Welcome Back, Cowbell Man!!!
As I've pointed out several times in the past, one of the biggest disappointments that I've learned from this challenge is how often I've hated the shows hosted by the alumni members of the cast. In the early days it the trend was for an alumni host to start out the show by joking about the failures of the current cast. Joking or not, or even whether I agree, this confrontational approach never worked for me because it only set me up to expect a half-assed performance to fulfill the prophecy of more failure.
To add to the disappointment, original Not Ready For Prime Time Players, who I love, were the worst when it came to this brand of a homecoming show. In fact, it took damn near twenty seasons worth of post cast member visit for me to finally see a change in their attitudes to where I stopped fearing their names showing up in a season's line up. The later alumni host, like from the Phil Hartman era, were much better with their attitudes toward the cast but if I'm being honest, most of these hosts felt like they were there just to promote a project or return some sort of favor to the show.
I prefer this latter issue because at least with this hosts, at worst, it could feel like they were phoning it in and at best it would feel like they fit right in with the new cast and the quality depending on how well the writing was for the rest of the year. That's why, this visit from Will Ferrell made me a little nervous, but in this instance I have no concerns about the effort our host would put in, considering how uninspiringly average a bulk of this year has been.
Right out the gate, my concerns were put at ease when, for maybe the third or fourth time in the past couple of season, the episode started with a non-political scene. Where I don't mind political sketches, I do mind when they use political parody as a default opening joke. When you get a new Nightline parody every single week, it can feel more like filler to ease us into the rest of the show, which is why I don't often count the opening sketch as an official favorites list qualifying segment.
With this episode starting out with a non-political sketch, I didn't feel that I had to wait through the monolog and first fake commercial to get an idea of how I feel about the actual show. Instead, I was allowed to enjoy the episode from the get-go and the sketches that followed were also good enough to keep me in an enthusiastic mood instead of constantly dreading how to summarize another so-so show.
Keep in mind, these so-so shows that I've been complaining about have been perfectly fine to watch, and this episode provided the evidence that the could have been really good with just a little more work to keep the extra long sketches from dragging on. Oh well, I'm happy that this episode broke the monotony because I have a bad feeling the tomorrow's Lindsay Lohan hosted season finale will not be all that good.
We'll see, but in order to do so, I must now wrap this review up by shifting gears to share what I saw, as I give you...
The Wicker Breakdown:
This week's show started with a sketch called Will's Thoughts where we got to hear Will Ferrell's inner thoughts as he paced the backstage area. One of his hang-ups was the awkwardness of hosting with a cast mostly made up of Not Ready For Prime Time Players that he used to work with. All the while he had a smile plaster on his face in an effort to hide his discomfort but that only made him look crazy. Of course, with this being the opening sketch, it eventually led to the announcement of, “Live from New York...”
Will Ferrell then officially opened the show with a monolog where he continued the nervous routine from the opening sketch by admitting his fears to the audience. This led him to sing On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, in an effort to calm his nerves but then after a bit of banter with a member of the audience, our host lost complete control and ended up peeing his pants while acting like nothing went wrong.
Will Ferrell then revived his Alex Trebek impersonation for another round of Celebrity Jeopardy. This week, the line up of unfocused stars was made up of Amy Poehler as Sharon Osbourne, Kenan Thompson as Bill Cosby, and of course, there was also a reunion with Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery who was up to his fun and games.
Oracle Conclave 2005 took place at hotel meeting room where Will Ferrell played the host of a discussion for the Oracle Company's convention who kept running into so many technical issues, from the crappy setup, that he had to quit halfway through the presentation. This description may not sound all that hilarious but Will Ferrell's reactions were good enough to make this sketch a success.
This was followed by a fake ad for Para Tri-Cyclen that was pitched as the perfect birth control pill for the excessively sexual-active woman on the run which in this case was a character portrayed by Amy Poehler who slept with every male who crossed her path.
Artsy Apartment also returned for more fun and games with the Nunis. By more fun and games, I mean more of the same as the two artsy weirdos showed off their strange furniture to their surprise guests, only this time we also met Will Ferrell as the third Nuni of the clan.
Queens Of The Stone Age then took to the stage to perform Little Sister.
Once again, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler gave us the news. This week, Seth Meyers played U.N. Nominee, John Bolton's assistant in order to defend his boss's temper that's been making headlines, while secretly fearing for his life as he would sneak in hints that the temper was real.
Grind! had Will Ferrell as a college drop out who opted to chase his dream to become a waiter. Will Forte played a “save the students” Goodwill Hunting-style teacher who attempted to teach Will Ferrell a lesson by having him grind each and every last peppercorn in his pepper mill onto his dinner salad. This technique ended up working as Will grew exhausted from all of the twisting and turning of the mill which taught him that he wasn't cut out for such a physical job and got him to agree to go back to college.
TV Funhouse then gave us a parody of the old Hanna-Barbar cartoon, Shazzan. In this spoof, “Shazzang” went overboard and started to destroy every Arabian enemy in sight after rescuing the Flaming Ruby OF Tarbus. In fact, he pummeled these “bad guys” beyond death, to the point where he terrified his children sidekicks, who once held his powers in awe.
Goulet Ringtones had Will Ferrell as Robert Goulet to hock his new line of personalized ringtones.
Going 2 C Movies had Chris Parnell and Horatio Sanz team up to attempt to do a public access movie review show. Will Ferrell played a friend who dropped by as their guest with a bunch of leftover videotapes that he snagged from the movie rental store from after the store switched over to DVDs.
Queens Of The Stone Age then returned to the stage to perform In My Head.
Luxury had Will Ferrell as an eccentrically dressed man with an eyepatch and the voice of an announcer for Jaguar, who claimed to be a spy for the Swiss government as he hit on Maya Rudolph after mistaking her for his secret contact.
Finally, Will Ferrell closed the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights.
Finally, another episode that had me inspired to write and not just go through the steps in a process, thanks to sketches like these that contained my three favorite moments of the night. First, I loved the Celebrity Jeopardy Reunion not only because I love the series in general but it was also the first official non-opening sketch that solidified the silly tone that was set up with the start of the show. Next, I really liked this week's installment of Artsy Apartment because, it turns out, I'm not a huge fan of the Nunis now, even though I was back then so the fact that I like it with Ferrell made it feel extra fun. Finally, I was a fan of Oracle Conclave 2005 even though the concept wasn't all that hilarious, the observation about the things that go wrong during the more boring business conventions got me to laugh out loud.