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Saturday Night Live – Recap & Review – Melissa McCarthy

photo: nbc
Saturday Night Live
Melissa McCarthy

Original Air Date: Oct 1, 2011

Len – TwoCents Reviewer
len@thetwocentscorp.com

I couldn’t help feeling SNL took a step backwards this week after the strong season premiere. Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly, Bridesmaids) gives it her absolute all hosting, and she rewards us with some choice scene-stealing moments and physical comedy in the vein of her character from “Bridesmaids.”

We also get the return of the Digital Short (not such a good thing this week), while Lady Antebellum is on board to give you a taste of what your awkward teen will be slow-dancing to at Homecoming this month. Let’s score this thing!

Cold Open – The Lawrence Welk Show

Ah, crap. You know how it goes. Male lead. Three sisters, sweet as caramel apples, from the Finger Lakes. One freak sister with tiny arms. Melissa McCarthy makes this sketch somewhat worthwhile as a muscular freak of nature who looks like she got super powers from a nuclear blast. Taran Killam does a very admirable job as the leading man flinging woo to the girls. I like Taran Killam. I think he’s a great cast addition…but even he can’t make this one good.

Grade: C

Monologue – Melissa McCarthy

I was afraid McCarthy wouldn’t make it through the monologue, given how much she was huffing and puffing. She either spent too much energy in the cold open or had to rush through a wardrobe change.
The monologue was nothing special – McCarthy claims to have serious dancing skills, but stops herself before she starts anything. She and Kristen Wiig do some very simplistic dancing, then disappear behind a screen where we see two silhouettes (supposedly theirs) start to really shake. Not a hilarious premise, but the fact that Wiig and McCarthy both genuinely seemed to be amusing themselves made this at least watchable.

Grade: C

Commercial – “Li’l Poundcake”

Hilarious. It starts off like every toy doll commercial, and it keeps you hanging for a little bit as you try to figure out what is going to make this doll weird or inappropriate. And then, a syringe pops out and sticks the doll’s owner with a Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The little girls just love getting stuck with the needle, like they would a doll that wets herself or give kisses. (Just make sure you dispose of the doll in the proper receptacle at the hospital when finished!) Exactly what you want out of a commercial. Great stuff.

Grade: A

Arlene

My guess is that opinions are going to strongly deviate on this one – a true “love it or hate it” sketch. McCarthy plays an office worker named Arlene who tries to make her interest known to co-worker Tim (Jason Sudeikis). Arlene, like McCarthy’s Megan from Bridesmaids, is incredibly forward, wildly inappropriate, and finds ways to amp up the awkwardness (close physical contact, riding a balloon horse, stuffing the horse’s nose into her mouth).
I felt like McCarthy was improvising the entire scene while the others went off cue cards (except Sudeikis for a line or two). I wouldn’t be surprised if the director told the men in the scene (Sudeikis, Bill Hader, and Kenan Thompson) that their role was to keep McCarthy on point in case she drifts off.
The result is that you’re either going to see this as either a refreshing change of pace with an actress who knows no physical bounds or a desperate attempt at humor. I side with the former for this sketch. Rarely do you get these kind of belly laughs from SNL anymore. Let alone a host. Let alone a FEMALE host. But McCarthy is more than that – I just hope she’s utilized right.

Grade: A. But I had better see her branching out to play other kinds of characters the rest of the show. (More on that later.)

Digital Short – Police Station

Hader and Andy Samberg discover that, if you listen, you can hear rhythm and music anywhere – even in a police station. Doors open, papers rip, and pens tap on tables to form a cacophony of sound. Fun! Now it morphs into a proper version of Stomp. Okay, I’m still with ya. Then Blue Man Group pops in to make a contribution and the whole department, thinking they’re aliens, opens fire on them. Not a worthwhile payoff.

Grade: C-

The Comments Section

You may remember (or choose not to) a sketch from last season where people humiliated in YouTube videos convened on a talk show to tell the world how unfair it was. And that sketch bombed. So I’m surprised the writers were willing to come back to something like this because, well, it bombed.
Killam, McCarthy and Bobby Moynihan play Internet posters who put rude, juvenile remarks in the comments section of videos or blogs. Not as bad as its cousin from last season, but still pretty bad.

Grade: D

Rock’s Way
What if Chris Rock took on some of the stage’s best-loved productions, such as Romeo & Juliet, Oliver!, and Annie? But instead of performing them verbatim, what if he just did a couple memorable lines and then spun into a stand-up routine? Well, you’d have new Broadway show Rock’s Way.
Jay Pharaoh, of course, plays a spot-on Chris Rock – his voice and mannerisms are incredibly accurate. It’s good to see him finally used this week, but he needs to be able to put his own spin on characters if he wants to succeed. There’s been a lot of clamor the past year or so about booting Fred Armisen from the Obama spot and putting Jay Pharaoh in. If Pharaoh is ready to handle some cold opens, I say make the change. But he needs to be able to put his own spin on Obama, not just do a really good impersonation. Darrell Hammond’s sleazy con-man portrayal of Bill Clinton and Will Ferrell’s obviously clueless George W. Bush spring to mind as good examples.

Grade: C

Lady Antebellum – “We Owned the Night”, “Just a Kiss”
I would like to see SNL get rid of those interstitial shots of the musical guest looking right at the camera for 10 seconds. You can tell it’s awkward and uncomfortable for them, and it is for me too.
I don’t know much about Lady A aside from the minor controversy over “Need You Now” ripping off The Alan Parsons Project’s “Eye in the Sky”, but my wife pointed out they look like Lance Bass harmonizing with one of the non-Kim Kardashians.

Weekend Update
Funny jokes included Andy Rooney retiring from “60 Minutes” (he needed time to prepare for his role in the upcoming live-action version of “Up”) and a study about women who drink coffee are less likely to become depressed (unless drinking coffee was something the two of you used to do together).
Muammar Gaddafi’s childhood friends (Vanessa Bayer, Armisen) drop by to talk about the former dictator, but only end up talking about what an inconsiderate friend he is. Funny recurring bit.
Tyler Perry (Thompson) drops by to talk about his success. While not done in the funniest of ways, it was enjoyable because of how accurate it seemed.

Grade: B+

Hidden Valley Ranch Focus Group

Hidden Valley Ranch brings in three taste testers (Killam, McCarthy, Abby Elliott) to try out new products. If this was the first character I saw McCarthy play in the show, I’d give it a straight-up A. But her character Linda is way too similar to Arlene, although I will give her props for emanating such energy without leaving her chair. The humor in this one is more sophisticated than dry-humping a balloon animal, but the laughs are just as riotous.
So I’m disappointed that McCarthy is again called on to play the big, over-the-top character, but she just does it so damn well! And she eats a full family sized bottle of ranch dressing that explodes all over her face! Argh! But I must include a penalty for redundancy.

Grade: B- (includes penalty for redundancy)

Turner Classic Movies – The Essentials
You know the bit – Robert Osbourne (Sudeikis) presents old film footage. This time, McCarthy plays a Mae West knockoff from the 1930’s named Lulu Diamond. In each of her films, she’s called upon to walk up some stairs but keeps falling and struggling to get back up. Anyone but McCarthy and this sketch is dead in the water. Still, all the physical comedy is starting to feel desperate and uncreative. Can’t I just see Melissa McCarthy not having to resort to sight gags?

Grade: C (includes penalty for redundancy)

Terrible Lovemaking
Samberg plays a big-talking playboy scoping out his next prey (McCarthy) at a bar. However, he’s not as good at lovemaking as he says he is, which is evidenced by all the women who come in to personally complain about his shortcomings. Not a bad sketch – it’s paced pretty well, but it ends with Samberg and McCarthy toasting, “To our terrible lovemaking.” And then you hear someone from the audience give a sarcastic “Ha!” And just when I was complimenting the writers on finding good endings for sketches. Oh well.

And that’s all she wrote. Not a terrible episode, but not as good as last week. McCarthy was a force, but I was more interested in seeing her in sketches where she didn’t have to be called upon to steamroll them with a super wacky character. Li’l Poundcake is my front-runner for Commercial of the Year, and I’m guessing it has a good chance to stay that way.

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