SNL: S36E02... HOST: BRYAN CRANSTON... DATE: OCTOBER 2, 2010

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A Start To Another MADtv-Style Season

 

I often point out how I lost interest in a lot of scripted content for both television and film after working in the industry doing lighting where I learned all the tricks of the trade to the point where I could see nothing but the smoke and the mirrors breaking any illusions that make a viewing experience magical. Tonight’s episode hosted by Brian Cranston reminded me how/why I lost my interest in television way before I lost my interest in film. No, he’s not to blame for this shift in interest, but the reminder in question came back to me after thinking about my experience with his show Breaking Bad.

I think I lost interest in television back when every show, whether it be a sit-com or drama started to become more serialized to where you then had to watch every single episode for the series to make any sense. Yes, this would have been great back when I was addicted to TV, but as I grew older and because more of a casual viewer, I couldn’t keep up with every single show that I was interested in checking out. To make things worse, especially following the show Lost, many of these serialized shows would have the most fascinated premises that would hook me in only to end up canceled by the end of the first year.

For example, there was a show called Surface, where this kid found some sort of sea monster and kept it as a pet. We also met scientists who were studying the parent of this beast after we learned that it actually came from outer space. The entire first season built up to an invasion by the ocean-bound being and the finale finished things off with a cliffhanger where the entire planet was flooded with the stars floating around on boards. The fact that this show was serialized meant the build-up was slow, a bit boring at times, but it was still compelling to watch like the gradual rise of a roller coaster car right before the exciting  drop, only with no pay off for the waiting because the show was canceled by the time we got to the real conflict.

I wish I could say this was the only show where that happened but it happened so much that I gave up even attempting to watch a new show until it’s entire run is already done. This is why I was excited about the show Breaking Bad that was developed from the start to have a definitive ending to the show’s run. I still wasn’t willing to watch it until the show was already over, but I was excited to check it out, especially after it was hyped so much by anyone who ever watched it.

I am pretty sure that it was while I was attempting to write my first novel for the NaNoWriMo challenge after Breaking Bad was over, that I finally gave it a shot. I went through the first four seasons and then gave up because I was so focused on what I was writing that I couldn’t tell you one thing that happened in a single episode. Not that I thought the show was terrible, I was just too distracted to judge. I probably won’t go back because I’m just no longer interested in genres that glamorize degenerate behavior because I’ve dealt with enough real-life degenerate through my own degenerate life that I just don’t find it to be any fun. That said, I still love Brian Cranston from his role in Malcolm In The Middle which had me thinking this episode would be good.

Even though Brian Cranston wasn’t a Homer Simpson or Al Bundy type character where you were more interested in him than the kids, he was close enough, and always funny enough to justify my expectations. Unfortunately, though, tonight’s show didn’t give our host enough content to prove whether or not he was any good. Yeah, this underutilization might have come from the writers struggling with Cranston while creating this episode, but considering how they gave Amy Poehler the same exact treatment, this is starting to feel like a MADtv-style year. That show would announce their special visitor and make a big deal only to have them barely interact while walking through the set during the taping of a sketch. This worked for them because that’s just how the show ran but I expect more collaboration from Saturday Night Live.

Hopefully, this is an issue that will resolve as the year develops because there was another season that gave almost every host the MADtv treatment and I hated it. Though each show as a whole was average, there was never any real stand out moments. I’d almost prefer a season like last year where each show as a whole was just so-so but at the same time, each night had at least one moment that could potentially compete for the greatest sketch of all time. At least that season had ups and downs to talk about since it wasn’t completely flat.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how things play out. With that, let’s now travel back in time as I share my real-time viewing experience. The C-SPAN sketch that started it all off started out a bit slow, feeling almost like legitimate C-SPAN coverage, but thankfully, Andy Samberg as Rahm Emanuel livened the sketch up enough to keep me from getting bored, even though I no longer care about the reference that inspired this sketch.

Today, I just heard about how one of the books about what goes into the making of SNL said that by default, for the host who the writers didn’t trust to open the show on their own were given three option: 1) take questions from the audience, 2) wander around backstage, or 3) perform a song and dance routine. I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve always felt that was the case and thought it was weird that they had to resort to a song and dance for Bryan Cranston. That said, at this point, I still have faith in our host’s acting abilities to where I have no fears that he will be good once we get to the sketches.

I liked the fake ad for Pepto-Bismol Ice because back when I used to drink on a daily basis, I used to used Ice Malt Liquors as a soda replacement for when I was eating food, and then switch to beer, or better booze once I was done with my meal. I probably could have and would have actually used this product, so it kind of made me laugh. As far as the Miley Cyrus sketch goes, I knew nothing of Miley until she cut her hair and really started to act like a space cadet, so I didn’t get or really care about these references to her time as an annoying Disney kid. It also made me nervous that this sketch buried our host in the background to act as Miley’s dad Billy Ray and only chimed in with unfunny encouragements from time to time. As with the opening sketch, at least Vanessa Bayer’s high energy kept me from getting bored.

What can I say about What Up With That that I have already said before… no… literally, it’s the same sketch every single time yet, for some reason, I love each new installment more than the last. There was a brief moment that I was concerned that Taran Killam took over the Jason Sudeikis role since the season’s still new enough I haven’t nailed down who still in the cast, but then I was happy to see that both performers were involved. I was more bummed that I would miss out on more of Sudeikis’s dancing than the fact that Taran was now involved. I was however disappointed by the fact that we’re now five segments in and our host has barely been involved with the show.

I’ve yet to be entertained by any of the Sexy Shana sketches because I’ve never been a huge fan jokes about ditsy girls, plus, I could not stand the sounds of Kristen Wiig swishing her drink around in her mouth. It was also disappointing that it was another sketch where out host just stood there to respond and wasn’t responsible for any of the fun. As usual, I liked the SNL Digital Short that followed but again, this is common since they’re prerecorded with plenty of opportunities to make them as close to perfect as the content will allow them to get and this was a funny early look at the issues with phone apps.

I can’t believe how often SNL has had Kanye on, but as I say with each visit, I don’t like his music, I don’t agree with many of his stances but at the same time, I don’t like how everyone seems to want him to shut up and stop sharing his point of view. I guess I’m just old school and believe in freedom of speech for everyone, even when I don’t agree, make that, especially when I don’t agree because I don’t mind having my views be tested by other’s ideas. As always, the news was the news, which was fun even though I got bored by the stories that no longer mattered thanks to the passing of time but this week’s guests were fun enough to keep my attention, especially Bobby Moynihan.

Though, as I often point out, I love SNL game show parodies, but I wasn’t a huge fan of this one that followed the news because even with the contestants being adults acting like kids, I still found it more unsettling than fun to see our host making out with these fictional children. There was the saving grace of Kenan’s character defender herself from this perv but, then again, I was also disappointed that, so far, this was the sketch where Bryan Cranston was actually used and had to be the creep instead of someone who was actually funny.

Finally, eleven sketches in and our host was finally one of the featured characters in a sketch and was actually given something funny to do, but even that was nothing more than sing a quirky chorus to a song over and over again. I forgot to say this about Kanye’s first performance but, though I wasn’t really big on either song, I really appreciated West’s attempt to at least put on a visually appealing performance to keep me from zoning out, which I’m finding myself doing more and more throughout the night.

I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that the first sketch to fully utilized our host had him inappropriately kissing characters who were supposed to be kids, only to have his second moment to shine as a father who was beating up his son. Even if the overall concept and character work were sort of funny, I guess? The final fake ad was also fine but it felt out of place since it wasn’t good enough to end any night, bad or good, it left me happy that the next segment was Brian Cranston to say his goodnights.

Sadly, the honeymoon phase for this season may already be over considering how both of the two episodes so far barely seemed to even attempt to us either capable host to their capacity. As much as I love this cast, I tune in to watch them interact with the host as a way to continually switch up the content, instead of the seasons that are more cast-centric, where the hosts feel like their just crowbarred in which is what this season already seems to be.

Hopefully, this is just the way this season is working out the summer vacation bugs because I’m going to be miserable if this turns out to be the third so-so season in a row. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to wait to see how it goes. Until then, it’s now time for me to switch gears in order to dig deeper into the details, as I give you…

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show started with parody  C-SPAN coverage of Andy Samberg as Rahm Emanuel’s announcement of his resignation where he had to step down as the White House chief of staff to run for the mayor of Chicago. Following this announcement, Rahm pulled Bobby Moynihan who played his successor Peter Rouse aside to aggressively inform the new chief of staff that he’ll have to be tough to survive in Washington D.C. Of course, with this being the opening sketch, it eventually led to the announcement of, “Live from New York…”

  2. Bryan Cranston then officially opened the show with a monolog about how he’s an actor where more people know as his typical underwear-clad characters and not as an actor who actually has a name. So, in an effort to build his name recognition he broke into a song and dance with the cast providing backup support even though no one involved seemed to have any idea who our host actually was.

  3. This was followed by a fake ad for Pepto-Bismol Ice which was pitched as an ice malt-liquor style version of this aid for upset stomachs and indigestion without interrupting a night of reckless partying.

  4. The Miley Cyrus Show was a fictional talk show that had Vanessa Bayer as Miley who attempted to interview Paul Brittian as Johnny Depp, only both were so caught up in their own wacky ways that the interview made very little sense.

  5. What Up With That? then returned for another installment for more of the same fun and games only this time Kenan Thompson’s Diondre Cole character kept interrupting, special guests, the real Morgan Freeman, and the real Ernest Borgnine by continually breaking into his theme song.

  6. Sexy Shana also returned where once again, Kristen Wiig played a ditsy woman who all the men love based on her looks but then turns everyone off with her actions as well as every word that comes out of her mouth because she is so freakin’ vapid. The one thing that made this sketch different from the rest of the series was that it took place at a basketball game and Wiig’s character was a new cheerleader.

  7. We then got another SNL Digital Short called Rescue Dogs 3D where Andy Samberg played a man who attempted to thwart a home robbery by calling 911, only to end up buying ninety-nine tickets to the movie Rescue Dogs 3D instead when he had to hang up and contact 911 through their new app that was filled with ads for the film. It turned out, by the end of the sketch, a Rescue Dog arrived to save the day.

  8. Kanye West then took to the stage to perform Power.

  9. Once again, Seth Meyers gave us the news. This week, Bobby Moynihan returned as his Anthony Crispino character to deliver more erroneous second-hand news only to get defensive anytime Seth attempted to straighten out any of his mistakes. Andy Samberg also returned as Cathy from the comic strips to announce the end of her thirty-four-year run in the comic business. (Clip 2) (Clip 3)

  10. We then got a “classic rebroadcast” of a game show called Kid Smartz from 1972 where Brian Cranston played to host who would inappropriately make out with all of the underaged contestants in the same way that Richard Dawson used to lecherously kiss all of his female contestants.  

  11. The Bjelland Brothers had Brian Cranston and Fred Armisen as two brothers from Minnesota who performed their bottom-of-the-chart song Bottle Of Sparkling Apple Juice over and over again while in concert to what could barely be considered an audience.

  12. Kanye West then returned to the stage to perform Runaway.

  13. Henry had Brian Cranston as an ex-Green Beret dad who beat Nasim Pedrad as his would-be mural artist of a fifth-grader son in an effort to teach the “weakling” how to fight.

  14. This was followed by a fake ad for I-Sleep Pro where Kenan Thompson played the example of a typical customer/businessman who is unable to sleep without drifting off to the comforting “black noise” which was made up of ambient sounds one might hear through thin-walled apartments in a black neighborhood.

  15. Finally, Bryan Cranston closed the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights.

As disappointed as I was by tonight’s episode uninspired use of their host, at least these three sketches that contained my three favorite moments of the night kept the viewing at least somewhat fun. First, I loved this week’s What Up With That? Featuring Morgan Freeman And Ernest Borgnine because any sketch from this series is a default favorite since these sketches are always fun. Next, I really liked this week’s SNL Digital Short: Rescue Dogs 3D because it was a pretty good short film, plus, I loved the take on the issues with apps and their endless marketing from close to a decade ago, where said issues haven’t changed one bit. Finally, I was a fan of the fake ad for Pepto-Bismol Ice because I’m still, at least sort of, a supporter of iced malt liquors.

 
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