Sunday, October 19, 2008

SNL: Palin vs. Palin

Brief thoughts on last night's cameo-tastic episode of "Saturday Night Live" coming up just as soon as I put a lobster on my face...

On paper, last night's show sounds like a can't miss: Sarah Palin goes face-to-face with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg confronts Andy Samberg about the "Mark Wahlberg talks to animals", and then Palin shows up again on Weekend Update.

Unfortunately, very little of it worked. Palin did little more than show up, and while she gets points for being a good sport, she was stiff in the way that most politicians tend to be on the show (with her running mate a rare exception). (Fair is fair: Amy Poehler doing the Palin rap during Update while Palin raised the roof was the episode's biggest highlight, and Palin raising the roof during it definitely added to the fun.)

The danger in doing these cameo-heavy episodes is that the audience tends to ruin everyone's timing when they have the delayed realization that a Baldwin or a Marky Mark has shown up. Or, in the case of the Wahlberg v. Samberg bit, you could tell that only a handful of people in the audience had seen the original sketch, and their non-reaction to Wahlberg imitating Samberg imitating him sucked all the energy out of things. Ditto the audience not quite getting that it was Oliver Stone in the audience during Josh Brolin's monologue.

(Question: how many hosts in "SNL" history have been as badly upstaged by other guests as Brolin was last night? Not that the show was particularly good, but people are going to talk about Palin and Baldwin and Wahlberg, and most people are barely going to remember that Brolin was on.)

Also, while I loved the lady who loves surprises the first time, that's one of those sketches that shouldn't be turned into a recurring thing, and it didn't work at all last night.

What did everybody else think?

61 comments:

stevie said...

I wasn't able to make it through to Weekend Update, but I thought the Wahlberg bit worked very well, although if you hadn't seen the previous, it wouldn't have worked.

The open didn't do much for me. Alec Baldwin, talented though he is, could not act through his hatred for Sarah Palin. Lorne Michaels had the best lines, and that shouldn't be the case.

Karen said...
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cwb said...

I liked the "I'm No Angel" commercial...Brolin and Poehler were great.

Jessica said...

I actually thought that overall this was a funnier episode than most other recent ones. The only thing I really found unfunny was the Kristen Wiig sketch. Then again, I'm a big Forte fan.

Rick said...

Lots of improvements to be made here.

1.) If SNL insists on doing recurring sketches (and as you said, they often shouldn't) they need to be moved to the last half hour. SNL should be trying to put their strongest stuff up front, and the realization that their strongest stuff for the night is a retread of old jokes makes it harder to watch.

2.) After how brilliant Anne Hathaway was two weeks ago, it was immediately clear that Josh Brolin was in over his head. Sadly, SNL made it less likely that I will see W. in the theater, rather than wait for the DVD. (Why was the only Bush impression during the monologue? They couldn't write a Bush sketch? Seriously?) When SNL has a host like that, they need to give the host something to focus on: a limited amount of really strong sketches, rather than a weak presence in nearly every sketch.

3.) A lack of strong endings for sketches has always been a problem for SNL, but running away (Fartface, Wahlberg) makes a weak ending even weaker. Andy running while Wahlberg stood there was additionally strange; was Andy supposed to act intimidated the whole time?

4.) Speaking of Wahlberg (Did Lorne call him Marky Mark?) either have him come out once, or stick to a rule of three. Having him come out just twice weakened the second appearance. The obvious place for a quick third appearance: have him come out at the end of the Palin rap, lean over the dead moose, and say something to it ("Hey, Moose. Looks like you got shot there. I was in Three Kings. Say Hi to your mother for me.") Also, with Baldwin and Wahlberg together, I was surprised not to hear a Departed reference (let alone a whole scene.)

5.) General things: Dump the Tim Calhoun character, Keep Darrell Hammond either to a talking head or replace him completely, Kristen Wiig needs to do an endearing character- all of her current characters are abrasive or annoying.

All that said, there's some good stuff: They're doing good things with MacGruber (though again, last half hour stuff), the Thursday shows aren't weakening the Saturday Weekend Update material at all, and Amy is somehow more brilliant than last season.

Overall, though, disappointing to squander a huge audience on a weak episode.

I Am Joe said...
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Anonymous said...

I haven't watched for years, and now I know why. I watched to check out the Palin sketch, but quit halfway through the surprise lady sketch.

Jenn. said...

The Amy Poehler rap was fantastic. From an entertainment perspective, it was worth it to me to have Sarah Palin on just for that, and yes, the raising the roof did add to it.

That surprise lady skit was awful. And I normally like Kristen Wiig. And I'd forgotten that Josh Brolin was the host until he popped up in one of the last skits.

Nicole said...

Wow. I can't wait until this election is over so that the stupid personal attacks on Alan's blog can stop. I thought it was bad when what's her face sang "God Bless the USA" on AI but every time Palin does anything or Tina Fey does her impression there is always one person who crosses the line. Anonymous attacks on the internet don't change people's minds so why bother?

On to the show. I did think there were too many cameos, and the parts without them were pretty bad. I don't know if I want to blame Josh Brolin as much as the material just wasn't there for him to do anything with it. How could he have done fart face (which I flipped away from half way through) or the surprise lady any better. The highlight for me was the Amy Poehler rap, which actually made me laugh, especially when she shot the moose. Otherwise, it seemed that some of the creative energy was spent in the Thursday episode.

I also noticed that Alec Baldwin did not look once at Palin in his sketch, which I couldn't tell if it was because he couldn't stand her or if he was just that ill-prepared and had to look at the cue cards the entire time. It could easily be either and that took away from the potential funny.

Kerry said...

It was very apparent to me that Amy Poehler is carrying the show, and they are so screwed when she goes on maternity leave. There's not enough women to remotely populate a sketch. "I'm No Angel" was hilarious.

J said...

I know it's gotten a (very) little press, and his movie opened this week, but the Wahlberg confrontation really should have waited until Samberg did the impersonation a couple more times. Not that I thought it was the greatest skit, but if they'd built up some real animosity there they might have had something.

Fey (who openly insulted Palin on Letterman the night before) seemed uncomfortable, and that was amusing; her end of the opener didn't work because they didn't have an actual Palin press conference transcript from which to read.

The rap was clearly the show's YouTube moment. Poehler was great, Palin was game. The dancing eskimos, Sudeikis-as-would-be-First-Dude, dancing moose. Radio City Election Night Spectacular.

The rest of the show pretty much didn't exist.

lambertman said...

A non-political point of order: watch the barroom sketch and see how Casey Wilson's character exits. Heh.

pgillan said...

Thank you for posting these clips. I don't watch SNL very often, but I wanted to see it last night, and forgot it was on.

I also noticed that Alec Baldwin did not look once at Palin in his sketch, which I couldn't tell if it was because he couldn't stand her or if he was just that ill-prepared and had to look at the cue cards the entire time.

This has been my complaint with most of the bits I've seen from this show, and you can see the same thing in the Samburg/Walhberg sketch- Samberg and Baldwin are obviously staring at the cue cards the whole time, and it totally ruins the illusion that they are, you know, actually talking talking to the other person. This was particularly bad when Christopher Walken hosted a few years ago.

Palin raising the roof was funny, but my favorite tiny little bit was when Baldwin whispers in Fey's ear, and she responds "The real one?" It sort of implied that there are a bunch of fake Palins coming and going at all hours, which I find funny for some reason.

Hyde said...

I know it's gotten a (very) little press, and his movie opened this week, but the Wahlberg confrontation really should have waited until Samberg did the impersonation a couple more times. Not that I thought it was the greatest skit, but if they'd built up some real animosity there they might have had something.

I see why they did it last night, because Wahlberg's complaints about the sketch had been in the news.

Awfully mediocre show once you take out the Poehler rap. And I agree that there's something offputting about parodying something that has never actually happened; namely, a Palin press conference. Palin herself seemed to allude to this when she said "this isn't a realistic depiction of how one of my press conferences would have gone."

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sigh... I go out for a couple of hours and the ugliness starts.

Boys and girls, it is entirely possible to discuss politically-related comedy without getting nasty about it. Behave, or I start deleting comments, or shut them down altogether.

John Watker said...

I'd say this was a slightly stronger episode than usual. Watching the real Sarah Palin on SNL was awkward in an "Office"-type way, but the material (especially the Poehler rap) was great.

Oh, and fartface, fartface, FARTFACE!

Rick said...
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boffo said...

I have to admit that when the opener started, I was honestly not sure whether it was Tina Fey doing her impression of Sarah Palin, or Sarah Palin doing her impression of Tina Fey doing her impression of Sarah Palin.

Jenn said...

Having seen and loved the Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals sketch, I thought Marky Mark stole the show with his impression of Andy doing Mark. I laughed out loud the whole time.

I thought Palin was a good sport, but would have liked to see more interaction between her and Fey. Palin's whole appearance was worth it for Poehler's rap, which probably wouldn't have made much sense without Palin there. Poehler's got moves for such a pregnant lady. Plus, Palin's "Raise the Roof" looked in time and pretty darn convincing.

I didn't watch the rest of the show, so have no comment on that. How was Palin received at the end of the show? Did any of the castmembers interact with her?

Paul Matwychuk said...

I agree with your assessment of this episode of the show as generally half-assed, Alan, although I thought Sarah Palin was much more comfortable on camera and had better comic timing (albeit in limited, reactive roles) than you or your commenters gave her credit for.

At the same time, I really don't think it's funny or fresh or exciting when the real-life person that an SNL performer has been imitating makes a guest appearance on the show. Why is it supposed to be amusing when the actual Joe Pesci, Tony Bennett, Janet Reno, Hillary Clinton, Mark Wahlberg or whoever actually drops by the SNL studio? The skit is always the same -- the SNL performer always pretends to be embarrassed and excited while the real-life person pretends to be mildly annoyed but still "a good sport" about the whole thing.

For me, it always undercuts whatever mild subversiveness the imitation might have contained, especially in the case of the Palin imitation. Why would SNL and Tina Fey allow their brilliant satire of Palin, who they obviously don't respect, to be co-opted by her campaign in this way? As a demonstration of SNL's continuing cultural cachet? It all seems pretty self-serving to me.

Garrett said...

I don't think James Brolin was upstaged as much as Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Monica Lewinsky cameo) or Tim Robbins (the episode where Sinead O'Connor ripped up a picture of the Pope).

DonBoy said...

I was quite taken with the "I'm No Angel" thing before it became a commercial and some dialogue came in. I thought, "Wow! A silent sketch!" (with music) and because I am old, I thought of Red Skelton.

DonBoy said...

Also, I like how "Narc School" has the same theme music, such as it is, as MacGruber.

Anonymous said...

Alec Baldwin just acted oddly during the sketch. If you watch it again, it's like he couldn't even bring himself to look at or make eye contact with Palin.

Anonymous said...
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Alan Sepinwall said...

Any comment that is about politics and not about the content of the show will be deleted.

Anna said...

I missed the best part then. I only saw the opening, which was unbelievably lame.

Anna said...

P.S. I really don't think Alec Baldwin's performance had anything to do with his regard (either way) for Sarah Palin. He wasn't even talking to "Tina", he was talking to Lorne Michaels, so if he were going to look at anyone it would've been him, but he was obviously looking at cue cards instead.

Tracey said...

If we're going to talk about politicians appearing on SNL, we have to give credit to Mike Huckabee. I don't agree with him on... well, anything, but I was very impressed by his Weekend Update performance. See it on Hulu here:
http://www.hulu.com/watch/10229/saturday-night-live-gov-huckabee-on-update
Surprisingly good acting for a politician, and I was particularly impressed by the way he continued acting while other people were talking.

Nicole said...

Huckabee has also been a good sport on The Colbert Report too, especially when Colbert wanted to be his running mate.

Anonymous said...

"After how brilliant Anne Hathaway was two weeks ago"

Isn't brilliant a little strong???

Come on now. Have some perspective.

Anonymous said...

For me, the fact that Amy is quite pregnant made the rap so much better, just because I enjoyed Amy getting into it so much.

lambertman, what is the barroom sketch? The rest of the show was so forgettable to me.

How was Palin received at the end of the show? Did any of the castmembers interact with her?

I believe Casey gave her a big hug; Tina looked like she wanted to be home.

lambertman said...

It was "I'm No Angel", second sketch after the monologue.

LA said...

Yeah, uneven. Some parts were hysterical (that awesome rap) but some parts were abysmal (Fartface in particular). I thought MacGruber was fairly strong.

I love that Amy is embracing her pregnancy and not afraid to use her "bump" in physical humor. I wonder if this week they'll have Kristin or someone also rehearse Amy's material since it appears she could deliver any day now. Would really love to see Jon Hamm and Amy Poehler get to do a skit together.

No comments about the musical guest? I thought Adele was fantastic!

LA said...

p.s. A family member was at Lindsey Buckingham's concert in Philly last night and said that when Lindsey first greeted the crowd, he thanked them for coming out on a night that Tina Fey was going to be on SNL.

Grimoald said...

Baldwin wasn't averting his gaze from Palin, he was just reading the cue cards, and doing so badly.

It was a terrible episode, the cold open, MacGruber's titles and weekend update were the only things that were better than average. That is about 15 minutes out of 100. Narc School and Fart Face were okay ideas executed awfully. Similarly, I usually love Kristin Wiig, but her two sketches were long and crappy.

Adele was very good though. Incredibly repetitive songs, but she has a great voice, and she seemed cute and legitimately excited to be there.

M.A.Peel said...

I thought it a little odd that the show started at 11:29, which I only learned when I clicked over and all was in progress. Seems SNL is always starting slightly later than 11:30, or 11:35, so I didn't think to pop over early. I missed the top of the Palin opening. As would anyone who was taping it. Hmmm.

Adam said...

SNL has started 1-2 min early for the past few years, and TiVo knows.

Re I see why they did it last night, because Wahlberg's complaints about the sketch had been in the news, there's a simpler answer: because now is when Wahlberg's new movie is coming out.

Oaktown Girl said...

I don't really care whether Josh Brolin was upstaged or not, and he probably doesn't care either - the ratings were huge for that episode.

For me the highlight was Brolin doing a hip hop version of Scott Palin during Amy Poehler's rap. It was a small bit, but absolutely priceless.

Allison said...

I really thought both the Anna Faris and Anne Hathaway episodes were funny, so this one was kind of a letdown, but I always get a kick out of their Suze Orman sketch, and MacGruber.

If they're going to drag out recurring characters every week, why not the "Two A--holes" sketch with Wiig and Sudekis?

jim treacher said...

Alec Baldwin, talented though he is, could not act through his hatred for Sarah Palin.

Maybe she reminds him of his daughter.

And I agree that there's something offputting about parodying something that has never actually happened; namely, a Palin press conference.

She's just waiting until the questions about her grandson Trig die down.

Hey, did anybody else notice that Tina Fey doesn't really look much like Sarah Palin after all? Tina Fey sure did.

How was Palin received at the end of the show? Did any of the castmembers interact with her?

The new girl hugged her. I'm sure she'll be an outcast for that.

Why would SNL and Tina Fey allow their brilliant satire of Palin, who they obviously don't respect, to be co-opted by her campaign in this way?

She's hardly the first politician they've parodied who's then done the show. But to answer your question, last night's episode got their biggest audience in 14 years. I'm sure they don't mind sacrificing a little ideological purity for higher ratings.

RP said...

Comment: For me the highlight was Brolin doing a hip hop version of Scott Palin during Amy Poehler's rap. It was a small bit, but absolutely priceless. >>>

Pretty sure that was Jason Sudeikis with a fake goatee.

But definitely priceless nonetheless!

Nicole said...

Based on the ratings, I expect Palin to make an appearance every week. SNL hasn't been watercooler talk for ages and they need to ride this wave as long as they can, especially with Poehler leaving very soon.

jim treacher said...

Based on the ratings, I expect Palin to make an appearance every week.

They wish!

Joshua said...

Tim Calhoun is always a highlight.

Pamela Jaye said...

glad to have been late and miss the politics

angry to have been on time and miss 15 seconds of the open

managed to survive at least 1/3 of the show -= and that was on a 4 day delay

clueless on the Mark thing

liked MacGruber

orgasm lady needs a trip to Seattle Grace to fix a problem whose explanation got cut from *that* script and had to be explained on blog.
I wanted to either throttle her, or...
that wasn't *just* excitement
i hear some antdepressants quell that...
anyway - downright icky

Alec was a nice surprise.

Pamela Jaye said...

and hearing Paliin call herselff Caribou Barbbie was fun.

Pam (from Boston) - whose only allegiance tonight is to Tampabay.
We won once (twice) so Go, Tampa!

So Cal said...

It's incredible how far this show has fallen in the last decade...even when fey was head writer, the show was terrible. the only thing worth watching is the opener and weekend update.

The cast should be ashamed of themselves for the drevil they are putting on the air

Oaktown Girl said...

RP - you're right about Sudekis playing Scott Palin. I wasn't looking closely enough.

Joan said...

The First Dude of Alaska's name is Todd, not Scott.

(It took me a while to figure out who you were talking about.)

Thanks to fast uploads, I just watched the clips and didn't have to watch any of the rest of the show. *whew*

Palin seemed comfortable to me, as well she should -- wasn't she a sports babe at one point? She majored in broadcast journalism and has plenty of experience in front of TV cameras. I got a kick out of her raising the roof.

Oaktown Girl said...

Name correction: Yes, it's Todd Palin, not Scott. Joan, you beat me to the punch on fixing that.

Kristin said...

I was bummed they hardly gave Sarah Palin any lines...or let her and Tina talk right next to each other. It was clear to me that Tina doesn't like Gov. Palin at all.

Most political guests get at least a couple of jokes to throw around. They wasted their highest audience ever by not using Gov. Palin more.

As for Alec Baldwin, he ALWAYS reads the cue cards like that. It's almost his trademark on that show. So there was nothing different between how he didn't look at Gov. Palin and how he doesn't look at anyone else in an SNL skit when he's in it.

The rap was hilarious! Amy Poehler is amazing. Even at NINE MONTHS pregnant! Give that girl a gold star.

Tosy And Cosh said...

Kind of off-topic, but doesn't Poehler's pregnancy aford them a great opportunity for a "Peggy hides her pregnancy" Mad Men sketch next week?

Helene H. said...

Perhaps Amy can take a page out of Palin's book and return to the show 3 days after having the baby...

Craig said...

Here's hoping they do a Mad Men sketch next week when Jon Hamm hosts, although only the most intelligent readers of this blog will get it anyway.

lungfish said...

I thought the rap was great (especially loved Todd Palin in the X-games type snowmobile suit)... as good as vintage Chris Parnell raps.

Craig said...

I just rewatched the sketch. Alec did indeed look at her when he said that she was hot. The rest of the time he was just reading cue cards. I wouldn't read much into that.

Anonymous said...

I really felt like Tina Fey was being punished or something while watching this. I mean, there's Palin standing and watching the screen with Lorne Michaels like he's the principal and Tina's some petulant child, and with the cracks about 30 Rock and everything, and then Tina slinking away embarrassed.

I totally agree with Stevie, that Baldwin couldn't act through his hatred for Palin, and I didn't really see why he was even necessary. I think everyone on that show had a clear disdain for her, and what was with all that MacGruber crap? It JUST KEPT COMING BACK!!

Alan Sepinwall said...

and what was with all that MacGruber crap? It JUST KEPT COMING BACK!!

They always do three MacGrubers whenever they put it in a show, with MacGruber's distracting personal problem growing worse each time.

And, maybe it's because I'm 35-going-on-12, but I couldn't help but laugh at the ping pong ball gag.

I Am Joe said...
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Alan Sepinwall said...

Okay, comments are now shut down on this post for at least the next 24 hours.

Next time, behave, or I'm taking my blog and going home.