This weekend's SNL premiere pulled in the show's highest ratings since 2002, which means that a great number of people got to see Michael Phelps barely deliver his lines through what sounded like a mouthful of marbles (he didn't spit out a single one!), while wearing an increasingly ridiculous series of wigs. It was a performance that (once again) proved that sports figures, along with models, are a subsection of celebrity that no one should have to listen to, let alone watch host a comedy show. Even when Phelps managed to get through a line flub-free, it was largely unintelligible. It's like he chews his words, swallows half of them, and then allows the rest to dribble down his chin in a sad series of disconnected sounds and meaningless letters. They probably should have just had him lipsynch his lines.
Still, there were a few (well, two) bright spots to the SNL premiere. One was the Fav 5 ad that extrapolated T-Mobile's creepy commercial to its inevitable conclusion. (Even Michael Phelps and his highly unnecessary wig didn't get in the way of the humor of that sketch–not that they didn't try.) The second was the cold open, in which Tina Fey swooped into the exaggerated-prom-updo-and-Alaskan-accent-shaped hole in all of our hearts, and gave America the Sarah Palin impression that it (and Lorne Michaels) demanded. It was funny. Some would even say "quite funny" and by "some" I mean "Sarah Palin's spokesperson," although her reasoning is a bit weird:
On Sunday, a campaign adviser confirmed that Ms. Palin had, indeed, watched the "Saturday Night Live" skit from her screen at the front of the plane. "She thought it was quite funny," the adviser said in an email response to inquiries, "especially because the governor has dressed up as Tina Fey for Halloween."
Yeah, that's what made it funny. The costume switcheroo. So to Palin, Fey's impression was more "dressing up coincidence funny" as opposed to "mocking your opinions and general persona funny." Also, great Halloween costume, Sarah Palin. What did she do, take down her hair and put on a nametag that read, "Hi! My Name Is Tina Fey"? I can't wait to see how many people this year are dressed up as Sarah Palin dressed up as Tina Fey, aka pop cultural origami.
Still, in my mind, this SNL premiere will be remembered not for Tina Fey's Sarah Palin send-up, or Michael Phelps' general ineptitude, or for its high ratings. Instead, I'll always remember this episode as the one in which SNL basically ripped off its fictional (and long-cancelled) counterpart, Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. One of this Saturday's most painful sketches was "Quiz Bowl," in which public high school stereotypes competed against home-schooled stereotypes to answer science questions, and hilarity failed to ensue. Not surprisingly, there is no "Quiz Bowl" clip online. Luckily, though, there is this clip of the "Science Schmience" sketch from Studio 60, which is essentially the same thing, give or take a few religious stereotypes, and a number of shots of Matthew Perry lovingly mouthing the words that he's so masterfully penned.
Next week on SNL: there are snakes loose underneath the studio!