Saturday Night Live: "Jane Lynch/Bruno Mars"
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Saturday Night Live: "Jane Lynch/Bruno Mars"

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Saturday Night Live

"Jane Lynch/Bruno Mars"

Season 36, Episode 3

SNL wasn't exactly horrible this week (high praise! I know!) but it did stumble into one of its occasional pitfalls in that along with guest host Jane Lynch (who was used fairly well and acquitted herself splendidly) the episode was pretty much just the Kristen Wiig/Andy Samberg show. There were a few sketches that didn't headline them, like Nasim Pedrad in the terrible Gloria Allred cold open or Jay Pharoah's hilarious Denzel Washington impression, but everything else had Wiig and Samberg getting the lion's share of attention, usually with Jason Sudeikis in the straight-man role.

Let's talk about Jason Sudeikis for a second, actually. It's occurred to me that now Will Forte is gone he's basically their go-to uncomfortable white guy, which is why it feels like he's in almost every sketch. Witness him replacing Forte in the Gilly/Glee sketch, and he was fine in the role, but it's getting a little boring seeing him there in so many sketches.

Anyway, back to the task at hand -- I thought Jane Lynch was probably the best host we've had so far this season, hardly surprising considering she's an improv genius who had given a dozen hilarious performances over the years, before she even blew up on Glee. She felt like she could have been a cast member, so she didn't hold the focus like some of the superstar guests but she blended very well in all the sketches, the quality of which were the usual hit-and-miss.

The stuff I liked the most were the more uncomfortable-feeling sketches. I loved how Pharoah's Denzel impersonation turned into an uncomfortable racial incident halfway through. The "New Boyfriend Talk Show," where dorky son Samberg interviews his mom's one-night stands with questions like " I gotta ask, it's on everybody's mind...are you my new daddy?" straddled the creepy/funny line very well and escalated into farce very nicely. Unlike the season's cold open, the second Christine O'Donnell spoof was much better (she keeps giving them new material!) because it was done as an ad rather than a skit with straight men, which tends to just drag things out.

Sketches like the digital short, the "Your mom's on Facebook!" app and the "Secret Word" game show were fine but they felt like more typical stuff. Wiig's character in the game show basically encapsulated my problem with Wiig in general. Now that she's become SNL's marquee idol she seems to have free rein to do whatever she wants, so then why does every one of her characters seem like her Gloria Swanson impersonation? They're all theatrical ladies who stare maniacally at the screen with a fixed grin and an affected, aristocratic accent. The difference between her theater maven on "Secret Word" and her Suze Orman is basically just a bunch of lame lesbian jokes.

But since this is Wiig's SNL (which is fine -- every iteration of the show always has a dominant star) stuff like the Glee sketch gets mixed in with the triumphant return of Gilly, a bit that I've always thought tries too hard to be the next big thing and fails pretty miserably. Are there actually people out there who are agitating for the return of Gilly every week? Aside from that, the Glee sketch did fine, in that it ticked off as many of the show's tics as it could in five minutes. Some of the jokes landed, but as an actual skit it didn't make much sense. Kenan Thompson acquitted himself best as Mercedes, and I liked Bobby Moynihan jumping in as Mike O'Malley, vociferously defending a one-note Samberg-as-Kurt. "I love you, gay son!"

Among the odds and ends, the interminable Sunday Night Football spoof with Lynch singing over and over again was baffling, while the send-off of those bearded "Tax Masters" commercials was great to see, because those commercials have always been weirdly compelling. The reveal that the bearded red-haired accountant man (who always looked two generations removed from Hagar the Horrible to me) had a head growing from his skull was clever enough, and everyone else's horror at the sight of it was just as good.

Stray observations:

I loved Jane Lynch's opening song, mostly because she has some Patti Smith pipes on her! "Yes the we-ak should ru-un and hi-ide!" Why don't they let her sing more on Glee?

"Was that Joaquin Phoenix?" "That was a weird interview, but it turned out he was faking it!" "He wasn't the only one!"

Bill Hader (who has been horribly underused this season) got a couple good gags in as the game show host. "My wife is in the hospital having a baby. Good luck to you!" and "I am not full of bananas," followed by a look of disturbed horror.

Lynch was also pretty funny in "Secret Word" as a borscht-belt comedienne. "You're a great crowd, that never happened. WHAT!"

Samberg as Mark Zuckerberg on Weekend Update was somewhat funny but more just clever for presenting a defense of the poor guy, who everyone will think is a sociopath for the rest of his life because of The Social Network. "You think Aaron Sorkin doesn't mention The West Wing on dates? We're men, we use what we got!"

I have nothing to say about Bruno Mars.

No episode next week, and then it's Emma Stone on the 23rd. See you then!