SNL: S20E20... HOST: DAVID DUCHOVNY... DATE: MAY 13, 1995

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Is It Good When A Show Lives Up To

Low Expectations?

This has been a very interesting season. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my hopes that it would play out like season six, where I felt that the traditional criticism was a case of an unwarranted backlash against the cast that took over for the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players. Then again, I’d still say that it was a better season that most people would give the cast credit for.

This season had many ups and downs with some of my favorite episodes of all time playing right next to episode that I could barely even get through. Hell, some of my favorite sketches of the year turned up in episodes that I could barely stand as a whole. This led to a sense of being on a fun roller coaster where I never knew if I would get a hit or a miss no matter who they had hosting any given night.

That said, my expectations for this season finale were extremely low going into this particular viewing. I feel it was inevitable that this one was going to be a bad one based on how the season played out in general. The year started a bit slow, but that was expected considering half of last season’s cast was replaced with competent comedians who I felt just needed time to find their place which each and every one of them eventually did throughout the year.

In fact, the middle of this season lived up to my hopes that the year would actually be better than my memories of this season’s reviews. Then they seemed to blow their load by having their two best episodes, which are up there with the best episodes of all time, play back to back with three episodes left to play out the rest of the season.

These episodes were so strong and hosted by hosts with enough sketch comedy experience that they may have unintentionally sabotaged the rest of the season where rookie hosts closed out the rest of the year. Enter David Duchovny, whose first few jokes tapped into one of my pet peeves, as he made fun of the fact that no one knew who he was to preemptively provide a warning that this might not be a show worth watching.

As always, this brand of joking is fine if the host then goes on to blow the doors off these lowered expectations and put on the best show ever, but when a host warns that the show might suck only to put on an uninspired performance, it leaves very little to write home about. On top of that, this episode also tapped into a major pet peeve in that it had the fewest but longest episode count that I have yet to see.

Twelve segments made up the night which is one segment less than the standard shorter but longer sketch format that I already abhor. As per usual, the longest of the longer sketches felt like they could’ve been good if they just cut them in half instead of introducing the new character or story twist that always makes these long sketches feel their length while clumsily falling into the realm of convolution, but not in a funny way.

This was the case with most of the night because there actually were a few funny premises that just grew to be boring as the sketches dragged on and on and on. Oh yeah, it also annoyed me that the show started off with a perfect setup for a running X-Files-themed running joke that ended up going absolutely nowhere after the announcement of, “Live from New York…”

It’s sad to know that, old or new, most of this collection of Not Ready For Prime Time Players will be replaced for the upcoming year, but I’m also excited to move on to meet this next collection of characters.  

With all of that said, it’s now time for me to wrap up this season by sharing what I saw during this weak season finale, as I give you…

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show started with The Beastman Of Studio 8-H which was a sketch where Ellen Cleghorne warned David Duchovny that the SNL studio had an X-Files style curse that haunts the show which sent our host out to investigate. It turned out that the Beastman who was creating such chaos was just Chris Farley, who was playing a joke, but then right after this reveal, we quickly found out that Chris Farley’s claims were just a case of misdirection as the actual Beastman made a quick appearance. This better be a running gag throughout the night because there was no real closure other than the announcement of, “Live from New York…”
  2. David Duchovny then officially opened the show with a monolog about his portfolio of indie films that no one has ever heard of claiming they were the reason he was tapped to host the show, continuing the joke that nobody knows who he is. Since he’s from New York, they then took to the streets to interview Duchovny’s hometown peeps about his career, but even they didn’t know who he was. I hate to say it, but the delivery of this self-deprecating sense of humor is lowering my already low expectations of the night.
  3. You Think You're Better Than Me? was a show sketch filled with aggressive New York stereotypes who answer every question with, “You think you’re better than me?” This sketch could have been fun as a quick one, but it seemed to drag on forever on this night with the fewest sketches I think that I’ve yet to see.
  4. The Zagat's couple then returned where once again, Chris Farley and Adam Sandler played an old retired couple with Farley as the wife who loved to read Zagat’s restaurant reviews, and Sandler who just wanted to die to not have to hear her voice anymore. In this installment, Sandler ripped up the Zagat book which led Farley to seamlessly start to read show descriptions from the TV Guide. After getting in an entire sketch’s worth of content, David Duchovny was introduced to the scene as Farley’s sister who reset the scene by bringing in the latest Zagat’s book as a present.
  5. Rod Stewart then took to the stage to perform Leave Virginia Alone. 
  6. Once again, Norm MacDonald gave us the news. This week, Laura Kightlinger dropped by to share what she would be doing over her summer break with a bit of a stand-up routine about growing old while being single and not interested in traditional things like marriage, children, and finding a traditional job. Mike McKean then dropped in as Adam West to talk about Batman following the release of the latest installment of the franchise at the time which was Batman Forever. Adam Sandler also dropped by for a special segment about Mother’s Day specifically devoted to the single mom that eventually evolved into Adam attempting to pick-up on these available women with children.
  7. New England General Store was a sketch that took place in a quaint bait shop run by small town folks who have a run in with Mike McKean who plays a pushy New York City customer who could care less about the small talk as he just wanted to buy his cigarettes and leave. After the verbal abuse of the small town folks grows to be too much, the locals react with a response similar to the Gimp scene from Pulp Fiction where they pull the city folks into a back room to beat the city dwellers to the edge of their existence.
  8. This was followed by another parody of The Ricki Lake Show where Jay Mohr as Ricki had on a hermaphrodite, played by Adam Sandler and a bunch of celebrity impersonators who all look the part but put no effort into playing their roles. The impersonation part was somewhat funny, but the hermaphrodite angle felt like a random add-on to be treated like a sideshow freak. Even though Sandler actually treated the character like a human who was aware of the other’s discomfort even though they were the actual freaks, which would have been nice if that was the actual point of the sketch instead of my interpretation while watching through modern eyes.   
  9. Rod Stewart then returned to the stage to perform Maggie May. 
  10. Rock & Roll Real Estate Agent was as the title suggests a sketch where Jay Mohr played a rock star wannabe who’s now selling real estate now that his band had failed.
  11. The Polar Bear Sketch took place at the zoo after closing time where a group cast members playing themselves broke in to hang out around the polar bear exhibit. Jay Mohr played himself as a bit of a Jackass-style character who jumped in with the bear claiming he could swim across the barrier pond and back without getting caught. Of course, he got mauled in the process. Then, one after another, the rest of the group kept jumping in to save the last person, only to get mauled as well.
  12. Finally, David Duchovny closed the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights.

With so few sketches to choose from this episode made it easy for me to sort out these three favorite moments even though I wasn’t all that excited about any of them. First, I loved The Polar Bear Sketch especially after learning that the cast members were playing themselves. Next, I really liked New England General Store sketch because of how it reminded me of the Gimp scene from Pulp Fiction even though it was not a reference. Finally, I was a fan of The Zagat's sketch just because I still like these characters, and this sketch is the whole reason why I know what the Zagat’s stickers on restaurants mean.

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Matt Bunker

I started out with a goal of becoming a paid screenwriter. I had no interest in any other aspect of filmmaking. I received and scholarship to The Vancouver Film School's Writing for Film and Television program where I graduated in 2005. I fell in love with being on set during my first non-school produced short, . I loved being around all the creative people, seeing people having fun while working. The whole liking your job was a new world to me, so I decided to give it a shot. I volunteered for any project I could, doing what ever was needed. The set was my Film School this time. While working as a PA on a feature I was informed that the DP wanted the three tallest PAs to help out in the grip and electric department. That is when I found the department that felt like the best fit for me while I continued to write.