It seems as if Saturday Night Live has become a symbiotic beast more than an independent production, with the quality level of each episode varying wildly between hosts. In the early to mid nineties, fans knew before tuning in that they could rely on Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri, Jim Breuer, Chris Kattan, Tracy Morgan and others to deliver the funny on the regular, no matter what personality was thrown in the mix for the week. These days, Russell Brand may bring the big guns out of writers and castmembers looking to rise to the energy of the star, but when someone like Gwyneth Paltrow hosts, there are audible crickets in the audience and at home.
Thankfully, Miley Cyrus was surprisingly agile and involved, appearing in roughly 80 percent of the sketches and playing a range of characters that put some of her more vocal critics to bed. Musical guest The Strokes turned out considerably solid performances as well, debuting two new tracks from their upcoming album.
In the cold open, the fish-in-a-barrel shot was a Charlie Sheen talk show called – what else – "Winning, Duh" in which Bill Hader did a decent vocal impression of Sheen, but the physicality was barely effective, and the "winning!" exclamations were far too much. John Galliano was a strong character, and Taran Killam’s showing some real promise as an impersonator (let’s not forget his excellent turn as Eminem a couple weeks back). The costume was fantastic, as was him noting that he "dresses like a methed-out musketeer." Additionally, Miley makes her first appearance on the show as Lindsey Lohan:
Cyrus’s monologue was a surprisingly digestible affair, wherein the former Hannah Montana sang a song apologizing about not being perfect. It was half a middle finger to the tabloid culture that caught fire with her "salvia" (riiiight) bong hit pics, and half an actual apology to parents. Introducing the ditty, she said, "I’m mostly a white swan kinda girl but I’ve had a few black swan moments. You know I’ve never been arrested or anything. My scandals are more like, ‘Miley and some girl were chewing on the same Twizzler; someone took a photo and now it’s all over the Internet.’ That may upset some people and for that I’m truly sorry."
She then sang, "There’s a photo of me being kissed by a dude/And (photographer) Annie Leibovitz tried to get me nude/For those of you who think that’s very crude/I’m sorry that I’m not perfect. I never stole a necklace or got a DUI… So what you can see a little boob from the side! I’m sorry that I’m not perfect."
Insecure parents because of a fat baby can now rely on Baby Spanx to make their baby go "from flab to fab". We’ve seen this before, and the returning funny factor took about a 75% hit. We get why SNL would rehash certain side-splitter faux-commercial segments from time to time, but it simply makes no sense why they’d waste our time with this.
Fortunately, some cringeworthy goodness came during the Our Time skit, with a talk show hosted by "the two Black Eyed Peas nobody cares about". Kenan Thompson and Andy Samberg have solid chemistry as the peripheral Peas, featuring Miley wailing impressively as Fergie (hate all you want, but girl’s really got some pipes) and Abby Elliott in full idiot bloom as Khloe Kardashian. Lovely.
Miley sings yet again (noticing a pattern yet?) in a skit on featuring Fred Armisen as a Mexican immigrant with a terrible accent, who apparently has been cut out of some major film roles. Truly a waste of five minutes. As for the fact that the skit went on way, way too long… well, frankly I’m out of gas to complain about that. It’s been SNL’s achilles’ heel for years untold, and it’s not going to change anytime soon.
Another odd bird sketch was the Disney Channel Acting School – featuring hosts Miley Cyrus and Kenan Thompson as Raven Simone. The intention is good, and the idea is sound, but the execution seemed off-balance. See for yourself:
That brings us to the inevitable return episode of It’s Miley! Vanessa Bayer impersonated Miley Cyrus impersonating Charlie Sheen while Miley Cyrus impersonated Justin Bieber, nailing the kid’s pubescent "swagger" gangster moves down. "I also do the middle finger now, so…" – classic. You just can’t hate on this.
The Strokes held their own with two new songs from their upcoming album, "Under Cover of Darkness" and "Life Is Simple In The Moonlight". Watch the former (and better) here:
This was the Strokes’ third time appearing as the musical guest on "Saturday Night Live," as they previously performed in 2002 (backing up host Jack Black) and again in 2006 (alongside host Peter Peter Sarsgaard).
Inevitably, Seth Meyers devoted a portion of his "Weekend Update" segment to rounding up the winners and losers of the Sheen debacle. The mid-show fake news breakdown was rather unremarkable, save for Jason Sudeikis’ turn as the Devil and Meyers’ analysis of the "Winning" situation with a "Winners and Losers" segment.
Andy Samberg and Miley Cyrus’ cutting spoof on the teen romance film Beastly featured a nude, fried chicken-munching Samberg. It’s worse than it sounds, really:
I’m not going to waste your time embedding it, but how on Earth did that face cream/rockabilly CD infomercial sketch get picked to go to air? Seriously, did that get laughs in dress rehearsal, or the writers’ room, or what? It sucked the air out of the room and slowed the show’s momentum. What followed wasn’t much better, either: the failed Broadway singer act on the cruise ship was coasting on fumes, though Miley held her own as the washed-up chanteuse singing "You People Are Gross To Me".
A largely solid showing this week from SNL, with a few hiccups to remind us that this is one of the most inconsistent shows on television these days. Since Will Forte left last season, the Saturday Night fixture has had trouble finding its footing again. Next week should be a cakewalk, however, as funnyman Zach Galifianakis returns to hosting duty.