Miley Cyrus blah blah blah. For the first time in forever, I’m much more excited about the musical guest than the actual host of the show. You see, The Strokes are probably my favorite band and they haven’t released an album in five years and on March 22nd, their new record “Angles” will be released. Seeing them on SNL gives me an opportunity to study they way they interact with one another (word is that they don’t get along so well these days) and to hear another song off the album (their first one will surely be the single “Under Cover of Darkness”). On April 1st, the day after my birthday, I’ll be seeing them at MSG, but today it’s all about seeing them on my favorite television show.
Okay, sure Miley Cyrus is a popular kids’ star and media figure, but I have no idea if she’s talented or not because I’ve never once heard her sing or seen a minute of her acting, having avoided all things Miley pretty successfully. So, I don’t know if she’ll be a good host or a terrible one, but I’m pretty confident we’ll be seeing “The Miley Cyrus Show” with Vanessa Bayer at some point.
Despite a three week hiatus, the same drill applies; I’ll recap the individual sketches and then grade them on a scale of 1-10. Let’s do this.
Cold Open – “Duh Winning” with Charlie Sheen. Bill Hader plays the titular host of this talk show. I gotta say, I was hoping SNL would steer clear of the Charlie Sheen jokes, for the simple reason that there is no possible way that a sketch or a joke about Charlie Sheen could possibly be funnier than the man himself. It’s like making a parody of a funny comedy movie, it just doesn’t work. This sketch just seems like an excuse to have Hader as Sheen say things we’ve already heard him say, like “warlock” and “goddess” and “winning.” Abby Elliott is playing Christina Aguilera and as usual, she’s spot-on. Taran Killam comes out as John Galliano (a man who I wrote about the other day and caused tons of racists to come out of the woodwork in the comments). There’s no real joke in this sketch, it’s just a recap of the stupid things these people have done. I think all of these jokes would have been better used on Weekend Update. Fred Armisen comes out as Moammar Gadhafi, of course. “If by ‘it’ you mean ‘my people’ then yes, I am killing ‘it.'” “I dress like Humpty Hump from Digital Underground.” Those are pretty good. Miley Cyrus comes out as Lindsay Lohan and if I were ten years younger, I’m sure I’d see this as being “controversial” or something. Overall, this sketch lacked energy and, you know, jokes. An inauspicious start. 4/10
Monologue – Miley starts off making a reference to “The Miley Cyrus Show” by saying, “So that’s pretty cool.” Ah, Miley’s crooning about her past tabloid scandals, including almost getting nude in Vanity Fair. And yes, there’s another reference to Charlie Sheen and “winning” which is gonna get old very fast. Moynihan and Wiig come out to sing with her. The good news is that Miley’s got a pretty good voice and the monologue was kept at a good, short length. 6/10
Commercial – Baby Spanx. “In no time, your baby will go from flab to fab.” “That child looks hot!” “I would never spank a baby, but I sure as hell would spanx one.” This was pretty good, does exactly what you’d want an SNL commercial to do: goes in, finds its target, doesn’t waste any time, delivers on its goal. 7/10
Our Time with Taboo and apl.de.ap – I love the premise of this from the get-go: a talk show hosted by the two background guys from the Black Eyed Peas. When they were on the Super Bowl, I’m pretty sure they never sang. Kenan is playing aple.de.ap and Andy Samberg is playing Taboo. “Finally our own show.” “Just like the people wanted!” “Despite the rumors, I’m not a Japanese ghost.” I’m enjoying this so far, but I’m fairly sure this is going to get old fast. Miley Cyrus comes out as Fergie – I’m guessing she’s going to sing in every sketch – and Jay Pharoah comes out as will.i.am and then they both exit pretty quickly. Abby Elliott comes out as Khloe Kardashian, one of my favorite Abby Elliott characters – she nails the voice so well. “Well, I’m a black Filipino.” “And I am from the Matrix.” Pharoah and Cyrus come out again. Really, it’s a shame that Jay Pharoah is being wasted in this sketch, just dancing next to Cyrus. “Taboo was on the cover of this month’s Vaguely Asian magazine!” And the skit ends very abruptly. I think it should have ended way earlier. 6 minutes is too long to spend on these characters. The jokes about Taboo were pretty solid, though. 6.5/10
TCM: The Essentials – I love when they do these, usually. This time we’re checking out “behind the scenes” of The Sound of Music, which I’m guessing will give Cyrus yet another excuse to sing. The Von Trapp children all line up and introduce themselves until we get to Fred Armisen as “Richie,” the adopted son from the Bronx, played by a 34-year-old stand-up comedian. Just like I thought, Cyrus is singing “16 Going on 17.” Armisen interrupts to do a stand-up routine. “All the lines were lifted from the comedy album ‘Richie Valens: Dead or Hispanic.'” This skit went off the rails pretty quickly. The only funny part was the original line-up when Armisen introduces himself as Richie. After that, it’s just Armisen interrupting famous scenes to tell bad jokes and it just doesn’t work all that well. 3/10
Disney Channel Acting School – Miley Cyrus as herself and Kenan Thompson as Raven Symone, teaching kids how to act like them. “At the Disney Channel, every person needs to be the loudest person in the room.” “In the Disney Channel World, any child is smarter than any adult.” I wonder if Paul Brittain is behind this one, since 1) he’s actually in this short film and 2) it’s similar to his “Sex Ed” skit from a couple months back. This is easily the best thing we’ve seen so far tonight. “That’s so Raven!” I think it probably could’ve gone even further than it did, but I think it did a nice job of sending up its target. Not nearly as good as “Sex Ed” though. 7.5/10
Next Week – Zach Galifianakis is hosting again! He was one of my five favorite hosts last year and his monologue was one of the best in recent years, so I’m looking forward to seeing him come back. The musical guest is Jessie J. and I’m not even going to pretend that I know who that is.
The Miley Cyrus Show – I’m surprised they waited this long to do this skit. I’m assuming Vanessa Bayer will play Miley Cyrus as usual and Miley Cyrus will come out and play somebody else as a guest. But we’ll see. I gotta say, I never thought this sketch was that funny to begin with, and I’m reminded of that instantly. Yeah, Miley Cyrus comes out as Justin Bieber. Once again, I’m sure if I was 15, this would be a really incredible moment in my life. But, as a nearly-28 year old, I don’t really care about Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber’s lives. I am so tuned out of this skit and bored to tears. This seems like a skit from Nickelodeon’s “Roundhouse” rather than an SNL skit (that was a strange reference, admittedly, but it’s also the last time I watched Nickelodeon). Okay, this is mercifully ending. Please, can we retire this sketch now? 2/10
The Strokes!!!!!! – One of the biggest reasons I moved back to New York was because I saw The Strokes on MTV late one night, my first year of college. I just adore them. They’re playing “Under Cover of Darkness,” the first single from their new album. The music video for the song is pretty disappointing, but I’m glad to see that they still have the same stage presence, with Julian still being the coolest dude in the room, even while sober. They’re doing their same left-to-right line-up that they always do. Everybody looks pretty good, except Albert is looking a little older. I can’t believe it’s been a decade that they’ve been around. The acoustics sound a little funky, though, like the sound guy screwed up. It still sounds pretty awesome and it’s great to see the Strokes performing live for the first time in five years. The song is a really good one, not quite a great one. It sounds like it could fit comfortably in The Strokes early canon. I’m a fan of it. Also, Nick Valensi might be the coolest looking guy, always dressed super sharp. 9.5/10
Weekend Update – As usual, I hope Stefon makes an appearance, but he probably won’t. Seth Meyers starts off saying “No! Not yet, I will get to you,” when a picture of Charlie Sheen pops up. So, that’ll be something to look forward to…we’re forty five minutes into this show and I’m already sick of Charlie Sheen jokes. A joke about Newt Gingrinch’s potentially running for President: “Are voters still going by charisma or have they switched over to head size?” And now we’re going into the Sheen jokes. A whole segment devoted to “Winners and Losers” based on Charlie Sheen. Denise Richards and the kid from Two and a Half Men are winners. Also, 80s slang: “I would have thought the only way I would hear ‘gnarly’ and ‘bitchin’ so much would be via a time machine. It just proves the theory that when you do cocaine, your slang freezes in time like a prehistoric mosquito in amber.” Loser: the news media, “Piers Morgan talked to Sheen the way a guy who just ran out of coke talks to a guy who still has some.” That’s a great one. Loser: Tigers, “Tigers must be wonder ‘why’d he drag us into it?'” “The biggest loser? Winning. It doesn’t seem to mean the same thing anymore.” Galliano joke: “You know if you’ve ever been threatened with a chair, the occasional ‘I love Hitler” just slips out.” Jason Sudeikis comes out as the devil to talk about the Westboro Baptist Church (the “God Hates Fags” church that I’m sure a lot of the commenters of my Galliano post belong to). The devil: “I produced the Oscars this year, which went perfectly.” About the Westboro Baptist Church: “I am the physical incarnation of pure evil, but what they’re doing is heinous.” This is a pretty great rant that perfectly illustrates the ridiculousness of homophobia, spoken by the devil. I don’t often like it when SNL takes an obvious political stance, but I’m way behind this one and I think the joke is pretty clever. “Then I’m off to the West Coast to help with the next season of Entourage.” Zing! About Legionanaire’s in the Playboy mansion: I can’t even keep up with all of the hilarious things Seth Meyers said, but it was pretty brilliant. So far this has been an excellent Weekend Update, but it’s about to get worse with the arrival of Bobby Moynihan’s Anthony Crispino character who hears news second hand and then screws it up when he repeats it. I love Moynihan, but I really dislike this character. He confuses Charlie Sheen and Charlie Rose, wonderful. Back to the good stuff. “Just a side-note, when I said the words ‘mom prom,’ my penis went up inside me.” Even with that last character, this Update was one of the better ones. Would have been better with Stefon, though. 8/10
Les Jeunes de Paris – You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. This skit was the worst I’ve seen this year (from the Emma Stone episode) and they’re bringing it back a second time? Basically, it’s all in French. A bunch of young French stereotypes dance with each other. It’s like the dancing scene from Band of Outsiders, except terrible. I don’t understand the thinking behind bringing this skit back when nobody liked it the first time. Can you hear how quiet the crowd is? The only part anybody enjoyed was Andy Samberg as the mime. At least Miley Cyrus isn’t singing in this skit and everyone is really committed and full of energy. I just didn’t get the joke the first time and I really don’t get it this time. 1.5/10
Beastly Parody – I love this nerdy Andy Samberg character that was previously seen in The Roommate parody, which was also hilarious. This is an insanely short short and it packs more laughs into it than most SNL sketches, including when the title card pops up under Samberg, “Gene Hackman.” Last time it was “Sir Ben Kingsley.” The ending is great. “Burn! Rango!” 8/10
New Products – Oh man, this is awful. Kristin Wiig and Miley Cyrus with 80s wigs, against a white backdrop, promoting a facial cream and rockabilly CD combination. I swear, it’s like they forgot to include the jokes in this skit. Just absolutely intolerable. PLEASE END ALREADY. One of the worst skits of the year, along with Les Jeunes de Paris and the Spot of Tea skit from the Russell Brand episode. 1/10
The Strokes Again!!! – Thank goodness, The Strokes are back, playing a new song called “Life is Simple in the Moonlight.” It’s a really pretty, soulful, near-ballad. It’s most reminiscent of “Under Control” or “Evening Sun” and I’m really digging it. It’s very summery and arranged very nicely. They released a song called “You’re So Right” on their website that I wasn’t crazy about because there were too many instruments, too many disparate sounds, but this new song is excellent in its cohesion. Really loved this one. 10/10
Cruise Ship – Miley Cyrus plays a singer on a cruise for elderly people and makes fun of them. Yawn. Oh and hey, what do you know? Miley Cyrus is singing again! She keeps singing, “You people are so gross to me!” Taran Killam makes another appearance. He’s getting a lot more spots in sketches than he did earlier in the year, but I fear it’s at the expense of the amazing Paul Brittain who is relegated to the keyboard player in this skit, with one line, “I’m not taking any requests from these animals.” We want more Paul Brittain and Jay Pharoah! This skit is really more sad than funny. 2.5/10
Gurney Month – Yes, CBS has a lot of shows that start with dead bodies. This is like an outtake from The Soup and it’s completely unnecessary padding for the show. 3/10
Miley Cyrus – I really don’t know if it’s her fault or the fault of the writing, but she did seem a little too earnest and used way too much “Disney” acting. She was singing in almost every skit, which isn’t her fault. She brought a lot of energy, though, which is a good thing. Overall, she was mediocre. Nothing more, nothing less. 5/10
The Strokes – Come on, best performances of the year, just ahead of Kanye. Of course, I am ridiculous biased. 10/10
The rest of the cast – Nobody really stood out for me. As I said earlier, Taran Killam was the most used. I think the MVP for tonight has to be Seth Meyers, who delivered one of the best Weekend Updates of the year. He’s often overlooked because he plays such a great straight man, but he’s almost always excellent and subtly hilarious. And again, more Paul Brittain and Jay Pharoah please!
As for myself, I think I could do better, but it’s been a three-week layoff, so my rust is to be expected. 6/10 for me.
Next week, we’ve got Zach Galifiniakis to look forward to and I’ll see you all then.