Jennifer Lopez is now in the enviable position of having people not care about her personal life. Lopez began as a dancer on In Living Color, became an actress, then a movie star, then a pop star, then a brand, then a tabloid fixture, first as half of Dilopez and then Bennifer, then a punchline and now as something of a has-been.
The public overdosed on Lopez sometime around the 2003 release of Gigli so she is in the perfect position to reinvent herself as an actress instead of a global corporation the way her former beau Ben Affleck washed away the filth of tabloid infamy and established himself as a promising filmmaker with Gone Baby Gone and a gifted character actor with memorable supporting roles in Hollywoodland and Extract.
Affleck is doing the best work of his often checkered and spotty career; Lopez was on Saturday Night Live last night pimping a terrible-looking romantic comedy pairing her with mega-star Alex O’ Laughlin and what appears to be yet another slick, forgettable pop album. Don’t call it a comeback cause it probably isn’t one.
Lopez hasn’t captured the imagination of the public or the tabloids for a while so references to her personal life were refreshingly few and far between. Lopez’s opening monologue riffed on the gulf between the J. Lo of 2000 and the cut-rate recession version by having Kenan Thompson appear in the audience as a downsized former member of her entourage who had fallen upon hard times since his one skill in life— holding a glass of orange juice for a superstar—does not prove terribly useful outside life inside the hermetic world of an entourage.
Like the rest of the show, it was both mildly amusing and utterly predictable. Saturday Night Live is all about going after the low-hanging fruit. Last night the venerable comic institution attacked all the most obvious satirical targets from all the most obvious angles. Hey, that “We Are The World” remake sure is pointless, huh? Saturday Night Live artfully satirized the pointlessness of this newfangled twist on a hoary old chestnut by having the “We Are The World” gang sing about the pointlessness of remaking a song that was pretty terrible in the first place.
And how about that David Patterson? Is his administration going down in flames or what? And what about that curling? How fucking nutty is that? Is that even a sport? Doesn’t it seem more like some sort of strange performance art piece? And what’s the deal with Youtube? Isn’t it irritating when a friend insists you watch some inane homemade clip of George C. Scott getting hit in the nuts with a football, then it takes forever to get the damned thing to work? And what about those Telenovelas? Are those insane or what? Last and almost certainly least, how goofy is that Undercover Boss show?
All of the above pop-culture ephemera got skewered last night in a manner that suggests no first ideas got rejected in the SNL writer’s room. Throw in a smattering of recurring characters doing their recurring character’s shtick—Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader getting all rubber-faced in shock and mock-horror as hosts of an Entertainment Tonight-like celebrity gossip show, Kenan Thompson crooning up a storm as a loverman who narrates the courtship of a painfully awkward would-be couple, the aforementioned Patterson as a hacky open mic insult comedian and a repeat visit from the round the way girl shilling for a line of perversely casual car horns—and you have an episode almost wholly devoid of originality.
The funniest sketch was also, perhaps not coincidentally, the only one that bordered on original. It revolved around the band Smash Mouth appearing in a little girl’s room the minute her mother steps out and performing their late nineties hit “All Star”. I’ve been listening to an awful lot of Smash Mouth as of late for my That’s What They Called Music THEN! project and then also because I love the music of the band Smash Mouth so I was a little biased but I liked the idea of a song that was so ubiquitous (during J.Lo’s heyday, incidentally) at one point reappearing in such a bizarre context and the notion of Smash Mouth as magical musical elves.
The sketch got all the details right—the soul patches, someone mistaking Smash Mouth for Third Eye Blind, the little girl using “All Star” on her soccer video—and had a nice ending where Lopez, as the mother, reminds the little girl of all the positive associations she has with “All Star”.
A commenter has pointed out that almost all of Fred Armisen’s recurring characters are bad comedians. That’s true but I’m a sucker for his Patterson all the same and “Weekend Update” was pretty sharp tonight. I especially liked the line about Gatorade dropping Tiger Woods as spokesman because his thirst can never be quenched. I was less enamored of the Bobby Moynihan Youtube bit, which was about five years too late and five times too hacky.
Otherwise tonight’s episode was very much adequate. It was an episode of creamy middles; there was nothing too brilliant and nothing too egregiously awful, just a bunch of affable mediocrity. Lopez proved a game host and a predictably forgettable musical guest. She really threw herself into playing a woman whose attractiveness is severely compromised by her unfortunate predilection for ventriloquism and seemed right at home in the doorbell sketch.
Episodes like last night sometimes make me feel like reviewing Saturday Night Live on a weekly basis is a pointless endeavor (almost as pointless as that "We Are The World" remake and living in New Jersey, am I right people?) At this point in the season, the show is on autopilot. I don’t know whether that’s a matter of finding a comfortable groove or falling into a rut. It’s not great. It’s not terrible. It just is.