It doesn’t bode well for a legendary sketch comedy show when the most memorable part of an episode is the musical performance. Kanye West’s two sets on this week’s Saturday Night Live were simply stunning to see! It was like watching a music video… live. Of course, NBC isn’t offering footage of “Power” or “Runaway,” the two songs Kanye performed, but a Google search may return them before they’re forced down from other sites.
Otherwise, here are some of the highlights from a mostly unremarkable show.
After yet another Wasthington, DC cold open (enough already!), the opening monologue offered host Bryan Cranston an opportunity to let viewers know, well, who the hell is this guy? He fumbled a little, but was perfectly likeable as he ran us through some of the work he’s done. He admitted that he’s not quite a household name during a (really well-sung) barbershop quartet-style song, but he promised us that “You may not know him yet, but soon you’ll be his biggest fan.”
Unfortunately, SNL showed so little of the host beyond his opener that you’ll still have to tune in somewhere else if you want to get to know the guy.
On the other hand, new featured players really are being quickly and pretty prominently showcased. Vanessa Bayer took the lead in the episode’s first sketch, with an over-the-top daft impression of Miley Cyrus hosting her own show. Cranston took a bit-part as dad Billy Ray, her sidekick, and Paul Brittain absolutely nailed his role as guest Johnny Depp.
Hopefully we’ll see that “haunting adaptation of ‘Goodnight Moon’” as a digital short someday, or Brittain’s Depp in other scenarios. And while one of the biggest laughs came from Cranston’s “You make me smile!” “The Miley Cyrus Show” is just a full-time bandleader short of being a recurring sketch.
Next, an old favorite, “What Up With That,” gave just about everyone a chance to shine. Taran Killam has taken over Will Forte’s role as the announcer. Morgan Freeman and Ernest Borgnine (for real) are guests along with Bill Hader’s mainstay Lindsey Buckingham. Jay Pharoah busts a funkalicious version of Bootsy Collins and well… the writers and costume designers just must have gotten together to figure out the freakiest possible way to present Cranston in his underwear. See for yourself.
Cranston’s only true “leading roles” came late in the show. A game show loosely spoofed his Kid Smartz video to prevent child abduction. Most of the laughs were generated by Andy Samberg and Kenan Thompson, but Cranston probably got more lines as the inappropriate host than he did in all the previous sketches combined.
Finally, he played a dad opposite Nasim Pedrad as a pre-pubescent boy who’s more interested in painting a mural than learning the tough-love fighting skills his dad wants to teach. But overall the show missed so many opportunities to showcase him. A fun meth sketch to bring in “Breaking Bad” (maybe as a “Scared Straight” sketch?) would have been great. Even bringing it all the way back to Cranston’s “Seinfeld” days, when he played “Dentist to the Stars” Tim Whatley, would have been worthwhile.
So, let’s see. The score so far this season: Amy Poehler, dissed and Bryan Cranston, dismissed. If next week’s host, Jane Lynch, doesn’t have center-stage for most of the show, something is seriously askew at Studio 8H. Musical guest will be Bruno Mars.