SNL: S36E19... HOST: HELEN MIRREN... DATE: APRIL 9, 2011

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700 Days, 700 Episodes, 700 Reviews

With Half A Year Still To Go

 

Even though I knew going into this challenge that if I were to commit to it that it would take me close to two and a half years to watch and review one episode of Saturday Night Live a day until I got caught up to the current season. I’ve done enough of these long-term challenges to know the commitment that’s involved, but at the same time, I’m always surprised by how toward the end of each challenge, it feels like a billion years past since starting the thing just yesterday. The routine aspect can both allow days to blur together, so they blow by in a flash while at the same time feel like it’s been the same way forever and a day.

Just last night, I was cleaning up Season 7 from around a year and a half ago. It was pretty amazing to see how much my writing has improved since I started this challenge and even more when I added Operation Achieve Anything to my, The Daily Breaker writings. Those these early reviews are still ten times better than my even earlier work, I was surprised to see that I was still hung up on the extremely minimalist writing style that I developed when my only focus was screenwriting, where you can only write what’s seen on the screen with no room for flowery language.

I also noticed how at that time, I was still afraid to have more than three lines to a paragraph. When writing screenplays, I learned that I was writing for people who don’t like to read which is why they are into movies in the first place. This was why I liked the medium because my dyslexic head can make me come across as sloppy and/or stupid thanks to the mistakes that slip by no matter how many times I reread my work. I would start a new paragraph to represent every camera move, one, in an effort to control how the movie would be shot but it also kept my sentences and paragraphs small to make less room for error.

This minimalist approach might be why I sometimes may jump ship on topics before they are actually done. In my head, I would see more information being conveyed than what was actually there, plus, I would often cut a critical point, thinking that I’d get to it later with another short blurb only end up forgetting that I removed the thought altogether while editing as I go. I still struggle with that even though I’ve grown much more comfortable with longer paragraphs, but I’m fine with this fact because as annoyed as I may get by not being further along than I am, I’m incredibly proud of the progress that I’ve been continuing to make over the past twenty plus years.

Sorry for using this introduction to celebrate the fact that I’m still going, with little/no actually references to tonight’s actual episode but I know very little about Helen Mirren other than I like her in the movies that I’ve seen her in. Though I enjoy several films from her resume, unfortunately, our host’s name was never the driving force to get my butt into any seat, so I don’t have all that much to say about her. I figured with this being the case, why not celebrate this as the 700th over the actual episode itself, at least for the introduction.

With that, it’s now time to hit play for the 700th time so that I can share my real-time viewing experience. Of course, this special night has to start with another political sketch that highlighted how everyone gave Barack Obama a pass while playfully joking about how he was doing a terrible job, along with the rest of our government no matter which of the two sides were being judged. It also kind of sucked that tonight was the first night in a while that the writers seemed to give the host a song to sing by default, which I recently heard in an interview was a genuine tactic for writing for hosts who they have no idea what to do with. At least with Helen, it did feel more like a natural fit and not just the writers seeming desperate because she’s a good enough actress to pull it off without it feeling forced.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the debut of Mort Mort Feingold because I was surprised how this late in the game the show was still making stereotypical Jewish accountant jokes, and am now even more surprised that they’re now pushing him as a reoccurring character. Where the older shows I would give this the, “it was a different time” pass, but we’re now deep into 2011 to still use this as an excuse, making it seem even more like the switch was flipped to make people hypersensitive even more recent than I thought. The same goes for the SNL Digital Short that was nothing more than an excuse for the cast to grope our host. Granted, it was the female cast members, but it still had a feel of making harassment seem lighthearted to me.

The Fox And Friends sketch made five in a row that I was disinterested in. Not only because of political nature of the material but the bashing of FOX News has grown to be such low hanging fruit that these older jokes feel even more played out. I’m thinking this is because, at this time, it was still sort of new to have a default hatred of FOX New allowing them to make simple surface level jokes instead of having to really dig into the nuance of what makes any mainstream media to come off as such a joke overall.

The Mary Shelley sketch was the first one of the night that I actually enjoyed, in fact, I actually loved it as a writer with it highlighting how awkward it can be when we try to deny our character’s real-world influences. I was happy to see that the Foo Fighters were tonight’s musical guest. Though they’re still a band that I’ve never owned a CD from, they were close enough to the type of music that I like that I like whenever they on. I just wish this first song was one that I knew considering that I haven’t been all that impressed with the rest of the show so far.

Since this show has been so slow, it was a bit hard to remain focused during the news, considering as I always point out, I struggle with Weekend Update from this period, not really because I don’t like Seth, but I’m just not a huge fan of any of the world events from this time. Most stories are still too far enough away to still care about and/or thorns that are still in our side, either way, there is neither anything to get excited about for being current nor anything that drums up a sense of nostalgia. During these shows, it one-hundred percent depends on the quality of the weekend update guests, and this week they were all just okay. Well, Kenan Thompson as his French Def Jam character was great as always.

The sketch the dug into the duality of actors was interesting, started out slow, and ended on a high note. Being a bipolar Pisces, whether or not you believe in birth signs, which I don’t, it’s hard not to wonder if there is something to the split sign of the two fish has anything to do with my mood confusion. Either way, it allows me to relate to this sketch that focuses on people with polar opposite personas with a third that arises when the other two merge.

As I say each time that they are on, I love DJ Super Soak and Lil Blaster because of how they hit me in the nostalgias taking me back to a time when this type of music was my novelty genre of choice when the genres that I actually loved got too depressing to handle. I know I say this a lot, but the music I needed breaks from was punk, and not always because the actual melody or meaning that brought me down. Instead, it was the songs themselves, taking me back to a time where I tried to use music more to regulate my emotions, leading even the silliest of songs to be tied to pretty depressing memories, when being taken back in time. This is another case where my strong memory and vivid imagination can feel more like a curse than an asset.

Though I love documentaries, I’m not a huge fan of fictionalized historical tales. Granted, I’m aware that there are biases involved in documentary work, but this comes nowhere close to the information that the creators just get to make up when making a film “based on true events.” I’ll watch a “based on true events” movie, but I also lean more toward the fact that it’s fictional as far as accuracy goes. Since I’m not a huge fan of the genre, I wasn’t a huge fan of The Roosevelts sketch that made fun of the genre tropes. Plus, the acting was intentional dry to match the tone of a real fictionalize historical film, which often makes the jokes come across too dry as well.

The dick pic ad was pretty funny, but again, the central joke was about a phenomenon that was new at the time, so the joke felt a bit played out more to the passage of time than from the actual merit of the material because it was still a pretty funny take on the topic. After this sketch, the Foo Fighters returned to the stage, and once again, I was unfamiliar with the second song as well and was less of a fan than I was of the first song but it was still at least pretty good.

Going into the strip club sketch that ended the night, I felt that it could go either way. Unfortunately, it turned out to be another lame one, with a weird shot at Asians out of the blue to start the thing off and nothing but jokes about strip club culture which even as a Howard Stern fan, was never all that appealing to me. I have gone to strip clubs back in the day, but it was never my call and could be fun, but it was always a bit disturbing at the same time.

Tonight was the first show in quite a while where when I was happy for the host to say her goodnights, I was actually happy for the show to be over and not all that happy with what I just watched. At the same time, I would also say that tonight’s episode was another to exactly live up to my expectation. With Helen Mirren being the caliber of an actress that she is, this felt like an attempt to show that she was still hip and with it, and not just some stuffy actress pigeonholed to being the Queen for the rest of her career. Though I do think that she was successful in her effort, this still turned out to be just a so-so show to me.

With that, it’s now time to shift gears and start to wrap this one up by digging deeper into the details of each sketch, as I give you...

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show started with A Message From The President Of The United States where once again Fred Armisen portrayed Barack Obama to announce that everyone in America is unhappy that the government shutdown was averted since this was the point where some people started to feel we were better off without our own government getting in the way. Of course, with this being the opening sketch, it eventually led to the announcement of, “Live from New York...”

  2. Helen Mirren then officially opened the show with a monolog about how at the time she was mostly known for her portrayal of the Queen after her playing her the movie. This led her, along with the male members of the cast dressed as sailors, to sing the song, There Is Nothing Like A Dame, to prove that she’s actually not that stuffy of a human being.

  3. Andy Samberg then returned as Mort Mort Feingold: Accountant For The Stars to play with more Jewish stereotypes while pitching his accounting services and sharing his high profile clientele.

  4. We then got another SNL Digital Short called Helen Mirren’s Titties where Nasim Pedrad’s eyes get opened to the natural beauties of the world that are our host’s breast through a full-on breast groping session that sent her to heaven.

  5. This was followed by a parody of Fox And Friends where Taran Killam, Vanessa Bayer, and Bobby Moynihan played Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, and Brian Kilmeade who all make random political statements while Fred Armisen played a geriatric fact-checker who struggled to even keep up on what was being said.

  6. Helen Mirren then portrayed Mary Shelley who, while at hosting a party, kept insisting to her guest that her novel Frankenstein was not based on her monster-like landlord Frank Stein, as played by Fred Armisen or his idiot son, Igor, as played by Paul Brittain.

  7. Foo Fighters then took to the stage to perform Rope.

  8. Once again, Seth Meyers gave us the news. This week, Bill Hader returned as James Carville to comment on the near-government shutdown. Kristen Wiig also stopped by as a flight attendant with Bride Of Frankenstein-looking hair to discuss a recent near crash that was making headlines at that time. Kenan Thompson also returned as French Def Jam Comedian Jean K. Jean to tell a few jokes about the fact that America just became the top consumer of wine. (Clip 2) (Clip 3) (Clip 4)

  9. The Best Of Both Worlds was a talk show sketch hosted by Andy Samberg as Hugh Jackman who interviewed fellow actors who tend to tackle roles that reveal two different sides or their persona. Like how Hugh himself will take on a sensitive musical role one minute then the next minute, he’s Wolverine. These guest included Kenan Thompson as Ice Cube, Jason Sudeikis as Gerard Butler, and Helen Mirren as Julie  Andrews who killed her assistant Bobby Moynihan for not properly fixing her tea.  

  10. Jason Sudeikis and Nasim Pedrad then reprised their DJ Super Soak and Lil Blaster characters to promote the underground-underground Crunk-Ass Easter Festival filled with more bizarrely named bands.

  11. The Roosevelts was a parody of a Reelz Channel historically inaccurate mini-series based on the lives of Bill Hader and Helen Mirren and FDR and Eleonor Roosevelt. Most of the humor came from the false fact that FDR worked with Taran Killam as Adolph Hitler and was the real ringleader of WWII with the plan to make him a hero.

  12. We then got a fake ad for Perspectives Photo Studios where Jason Sudeikis played a pitchman who promoted the trick photography techniques that he uses to make men’s penises look their largest for when his clients send dick pics.

  13. Foo Fighters then returned to the stage to perform Walk.

  14. Bongo's Clown Room took place at the titular strip club where Jason Sudeikis played the deejay who announced that tonight was his final night on the job having just won $9,200 from a scratch-off ticket that he bought right before his shift at the club.

  15. Finally, Helen Mirren closed the show by thanking the audience and saying her goodnights.

Though I wasn’t a huge fan of tonight's episode since most of the content just wasn’t for me, at least I was never annoyed throughout the viewing thanks to sketches like these that contained my three favorite moments of the night. First, I loved Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Influence because, as a writer, I loved the joke about Shelley trying to deny that her Frankenstein monster was based on her landlord even though he was a tall green man with a flat head and even had a son named Igor. Next, I really liked Perspectives Photo Studios because it was a pretty funny old reference to dick pics. Finally, I was a fan of Crunk-Ass Easter Festival because I really enjoy DJ Super Soak and Lil Blaster since they remind me of a couple of real deal characters who I’ve met throughout my lifetime.

 
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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.