SNL Season Premiere: Playing It Safe With Alec Baldwin
Every September, we tune into the first episode of SNL, only to remind ourselves of why we hate it so much. Same crap, different year, as the saying goes. Only for the premiere of the 37th season, it was actually same host, different year.
For the sixteenth time -- a new SNL record -- Alec Baldwin hosted NBC's franchise sketch show, and it was as predictable as ever. There were no Schweddy balls, no memorable skits, only a few funny moments, safe, more than expected skits and a decent enough musical performance from Radiohead.
As expected, the show started off with the expected political cold open, this time mocking the numerous Republican debates that have bored us over the summer -- interesting how SNL can take a subject that's already boring an annoying and make it even more boring and annoying. The writers did their best to cram as much as they could in here, with eight candidates in the race. A lot of this was actually bearable, but the fact that the skit was on the longer side of 10 minutes weighed down a lot on the end. Bill Hader was spot on as Shepard Smith (then again Hader could play a potato and still knock it out of the park -- how has he not been nominated for an Emmy yet??), and Paul Brittain was hilarious as Ron Paul (especially when suggesting that he wouldn't save puppies from a burning building). The rest did pretty well, as well as you could ask from a 10-minute sketch. By the time Bill Hader exclaimed "live from New York, it's Saturday Night", it felt as if another 37 seasons had passed.
The monologue brought in the very much expected Steve Martin cameo, where he ended up drinking Alec Baldwin's piss -- yup. Seth Rogen was there too, cause he has a movie to plug.
Next, we had our first fake commercial of the season, with Kristin Wiig as a woman wearing a perfume that told us she was crazy (decent stuff), followed by an All My Children wrap party where all the soap's crew ended up being just as dramatic as the storylines on the show. Another skit that went a little too long but some decent stuff here too, including an AIDS joke, as did the skit about a Buffalo newscast with a delay to a reporter in Costa Rica who kept getting deadly animals on her face (okay, I burst out laughing when Kristen Wiig had her head swallowed by a snake. I'll admit that much).
Weekend Update was pretty poor. I'm not the biggest Seth Meyers fan but he can definitely do better than that, as evidenced by his ESPYs monologue over the summer. Plus, we got no Stefon, no otherr recognizable WU characters, only Baldwin rehashing his Tony Bennett impression in what felt like more of an inside joke, since Baldwin and Bennett are friends.
From the mundane to the downright dirty in the next skit, the requisite gameshow skit, "Who's On Top", which had a funny premise but again went on way too long. The concept: take two presumably straight celebrities and ask yourself which one would be on top during gay sex. This one actually had some funny moments, mostly self-mocking ones, like Jason Sudeikis refusing to play the game and host Bill Hader declaring that this happens ever show, or that the game has no sponsors. Best part: Timon and Pumba (no one's on top, it's the circle of life).
Skit of the night likely goes to the lost Top Gun screen tests, the new go-to concept for dumping random impressions that don't fit anywhere else, like Bobcat Goldthwait or Alan Alda. That said, where the Hell was Jay Pharaoh? Other than hanging out at the end of the show, the hilarious impressionist was nowhere to be found all night. This was of course the perfect sketch for him.
The show kind of fell apart after that, with a skit about Alec Baldwin on a date at home while his punished daughter tries to get his attention by crying, dumping batter on his date's head and lighting things on fire. The last skit had a decent concept -- dying soldiers making ridiculous requests -- but took a turn for the worst when the fat mom jokes started.
Overall, a poor way to start another season of SNL. Alec Baldwin can only do so much, and he certainly saved some skits, but we've seen all of this before. There wasn't much here that pushed the enveloped or raised the bar, and it was disappointing. Even Radiohead's performances -- as good as they are -- seemed to drain the mood. Their music is great, but not exactly a mood lightener, especially their newer stuff.
They've got a lot of work to do this season. Saturday Night Live's season premiere gets a 5 out of 10.
Bits & Pieces:
- “In closing: Fences. Jesus. Papilloma. Eyeballs.”
- Steve Martin: “I was just passing by the studio in full makeup.”
- “I operate the fans. OR WAS I PUSHED?”
- "You all tested positive for being good friends. AND ALSO AIDS!"
- “Tell my son that a cripple isn’t a full human being.”
- No Jay Pharaoh. No Digital Short. It's like they don't even want me to watch.
- Maybe the writers made it a point not to use too many proven skits and characters, but the show could have desperately used a couple.
- Skit of the night: lost auditions for Top Gun, but the "Who's on Top" game show was pretty good too.
Next Week: Recent Emmy winner Melissa McCarthy and Lady Antebellum. Should be fun to see McCarthy interact with her "bridesmaids" co-star Kristen Wiig again.
October 8th - Ben Stiller / Foster the People
October 15th - Anna Faris / Drake
Jimmy Fallon hosts the Christmas show December 17th. with Michael Buble.