SNL: S28E17... HOST: RAY ROMANO... DATE: APRIL 12, 2003

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Romano’s Return

I don’t know what’s going on with this season. It started out so strong, especially considering how the first three-quarters of the season was mainly made up of non-comedic hosts. Though many cast members have been on the show for a couple of seasons, with Will Ferrell gone there seemed to be a new energy as if his leaving acted as the official changing of the guard and the remaining Not Ready For Prime Time Players seemed fully capable to do a really good job.

I think it really helped how the first half of the year was made up of episodes that used the short sketch format with most shows having at least eighteen segments to make up the night. As I often point out, this short sketch format makes it so that we are in and out of every sketch before it’s even possible to get bored where or not the host has a history with comedy. Round the second half of the season, the show dropped to having fourteen or fewer segments to make-up the night, and that’s the exact point where I started to get bored.

Unfortunately, they’ve been sticking to this long sketch format for this fourth and final quarter of the year, which I had really high hopes for considering how I was looking forward to these final shows since the start of the year. Not because I wanted the year to be over, but when I first saw the lineup of hosts I noticed that all of the comedic actors were being held to the very end. I was even more excited after the success of the first half.

Last night, I really liked the show hosted by Bernie Mac, but I think the nostalgia of seeing the late comedian allowed me to look past the flaws as well as the fact that the first comedian hosted show of the year felt just a little flat. Tonight, I had many of the same issues but since Ray Romano is still alive it wasn’t as easy to look past the fact that tonight’s episode was just okay and not really good.

This is too bad because I really like Ray Romano and have ever since he was solely a comedian before he had a show. I also remember liking his last visit and was hoping this would bear the same results. Again, to be clear, the show was okay but with only thirteen segments to the night many of the sketches started out strong and were fun conceptually only to end up running so long that I kept finding myself getting bored.

It also didn’t help that there was a lot of subtle but awkward racism that was acceptable at the time, sprinkled throughout the night. For some reason, when it comes to old racial humor that was once acceptable, I almost prefer the blatant jokes because hit or miss, they feel exaggerated in order to prove a point, but when the jokes are more subtle it kind of feels more real.

The one saving grace with Ray Romano is that he seems like a neurotic mess that he’s anxious around everyone and his subtle joke may be his way to address the awkwardness. Hell, if the sketches were shorter with the punchline being this awkwardness, I might not have even brought the whole racial aspect up but instead, I felt left to over analyze the situation as while I waited for the sketch to just end.

I feel bad because I’m sure if you were to just read this review without watching the episode you might think this was a horrible show when really it wasn’t that bad at bad at all, this was just the most interesting angle that I could come up with to write about. So, with that, let’s just move on, and in order to do so, it’s time for me to shift gears and give you…

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show started with A Message From Saddam Hussein that was obviously prerecorded even though Horatio Sanz as Hussein kept insisting the video was live in an effort to prove that he is not dead while he tried to spread his propaganda that Iraq was winning this war. Of course, with this being the opening sketch, and all the talk about Saddam recording this live, the end of the sketch smoothly transitioned into the announcement of, “Live from New York…”
  2. Ray Romano then officially opened the show with a couple of bits from his stand-up routine where he joked about adult movies in hotels, which was followed by a few jokes about his new twins and older son.
  3. What's The Rush was a talk show sketch hosted by Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler who both played virgins who had on Ray Romano as their guest because he claimed to be a “bonin’ expert.” Even though Romano looked like a total sleaze, the two pure virgins hung on his every word as they nervously asked for details about intercourse.
  4. Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch then gave us another installment of their high school produced morning talk show called Wake Up Wakefield where this time Ray Romano played Dratch’s character Sheldon’s dad who dropped in for career day in order to share what it’s like to work as a tax attorney.
  5. Zwan then took to the stage to perform Lyric. 
  6. Once again, Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey gave us the news. This week, Seth Meyers made a surprise visit as the winner of the SNL NCAA March Madness pool and just wanted to literally rub his money in the face of Jimmy and Tina while being a very bad winner. Darrell Hammond also stopped by as the Minister Of Information only to share a bunch of political lies.
  7. Rialto Grande then returned for another installment of Chris Kattan as an aging Las Vegas lounge comedian, with Fred Armisen as his hard of hearing drummer who is constantly late with his rim shots. This we Kattan introduced Ray Romano who played a very lackluster old-timey comedian himself.
  8. We then got a parody of a CNN Newsbreak where Darrell Hammond as Aaron Brown discussed the Rialto Grande sketch that just aired and then had to wait to throw to the next sketch as if he were waiting to hear from the production booth that it was ready forcing him to kill some time by rambling the way news anchor fill time while working through a technical glitch.
  9. Next was a parody of the movie Phone Booth only in this version, Ray Romano was the one being mentally tormented by the sniper on the other end of the line. I never saw the real movie because I thought it sounded dumb but this sketch was kind of funny because it came across as a prank show instead of a suspense/thriller taking place in a tiny booth.
  10. This was followed by a parody of Access Hollywood where Ray Romano played a new co-anchor who annoyed the hell out of the rest of the Access Hollywood on-air talent because he kept going off the script to randomly make stories up.
  11. Zwan then returned to the stage to perform Settle Down. 
  12. Club Traxx also returned for another installment where this time Ray Romano was the Euro MTV show’s main guest as a sleazy Iraqi singer who was the latest hit amongst the European dance scene.
  13. Finally, Ray Romano closed the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights.

Though, as I’m sure you know, I really hated this episode long sketch format, the show was still pretty fun thanks to sketches like these that contained my three favorite moments of the night. First, I loved the Phone Booth parody even though it contained some of the subtle racism that I complained about up above because it was still a pretty funny parody of a movie that I thought sounded too dumb to watch. Next, I really liked What's The Rush because it was pretty fun on its own but Ray Romano’s appearance was enough to get me to laugh on its own with the actual sketch being the dessert. Finally, I was a fan of the Access Hollywood parody because I like the idea of Ray Romano as a gossip reporter who blatantly made things up.

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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.