Sunday, January 11, 2009

NPH + SNL = LOL?

I got a few e-mails from the East Coast last night telling me that Neil Patrick Harris had killed on "Saturday Night Live," so I spent the better part of this morning fighting the tour hotel's awful wi-fi connection to watch whatever sketches were available online. Unfortunately, it was a losing battle, and comedy is not designed to play with frequent pauses for buffering.

Of the sketches I was able to get through with minimal technical difficulties, I liked both the first and second half of the monologue but felt they should have picked one gag (Doogie vs. Fred Savage) or the other (NPH shuts down hecklers) instead of both, I got a kick out of the Save Broadway sketch but am wondering who played Annie (did they add a fifth female regular over the New Year's break?), am still amused by Sudeikis' hair whenever he plays Blago but thought that sketch needed to get to him sooner, got too frustrated with all the connection problems while trying to watch Frost/Other People to get all the way through and think NPH needed to show up much sooner in the Today show sketch. I've heard tell of a good Digital Short, but it's not online anywhere that I can find.

Also, Fran and Freba was the kind of sketch I wish they'd do more of these days -- no high-concept, no fake theme song or celebrity impressions, just two characters interacting with each other -- but the execution didn't work at all.

What did those of you who were able to watch the show under more optimal conditions think?

47 comments:

Mike said...

Taylor Swift played Annie.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Ah, that makes sense. When you can only see the sketches online, you miss not only the opening credits, but the musical performances. I had no idea Swift was even on the show.

Nicole said...

I had commented that NPH was rockin' the show, but I had only seen up to Weekend Update at that point. The second half was noticeably weaker, except for the Burger King commercial and the Frost/Other People stuff.

NPH was great but the material he was given was not always that great. He definitely needs to be asked back and given stronger material.

And the digital short must be seen. Why it isn't already available online is just ridiculous.

I was disappointed that there was no Dr Horrible reference in the show, because that could have been fun.

John said...

I thought the Save Broadway sketch was great. In fact, most of the stuff with NPH was great, but the other stuff felt a little flat. I totally agree that the Fran & Freba sketch didn't work. Be sure to check out the song from Weekend Update about the BCS.

Will Eidam said...

The "Save Broadway" sketch was probably the best skit, especially if you're familiar with all of the musicals mentioned...and MOST ESPECIALLY if you caught the Jeremy Piven reference. You could tell a few audience members were aware of his backing out of a Broadway Play just recently (because of a flu, was it?) and I just enjoyed that nice little throwaway joke. Anyone else catch that?

Nicole said...

I guess there weren't enough "aunts" in the audience to understand the Piven joke.

I am aware of who Taylor Swift is, but not of her songs, so I can't say that I was that impressed by her performances. They weren't lip-synched, which is a positive thing, but otherwise, I wouldn't run out and buy her stuff after seeing her on SNL.

And outside of the BCS song, weekend update didn't seem that long, or was that just me?

Indeed said...

I was really looking forward to seeing it and watched earlier today. Overall the sketches were kind of weak and I ended up fast forwarding through some bits, but NPH killed every scene he was in. No shock there? The Digtial Short was pretty great though as was the Burger King one, and Kristen Wiig continues to crack me up!

Anthony Foglia said...

It was a mixed episode. I didn't find the Broadway skit nearly as good as the Today show one. The former seemed a weak idea, but was saved by good execution and acting. The latter was also an unoriginal idea, but Wiig really nailed Kathie Lee.

NPH did great, but the material wasn't good. The "Two First Names" talk show went on too long. (Did they need two band leaders, and six guests, or was it just an excuse to stretch out the skit?) If it had been shorter, like merely a commercial for the show, that would have been better.

And the SNL Digital Short, while good, wasn't really that deep.

In other words, when this show gets rerun, we'll all think of the skits and have no need to watch them again. Good initial concepts, but nothing more.

Anonymous said...

NPH was VERY funny. He has the best timing for the pause, the look, and the throwaway line. Even his fitness guru dancing had great comic timing, that was pretty funny.

I thought Liza was good in her cameo and the doogie-wigged orchestra sequence was a little gem of simplicity, especially NPH's boyish,earnest, yearning look at the camera at the end.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was nice that many of the sketches (the digital short, the Broadway summit, even the therapy one) ended with a punchline instead of just petering out.

It was also nice to see Taylor Swift's geniune happiness after finishing her first performance. I'd seen interviews this week about how much she was looking forward to doing the show.

Bitsy said...

The Digital Short was NPH in a tuxedo, playing a keyboard onstage, leading an orchestra of SNL cast members dressed as Doogie Howser, playing the DH theme song. It was amazing.

MCB said...

"NPH was great but the material he was given was not always that great. He definitely needs to be asked back and given stronger material."

Nicole, I completely agree. NPH is so charismatic that he's almost always fun to watch, but last night's sketches were pretty forgettable (with the exception of the digital short, which was awesome. Why isn't NBC posting it as a clip?).

LA said...

I died laughing when he was the exercise guru on The Today Show. Why isn't this guy doing film during his TV hiatus, he's one of the best comic actors working today.

That Piven joke in the Broadway skit was priceless.

Lane said...

don't they usually omit music oriented videos online because they have to pay royalties on the music? I think that's why the Beyonce one wasn't on... although I can't imagine the Doogie theme is major money.

Number Five said...

The Digital Short was brilliant. Definitely the funniest thing to come out of the show.

The rest was either funny or mediocre...the Two First Names show was the only bomb. I did like the attempts to be creative with Broadway and Fran and Freba, although the former ended up being funnier than the latter.

Oh, and the monologue did have a pretty funny callback to the Samberg-Wahlberg "feud" from a couple months ago.

Mac said...

I liked the Broadway sketch quite a bit; it's weird how much I know about Broadway considering that I live over a thousand miles away and have never been to a Broadway show. But how do you have Liza Minelli in the show and not use her in that sketch?

Kenrick said...

umm, not sure what the protocol is, but search "snl doogie" on the 'tube for the short. watch it before it gets taken down.

Bruce Reid said...

"Fran & Freba" being the air-traffic controllers? Huh, that was actually my favorite sketch, the left turn of those bouffanted water-cooler gossips being air traffic controllers so delightfully absurd and Wiig and Harris were marvelous at manipulating those applique talons.

But then my favorite bits tend to be either wholly surreal or charming little character studies, so it was impressive to see them pull off a blending of the two.

Nicole: "I guess there weren't enough "aunts" in the audience to understand the Piven joke."

It received a fairly loud Married-with-Childrenesque whoo from the audience. Maybe this is an East Coast/West Coast feed discrepancy?

Harris became one of my favorite SNL hosts as soon as his monologue devolved to Savage bashing, but the material just wasn't particularly strong.

So, favorite new impression: the dead-on (if somewhat characterless) capturing of Rachel Maddow's mannerisms, Wiig making Kathie Lee even scarier than the real thing, or Sudeikis's Philip Seymour Hoffman? I think I have to go with Hoffman, acutally.

Matt said...

Personally, I'd love to see NPH do a musical for film (or for theatre) over his next hiatus. Something I've been interested in for a while is the concept of a "Company" movie with an updated book/script, and he'd be a pretty damn amazing Bobby.

Rachel said...

I thought it was a very strong episode top-to-bottom (excluding the music, which I didn't watch). Besides NPH, who unsurprisingly did a very nice job, I was very impressed with the two new female players.

It was especially great to see one of the new players (Abby Elliot) get to open the show. You could tell how thrilling the "Live from NY..." moment was for her. And Michaela Watkins held up well in the Today show sketch opposite Wiig's brilliant Kathie Lee.

Wiig is so clearly the top dog now (male or female), but it'll be nice to have a bigger female cast. It gives them so much more versatility. Now if they could just get a bit more ethnically diverse...

jcpdiesel21 said...

The show was okay, but I was expecting more. Once again, the host was totally game and very funny, but the written material wasn't up to par. The only slam dunk was the Digital Short, which indeed was incredibly awesome.

I was pleased to see Michaela Watkins and Abby Elliot actually get a fair amount of screen time, and the former seems like she could be really funny.

Fran & Freba (didn't make it through all of this one) and the Penelope (I really hate this character) skits were my least favorite. The Burger King virgins commercial was pretty funny, especially due to Bobby Moynihan's energy.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, not that great, everyone did ok, but just not that funny!

and Taylor Swift's voice did sound pretty weak. I had never heard her live before, but admire her songwriting skills and her songs on the radio are really good - but disappointed on her live sound

electricia said...

Will - the story I heard about Jeremy Piven was that he got "mercury poisoning" from eating too much sushi, but the real story was that he was just such a douchebag prima donna that no one in the play wanted to work with him anymore. But I'm an L.A. person and hear a lot more Hollywood-related gossip and info than Broadway, so I don't know if that's accurate.

I agree with pretty much everything everyone said. I'm not a regular viewer - in fact, the only SNL I've seen in probably the last 15 years was some of the political stuff, and then only as a side effect of checking out Mary Poppins and Mark Wahlberg talking to animals after this blog linked to it. So for me the Mark Wahlberg/Entourage callback was funny, especially since I just finally got around to watching Entourage (I'm in the middle of season 2 right now).

NPH was great, not given great material, as has been pointed out. His fitness guru routine had me laughing so hard I was gasping for air, but we fast forwarded through all the Kathy Lee stuff after watching for about 30 seconds. Even though NPH was great, the only other stuff that got much of a reaction from me was the Music Man bit from the Broadway sketch (and okay, the Rent bit), the Digital Short, the BCS song, and everys single thing the one black cast member did. I don't know the actor's name, but his various impressions (Charles Barkley, "Senator" Burris, etc.) I didn't think Frost/Other People was that funny, although the quick David Crosby flash was brilliant.

But as Mac said, how do you have a cameo by Liza Minelli AND a Broadway sketch, and not have her in it?

And finally - I actually used to work with someone who was working as a SECURITY GUARD of all things who had fingernails like the air traffic controllers. It always pissed me off because I and everyone else ended up doing half of her job duties because she was incapable of doing things like locking a padlock because of her fingernails. The creepy thing is that they were real, and possibly even longer than the ones in the sketches. Some of them were so long they'd begun to curl.

Miki said...

Digital Short:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1-AJS1k4P0

Karen said...

It was a pretty good show by SNL standards. I thought that absolutely the strongest parts were the first half of the opening monologue (loved the reference to the long-ago girlfriend), the Broadway sketch (great delivery on "Wow. THAT's racist" from the Wicked witch, and Sudeikis was simply brilliant as the Phantom), and that Digital Short, which caused me literally to scream when by the end of the second bar.

I hated hated hated the Kathie Lee Gifford sketch, and also fast-forwarded through it until NPH came out. But even when the material was so-so, he shone like the sun.

I'm bummed he didn't win the Golden Globe tonight.

Graeleight said...

Frost/Other People reminded me of a great piece of SNL trivia I gleaned this week.

Fred Barry (ReRun from What's Happening, A.K.A. The fat dancing guy) was on the one of the 3rd episode of SNL during the first season. The Lockers, a dance troupe, did a number on the show and Fred was a part of it. He wasn't featured or anything he was just a member of the team. They all wore variations on that weird costume he always wore on What's Happening.

Also the very first episode had a few more members of the Not Ready For Prime Time Players besides Akroyd, Belushi, Chase, Morris, Curtin, Radner, O'Donnahue and Newman.

In other words I got the First Season DVDs for XMas.

Pamela Jaye said...

maybe the Frost thing will be better. Kathie Lee was even more annoying than she was trying to be, Fred Savage might have been amusing if you hadn't mentioned him (liked the comment about NPH's girlfriend, though) and Rachel Whoever went on forever and ever (let's see, i'm guessing she's gay) The Broadway thing looked like something I only wanted to have to watch once, and really, I liked the closing of the local 11 o'clock news more than most of it (they hovered a mouse cursor arrow around the screen then zoomed out to video of them on their set on a laptop. it was cool)

hanging in cause someone says it's interesting. I'd rather be watching those eps of Big Bang Theory and just figured out that that HFPA could be members of the TCA, hence the timing.
Then again, i just realized the next member of the cast of Scrubs is named Cox.
And i think my roommate burned the pie (my whipped cream, however, came out very nice. it's okay. i can never tell when pumpkin pie is done, myself)

Pamela Jaye said...

anything with NPH and the DH theme song is good with me! (loved it when Barney wrote in his blog to it (brother thought it was the theme to 30something. i think that was during the brother's no tv period)

Pamela Jaye said...

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has one first name

or according to imdb:
Julia Elizabeth Scarlett Louis-Dreyfus

Pamela Jaye said...

oops. and yes, the picture went out when that part of the skit happened - and that was cause the tv turned off. the sound was coming out of separate speakers and i didn't figure it out for a minute. (there was some digital crap earlier in the show, so i thought it was the DVR. nope: simple stupid technology)

sorry

Anonymous said...

wow I never saw oral diarrhea in comment form before

Pamela Jaye said...

anonymous, dear, you must be new here.

alas, I couldn't see the Frost skit - something in the DVR died around 1:05 into the show (there was more show, but everything past 1:05 wouldn't play). i'm trying a transcode to see if I can get the rest of it back. if that doesn't work, i'll try the web.

I pretty much haven't watched a lot of SNL since the (circa) 85 cast. If it wasn't for Tina Fey, and then comments here, I wouldn't have put it and left it in the DVR's record list. But I do like NPH. Saw him in an ep of Numb3rs a few seasons ago - almost made me start watching the show (he was a guest star, though, and the pilot, which I saw later, didn't grab me. too bad - it's a great concept but I still don't get into crime shows. Medium maybe. It alway seems to be something different - but i'm two seasons behind)

and that, anonymous, was "digression" (you're lucky you don't know my friends. they can digress for twelve hours. I counted)

Michael said...

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has one first name

Yes, they mentioned that at the end of the skit. NPH told us what she was going to be doing next week, then she corrected him that she only has one first name and two last names, so he changed his mind and said that she would no longer be on the show after this week.

Anonymous said...

I was greatly disappointed.
They didn't really write and use NPH to his fullest potential.
There were some great laughs, but few and far between.

Craig Ranapia said...

What do I think? That whoever writes this desperately unfunny show must be spewing that Palin isn't going to be taking the oath of office next week -- that girl was comedy gold, and you don't actually need to be up on Broadway/Hollywood media gossip with a shelf life of twenty four seconds to have a hope in hell of getting the alleged joke.

As Alan put it, way too much "high concept" and not enough Comedy 101 -- well-observed and performed characters interacting.

amysusanne said...

Until NBC finds it and removes it, here's the digital short.

http://www.vimeo.com/2796105

I loved it and have had that stupid theme in my head for two days now.

The show, as a whole, amused me, but there was little in there that I would watch again. I totally agree that the monologue should have picked one bit and gone with it, but both halves made me laugh. The Broadway bit was also fun.

Bryan said...

NPH was as good as he could be with the material he was given. Almost every sketch was too long by half. Seth Meyers is funny but I don't know that he's strong enough to carry the news by himself. The best thing on the show (Whopper virgin) for som reason was buried at the end. I'm thinking we might be in for another of SNL's dry spells for awhile.

DonBoy said...

And in case anybody doesn't know, the fact that Michaela Watkins played JL-D is funny because she just did a recurring guest role on Old Christine. (In which her vague resemblance to Julia was noted.)

Anonymous said...

NPH was good, but some of the sketches felt dull. Luckily, I DVRd it, so I just skipped to all the NPH parts. The airtraffic one was amusing for about 30 seconds and then I had to skip that.

Highlights:
-Thrusting NPH
-Monolouge and running Piven jokes
-Liza Minelli. Weird, but also cool.

amysusanne said...

Besides the joke in the Broadway sketch, what other Piven jokes were there? I must have totally blocked them out if they were there.

Andy said...

I did laugh at the Two First Names theme song, a reworking of "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child. As a nearly-decade-old(!) point of reference, that caught me off guard.

amysusanne said...

Oops. When I posted the link to the short, I thought that the YT link was to that weird one where someone had videotaped their television. I just caught the link above on a livejournal and went to see the comments on it. Those YT commenters just make me sad.

belinda said...

I was too distracted by NPH's double time exercise moves. Wow. :D

But yeah. He's a good host, and I'd love to see him again soon, but the material was just all right, with some funny bits here and there (mostly from the delivery as supposed to the actual material.) I wish he'd sung a song a la Dr. Horrible too. :D,

So yeah, it was average, not terrible, but definitely not one of those OMG super fantastic episodes (which....when was the last one of those?

What I did notice was that the show was much more evenly casted, with a lot of the newer/less used cast members (though, I don't particularly like that girl in the cold open. She doesn't seem to be very good at impressions) getting something to do as supposed to running Wiig and Armisen to the ground like they did with the earlier episodes.

Jennifer said...

I can't believe they made a comment about racism in "Save Broadway," HAD KATE MONSTER/HER PORTRAYER RIGHT THERE, and did NOT break into "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist." Good lord, how did they miss that?

I think NPH did the best he could with what he got handed.

KB said...

A very strong episode from top to bottom. NPH was fantastic and it was packed with good sketches. The monologue and digital short were especially funny, and "Whopper Virgin" is one of the best sketches to appear in the final half hour of the show in years. Everyone talks about how SNL is terribly inconsistent but it seems to me that the show is almost always great when they have a truly funny comedic actor as host AND its the first episode back after a break (when the writers have lots of fresh ideas and are not scraping the bottom of the barrel or overusing the recurring characters). I had high expectations for this episode for those reasons and it easily surpassed them.

Jessica said...

For the most part I enjoyed it. My favorite bits were the BCS song, the Maddow opening (except Maddow herself was kinda personality-less, but she's not a particularly charismatic news anchor in real life), both parts of the monologue (though I wish they had chosen one joke and run with it more), Fran and Freba, and the BK Virgins.

I'm too young to get the Doogie stuff, frankly, but the short was funny anyway.

Two First Names had some good impressions on it...but it felt like the only point of it was to showcase impressions? Kinda annoying as a skit. Penelope...oh jeez. I hated it until the Liza moment but that was a good moment. Broadway was ok, but a little too 'inside' broadway, while at the same time...CATS? Hasn't that been off broadway since I was in elementary school? Everything else was too forgettable to remember an opinion about.

Rebekah said...

Does anyone have a link to the "Two First Names" skit? Anyway, I LOVED the Broadway skit. I got every joke and it was non-stop laughing. I think SNL is actually better when they get actually funny people and not A-List actors. The Doogie jokes were really funny. Fran and Freba was funny but there was nothing to it. Overall, I just love NPH!