Charles Barkley has hosted twice before in SNL history, and while the public largely knew who he was in those runs (the first being a rather hilarious pairing with Nirvana in the early 90s), the third time was certainly not the charm for the oversized ego-stroking hambone and former NBA star. Did it help that Kelly Clarkson guested in the music department? Not really.
Despite a jovial (albeit hit-or-miss) run of skits that showed the cast in fine form, Barkley opened the first SNL episode of 2012 with a stale monologue about his success with Weight Watchers that was downright unbearable to watch. The episode saw the return of a few recurring favorites – specifically Lord Wyndemore, Bobby Moynihan's Drunk Uncle and political comedian Nicholas Fehn, among others, but with a cardboard relic whiffing on his hosting duties and Kelly Clarkson's not-ready-for-TV musical performances, it was impossible to get into a groove of laughs late on Saturday night. Really, the funniest part of Charles' presence as host was how awkward and stone-like the former baller delivered his lines. And as Paris Hilton's never-to-be-repeated SNL hosting job showed a few years back, even the most valiant efforts by the cast can't save a self-sabotaging host.
Let's run through the highlights, shall we?
Funniest Skit: White People Problems
I'm sure the complaint emails are already flowing, but it was pure hilarity when Barkley tackled the infamous Twitter hashtag: White People Problems. Airline seat mix-ups, broken iPods and summer house occupancy complaints were all laid out, as was the ever-difficult search for organic, free-range chicken at Arby’s. Perfection.
Obligatory Sports Spoof: Inside the NBA
Co-hosts Kenny Smith (Jay Pharaoh), Ernie Johnson (Bill Hader), Shaquille O'Neal (Charles Barkley) and Charles Barkley (Kenan Thompson) discuss basketball – while not discussing basketball at all – in a silly spoof on TNT's postgame analysis show. It's a shameless cater to the sports fans who tune in to SNL twice a year, but if you've ever wanted to see Charles Barkley pretending to be a monosyllabic Shaquille O'Neal, here it is:
Funniest Character: Drunk Uncle
Bobby Moynihan has singlehandedly redeemed himself after being near-totally absent of late (where is Ass Dan, damnit???) with his Drunk Uncle character, which he perfected for Weekend Update ("Is there pomegranate in this soy milk?"):
Worst: Rick Santorum Cold Open
So bad I'm putting it halfway down the page, despite the fact that it opened the show. Andy Samberg’s take on ultra-conservative Christian presidential candidate Rick Santorum was an endless, unfunny run that did little to capture our attention at the onset of the show. We get it – political cold-opens are the norm, but when everyone in the writers' room gets their jokes in the skit script, not only does it kill the momentum of funny before it even begins, it also tends to take a really long time.
Lord Wyndemere (Paul Brittain) made a hilarious nonsensical return, crashing a guys' gathering for the big game, prancing around to his ‘melody’ and demanding sweets. The fey little rapscallion's girlfriend’s father (Jason Sudekis) was certainly taken by the little lord, as was Barkley, playing Sudekis’ friend, who exclaimed, “Aw, hell yes! Lil’ dude just made my day!”
Most Timely: The Mayan Calendar
When the Mayans finish their calendar, the group has trouble addressing some key issues and improvements. They don't see a big deal in the fact that the world seems to end when their new calendar concludes, a detail that occurred simply because they ran out of space on the stone (how's that for your doomsday theory, apocalyptos?):
Worst Host Skit: Joann’s Announcement
As a gigantic woman with a secret, Barkley came out to her friends as a lesbian – but the skit went absolutely nowhere. As her friends cried out in disbelief, insisting she was “such a girly girl” and “all high heels and champagne,” Barkely did little but nod in agreement. Overall, it was a boring skit with the only highlight coming with the sight gag of Chad (Paul Brittain) as Joann’s boyfriend.
Last and least, Kelly Clarkson, the original "American Idol," looking like a cashier at Wal-Mart, belted out "(Stronger) What Doesn't Kill You" and "Mr. Know It All," two singles off her most recent record, Stronger.
CraveOnline Rating: 6 out of 10
NEXT WEEK: Daniel Radcliffe, with musical guest Lana Del Rey.