It”s been a week since “Saturday Night Live” sent a bottle of sparkling apple juice to your house. (Did you get it?) Aside from the stunning Kanye West performances, last week”s episode didn”t exactly set the world on fire. Bryan Cranston might be a three-peat Emmy winner, but SNL is in danger of starting its season 0-3 in terms of providing an overall entertaining episode. Will Jane Lynch save the day? Will Bruno Mars prove a better musical choice than 30 Seconds to Mars? And what”s the over/under on “Glee” actors showing up for cameos tonight?
Only one way to find out. Let”s break things down, sketch by sketch.
[Recap after the break…]
“Ask Gloria Allred”: If you knew who Gloria was before this sketch, I pity you. If you watched this cold open, I pity you even more. A series of extremely long setups in the form of emailed questions to the fame-seeking lawyer, answered with predictable punchlines? Save me, Grilled Cheesus! [Grade: D-]
Monologue: Jane seems a bit nervous out the gate, and the thought of a “Glee”-esque performance weighs heavy. Luckily, the output”s kind of fun, making it all about Jane”s attempt to write a theme song for the show that ends up being all about Sue Sylvester. “Blame my co-writer, Jose Cuervo!” It gets a half-grade bonus for not throwing Lea Michele into the mix. [Grade: B]
Next up: a fake commercial for the “Damn It, My Mom is on Facebook!” Filter. I”d say how much of this sketch struck home for my wife and I, but I”m pretty sure that HitFix doesn”t have this filter currently installed. So, read into the grade what you will. [Grade: A-]
“Glee” parody: SNL wisely got this out of the way first. What”s striking isn”t so much the actual jokes (most of the character based mission statements were lazy, though Kenan Thompson”s Mercedes stood out), so much as the non-“Glee” related impressions. Does the real Artie sound that much like Kermit the Frog? Even if not, I”m afraid that”s all I”ll hear from now on. And Jason Sudeikis wasn”t doing an impression of Will Schuester so much as Will Forte, doing his old cast member”s “Gilly?” intonations perfectly. Gilly as a character is like “Glee” the musical: highly divisive. I like Kristen Wiig just fine, but wouldn”t mind never seeing this character pop up again. [Grade: B-]
“The New Boyfriend Talk Show”: Hey now, nothing more fun than the coping mechanisms of a young boy with a ho for a momma. The sketch actually had a nice, logical ramp-up in which the most recent sexual partner learns just how far back the deli line of dudes truly stretches. Having Joaquin Phoenix be #98? Brilliant. Having Magic Johnson in the mix? Um. Hmm. Need to marinate on that. But for now… [Grade: B]
A quick Christine O”Donnell promo followed, using a technique usually employed by The Onion to take one joke (about her denials of witchcraft) and stretching it out by repeating the same joke through an increasingly elaborate set of synonyms. Thankfully, it didn”t overstay its welcome. OK for what it was, which wasn”t much. [Grade: C+]
“Secret Word”: If you ran every iteration of this sketch superimposed over one another, they would probably be indiscernible. (It”s like the equivalent of listening to different Nickelback songs simultaneously.) They are all same except for whoever plays against Wiig”s Mindy. Lynch”s Phyllis Diller-lite had lots of energy, but little of it translated into laughs. At least on my couch. The crowd seemed to love it. Which means we”ll see it again soon. Will someone please send me a bottle of sparking apple juice? I need a drink. [Grade: C-]
Digital Short: See? This is why I don”t go to therapy. You think you”re going to get help, and then Jane Lynch is nakedly spooning with you on the sofa. Like the O”Donnell sketch, its brevity helped its overall impact. Another minute and I would have screamed, but as it stood, it was fine. Not one of Lonely Island”s best, but decent enough. [Grade: B-]
Returns and Exchanges: The sketch was a one-trick pony, with Jay Pharoah”s Denzel Washington working in a department store to do research for an upcoming role. But it”s one HELLUVA trick. I”ve never seen anyone do a Denzel impression before, and I”m not sure anyone else should try after seeing Pharaoh nail it here. My guess is the audience was too shocked by how spot-on it was to laugh more than they did. Still, best sketch so far. Also? We haven”t hit the musical act yet, and we”ve had eight segments of content. I applaud the sheer amount, even if it”s been a mixed bag so far. [Grade: A-]
If every girl”s crazy about a sharp dressed man, then there was plenty of insanity as America gazed upon Bruno Mars and his band tonight as they sing “Just The Way You Are.” Given Lynch”s involvement with “Glee,” I expected this to be a cover of the Billy Joel ballad. Not as catchy as some of the songs he”s produced for other artists, but the slightly slowed down version here is an improvement over the recorded version. [Grade: B]
“Weekend Update”: I”m a pretty big Seth Meyers homer, but even I can”t put lipstick on this pig of an update. Other than Samberg”s Mark Zuckerberg apologizing for the creeping of Facebook”s “Poke” feature, this was middle of the road, by the books, and fair too tame for being this late in the show. (The less said about Miguel Conjeros, the better.) [Grade: C-]
The Suze Orman Show: Suze runs into her roommate from Amelia Earhart Community College and the lesbian jokes fly. Wasn”t too sure about having a very out Lynch playing a very closeted Roma, but by having Roma come out by sketch”s end, SNL managed to avoid that thorny problem. Unfortunately, that left us with a sketch that wasn”t offensive, but really wasn”t funny either. Still, I”d probably donate five bucks to save “The Indigo Gulls.” [Grade: C]
“Sunday Night Football”: As slight a sketch as possible, but the combination of Bill Hader”s Cris Collinsworth impression and the increasing silliness of the lyrics won me over by the end. I”m pretty sure I”ll be saying “That was a nacho recipe!” in the near future anytime someone around me says something ridiculous. [Grade: B+]
Back with Bruno Mars, who started off with a little snippet of the Mars-penned “Beautiful Girls” and then segued into “Grenade,” a song off his new album. I think he”s aiming for an audience that likes Amy Winehouse”s music/stage show but prefers not being abjectly terrified when staring at the singer of the songs they like so much. It”s not for everyone, but luckily Bruno doesn”t sound like everyone, either. [Grade: B]
“Tax Masters”: Wow. Well, that happened. The only thing I can say is that the first time I saw the commercial upon which this sketch was based, I thought writer/producer David Fury had turned to a life of accounting. Given the time snafu at the end of the segment, I think the show wanted to get this off the air as much as everyone watching it. [Grade: D+]
That”s a wrap for tonight”s SNL, which proved to be completely “Glee” cameo free. Which sketches made your personal cut? Which fell flat? Did Bruno Mars impress or should he stick to behind-the-scenes? Leave your thoughts below!