Wow. From the season’s best edition to the season’s worst in the space of a week: That’s the way it goes with the always unpredictable (but not always in a good way) Saturday Night Live.
You’d think, freed from the constraints of the artfully over-thought Mad Men, January Jones would have cut loose as this week’s host. Alas, she soldiered through most of the night just the way Betty Draper would – stiffly, with no sparkling spin in her delivery, breaking character to giggle occasionally.
Since so many reviewers have compared Jones’ Betty Draper to a housewife version of Grace Kelly, it didn’t take much imagination for the SNL writers to work up a Hitchcock parody… and even less to make its sole joke the notion that Jones’ Kelly couldn’t stop farting while filming a scene from Rear Window. (Sketch docked an additional notch for Bobby Moynihan’s lousy Hitch impersonation – that’s one any mediocre nightclub comic used to be able to do in his sleep 30 years ago.)
SNL actually had the -- what, laziness? gall? -- to do two 1950s pieces with Jones: the Hitchcockian gas-attack and send-up of an old instructional film, a "Ladies Guide" to hosting a party. It included lines such as "Homosexuals should be addressed as 'missus' or 'miss' depending on their age."
Indeed, there was a weird theme to the evening: homosexual panic. Wiig played a newswoman whose attraction to an interview subject (Jones) reduced her to a gibbering mess. Bill Hader played a Dr. Jekyll (married to Jones) who had "sex with men" when he becomes Mr. Hyde. And the "Digital Short" was all about Fred Armisen constantly coming upon Andy Samberg on the toilet in unusual places, like an elevator or out on the street, culminating in Armisen pulling down his pants and sitting on Samberg-on-toilet; they both freaked out. What was up with all this?
“Weekend Update” welcomed back Darrell Hammond, who did a Lou Dobbs that sounded only vaguely like Dobbs. Not that it mattered, given the lines he had to recite about CNN’s John King having “that Latin tinge.” You know, because Lou Dobbs, in funny-land, equals racist. Not exactly a fresh take.
Poor Jenny Slate had to take over for the fired Michaela Watkins in a Kathie Lee and Hoda sketch. Slate had to compete with the memory of Watkins’ original impersonation and sit by while Wiig did mugging that wasn’t freshened with anything new.
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The Black Eyed Peas were fun.
I keep going through my notes, looking for something that was genuinely funny. Am I forgetting anything? Okay: Putting lyrics to the Mad Men theme during Jones’ opening monologue was worth a smile. There: I ended on a positive note.
Did you find anything funnier than I did?
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