What I don't understand is, why go to the trouble of hiring new writers and new cast members if SNL is just going to show the same sketches season after season? At the very least I'd rather have an episode packed with new mediocre sketches than the same old mediocre sketches. But alas, last night we got "The View" (first full sketch after the monologue, too!), "Penelope," and "Scared Straight", plus Fred Armisen's political comedian character Nicholas Fehn during "Weekend Update." And, as much as I love Amy Poehler my grouchiness even extends to "Really?!? With Seth and Amy"--just because it's another bit that comes back so often when something fresher could cover the same ground.
Aside from that, I didn't think the rest of the episode was great enough to make me forget my grouchiness. The cold opener was a FOX News segment on Obama's "End of an Era" with Kristen Wiig as a, well, malformed Greta Van Susteren and Bobby Moynihan as Karl Rove. I don't watch FOX News so I can't say whether it was a funny sendup of the network but I think it was a funny idea (Obama declared a lame duck) that could have been executed better.
Taylor Swift's monologue was the second bit in a row where I fell outside the target demographic. I liked the joke about her staying up late as a little kid to watch Bill Hader and Andy Samberg on the show, but during her "Monologue Song" she referenced both a Jonas brother and Twilight and I felt old and, more importantly, not-laughing. To the episode's credit this was the only time the Kanye West incident was brought up.
The episode's commercial parody was for a barbecue place that had filmed a commercial in 2002 that talked about "swine fever" which was clarified and apologized for in numerous disclaimers. I think they missed a joke wherein they could have addressed why exactly the company paid to put disclaimers over its old 2002 commercial instead of just getting a new commercial. It did make me want pulled pork though. There was a SARS joke in there too.
Then there was "The View" which I'm still irritated about: Andy Samberg does a funny decent Nicolas Cage impression (vocally anyway) but so good that it gets put at the top of the show? And boo to Kate Gosselin (via Taylor Swift) reaching SNL.
The Digital Short was a Twilight parody called "Firelight" which featured Taylor Swift as a lip-biting teen who's infatuated by a member of "The Franks"--Frankenstein monsters instead of vampires. Other than the line "I do believe I'm going to strangle someone...by accident" I thought it went on a bit long but perhaps it was a very funny Twilight sendup and I just wouldn't know because I'm too busy sitting at home every night peering through my blinds waiting for one of those damn kids to walk on my lawn.
"Hollywood Dish", I believe, was a new sketch but the concept of cutting to Bill Hader for extreme reaction shots certainly is not. It's a testament to him and his rubbery face that an over-the-top horrified reaction can still be amusing. I liked the ending, of the show just showing Taylor Swift laughing maniacally.
As I watched it I thought that the "Teens Raising Awareness About Awful Parent Driving" was a cute idea that could have been a little stronger but in retrospect, compared to everything else it was probably one of the stronger sketches of the night. (Jason Sudeikis playing an overly-straight man is always funny). I liked Samantha Samuels trying to crash the car as her father gave her the birds and the bees talk.
Then Taylor performed, wearing a sparkly dress EXCEPT that in her song she sang about wearing t-shirts so I don't know what to believe. It wasn't a great performance--perhaps she's usually a stronger singer but she was nervous or couldn't hear herself? The good news is though that her lead guitarist had a wallet chain, in case anyone tried to rob him while he was onstage.
On "Weekend Update" the Midwest hater in me did like the joke about New Yorkers taking advantage of the good economy by buying big ticket items like elections and championships. I was more amused by the hiss the joke about Jon Voight/Jon Ratzenberger stumping for Republicans received than the joke itself. There wasn't anything especially funny per se about Abby Elliott's Sarah McLachlan impression but I really appreciated the fact that someone talked about the levels of sad-porn in her ASPCA commercials. "There is nothing wrong with this dog...except that he was molested by THIS DOG."
Then there was another goddamn Penelope sketch.
We got another version of the "Scared Straight" sketch too, as I mentioned, and even though (unlike the people in the sketch) I didn't think it was that funny, Taylor seemed to get into it though, to her credit.
Next came another sketch that wasn't terribly hilarious per se but it was refreshing at least to see something new: a young girlfriend and boyfriend are hanging out at home and the gal's roommate comes home and the gal is more in love with her roommate than with her boyfriend. This seemed like something that must have come from one of the writers' own observations and as a girl who lived with other girls I could identify with the scenario but I wish it could have escalated further or gotten even more surreal.
The second song was very pretty, actually (who can turn down a mandolin?). It's called "Untouchable" which I assume is about India's caste system.
Typically, the weirdest sketch of the night was buried at the end: musicians shilling for the soundtrack to a film called "Bunny Business." I liked Fred Armisen's bizarre Randy Newman impression and Kristen Wiig did a strangely good Natalie Merchant but what was funnier was the idea of a children's film that was never finished (we saw the same animated sequence replayed throughout the bit) but a soundtrack for it was still being sold. It was weird, but weird is better than old.
--I hope Taylor Swift's band got a glimpse of themselves in the credit sequence because I can't believe two grown men standing so close to each other could feel good about their hair being in two distinct non-head shapes.