November 13, 2010

SNL Recap: Scarlett Johansson / Arcade Fire

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Recently appearing in the blockbuster Iron Man 2 and (rather unexpectedly) winning a Tony Award for her performance in Sophistry, Scarlett Johansson shifts from the dramatic to the comedic as she marks her third hosting stint on SNL.  Looking equally eager and vivacious, she was ready to give her all to a show that’s, well, supposed to make people laugh.  Unfortunately, this was again an incredibly weak episode with sketches that felt both unfinished and empty, and was only worsened by an unresponsive and seemingly comatose audience.  As the episode chugged through its demise, it became almost painful to watch Johannson trying to elicit any laughs from the audience.  Like Emma Stone and Jon Hamm, Scarlett Johannson’s genuine enthusiasm exceeded the episode’s overall dull quality.

Cold Opening – The cold opening would begin the long string of recurring sketches that would litter the night as President Obama (Fred Armisen) meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao (Bill Hader) again at the G20 conference.  Nasim Pedrad serves as President Hu’s translator who lacks any sort of language eloquence as she translates the President’s worries toward the United States’ large debt to China.  Again, the Chinese President makes inexplicable sexual advances toward President Obama as he asks him time-and-time again why Obama is “doing sex” to him.

Monologue – A peppy and stunning, if slightly botoxed, Scarlett Johansson bounces on stage in an uncharacteristically short haircut, with excitement oozing from her pores.  She excitedly gives advice to young celebrities like Ke$ha (Abby Elliot) as to how to stay out of the media’s negative angles, seemingly unaware of the trainwreck of a show that would immediately follow.

MTV’s 16 and Pregnant Spinoffs – This sketch certainly deceived me into thinking that the rest of the night was going to be entertaining as it was short, simple and most importantly, funny.  The aforementioned 16 and Pregnant spinoffs include My Super Sweet 16 and Pregnant, America’s Best Pregnant Dance Crew, Wild ‘N Out featuring a baby, Cribs, and I’m Snooki and Pregnant with Bobby Moynihan playing a very orange and very hearty Snooki.

Millionaire Matchmaker – This Bravo series spoof began the orchestra of crickets in the audience that would remain for the rest of the night.   ScarJo plays the part of Patti Stranger, who watches on in disgust as two similarly unattractive people (Vanessa Bayer, Taran Killam) fall in love in front of her face.  Maybe not spending your time on parodying a show that ninety percent of America have never heard of would elicit more laughs, SNL.

Manuel Ortiz Show – Fred Armisen plays the host of a Telemundo-type talk show with excessive, spastic dancing that interludes each new guest or segment.  Spastic dancing usually gets the audience going, but even Kristen Wiig’s fast-forwarded seizure-type dancing didn’t kill tonight.

Unstoppable Promo – A parody of the movie now in theaters, Jay Pharaoh impersonates Denzel Washington and Taran Killam plays Chris Pine as they bond and become unlikely friends while attempting to save the world.  A good taped segment that again highlights Pharaoh’s strength as an impressionist.

Hollywood Dish – Scarlett Johansson plays the role of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig’s tabloid puppet this time around as they twist ScarJo’s words and artificially elicit responses from her.  It’s always fun watching Wiig and Hader’s freakish facial expressions but what really did me in this time was Kristen Wiig’s shy Japanese school-girl giggle.

Weekend Update – Even Weekend Update was dull this week with less sharp zingers and more blank responses from the audience.  However, there were a few giggles when former President Bush revealed his twitter name to be “Not So Curious George” as George W. Bush (Jason Sudeikis) and Kanye West (Jay Pharaoh) were guests this week, symbolizing the friendship that has developed between them.  Frank and Gladys Madden, an apathetic old couple who was aboard the power-outage riddled Carnival cruise ship (Vanessa Bayer, Fred Armisen), also accompanied Seth.  Although Bayer’s long monologue as a bitter elderly woman received little-to-no reaction from the audience, Bayer is continuing to prove herself a strong and able performer on the show, excelling in every sketch she performs.

St. Katherine’s Middle School – This sketch quite literally had no beginning, no middle, no end, and no point.  Set up as a Disney Channel-esque show, Kenan Thompson plays the main character who, by influence of his friends, believes that he can do anything even with his broken leg.  If anything, this sketch did satirize that intangible “Disney Channel positivity” that makes those over the age of 14 vomit.

Digital Short: Model UN – A head-scratching but irrelevantly enjoyable digital short as Andy Samberg delivers a presentation to the United Nations in the form of an angry, elementary rap in which he covers the spectrum of global nightmares from Hiroshima to Rwanda with a pissed off, “what was that?!”  Slavery, “what was that?!” Tiananmen Square, “uncalled for!”  Arcade Fire also makes an inexplicable but enjoyable cameo, crooning alongside Samberg’s sick rap skills.

Paula Deen’s Kitchen – Even a spot-on impression of Paula Deen (Kristen Wiig) couldn’t save the episode’s drag of a night as Kristen pinpoints Deen’s accent and mannerisms as she advertises Deen’s new “Butter and Oil Soaker” napkins.  Or, as Deen likes to say, “buttah and oole” soakers.

Stars of Tomorrow – A new TLC show documenting the rise of child-stars.  Vanessa Bayer and ScarJo play two rivaling 11-year-old child stars who battle for roles in Annie and other shows, only to compromise and co-star in an adaptation of Brokeback Mountain.  Imagine that, two small girls playing the parts of two rugged, gay cowboys.  The horror and intrigue.

Ceramic Busts – ScarJo reprises her role of Fred Armisen’s attention-seeking-whore-of-a-daughter as she helps her dad promote his new ceramic busts.  The conscious tone of apathy in ScarJo’s voice was only fitting not only in character but in the overall mood of the night.

Musical Guest – If anyone stole the show tonight or injected some genuine excitement, it was the Canadian alt-rock-folk band, Arcade Fire, whose simplistic and colorful performances fascinated the audience.  They not only entertained but also sounded great as they performed “We Used to Wait” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” from their critically acclaimed new album, The Suburbs.

Overall Episode – C-… the grades keep slipping as SNL nosedives with each following week.  The writing becomes weaker and the ideas become more underdeveloped, begging the question – what the hell is going on?  The season started off uncharacteristically strong with Amy Poehler, Bryan Cranston and Jane Lynch and just went downhill even with proven-funny hosts like Jon Hamm and Scarlett Johansson.

Next week… the perpetually glowing and star of the upcoming movie, Love and Other Drugs, Anne Hathaway hosts and the “Dog Days are Over” Welsh-band, Florence + the Machine take center stage as musical guest.

Original Author: Jonathan Yuan