SNL: S23E03... HOST: BRENDAN FRASER... DATE: OCTOBER 18, 1997

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The Continuing Comfort Zone

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Yesterday, I pointed out how I was nervous about this season since it is the third year with a bulk of the cast who now all seem to be performing from their comfort zone. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because everyone is nailing what they are good at, but at the same time, there’s a bit of a calmness that comes with the comfort where the show almost loses any of the excitement that comes with the show being live to no one seems to be making any big risks.

I’d rather watch an episode filled with a crazier balance of hit or miss sketches than a night like tonight that I found to be filled with sketches that were consistently just good. Even the sketches that seemed to attempt to have an edge felt very innocent even when compared to the last couple of season.

For example, the Issues sketch where Jim Breuer and Brendan Fraser player pot-legalizing obsessed stoners, who acted more like silly kids than like people who were actually stoned. Yes, I’m sure part of the reason these toned down stoners didn’t seem all that edgy stemmed from the fact that we now live in a time where marijuana just isn’t a big deal, but then again, there have been plenty of funny pothead characters that got plenty of laughs even though they originally aired when “it was a different time.”

There were a couple other sketches where the pieces all seemed like they were there, like the Lemon Glow cleaner sold to suburban housewives who had partying days in past or even, The Go-Lords who were specifically designed to push offensive buttons, both felt a little flat and boring. That said, based on their concepts alone, both of these sketches were pretty good.

I really hope that I’m wrong and that this slowness that I’m sensing is still from the cast easing into the season following their summer vacation and not just them settling into the comfort zone calm that I suggested at the start of this review. If that is the case, I’m not all that worried seasons like this usually either get really good during the second half after a winter revamp to cope with the negative reviews, or don’t improve but set up the cast to put out a solid fourth year for fear of losing their jobs.

So far I’ve found that when a group of Not Ready For Prime Time Players work together for at least five years, years’ two and four are always the best, with year one being pretty good and three being the definite worst. Year five is usually when they start to sprinkle new cast members again. These new players usually revitalize the cast, unless there are too many of them, sending us back to year one of the cast development process.

As with other episodes like this from the past, as bad as I make it sound through my writing, it was still entertaining to watch. With that, it’s now time to shift gears to share what I saw during the watching process in order to give you…

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show started with a sketch called Janet Reno's Fantasy where we got to see an emotionally disturbed Will Ferrell as Janet Reno, alone in her room where she talked to a giant stull lion as she fantasized about Darrell Hammond as Bill Clinton while she watched him interact with a group of foreign leaders on TV. Of course, with this being the opening sketch, it eventually led to the announcement of, “Live from New York…”
  2. Brendan Fraser then officially opened the show with a monolog where he started out promoting his new movie, George Of The Jungle and then went on to explain how the worst thing about being an actor is how people think they know the real him based on what they know of his characters. To finish off the joke, he then told the audience all of the things that he likes in a list that innocent but a bit bizarre.
  3. This was followed by a fake ad for Lemon Glow which was a floor cleaner that marketed the fact that it provides a renewed suburban existences for those housewives who used to live the wild life.
  4. We then got a parody of Xena: Warrior Princess where Molly Shannon played the Amazonian mythical hero who kept on dropping hints that she was lesbian while roughing up a bar full of drunks in order to remind them that no man stands a chance with her either through fighting or anything sexual. Brendan Fraser pretty much played a twin to Xena who was also her nemesis and the two ended up turning on another on during some random swordplay.
  5. Issues was a talk show sketch where Jim Breuer and Brendan Fraser played two stoner talk show host who couldn’t control their laughter while attempting to interview community leaders about their stances on local issues.
  6. Delicious Dish then returned for another installment where this time the two monotone NPR talk show hosts droned with their interview of Brendan Fraser who was playing a gourd expert who knew everything there was to know about squash.
  7. The Go-Lords then returned for another installment where this time the stop-animation-style religious puppets, of sorts, saved the day from a nuclear warhead that was stolen from Bill Gates.
  8. This was followed by a parody of Monday Night Football where Darrell Hammond as Frank Gifford couldn’t stop commenting on personal problems with his wife Kathy Lee following a recent scandal. In the sketch, Frank is so intent on clearing his name that neither of his co-hosts could fit in a single word about the sport they were there to watch.
  9. Cheri Oteri’s pill-popping Collette Reardon character then made her return to the show where once again she made a trip to the pharmacy to pester Brendan Fraser as this week’s pharmacist who had to refill her latest re-up of prescription drugs.   
  10. Once again, Norm MacDonald gave us the news. This week, Will Ferrell dropped in as Harry Caray in order to talk about the potential teams to make it to The World Series, focusing more on the mascots that the players.
  11. Bjork then took to the stage to perform Bachelorette.
  12. We then got another Biography parody where this time Darrell Hammond, as the host profiled Molly Shannon as Courtney Love for his 500th episode where they mainly focused on her years as a stripper and all of the drugs that she’s been known to use.
  13. Chris Kattan male stripper character Mango then made his show debut where he unwillingly put Brendan Fraser under a seductive spell even though he was portraying a straight family man but that’s just the power of Mango.
  14. We then got a fake ad for The Shark Channel which was a parody of an attempt to one-up shark week by having a channel that one-hundred percent devoted to shows about sharks.
  15. The night then winded down as Brendan Fraser broke into singing a couple of Buddy Songs about Will Ferrell while the rest of the cast got creeped out this weird celebration of short-term friendship and how Will’s hand wouldn’t leave Brendan’s knee. Norm was the only other cast-mate to be into the song and even joined in near the end.
  16. Finally, Brendan Fraser closed the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights.

As I said up above, this episode was more fun to watch that it was to actually write about since I was entertainment by moments like these three of my favorites of the night. First, I loved the end of the night sketch where Brendan Fraser Sings Buddy Songs To Will Ferrell not just because it was quirky and weird with Ferrell’s hand on Fraser’s knee throughout the song but, I also loved Norm’s over the top reaction while dressed like Peter Pan. Next, I really liked the fake ad for The Shark Channel because even though Shark Week officially started in 1988, I don’t think it was until around this time that they used such exaggerated hype to promote the week-long run of shows so it was funny to see the idea for an all shark-themed TV network that even hosted its own Country Western Music Awards. Finally, I was a fan of this week’s Delicious Dishes because, again, I’m a huge fan of talk radio and podcasts so these radio show sketches are usually appealing to me plus the gourd talk about squash had me laughing.

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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.