The second episode of each season of SNL tends to be the most disappointing; the season premiere usually packs an impressive A-list marquee, cameos and gimmicks while the second episode is left to simmer. Thankfully, a strong (even if not used to his full potential) host and an always avant garde musical guest accompanied a well-meshing cast to create an almost uncharacteristically hilarious second show. Let me just say that after this episode, I've concluded that this cast, along with a strong sense of developing chemistry, may be the most holistically attractive cast in SNL history.
Cold Open: Fred Armisen reprised his role of Obama (although I have to say I was genuinely hoping to see newbie Jay Pharaoh's Obama impersonation) and announced the departure of his White House aid, the fiery and abrasive Rahm Emanuel (Andy Samberg). Bobby Monyihan stole the sketch, however, with his deliciously awkward impersonation of Emanuel's replacement Pete Rouse. Moynihan's nervous spasms and sweat patches perfectly juxtaposed Emanuel's maniacal rants.
Monologue: Let's be honest here... I had to do some research on Bryan Cranston to realize that he currently plays the main character of a meth-dealing chemistry teacher on the critically renowned AMC series Breaking Bad, since I, along with many other people I'm sure, simply did not know who Bryan Cranston was. Cranston attacked this notion head-on in his barbershop sing-a-long monologue, accompanied by a quartet who appropriately gets his name wrong, where he jokes about not being a household celebrity name. Turn's out, Cranston was also Frankie Munoz's dad on Malcolm in the Middle! Love how everything in the world always makes sense in the end.
Pepto Bismol Ice: SNL's faux commercials have yet to disappoint me and this one actually made me laugh again. It's the antacid that's also a malt liquor! Essentially, get more drunk while you're bloated/having diarrhea! Side note, Nasim Pedrad and Andy Samberg both looked super fresh in this sketch.
The Miley Cyrus Show: Never before have new castmembers made such lasting positive impressions in their first sketches. This trend started last week with Jay Pharaoh's Will Smith impersonation and is carrying over to this week with Vanessa Bayer's annoying-scatchy-voice-and-tic-and-all impression of Miley Cyrus. Seriously, Vanessa... your mouth is so eerily similar to Miley's! Cranston sidekicked as an impeccable Billy Ray Cyrus while new featured player Paul Brittain debuted a strong Johnny Depp. Favorite quote of the night as Miley asks Johnny Depp, “...and like are you American?” Bravo new featured players. Bravo, indeed.
What's Up With That: You all know how much I love cameos, so when I saw Morgan Freeman, sitting there up on stage, I basically peed myself in excitement. Kenan Thompson played his recurring, soul singer-host, DeAndre Cole. His schtick: always cutting off people and breaking into jazzy song. In all honesty, I was never a huge fan of this sketch and still am not too fond of it, but I have to say – loved the random Mary Kay Letourneau impersonation (Abby Elliot) and Jason Sudeikis' crazy funky spastic dancing in a red jumpsuit always gets me going.
Shanna and Basketball: Oh my god, this must be some kind of a record – Kristen Wiig not appearing in the first half-hour of the episode? Regardless, I always enjoy Wiig's recurring character, Shanna, an innocent sexual deviant who has out of whack bodily functions. Her gags in this episode included whistling with her farts, regurgitating a protein shake, and growing back hair. All things that I genuinely find to be hilarious.
Digital Short – Rescue Dogs 911: This week, the Lonely Island guys brought us another strange digital short, about a guy who attempts to call 911 and instead has to work through annoying movie advertisements about rescue dogs and pizza orders. I've been recently apathetic toward the Digital Shorts, although I liked the puppy at the end who teared off an arm.
Weekend Update: Highlights included Moynihan's second-hand news correspondant Anthony Crispino and Samberg's incessantly weird impression of comic-strip Cathy. Moynihan's Italian accent while delivering completely preposterous news made me chuckle a few times... i.e. “A pastor in Florida was threatening to burn Koreans!” Cute mix-up between Qu'rans and Koreans, there.
Kid Smartz Game Show: Cranston played the host of an inappropriate touchy 70's game-show called Kid Smartz where the child contestants get rewarded with kisses and hugs. Except sassy little Janelle (Kenan Thompson) wasn't going to take this inappropriate behavior from the host. This sketch essentially gave Cranston permission to kiss Andy Samberg as many times as he wanted.
Basement Karate: Nasim Pedrad has such a knack for playing nerdy little boy characters, as showcased yet again through this sketch where Cranston punches his son (Pedrad) in hopes of toughening him up. Pedrad's voice can get a little grating at times, but her execution is always clean and likeable and this goes to make me wonder why she isn't a main-roster castmember and why Abby Elliot, who quite literally does nothing, is.
The Bjelland Brothers: I hate hate hate hate hate sketches where the characters sing the whole time. Quick synopsis: Bryan Cranston and Fred Armisen pretend to be a Swedish duo and sing the whole time. Kill me.
I-Sleep Pro: Another commercial and this one ended the night on a strong note. Anyone who knows me knows that I love some good racial humor every once in a while and this commercial really did it for me. Instead of setting an alarm to white noise... why don't you set it to black noise to help you go to sleep! Nothing like the gentle sounds of “domestic violence,” and “Tyler Perry black family sitcoms” to help you go to sleep at night.
Musical Guest: Quite simply, Kanye ruled the night. He performed, “Power” and “Runaway” from his new record and revamped the normally cramped and unappealing SNL into an aesthetic paradise for the sensations. A blank white canvas was complemented with a crowd of clean ballerinas as he rolled out his rhymes with his usual passion and exuberant confidence.
Overall Episode: B- Again, surprisingly strong for that second, usually forgettable episode of the season. My complements to Bryan Cranston and Kanye West.
Next Week: Red hot Glee sensation Jane Lynch (who so happened to receive her Masters of Fine Arts here from Cornell!) hosts while current Billboard Hot 100 number-one artist Bruno Mars serenades you about liking you “Just the Way You Are” as musical guest.