SNL: S36E12... HOST: GWYNETH PALTROW... DATE: JANUARY 15, 2011

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Less Fear And Self-Loathing

On Thanksgiving Day

 

“We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes, you can almost see the high-water mark – that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” -Hunter S. Thompson

For those of you following along at home, you may know that I’ve been a bit burnt out over the past week and a half. Even though I’ve been publishing posts over the past couple of days, the SNL reviews have been banked content that I built up and used to afford a bit of break while sticking to my one review a day commitment. Initially, I wanted to bank enough content to not have to watch a new show until Monday but, when I saw that Gwyneth Paltrow was the first person back from the Thanksgiving break I knew this had to be my first review to get me back on the ball, considering how she’s one of the reasons that Thanksgiving is special to me.

During the twenty years that I live in Seattle, I could only afford to travel home for one trip per year which I always opted for Christmas because more family members had more time off especially since I’d usually stick around through New Year’s. Being an Atheist with no real strong ties to any pre-established traditions, I was always more interested in the time spent with people over the reasons anyway. Early on, I did take a couple of friends up on the offer to adopt me for the day, but I hated feeling like a burden to strangers, no matter how close I felt to their kids.

One year, after a night of filling myself with Thanksgiving food and booze while all alone, I woke from a blackout with the title screen for the movie Duets dancing across my TV screen along with several other signs of strangeness from the night before. It reminded me of a much tamer version of the scene from Fear And Loathing where he wakes in the swamp of a hotel room with his tape recorder stuck to his face. The idea was weird enough to be that I decided to make it an annual event that I’ve now stuck to for seventeen years.

This is why when I saw that Duets’ star Gwyneth Paltrow as the first host back from the show’s vacation, following my mini-break, directly after my Duets/Thanksgiving recovery day, following several other signs of synchronism, I started to see all this as some sort of sign. So, I bought a half-gallon of Whiskey, a few weed vape pens and a bunch of shake to make cannabutter and a bunch of Thanksgiving food to put said cannabutter on, and gave into a day of fun.

The first thing I did was write and share my Daily Breaker post before publishing my prewritten SNL review for the day, and then I was done with anything that could be considered work in any way. This was about six o’clock in the AM, and I was done by seven. I was a bit bummed that I didn’t instantly step away from the computer because I was too caught up into a podcast that was on, but I made sure not to work and did start my day of smoking and boozing at a day drinking pace.

Part of me feared my pacing because in the past, whenever I try to maintain a day-long buzz, I either end up wasted and asleep by noon or walking such a fine line between drunk and sober they I can flip the switch to start the more rowdy drinking that leads to more randomness and fun. Then again, I wasn’t all that worried because I had enough of whatever I needed to get the job done if I didn’t feel wasted enough by the end of the day. Not that getting blitzed out of my mind is an active goal, typically, it used to turn into a day of battling demons with the quirkiness of Duets playing in the background to keep things from getting too dark.

I ended up playing computer games and listening to podcasts until about noon when I finally forced myself to get away from my computer and make the cannabutter so I could kick back and really start to relax. It was pretty cool. I found an effortless way to make the stuff in my air fryer using the free shake that I got from my dispensary. It takes about two and a half hours to prepare the butter this way, so I ate the free weed gummies that also came with the vape pens that I usually only use to help me sleep, or relax when I’m all done with work.

I was at the perfect level of feeling buzzed. Not sedated to the point of being catatonic, but out of it enough to stare at the TV and just be entertained without worrying about the rest of the outside world. After the weed gummies, I’d have another drink or a hit every time that my mind would try to direct my thoughts to start stressing over how I would write about the situation. Being that this was the part of my brain that I need a break from, it was kind of a rare case where I was actually able to keep these thoughts at bay so that I could just enjoy the moment without feeling the need to annihilate my thoughts.

Keep in mind, at this point in my story, it’s still just a little after noon. In my head, there was still going to be plenty of time for insanity much later in the night, and at the time, the was Britain’s Got Talent to watch. For some reason, I switched on the British-based talent show in an effort to break any mold from my daily routine. I was really drawn in because unlike the American version of the show where even the goofball performers are well polished and internet famous, the UK show feels like they round up their talent from local bus stops. I love that these seem to be people more like me with passions that border on delusion over people with enough talent that they’re already borderline professional.

I got locked into this show for hours, constantly fighting with my head, torn with whether or not I wanted to take notes to outline how I planned to document the evening, or if I just wanted to relax and just live minus any concerns over how I would share my experience. I’m not sure if I made the right choice, though I feel the answer might be yes because I haven’t felt this relaxed for years, which I think, at least partially has to do with the fact that I forced my head to shut up and just relax, at the same time, I also feel like I blew off a few good ideas.

At one point, I was going to attempt to turn this post into a novel playing off the Fear And Loathing theme, since I always go into this Thanksgiving drinking fest ready to fight demons, only this year there was so much calmness that I’m starting to wonder if some of my inner battles are almost over and won. The tale would have shared the journey of finding calmness through chaos over the years and how the failure of this year’s annual planned shit show that failed to deliver a mess might be the sign that I’ve made a new turn positive at another fork in the road. I may still try to write this novel but not as a part of this review.

At one point, I was going to turn this review into a spin-off challenge where I wouldn’t watch the episode until I got to a place where I felt satisfied with my life. This was after I realized that there would be no demon battling and was so high that I felt that meant that I had everything all figured out. Every hour or two I was hit with another brilliant idea on the level of a stoner joke written on a napkin that makes zero sense the next day.

Hell, that’s the entire reason this intro is so long, I thought for sure that I would be able to make much more out of what turned out to be a  pretty eventless night. To top things off, the movie Duets is an ensemble film that I just realized during this viewing, barely featured Gwyneth Paltrow at all, making all this rambling way less relevant that I hoped when I sat down to write this review. Either way, though the night wasn’t as wild and crazy, in a way that it may be a sign that those days are done, it was nice and relaxing in a way that I would never trade for chaos ever again.

So, even though my Thanksgiving didn’t turn into the inspiration inducing chaotic event I was after, it was a beautiful break, and thanks to the great show from Jim Carrey that set off my mini-break, combined with how tonight’s episode looked during my pre-viewing legwork, I feel like my energy is back and should hold up for the rest of this challenge. With that, it’s now time for me to hit play and share my experience with this real-time viewing.

The Fox New sketch that opened the show was at least somewhat fun. Though I’m still not a fan of the current event references from this time, I tend to not mind the news parodies over the typical political content that starts the show because at least with the news there are multiple talking heads and not just one cast member droning on while doing their impression and not moving one bit. That said, even though there was more movement, it still was a pretty boring sketch.

I loved Gwyneth Paltrow's opening routine considering my entire introduction was inspired by her role in the movie Duets, and here she starts the show singing a duet of Islands In The Stream with Jason Sudeikis as Kenny Rodgers. Sudeikis may not have been Hewey Lewis, but it was another fun synchronicity to see this continued singing motif. I also really enjoyed Gwyneth’s delivery throughout the entire routine because she seemed like she was casually having real fun while saying each line with ease as if every line was from the top of her head and not just her reading the cue cards.

I’m not a fan of crime-dramas or superheroes in general, so the string of trailers for upcoming NBC shows from this genre was okay because it was silly but minus the whole “it’s funny because it’s true” type of fan connection the sketch maxed out at just okay, as did the Secret Word sketch that followed. Again, with this series of sketch, I feel that it maxes out at just fine because it’s not a real game show being parodied and the celebrities being impersonated are fictional as well, meaning that there is absolutely no gravity to any of the sketch’s references, even if the sketch can be funny at times.

I loved this week’s SNL Digital Short because I was a huge fan of Pee Wee Herman as a kid from his involvement with Cheech And Chong, and his HBO special that was the inspiration for Pee Wee’s Playhouse and was geared more towards adults. Speaking of which, I also loved the sketch because of the way that Pee Wee’s Playhouse furniture also got involved.

It was also fun to see Vanessa Wiig make her debut as Jacob the Bar Mitzvah boy because he’s another character who I swore was always just on the news and didn’t realize he actually started out as a sketch character. That said, I like the character a lot more on the news, but then again, this sketch was more about the musicians being impersonated and not really the Bar Mitzvah boy. Finally, it was also fun to see tonight musical guest Cee Lo Green get involved in his second sketch of the night to then jump right into sketch number three about the f-word raddled song where everyone in his world uses nothing but curse word replacements. It was even better that he followed up the sketch by performing Forget You as if this were a super long intro to the song and not just a comedy routine.

The news was fine. Once again, it was a case where the stories were outdated due to the nature of current events, but I did like The Rent Is Too Damn High guy and the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow was back for more signing with Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen. Bill Hader as Cher during Vanessa Bayer’s segment caught me off guard by how loud it got me to laugh. From having worked in a moving theater, the sketch that shared how previews were added to plays during Shakespearean days was pretty fun for nostalgic reasons, but as someone who’s always liked movie trailers, the premise didn’t inspire any laughs.

I did like the Fresh Prince parody that followed because Jay Pharoah does a pretty good Will Smith. I also always find the joke funny where they have an actor making the exact opposite choices from what’s needed to make sense in a scene. I also really liked the Spanish sports show sketch, even though I started out nervous that this was going to be an accent based routine, but when they flipped the script by having these “Spanish” characters overemphasizing American words, the sketch had me laughing out loud.

I wasn’t as big of a fan of the second Cee Lo Green song, but at this point in the viewing, I was also so tired from my poor planning for the day that even though I was enjoying this episode, at the same time, I was just ready for it to be over. Keep in mind, I’m also still recovering from thirty hours of drinking, vaping weed, and eating weed butter, and just want to get back to sleep as soon as this review is done. Thankfully, the final sketch was only a couple minutes long because it was a lame one about Eliot Spitzer acting like a creepy letch, so I was happy it was over so quickly. After that, I was pleased to see Gwyneth Paltrow take to the stage one last time to say her goodnights to the crowd.

Though this review didn’t turn out to be the masterpiece that I was hoping it would be while high, drunk and delusional, at least the actual episode was good enough that I now feel refreshed from my little break and excited to get back into the challenge from tonight’s show. With that, I think I’ve said enough for today, so let me switch gears in order to dig deeper into the details of each sketch, as I give you…

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show started with parody coverage of a segment called Fox News: Embracing Civility. In this sketch, Kristen Wiig as Greta Van Susteren and fellow Republican/Fox pundits made a slight effort to put aside any heated rhetoric while discussing political viewpoints that were different from their own. They were able to manage to keep things, at least somewhat stable, until the bating by Bill Hader and Abby Elliott as James Carville and Rachel Maddow got them to lose control. Of course, with this being the opening sketch, it eventually led to the announcement of, “Live from New York…”

  2. Gwyneth Paltrow then officially opened the show with a monolog about how she now fancied herself a country music enthusiast following her starring role in the movie Country Strong. She then made a half-assed attempt to sing a duet of the song Islands In The Stream with Jason Sudeikis as Kenny Rodgers until Kristen Wiig as Dolly Parton interrupted to show Gwyneth how the song was meant to be sung.

  3. The was followed by a String Of Fake Trailers For NBC Midseason Replacements that were all crime-dramas that focused on an obscure piece of clothing.

  4. Secret Word then returned for another installment of the Password style game hosted by Bill Hader that always features Kristen Wiig and the host for the night, this time Gwyneth, as to fictional old-timey actresses playing the role of celebrity contestants who are too out of it, due to their oblivious celebrity ways to understand any aspect of the game.

  5. We then got another SNL Digital Short where Andy Samberg met with the real Pee Wee Herman at a bar so the two could go on a crazy drinking bender where they beat the real Anderson Cooper with a chair before both were treated to an intervention for being a bad influence on one another.

  6. We then went to a Bar Mitzvah where Vanessa Bayer introduced her Bar Mitzvah kid character who’s probably better known from future episodes when she as he becomes a regular part of the news. For this sketch, Bayer’s character thanked the people attending his rocking Bar Mitzvah which featured performers like Gwyneth Paltrow as Taylor Swift, Jay Pharoah as Jay Z, Nasim Pedrad as Alicia Keys. Abby Elliot as Katy Perry, and Cee Lo Green as himself, who all performed Jewish inspired covers of their popular songs.

  7. What The Forget! had Gwyneth Paltrow as tonight’s musical guest, Cee Lo Green’s manager to espouse near-obscenities in her quest to lift the FCC’s censoring of Cee Lo’s latest curse word-titled hits song.

  8. Cee Lo Green then took to the stage to perform Forget You.

  9. Once again, Seth Meyers gave us the news. This week, Seth got a segment to claim that the Founding Fathers wouldn’t have given us the right to bear arms if they ever saw the guns of today. Kenan Thompson returned as The Rent Is Too Damn High guy to announce he was running for president. Vanessa Bayer also played a field reporter to catch up with Golden Globe nominees at a pre-award show party. Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig returned as their characters who make up new songs on the spot, this time with help from Gwyneth Paltrow who turned the singing duo into a trio to make up a couple of Christmas songs. (Clip 2) (Clip 3) (Clip 4)

  10. False History took place at The Old Globe Theater back in 1594 with Gwyneth Paltrow and Taran Killam as two Shakespearean actors who attempt to perform previews of their upcoming plays to a very disgruntled crowd who all had no time for the nonsense, the same way that some people get annoyed by all of the previews at movie theaters.  

  11. Fresh Prince Lost Episodes was as that title suggests, a parody of a lost episode of The Fresh Prince with Jay Pharoah as Will Smith and Kenan Thompson in the Carlton role for this fictional collection of clips where Will and The Fresh Prince kept overreacting inappropriately to every single scene. Whether he was making funny noises when he was supposed to be sad or tapping into one of his action hero roles when he was supposed to be understanding, his mood never matched the tone of the rest of the TV world.

  12. Sportscenter Deportes was a parody of a Spanish ESPN show where Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Brittain played sports reporters who went over the top with the Americanized accents whenever attempting to recite American phrases, like how American reporters go overboard when rolling their “R”s whenever anything Spanish come up.

  13. Cee Lo Green then returned to the stage to perform Bright Lights Bigger City.

  14. Parker/Spitzer Auditions took place at CNN studios where Bill Hader as Eliot Spitzer auditioned new co-hosts after the departure of his former co-host Katherine Parker. The audition process kept going terribly wrong due to because Spitzer is such an unpleasant creep.

  15. Finally, Gwyneth Paltrow closed the show by thanking the audience and saying her goodnights.

Though tonight’s episode wasn’t quite as good as the episode that sent me off on my mini-break from the show, it still may have been the perfect show to come back to thanks to the fact that it was made up of sketches like these that contained my three favorite moments of the night. First, I loved this week’s SNL Digital Short: Drinking With Pee Wee, because I’m a big Pee Wee Herman fan and it was fun to see him show up out of the blue having forgotten all about my pre-viewing legwork. Next, I really liked Sportscenter Deportes because it always annoys me when white people go crazy when pronouncing Spanish words, so it was a crack up to see the reverse play out in this sketch. Finally, I was a fan of What The Forget! because the reality of this sketch cracks me up in that we have grown adults in this world fighting over the use of foul language as if it’s a top concern.

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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.