SNL: S24E11... HOST: JAMES VAN DER BEEK... DATE: JANUARY 16, 1999

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Evidence I Was Right In Yesterday’s Review!!!

Just yesterday I was talking about how I’m a bit disappointed by how this season is handling their host since I feel that they started a new trend where the barely used the host until the second half, making it feel like the host is incompetent enough that the cast needs to stay in control of the show. Meanwhile, all of the hosts have proved that they’re fit for the job as most of my favorite sketches from this season have been the final sketch of the night where the host is allowed to be the star of the show like they’re supposed to be.

Tonight’s episode seemed to prove this theory right because they used James Van Der Beek throughout the entire night and as far as host involvement goes, this might be the best episode so far this year. That fact that I am by no means a Van Der Beek fan, highlights how much the host’s participation affects my feeling toward each episode. Even when I don’t like a host, part of the fun is having to watch the cast cope with the hosts whether they end up being a help or a hinder. If I wanted to watch cast only sketch comedy I’d be watching Kids In The Hall or MadTV.

Don’t get me wrong, when I said that I’m not a Van Der Beek fan, I wasn’t trying to say that I don’t like his work, I’m just not a fan because I’m not all that familiar with his resume. Just like with Scott Wolf, who hosted last year, I’ve probably seen more of his work from clips of Dawson’s Creek played during Katie Holmes interviews or stories in the news than I’ve ever seen from watching the actual content. Then again, unlike with Wolf, I was more familiar with James from his role in Varsity Blues and various movies where he’s made cameos that parody his own career.

Since I knew him as a person with enough humor to make fun of his pop culture persona, I felt this show had potential if they just let the man do his job as the host. As far as my expectations go, they were extremely low going into the viewing considered this has been a season where hosts like Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller ended up doing just okay, thanks to this season’s cast heavy starts to each episode.

I truly believe that the switch in structure, where this episode went back to being a host-centric show, was enough to save the day, even though the episode was an average episode when compared to an actual good year. Since Van Der Beek was so involved, he seemed to be having an extra amount of fun which then carried over to the cast, as opposed to these other hosts who didn’t have fun until the end of the night, unintentionally making the cast seem like they were just doing their jobs in the process.

Hopefully, the rest of the season will play out this way because I’m pretty excited about the upcoming line up of hosts as long as they don’t get the cast-centric treatment that’s plagued the first half of the year. We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out. Until then, it’s time to shift gears in order to share what I saw, as I give you…   

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show started with Larry Flynt At The White House where Horatio Sanz played the famous pornographer in order to meet with Darrell Hammond as President Clinton only to find out that they are both super honored to meet one another, both being fans of the other’s work. Ana Gasteyer as Hillary entered the scene and was angry about there being a pervert in the White House only to be unclear as to which person she was talking about. As always, with this being the opening sketch, it eventually led to the announcement of, “Live from New York…”
  2. James Van Der Beek then officially opened the show with a monolog where he attempted to get through the usual host pleasantries before going on to promote his work only to continually be interrupted by Don Pardo’s disembodied voice as he tried to flirt with our hunk of a host. Note: Don Pardo’s voice was actually played by Darrell Hammond who was filling in for the O.G. announcer who was out sick for tonight’s episode.
  3. This was followed by a fake ad for Teeny Weenies! This ad promoted the fun fertility kit that allowed infertile women to create as many babies as they wanted with the added promise that some of them would even come out in a working condition with most ending up as miscarriages.
  4. National Spelling Bee Championship had Will Ferrell as the host of a national spelling bee and struggles to come up with words for the kids after losing the index cards that contained all the words and refused to admit to his mistake since the fact that these cards were supposed to be stored in a secure place in order to avoid any cheating. Though it’s a bit easy for Will to come up with the words he has no idea how to answer the contestant’s requests for additional information or whether or not they spelled the words correctly. In the end, we learned that this incident was actually the birth of the technique where you say, “Hey, look over there,” and then bail out in the opposite direction while everyone is looking in the direction that was pointed out.
  5. Cats Home Video had Darrell Hammond as Andrew Lloyd Webber who was pitching a VHS version of the famous Broadway play. We then got to see some behind the scenes footage that was part of the video that highlighted just how bored the cast and crew have become from working on the same show daily for about fourteen years with over eleven thousand performances at that time.
  6. Teen Pulse then returned for another installment of the teen talk show hosted by the Molly Shannon, Cheri Oteri, and Ana Gasteyer who had on James Van Der Beek and a few male members of the cast as their guests who portrayed the latest boy band sensation called, 7 Degrees Celsius where every band member fell into one of the boy band clichés, including the cute one, the nerdy one, white one with dreads, the bad one and the one who seems way too old for the rest of the group
  7. Dog Show also returned for another installment with Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon as cable access hosts who had on James Van Der Beek as their, weirdo, cape-wearing guest to talk about his favorite pet. I’m not sure about this series of sketches because, for one, Molly Shannon seems to be playing a toned down version of her, “I love it, I love it, I love it,” character who may or may not be the same Molly Shannon character from the future who likes to highlight her camel toe while loving the fact that she’s fifty. Other than that, most of the humor seem to depend on any bloopers that may come from the characters acting with real-life dogs which was funny last time but this time the dogs stay under control. To give the host his credit, Van Der Beek’s character ended up being pretty fun.
  8. Once again, Colin Quinn gave us the news. This week introduced one of my favorite characters of all time to this show which is Tracy Morgan as animal expert Brian Fellow only during this visit he wasn’t the animal expert quite yet but instead was a gay guy who was an expert on sports who really knew what he was talking about but like to throw in some gossip between his sports updates.
  9. Everlast then took to the stage to perform What It's Like.
  10. Laser Pointers was a sketch where Tracy Morgan and James Van Der Beek played two jokers at a Harry Connick Jr. show who kept ruining the night by distracting Jimmy Fallon as the famous crooner with a laser pointer whenever he attempted to perform his popular songs.
  11. The War Abroad And At Home was a parody of a History Channel special from back when the joke was the channel only focused on the second World War as opposed to the non-educational nonsense that the channel has grown to focus on. This fictional documentary was produced by a Junior College so the facts were a little off but not as far off as the footage from random shows and movies like Hogan’s Heroes and Down Periscope that was used to provide the imagery that complimented to narrated information that was being shared.  
  12. We then went to a pitch meeting at NBC where Tim Meadows played an executive who created Frankenteen which was like the Frankenstein monster played by James Van Der Beek which allowed him to be the ultimate heartthrob of a teen who was completely controllable with the added benefit that his already dead body would never grow old. We then got to see a clip from the show that was produced where Frankenteen killed freaked out and killed his co-star over the fear of the flame that came from her trying to light her cigarette.
  13. Maria & The TV Repairman had Horatio Sanz play an unkempt Cheri Oteri as Maria’s dad who tried in vain to hook his daughter up with James Van Der Beek who dropped by the house to repair the families TV and is a bit of a mess himself making them more of a fit than you’d expect, yet still, the relationship just didn’t work out.
  14. Finally, James Van Der Beek closed the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights.

Not only did I like this episode because of how the show went back to being host-centric but it also helped that the night contained sketches like these that featured my three favorite moments of the night. First, I loved seeing Brian Fellow on the news because he might be my favorite SNL character of all time and I loved being reminded that his character started out as a sports reporter and not the zoologist who knows absolutely nothing about animals. Next, I really liked the National Spelling Bee Championship because I love watching real spelling bees since my dyslexic head causes me to see these young spellers as a bunch of little superheroes. Finally, I was a fan of The War Abroad And At Home because I used to love the History Channel when it actually showed historic documentaries and this sketch tapped into that vibe with a bit of a surreal twist on WWI, plus I love the joke where we get to see the under-educated’s take on historic events, not that I’m much smarter but I also don’t ever attempt to be an expert attempting to show off what I think that I know.

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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.