SNL: S23E10... HOST: SAMUEL L. JACKSON... DATE: JANUARY 10, 1998

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No More Norm On The News

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Before I get into the issue that I referenced with my subtitle, “No More Norm On The News,” let me start by talking about our host for the night Samuel L. Jackson. As an indie film fan from this time, I was a pretty big fan of Jackson’s major hits as well as his lesser-known films from the time. As I said in yesterday’s review, I stopped fanatically following film about a decade ago thanks to my time working in the industry but, I still get excited when I’m watching a film and see Samuel make an appearance in a scene.

Samuel L. Jackson is one of the few people who I really enjoy when he acts as a character of himself. I think this is because when he goes over-the-top you can tell that it’s intentional for the joke and not that he’s trying to pull it off as real. Because of this, I was excited to watch tonight’s episode and wasn’t let down at all.

Between the fact that this season is continuing to grow on me with each new episode and Jackson’s energy that seemed contagious amongst the cast, this turned out to be a super fun show to watch. I’m over the comfort zone issues that I was hung up on earlier in the season. This episode was just good without any qualifiers.

Now, let’s talk about Norm. Norm is one of my favorite comedians and I loved him as the host of the news. Though I’ve very sad to see him leave mid-season without any fanfare or recognition from the show, I knew this was coming so I didn’t feel as let down this go around. Though I still think it sucks to this day, I still kind of get it because Norm’s comedy style seems to focus on how little he cares to the point where he can be polarizing between people who find this approach to be brilliant and those who find his exaggerated disinterest as a sign that he’s legitimately bad. That’s just the gamble one makes when portraying this type of persona.

As a stand-up fan, it also helps both now and back then that Norm was replaced by Colin Quinn who also has a bit of an edge to his personality, but one that’s more fitting to deliver the news. Again, Norm cracked me up but it did always feel like he was doing his own thing kind of like the early day with Chevy Chase. These two anchors had a style where their delivery was almost more important than the stories but when it comes to Colin Quinn his edge comes from seeming to have a dog in every race for the stories he’s reporting on. Neither style is actually better but they are definitely different.

We’ll see how the rest of this year plays out but as for now, I’m optimistic about what’s to come. Until then, it’s now time for me to shift gears and move on from sharing my thoughts to share what I actually saw, as I give you…

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show started with A Message From The President Of The United States where Darrell Hammond as President Clinton pitched his idea to use the countries budget surplus to make a high budget movie filled with every top trending movie trope from the time, complete with Terminators, Playboy bunnies, and war scenes that use actual bombs. This movie was going to be directed by the Pope with the working title, Porky’s.  Of course, with this being the opening sketch, it eventually led to the announcement of, “Live from New York…”
  2. Samuel L. Jackson then officially opened the show with a monolog that started with him reminding us that he’s not Laurence Fishburne or Morgan Freeman and that he was happy to be hosting the first show of the year. This led to our host reading off some of his New Year’s resolutions to kick off 1998 which mainly consisted of him promising to continue to be the bad ass self that he is.
  3. We then got a repeat of the fake ad for Lemon Glow from earlier in the season which pitched a cleaning product to suburban housewives who may not have that clean of a past.
  4. Publisher's Clearinghouse was a sketch where Samuel Jackson played a dad from a New York City projects who won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse grand prize. Though the Prize Patrol keep insisting they’re they to give the family their ten million dollar check, Jackson and the family start out super untrusting, thinking they were just there to collect on an unpaid bill. The Prize Patrol was eventually allowed into the tiny apartment where more hood based stereotypes played out as we got to see the conditions the family was living in that might not have played as well with any other host.
  5. Quentin Tarantino: A Profile was a parody profile piece about the quirky director as played by Norm MacDonald who shared that he always wanted Samuel Jackson in the role of Jules but then went on to share his alternate choices for the Travolta role. We then got to see several audition clips of these early choices as they tried out. We also got to see a few auditions from other big names who tried out for smaller roles.
  6. Jazzterpieces was a PBS parody that profiled a jazz duo named Dexter Spoons And Della Fiztwashington where Samuel Jackson played an old blind piano player with Ana Gasteyer as his singing partner/wife who’s been with him since the early ‘40s. The sketch mainly made fun of how drug-fueled and chaotic the jazz scene was back in the early days. This sketch might actually be where South Park got their Loch Ness Monster joke from because at one point Gasteyer share how she once shot Samuel thinking that he was the Scottish loch monster.
  7. This was followed by a parody of Judge Judy with Cheri Oteri as the judge and Tracy Morgan as her bailiff/sidekick. The case being tried in this sketch was between Samuel Jackson who played a shady fitness instructor and Ana Gasteyer who played the swindled housewife who refused to pay the bill because she was legitimately ripped off. Judge Judy didn’t seem to care about who actually was at fault as she yelled at anyone and everyone who ticked her off. Judge Judy ended up siding with Jackson after he gave her a couple of compliments.
  8. TV Funhouse then returned with a parody of Speed Racer only with George Clooney in the starring role as he tried to escape the paparazzi.
  9. This week Colin Quinn took over for Norm as the new host of the news. He started with a fun joke to explain the change without going into details then quickly went into sharing stories. Though I loved Norm on Weekend Update, I loved it because Norm was being Norm and the stories didn’t matter at all. I don’t mind this change because Colin Quinn turns out to be another one of my favorite SNL anchors of all time. This week, Will Ferrell dropped in as Harry Caray in order to give us a look back on the last year as a bit of a New Year’s special, this visit led to my favorite Harry Caray question of all time when he asked Colin Quinn if he eat himself if he was a hot dog who found himself starving while continually confusing Colin for Norm.
  10. Ben Folds Five then took to the stage to perform Brick.
  11. We then got to see a parody of Titanic where Samuel Jackson and Tracy Morgan showed us what the fifth class black passengers had to put up with on that night that the boat hit the iceberg. Where all the white folks freak out through the entire sketch as the boat continued to sink, Jackson and Morgan calmly waited for their turn to get on a lifeboat. Their waiting highlighted how used to this type of second thought treatment black folks have had to put up with over time to where they saw this treatment as usual. In the end, all of the waiting might have saved their lives as we learned that they made it to land safely by tying the dead white people together in order to make a boat.
  12. Mango then returned for another installment where this time he enticed Samuel Jackson with his male stripper magical ways after he and his crew accidentally ended up in the wrong strip club.
  13. We then got a fake ad for The Learning Annex which made fun of the bizarre classes one can take in the world of continued education for adults. Though she wasn’t really the focus, this sketch also introduced Molly Shannon’s character who loves to proclaim, “I’m 50,” while showing off what she can still do at her old age.
  14. Poolside Lovin' was a parody of a Playboy Channel show where Chris Kattan and Sam Jackson played friends who hung out by the pool in an effort to pick up ladies. Where Jackson was all in to get down with the girls, Kattan couldn’t get into the vibe because he kept thinking about his dad who he learned had died just before the taping.
  15. This was followed by a repeat of the fake ad for The Weston Collection commercial from earlier in the season where Will Ferrell pitch a new fashionable “I’m #1” hat.
  16. Finally, Samuel L. Jackson closed the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights.

As I said up above, I’m now fully on board with this season thanks to sketches like these that contained my three favorite moments of the night. First, I loved Harry Carry asking Colin Quinn, “If you were a hot dog and starving, would you eat yourself,” not just because this is one of my all-time favorite lines of all time but I loved how Will Ferrell kept confusing Colin for Norm. Next, I really liked the Titanic sketch because it was a funny statement on race relations from the past but mainly because I liked how Samuel Jackson and Tracy Morgan survived by making a boat out of drowned white guys. Finally, I was a fan of this week’s Mango sketch because there’s just something funny about a tough thug who can’t focus on mugging because his thoughts are preoccupied with potential homosexual love.

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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.