SNL Recap: Lindsay Lohan Reads From Cue Cards And Ruins Most Skits
There are weeks where "Saturday Night Live" casts a really strong host and doesn't know what to do with them. There are other weeks where the host is weak, and the writers just don't do a very good job of insulating them with good skits where they don't have to do much, and the experienced actors can carry them through. In case you haven't noticed, the biggest concern I generally have with SNL is that the writing is terrible. So you can probably understand my dismay when Lindsay Lohan was announced as this week's host. My expectations were firmly planted in the latter category mentioned above.
Despite being a fairly decent actor as she was growing up and through most of her teens, Lohan's life has pretty much collapsed in recent years. The drug problems, the kleptomania, the problems with the law, her tendency to keep taking off her clothes, any mention of Lohan in the media these days usually results in a facepalm for most people. There was the odd chance that the people behind SNL would come together in the face of adversity and put together a good show based on the fact that it was fairly obvious their host would be weak, but the chances were low.
Believe it or not, this actually ended up happening. Looking through the sketches individually, both the premise and execution of most of them were well done, and in many cases original and refreshing. Unfortunately, the host was so weak that it didn't really matter. Lohan pretty much ruined most of the sketches where she was given anything more than a supporting role, and there was only so much the writers and cast members could do to save her.
On the one hand, I loved a lot of what I saw in this episode in a weird way. We got to see the return of the "scared straight" skit, we actually got a semi interesting Romney cold open thanks to Bill Hader's Sheppard Smith impression, we got a very original "Real Housewives of Disney" skit, and a lot of good other stuff throughout the show's hour and a half air time. On the other hand, Lohan's performances in many of those skits were just downright brutal.
For instance, I was actually looking forward to the return of Kenan Thompson's Lorenzo Mackingtosh character (making fun of the whole "Scared Straight" skit where criminals try to scare little boys from committing crimes). It had been a while since we'd seen this, and outside of Deandre Cole, it's Thompson's best character, in a season where he's been mostly irrelevant. Usually everything works in this skit, from Jason Sudeikis as the douchey cop who has to step in before Mackintosh takes it too far, to Moynihan, Samberg and Hader playing the kids, and of course Kenan himself. The writers are generally pretty creative with the host's role as well. Last time we saw this sketch we had Zack Galifianakis playing a Hannibal Lecter type of criminal. This time, everything was going pretty well, and Lohan even got a pretty big laugh when it was revealed she was playing herself as a criminal, but then she had to open her mouth and speak. Clearly the only reason they did this was to get her into a prison jumpsuit, but it's unfortunate because it's usually a fast-speaking skit, and she clearly doesn't have the acting chops to pull it off. There was a point where she had to basically run down a bunch of things that happened in her own damn movies (cinema was apparently a theme here), and it was so excruciatingly clear that she was reading off cue cards that it was just hard to watch. She barely even looked at any of the other actors.
What's worse, despite the fact that the entire monologue was based around the joke that she was going to screw this up and that she was probably going to be high at some point during the night, it was pretty clear that she actually WAS high for most of the night. That definitely didn't help this skit, which was really representative of the entire night for the show. The Scared Straight bit was the most work she had all night, as in the rest of the skits she was mostly brushed aside as a supporting character, but it was just too much to get around when she was on screen, because she could barely even deliver a line. At least Charles Barkley and Channing Tatum can read their lines, even if they're not good actors. It's one thing to expect little of a host because he or she is a weak actor or not really fitting of SNL's style. We accept the Barkleys and the Tatums because SNL is still a show that survives based on ratings and on getting popular people to host. But there's a limit to how much we can take.
Hiring Lindsay Lohan to host Saturday Night Live was a PR move and nothing more. Despite the fact that it was reported nothing was off limits for the writers, it ended up being a pretty P.C. show. Any jokes about Lohan's jailtime or drug problems were light hearted and off hand, and the rest didn't focus on her at all, and there was really nothing controversial to report either. So it's really frustrating to try and review, because every skit had elements that I loved, and elements that I hated.
For instance, the cold open, as mentioned, was a Fox News interview with Mitt Romney. Pretty boring stuff as I guess the writers are trying to get Sudeikis to perfect his impression leading up to the presidential campaign next fall, but at the same time, Hader hit it out of the park playing Sheppard Smith, talking to a skeleton that was supposedly his mother (hint: the joke is that he's quirky and weird). I also liked the Psychics Awards skit, Samberg was perfect as the host and the "in memoriam" for people who were going to die in the coming year (since, you know, they're psychics) portion of the skit was pure laughs, but Lohan was marginalized and the end was kind of flat with the sketch ending in a random fire. The Digital Short was fun to see just because they hadn't done one in ages, but when it came down to the whole thing just being about how Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig had a giant, intertwined afro with Kenan Thompson popping into frame, it sort of left a bad taste in my mouth.
Among the other skits that didn't do much for me but also didn't really have much wrong with them that I could outwardly critique were the Kristen Wiig pocket dialing herself and overreacting when answering the phone sketch, and the 50s youths dancing in the streets (where Fred Armisen dressed in drag kept getting run over).
But I really liked the Real Housewives of Disney sketch. It was original, it was well done and it was pretty solid, as it usually is, for some reason, when SNL spoofs a Bravo reality show. Weekend update was also surprisingly solid, as Bill Hader got to bust out his James Carville impression (which has basically just turned into Stefon in a suit and bald cap) and Bobby Monyahan got to dress up as Pregnant Snooki (with a fun cameo from Jon Hamm as the man who impregnated her). Even Seth Meyers hit some great zingers after a discernibly odd spot in the cold open as one of Mitt Romney's kids. Finally, I also loved the B108FM skit, which was basically two white guys getting way too excited about radio things for their 5AM rap show. Things like talking about their drive in to the station in the icy cold, talking about school closures and talking about how it's still dark outside are usually mundane, but Bobby Monyahan and Taran Killam ramped it up for some laughs, and it worked as they played tired radio hosts, with Vanessa Bayer playing the straight-man news lady.
The only truly bad skit of the night was Rude Buddha. So why is it that I feel like I should absolutely hate this show? Maybe the obvious PR stunt on the part of Lorne Michaels just left a sour taste in my mouth. Maybe Lindsay Lohan is just that good at bringing everything down around her. I don't know. But even though I actually enjoyed most of what I saw on Saturday night, I can't give this show a positive grade in good conscience. That's why the Lindsay Lohan / Jack White episode of Saturday Night Live gets 5 obvious prison jokes out of 10.
Bits & Pieces
Castmember of the Night: How can it not be Bill Hader? Hader's had kind of a quiet season so far, but he's always good at what he does. He was all over this episode from the very beginning, most notably player Sheppard Smith and talking to a skeleton in the cold open, and bringing back his epic James Carville impression on Weekend Update.
Skit of the Night: This is going to be surprising, but Weekend Update has to take this. Hader as Carville was so good that I wanted it to go on longer, Monyahan as Snooki is always money, and Seth Meyers' jokes were short and to the point.
Line of the Night:
"In prison, life is like a box of chocolates, and you know what you're gonna get. AIDS."
- Jack White was very Jack White in his two performances. For instance, he brought out two different bands (one all girl band, one all guys) for each of his songs.
- Jimmy Fallon popped by for the monologue. I'm aware that the guy is pretty busy, but to borrow a line from Boromir, one does not simply not use Jimmy Fallon in any skits.
- Speaking of cameos, great to see Jon Hamm. Obviously he has Mad Men to promote, but you gotta wonder whether he's due to host an episode. Season finale, anyone?
- I know it ended up being pretty different, but during the Kristen Wiig pocket dialing skit, I'm probably the only person who was reminded of an old Adam Sandler comedy bit from one of his comedy CDs where he played an old guy who got a crank call, and kept asking who was on the line even after they hung up. Memories.
- Jason Sudeikis and the "kids" cracking up at the end of the Scared Straight skit almost made up for the fact that Lohan ruined it. ALMOST.
- References to Kenan Thompson's shitty movie career: "I'll save you the trouble. I've been stoned since Good Burger."
- "We like the same things as young people, like sports, cinema, and doo-wop."
- Not sure if mocking Kelsey Grammer or X-Men reference: "At least I didn't marry a beast." "His name is Kelsey Grammer!"
- "What are they in for chief?" Let me guess, Darfur?"
- "It doesn't matter why, but I'm friends with some alligators."
- "It's 5:04 in the morning; constellations are still discernible."