The minute Miley Cyrus was announced as SNL's host, the only things I ever saw about it online (and I saw a few mentions) said she'd obviously be going on "The Miley Cyrus Show," Vanessa Bayer's somewhat breakout impression skit that mocks Ms. Cyrus for thinking things are "pretty cool" and having a weirdly praiseworthy dad. And, sure enough, that happened (although they buried it to about six sketches in) and the face-off between Bayer and Cyrus was… entirely lifeless. And unfunny. Like this whole episode!
In almost every sketch, it seemed like the writers had no idea what to do with Cyrus, who was usually given unimportant side parts and really barely featured at all. She got more to do as the episode went on, which is usually the opposite of how things go. Whether that's because they just decided she wasn't very good or they just didn't know how to use her, I don't know, but it certainly didn't serve the little poplet well. After a brief, sung monologue that dealt with the only thing that's vaguely interesting about her (she smoked salvia out of a bong? It's really not even that interesting), Cyrus did a couple half-hearted impressions and otherwise played the parts that Vanessa Bayer might have taken otherwise. She was definitely bad, but I guess she could have been good if she had done anything.
But it was a generally toothless episode that almost felt like the writers had gathered up their shittiest material to dump here (next week, with Zach Galifanakis, is more promising). The inevitable Charlie Sheen cold open was anchored by a typically strong Bill Hader (although it's not his best work, he's obviously the only guy for the job) but was pretty much the most obvious take on the week's Sheen events you could think of. You've got some gags about tiger's blood and warlocks, repeated shouts of "WINNING," etc. I will give some praise to Taren Killam's John Galliano, less for the impression than for the costume and him noting that he "dresses like a methed-out musketeer."
But then when your leadoff sketch is the (admittedly cute) "lesser known members of the Black Eyed Peas have a talk show!" you know this one will be scraping the barrel, quality-wise. Look, SNL, we need to talk about the "X has a talk show!" skit. Along with "the tired old lounge singer," which we were also treated to this week, it's your most recycled concept, and it has some very old bones. When you've already got Charlie Sheen leading off with a talk show and you know you have "The Miley Cyrus Show" coming up later, do you really wanna squeeze another one into the middle? I appreciated Kenan and Andy Samberg's manic dancing as apl.de.ap and Taboo and Samberg got in some good lines ("And I am named after the board game, Taboo!" "And I am from The Matrix!") but the whole thing ran 10 minutes too long and was just tiring to watch.
That's what I sort of appreciate about "What's Up With That," in that it almost mocks SNL's reliance on wheeling out guest stars and celebrity impressions in that tired format. But then shit like this happens, and I wonder if they're even aware that they're spoofing themselves. Oh well. Just to lump in the Miley Cyrus Show to finish off the whole thought, it was equally lame because of the entire lack of tension between Bayer and Cyrus and Miley's competent impression of Justin Bieber, which was fine, but enough with the Bieber already. Then again, Billy Ray did call his Miley "a pretty little Darrell Hammond," and I'll admit, that got a rise out of me.
So, enough about the good stuff. Yep, that was the good stuff in this episode. The only other skit that made me laugh was the return of "Les Jeunes de Paris," another example of the writers just giving up this week. Not that it's not kinda enjoyable seeing them bounce around like that to funny music, but it's not exactly a difficult sketch to write, especially after you've already aired one installment of it. So, yeah, they danced around, and Miley's French was very poorly-accented.
But it looks pretty good when you line that up against the facial cream/rockabilly CD ad or the failed Broadway singer insulting her customers, both of which actually made ME want to turn off the TV and go to sleep, and I would have done it too if I wasn't reviewing the show. The facial cream ad (one of Wiig's few appearances) was tranquil in a boring way, not a calming way. There were a couple pre-taped skits like Samberg's Beastly spoof and the CBS thing that got an easy laugh or two out of me, but I won't remember them ten minutes from now.
And in the middle of the show, there were two skits that just underlined how SNL didn't know how (or didn't want) to use Miley Cyrus. The Sound of Music thing with Fred Armisen as an ethnic comedian (they did this sketch a few weeks ago, right?) gave Miley some nothing role as one of the Von Trapp kids who basically stood on the side and watched Armisen do his thing. And, even more bizarrely, there was that Disney Channel acting ad, where Miley and Kenan told actors how to overact for kids shows. And Miley promptly… stepped aside to narrate the whole thing, with Kenan doing basically every bit himself. And he was fine (it's not the last time he'll play a black female character because this show doesn't employ any black woman), but if Miley can't even be the star of a Disney Channel acting skit, she's obviously not gonna have much to do on your show.
- Christina Aguilera is Sheen's kinda gal. "You're a blonde, you make terrible decisions... you're a blonde."
- Galliano's statements: out of context. "I wasn't praising Hitler the person, I was praising Hitler's political views."
- Qaddafi doesn't know what anti-Semitic means, so Sheen explains. "Oh, I'm totally that."
- The Baby Spanx was another repeated TV ad at the top of the show. I really have no idea why SNL does that. It really looks lazy.
- Apl.de.ap is a Philiblino. "Despite the rumors, I am not a Japanese ghost," says Taboo, who was on last week's Vaguely Asian.
- How did that face cream sketch get picked to go to air? Like, seriously, how? Did that attract a laugh in dress rehearsal, or the writer's room, or from the mother of the sketch's writer? Jesus CHRIST.
- The Strokes were OK!