A Season Of Stronger Second Halves
I find it interesting that it’s taken me up to this episode to figure out my true issue with this season of Saturday Night Live. Granted, I’ve discovered several of the pieces throughout the year but it wasn’t until tonight’s viewing that these pieces finally fit together. What makes this interesting to me is that tonight’s episode marks the mid-point of the year, and my main issue has to deal with the first half of each episode.
As I said in past reviews for this year, I started out annoyed because it wasn’t until about five segments in that Bill Paxton felt like he was officially part of a sketch, other than being crowbarred in to start a sketch off only to then quickly disappear. As I keep says, I’m fine with the cold opener being host free because I like because it makes sense that they would wait for Don Pardo to announce the host when they get called to the stage for their monolog.
I’m also fine with the host not showing up in the prerecorded commercial that most often follows the monolog because I know that these segments are often shot either off-season or during other times before even knowing which episode the fake ad would air. Plus, these fake ads are always quick and fun.
This season has started a trend where the host throws to the show following the monolog and then, at best, they end up in the background or playing some insignificant character in each sketch until the second half of the show where it finally gets more host-centric. This is the reverse of almost every other year so I’ve grown to expect the opposite structure where the host shines at first and then the cast takes over the second half as the host starts to peter out.
This order just makes more sense to me since the best part of SNL is how the ever-changing hosts really helps to keep us from getting burnt out on the cast. As I said in past reviews, the problem with the cast going first is that it leads me to believe that the host didn’t turn out to be good enough to be given the responsibility to start off the show.
Most of what I’ve written above is old news that I’ve covered in past reviews. My new finding that explains my frustration is that, now that I think about it, most of my favorite moments from this year have come from the second half, leading me to believe that if the show played in the traditional order where the host goes first, I might not have had any complaints at all.
As it is, I keep getting excited by the host, only to have my expectations lowered right out of the gate, then by the time the second half comes I’m already zoned out from only being half-entertained so when the good sketches do come I’m not always in the mood to laugh. If things played out the other way, I’d start out entertained and by the time the show started to wind down, I’d be winding down at the same time and would barely even notice.
I think this really stood out to me tonight because I know Bill Paxton from some funny films but at the same time, I don’t really see him as a comedic actor so figured this is why they were hiding the host, the same way they did with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Love Hewitt, thinking that neither of these hosts had yet to fully tap into their full comedic style, but when this episode ended strong, the same way it did with the above mentions hosts, I started to see this reverse as a problematic pattern.
Hopefully, the show was just trying something new around this time and quickly find out that this plan just isn’t working. We’ll see what happens, but until then, it’s now time to shift gears in order to share what I saw, as I give you…
The Wicker Breakdown:
This week's show started with a sketch called Mac's Bar where Chris Parnell and Newt Gingrich was drinking at the titular bar, drowning his sorrows after losing his position as The Speaker Of The House and was joined by Will Ferrell as Bob Livingston who was completely baffled by him getting fired as well. Neither could fully grasp how they ended up getting the worst of the backlash following the Bill Clinton sex scandal. After a couple sips and many complaints, Darrell Hammond as Mr. President passed through the scene with another stranger woman in arm, which further outraged our two drinking politicians. As always, with this being the opening sketch, it eventually led to the announcement of, “Live from New York…”
Bill Paxton then officially opened the show with a monolog about how he had a very close personal friendship with Sissy Spacek as he reflected on the first time he was in the SNL studio as an audience member to watch her back in the ‘80s when she was the host of the show. As he rambled on and on about the relationship, we got to see backstage as the cast members complained that Spacek was all Paxton ever talked about. As the monolog started to wind up, the cast and crew doused our host in pig’s blood, recreating Sissy Spacek's famous scene from the movie Carrie which then led to the same creepy results from the film.
This was followed by another parody of The View which was more of the same. The main focus of this installment was the fact that Debbie Matenopolous was recently fired the show and the rest of the hosts were pleased as punch to be doing the show without her. That is until the real Matenopolous entered the scene completely unaware that she had been canned since she was too dumb to pick up on the very blatant clues.
The Culps also returned for more of the same with the singing instructing couple who sing pop songs in their music instructor style only this time the performed while they were snowed in by a blizzard at the O’Hare Airport. Though I take issue with The View sketch being more of the same, with The Culps, I always love when I see them in the sketch lineup. They also managed to crowbar Bill Paxton into the scene as a very grumpy flight attendant who introduced the quirky duo and their impromptu delay distracting show.
We then a parody of Titanic that showed the “original ending of the movie” where Cheri Oteri as Rose got savagely beaten for not sharing the whereabouts of the diamond necklace which turned out to be the true reason the search crew brought the old Rose along to explore the sunken ship. We also learned that the Rose from this sketch was a complete liar and her Titanic tale was actually a story from Love Boat. The sketch ended with the real James Cameron explaining why he decided to reshoot this scene since it didn’t test well during the marketing research.
Fat Albert: Behind The Music was a parody of the VH1 show that profiled the downfall of Fat Albert’s Junkyard Gang band. We learned through interviews and stock footage of all of the sex, drugs, and alcohol that traditionally tempt newcomers to the world of living as a famous musician.
Once again, Colin Quinn gave us the news. This week, Ana Gasteyer dropped by as Elizabeth Dole to share her crazy plans she had for the upcoming 2000 Election after she was inspired by the song 1999 by Prince. At first, it sounded like this song was going to be the deciding factor as to whether or not she’d run for president but it turned out the song inspired her to want to party out the rest of her life and share how she already started to live like a rock star.
Beck then took to the stage to perform Nobody's Fault But My Own.
NewsForce was a sketch that made fun of all of the graphics that fill the screen when trying to watch the news. These graphics are so aggressive that it’s hard to make out what the reporters were saying even though we got hints that the stories were very important.
We then got a repeat of the KCF Shredders commercial from earlier in the season which was just head of lettuce and some mayo that KCF was trying to promote as being the new extreme snack to ask for.
Pick Your Postal Service was a sketch that pitted UPS, Fed-Ex, and the USPS up against one another as Ana Gasteyer played a businesswoman who had to decide which service was the best at handling their packages based on the delivery guy’s ability to pull off a sexy lap dance.
Fantastic Voyage was a parody of a SciFi Channel show that followed a group of scientists who shrunk themselves down in order to explore the inner workings of Bill Clinton’s penis as they attempted to fight off a virus that was going on in the president’s brain and ended up a bit off course, or maybe not considering that this is Bill Clinton we are talking about.
Beck then returned to the stage to perform Tropicalia.
Extreme Hunting was a talk show sketch that featured Bill Paxton as Ted Nugent and Darrell Hammond as his guest in what was almost a parody of the movie Surviving The Game. In this case, the human the Nuge and friend were hunting was Chris Kattan as Prince instead of Ice-T.
Finally, Bill Paxton closed the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights.
Though this episode started kind of slow, it ended pretty fun making it okay overall with the help from these three of my favorite moments of the night. First, I loved the Fat Albert: Behind The Music parody, not only because I used to love the VH1 show being parodied but I also loved seeing the Fat Albert characters acted out in real life. Next, I really liked the Titanic parody because I liked seeing Rose get beaten down for telling her lie-filled story. Finally, I was a fan of Extreme Hunting because it was the best sketch of the night to showcase Bill Paxton could actually pull off being a funny host and not just hide in the background.