SNL has tried, and mostly failed, to find the funny in the Obama administration. The writers have attempted to critique it but they've fallen short of the standard of topical political humor they delivered during the '08 election. Last night they finally hit on something with Rahm Emanuel's even-tempered apology. There wasn't that much to it--Andy Samberg returned as Emanuel, apologizing (even-temperedly) to one camera for using the word "retard" to describe certain liberals, then switching to another camera to deliver his true message to them and to Sarah Palin. To the liberals, he said "I'm trying to get shit done here: so FUCK YOU" and to Sarah Palin, for calling him out on Facebook, "What are you, 14? Grow the fuck up!" and issued a threat that he could post things so offensive on her wall that her computer would cry. "In conclusion: boo fucking hoo, get the fuck over it." Yes, swearing can be funny, but moreover the writers captured the frustration that Obama and his team must be dealing with on a daily basis, and it helped that Emanuel's ire was directed at both parties.
Too bad the show muffed its other attempt at handling politics, the topic of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In the cold open, a FOX News bit, it started going somewhere when Karl Rove (played by Bobby Moynihan) detailed which gays were cool: the Wills but not the Jacks, the Neal Patrick Harrises but not the Elton Johns, and the Ellens but not the Martinas. Lesbians in general were OK. But the sketch failed to stick a landing, laughs-or theme-wise.
And what a waste to blow DADT a second time on "The View." There is no plausible reason, short of Barbara Walters dying, to rehash this sketch ever again. Every single impression on it is one-note. I also didn't really get what Ashton Kutcher was trying to do there with his Mel Gibson impersonation.
Oh yeah, Ashton Kutcher! He was there last night, hosting for the fourth time, which is hard to believe. The premise of his monologue, that now he's too old to be going around proclaiming things to be "awesome!!", was kind of weak. Then again, without that bit we wouldn't have seen a bulldog on a surfboard wearing sunglasses, which I actually think might have been my second-favorite thing about the show. The monologue drifted into Conan O'Brien non-sequitur territory, with Superman drinking a daiquiri with a Storm Trooper bartender, Mark Twain riding through on a tiny motorbike and a kid punching Twain in the crotch. OK, kind of awesom
I admit I laughed at the ridiculousness of the sketch where Kutcher played a poolboy who sexually pleasured an old woman for the last 10 years of her life, only to be left just pool privileges, plus a bad case of "Stage 5 Chlamydia" and, oh yeah, the pool privileges don't exist during the summer, are only on weekdays, and actually the pool privileges have been revoked.
To me the rest of the sketches had a little something going for them but didn't really get executed. In one Kutcher played the slave boy to Will Forte's Roman emperor. There wasn't too much going on here, unless you like the phrase "horse penis," although I did like the way Sudeikis went "woo woo woo woo woo!" each time he got a grape. The concept of the game show "What is Burn Notice?" was amusing but one-note, and I thought the Access Hollywood sketch making fun of the surplus of Best Picture Oscar nominees was amusing but I wish the writers/Kutcher could have done more with that Billy Bush impression (I did like Maria Menounos' laugh though). The premise of the father of the bride playing with his old punk band at the wedding reception was cute but I had a hard time hearing the lyrics, so I couldn't tell if those were a joke in addition to the wedding-trashing.
As for the rest, I like Dave Grohl but I don't think I'm the world's biggest Them Crooked Vultures fan. Weekend Update had a few bright spots, like the deathcat tribute to the accomplishments of Congress' supermajority. I laughed again at Garth and Kat, the people who make up their songs as they go along, but I won't argue with you if you think it's unfunnily idiotic--I just happen to find it funnily idiotic. But it was a Jean K. Jean type of night.
I really think the Emanuel sketch lifted this whole show's grade by at least a half-letter, but the recurrence of "The View" also might have brought it down one. The show returns February 27 with Jennifer Lopez reprising her role as both the musical guest and host. Girl has been fighting tooth and nail lately to reclaim her pop culture relevancy, and her desperation is showing a tiny bit, so it could be fascinating in a train-wreck kind of way.
--Valentine's Day looks amazing. Let's round up 400 celebrities to star in a movie about a made-up holiday and in the trailer let's get one person to say "It's Valentine's Day!" and then cut to a completely different scene with Julia Roberts laughing maniacally. Love, indubitably.
--"What was she going to do, give birth to a ghost?"