it wouldn’t surprise me to see musical guests Alabama Shakes tear the roof off of Studio 8H when they perform tonight. The law of averages states we’re in for a good show tonight. Then again, maybe “SNL” will just troll me and have Waltz play a character named “Ryan” in the latest installment of “The Californians”.
Jacob admits a secret, while the cult strikes close to Ryan
Kevin Bacon on Monday's "The Following"
"Mad Love" doesn’t advance any plotlines significantly, which feels a little frustrating after three episodes that are essentially action-packed. Instead we are immersed into backstory for most of the episode, and though we do learn some interesting information about Ryan’s family--and his fraught relationship with Claire--overall the episode feels stagnant, with none of the pulp and gore that drove last week’s "Poet’s Fire." That’s fine, and it’s somewhat interesting in terms of building character, but this is not going to be anyone’s favorite episode of the show. The wacky stuff gets pushed to the outskirts, to the murder-cult house with little Joey, while Ryan’s storyline takes on pretty normal dramatic strokes. The tonal shift is frankly kind of confusing after three episodes of crazy.
Does the teen pop heartthrob have what it takes to host 'SNL'?
Justin Bieber and Kenan Thompson on 'Saturday Night Live'
This is going to be terrible. Unless it’s awesome. Then again, it could be mediocre.
Look, there’s an intense amount of hype about tonight’s Justin Bieber
-hosted “Saturday Night Live
”. But predicting the overall quality based on any host is a fool’s game. We’ve seen sure-fire selections fizzle under the lights of live television, and those that seemed destined for failure rise up and exceed expectations. The metrics that went into select Bieber himself may be suspect (come on, this is about ratings above all else), but there’s no reason to think this will be any better or worse than anything else we’ve seen thus far this season.
Indications that Bieber will or will not be a good host should be evident early on. Does the show bust out a host of other celebrities to surround/protect him? Will Bieber play himself in the majority of the sketches? Will he be OK with putting his carefully calibrated image upon the comedic chopping block? Ultimately, this isn’t really about Bieber being a good host so much as a game one. So long as he’s one or the other, it’s a success for him. The success for “SNL” will be putting forth its first good episode of 2013. That somewhat rests of Bieber’s shoulders, but more on the strength of the sketches themselves.
Amidst flashbacks, things get tense for the kidnapping trio
This is such a traumatic show.
Tonight's episode features a sexual-assault-turned-kidnapping, a suicide by gauze, three murders, oh and the continued presence of a killer cult that seems to worship death. Awesome! Ginger, get the popcorn.
One of the most intriguing elements of "The Following
" is its pacing. This is a show that feels like a movie thriller. Twists and turns happen so fast that you get the idea the writers absolutely do know where this sick game is ending. That's rare enough, on network television, that seeing it play out is engaging. It's thrilling and horrifying at every turn, and even if those thrills aren't the most cerebral, I find myself strangely enthralled by what I'm watching.
How did the Maroon 5 singer/"The Voice" coach fare in sketch comedy?
Bobby Moynihan and Adam Levine
Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night! Also live from New York? Me! I’m here working on some upcoming projects, but I’m still reporting for duty (albeit with frigid fingers) here in the City That Never Sleeps. On deck tonight: host Adam “Moves Like Jagger” Levine and musical guest Kendrick Lamar. Levine was a semi-controversial choice as host in some circles, but if Bruno Mars taught us anything this year, it’s that someone used to performing in front of live audiences often is a great choice to host “SNL”. Levine’s musical persona is fairly cocky, so let’s see how much he pokes fun at himself tonight. My expectations aren’t terrifically on that front, but who knows? (My expectations for at least two of the three other coaches from “The Voice” to appear tonight? Exponentially higher.)
Since I’m not at home, we’ll forgo the liveblog in favor of a running diary posted once the episode ends. But as always, I’ll be offering up grades for each segment that will be used against me in a court of law at a date to be named later.
What will be deadlier: the arena from "The Hunger Games" or Studio 8H?
Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Lawrence
After over a month off, “Saturday Night Live” is back with recent Golden Globes winner Jennifer Lawrence as 2013’s first host. That month hopefully recharged the batteries of all involved in this show. In greater likelihood, it gave the writers the opportunity to craft the longest version of “The Californians” in history. Along for the ride tonight is musical act The Lumineers, whose song “Ho Hey” I heard no less than five times in my car today. It’s possible that I’ve been incepted by the neo-folk pop music scene, is all I’m saying.
Let’s keep track of that throughout tonight’s proceedings. As always, I’ll be live blogging the show, giving grades to each individual sketch along the way. As always, you’ll take any difference of opinion from your own as a slight that can be only answered via a pistol duel at dawn. Why should 2013 be any different from 2012?
Come back starting at 11:30 p.m. EST, and we’ll get this party started.
The show wraps up its five-year run.
Joshua Jackson in tonight's "Fringe"
“It’s not about fate…it’s about changing fate. It’s about hope. And protecting our children.” September, to Walter Bishop
Here we are, at the end of the “Fringe
” journey. It started with a mysterious incident on a plane and ended with a white tulip addressed to Peter Bishop. In between were some of the loveliest, most evocative, most affecting (as well as effective) genre storytelling on television in recent memory. It was far from a perfect show, as even the hardiest of fans would agree. But when it worked, it worked like gangbusters, and there was nothing else like it. Considering how downright strange, how openly earnest, and how narratively demanding it was, it’s no hyperbole to say that television as a whole was better for having “Fringe” in its ecosphere.
But it’s unfortunately also not hyperbole to say that tonight’s final two episodes proved this fifth and final season to be a huge misstep.