Melissa McCarthy is having quite the year. A breakout performance in the film “Bridesmaids,” an Emmy for her performance on “Mike and Molly,” and now this, her inaugural hosting appearance on “Saturday Night Live.” Will tonight just be a series of sketches involving her and Kristin Wiig? Will fellow “Bridesmaids” star/former “SNL” alum Mya Rudolph drop by? Will musical guest Lady Antebellum do me a favor and NOT play “Need You Now”? Because I only got that ear worm out of my head last week, and I”d prefer to have it stay that way.
Only one way to find out. Onto tonight”s recap!
“The Lawrence Welk Show”: Oooh, boy. Not a good start for the show if this is how they want to kick things off. Since I find Judy to be one of Wiig”s least endearing recurring characters, I groaned a bit at seeing this sketch kick off the episode. But not as much as I groaned upon seeing “SNL” double down on that character with Judy”s sister, played by McCarthy. She was a combination of Judy and The Hulk, so near as I could tell. Anyways, “Welk” is a cookie cutter sketch that always follows the same pattern and never gets funny. Let”s hope things improve. [Grade: C-]
Monologue: Awww, she”s adorable. Also? Out of breath, at least at the outset. She wants to dance! Backup dancers appear, but they don”t meet her standards. So who comes in? Kristen Wiig! Surprise surprise. Luckily, these two have chemistry to spare, as they put off actually dancing as long as possible, even bringing in Taran Killam and the surprisingly lithe Bobby Moynihan to fill in for them. I could have done without the obvious silhouette gag, but overall, a major improvement over the terrible cold open. Just let Melissa be Melissa, “SNL,” and everything will work out fine. [Grade: B+]
“Lil Poundcake”: Who wants a doll than administers the HPV vaccination? Don”t everyone stand up at once! Man, we”ve come a long way from Cabbage Patch Dolls, apparently. A perfectly fine, if one-note, faux commercial, one that benefited from not overstaying its welcome. I do fear, however, that those freaky dolls are going to show up either in my nightmares or a future episode of “Doctor Who.” [Grade: B-]
“Arlene and Tim”: Well, if you”re gonna rip off McCarthy”s character in “Bridesmaids,” why wait, right? This sketch was all about McCarthy going for it in her character”s pursuit of an officemate, doing things that would have her “Bridesmaids” character Megan nodding in approval. What makes this work are the specifics with which Arlene tries to seduce Tim: it”s both incredibly filthy and yet incredibly naïve at the same point. It”s a testament to her likeability as an actress than even though she sexually harassed Jason Sudeikis throughout the sketch, the live crowd actually got sad when said crimes didn”t work. Plus? Anticipating this outcome, the sketch gave her a happy ending with her preferred office mate, a ponytail model with a similar fetish for Flo Rida knockoff songs. [Grade: B+]
“Stomp”: Some Lonely Island shorts represent the absolute acme of recent “SNL” seasons. Then there are shorts such as this, which make you wonder if anyone involved actually watched it before airing it. Using “Stomp” as a reference point is horribly outdated, and transferring a random homage into a “Godfather”-esque murder of the Blue Man Group didn”t help things. But the biggest problem with this short is that it didn”t take its own odd logic far enough. Why stop at just “Stomp” and Blue Man Group? I expected to see people riverdancing, bringin” in da noise and/or funk, etc. Big misfire here. The best Lonely Island sketches make you want to share it with friends. The worst feel like impenetrable inside jokes. [Grade: C-]
“The Comments Section”: Hey, it”s a sketch near and dear to my heart: a talk show about internet commenters! Too bad it starts off as a weird version of “H8R,” only with me actually rooting for the people shaming the guests on this show. After that, well, it”s just the lowest form of attacking commenters online. Just really, truly unimaginative writing here. Rather than come up with interesting perspectives or complicated relationships between writer/reader, it seems like “SNL” writers trying to mock people that slam them online for no longer being funny. Know what isn”t funny? This sketch. [Grade: D+]
“Rock”s Way”: JAY PHARAOH! He gets to do more than bring in balloons! I can finally stop tweeting #FreeJayPharoah for the time being. Even if all he does each episode is one pre-produced piece in which he gets to use his gift for mimicry, that”s fine for now. While I enjoyed his take on Chris Rock in classic Broadway plays, I also liked everyone in his fake casts breaking character to laugh at his stand-up. That killed me for some reason. Maybe because I”m looking for anything to laugh at right now. Also? We”re 35 minutes into the show, and have had seven different segments already. That has to be some kind of record. Too bad it”s quantity over quality at this point. [Grade: B]
Hey, it”s that band from my dad”s ring tone, Lady Antebellum! They are performing “We Own The Night.” I kinda doubt that title, unless said night takes place in a Target. I get really confused for a second during this performance, as one of their primary trio looks EXACTLY like Paul Brittain. Nothing wrong with this song, though Lady Antebellum aren”t my thing. Still, it”s a catchy song, and the crowd ate it up. [Grade: B]
Weekend Update: Seth Meyers introduces Gaddafi”s two best childhood friends to garner information about his current location. They gossip about him the way any of us would gossip about that one friend we don”t like. (And if you”re reading this, and wondering, yes, it”s you. It”s totally you.) After that, Kenan Thompson shows up as Tyler Perry, recently named the highest paid entertainer in the world (“Ha! I own Atlanta!”), but still having a huge chip on his shoulders. I am sure the box office receipts for “Tyler Perry”s Child, Why You Gotta Bother Me When My Feet So Weary” will ease his pain. Thompson”s segment took up the longest section of “Update,” but since it was the funniest part, I approve of the lopsided nature of his appearance. [Grade: B]
“Hidden Valley Ranch Product Testing”: Wow, we haven”t see McCarthy for almost thirty minutes. (I don”t think we”ve seen Wiig since the monologue. Interesting.) The sketch starts off slowly, but once a cash prize is introduced into the equation, her overly eager taster takes off. (“There”s a Hidden Valley Ranch party in MY mouth!”) I don”t know what life jams this character is in, but I doubt $50 is going to cover it. While the sketch doesn”t fully connect, it”s still great to watch a performer this confident delve into her characters with such commitment. Too often hosts are terrified by the live format and shrink into the background. McCarthy has no such qualms. I”d like to see January Jones eat ranch dressing off HER Leonard Nimoy shirt on live television. [Grade: B+]
TCM Movie Classics: I”m clearly loopy at this point, because in no way should Melissa McCarthy falling down stairs make me laugh this much. There”s absolutely no point to this sketch, but I”ll take “laughing” over “anything resembling sense” at this point in the evening. I call bits like this a “Toad The Wet Sprocket sketch”. Because much like my attitude towards that band, I like this sketch even though I harbor a not-so-secret fear that it”s actually terrible. [Grade: B]
Lady Antebellum is back with “Just a Kiss,” which is like “Need You Now” with 85% less raging hormones and booze. I should be paying attention to the performance, but I can”t stop looking at the Pippi Longstocking-lookalike in the background. That dude has some serious pigtails, you guys. Oh, the song? It”s “Need You Now” with slightly different lyrics. This will buy them their fourth or fifth home, whatever one is next on the group”s “to buy” list. [Grade: B]
“The Tap”: Classic 12:55 am sketch here, with a simple premise based on absurdist logic. Why would so many people show up to complain about this couple”s lovemaking? Who cares? It”s 12:55 am! I don”t need your Earth logic here. I want a world based on its own bizarre logic and see where it takes me. This one took me on a short jaunt for a couple that will probably be in jail for the things they are about to do once they leave that bar. Fine by me. [Grade: B]
Best Sketch: “Arlene and Tim”
Worst Sketch: “The Comments Section”
Biggest Surprise: Bobby Moynihan! That guy was everywhere tonight. And he”s been all but absent in 2011.
Overall Grade for McCarthy: B+
Overall Grade for Show: B-
Interesting show, in that very little was SO good or SO terrible as to truly stand out. Last year”s second show featured a certain ditty about sparkling apple juice that still lingers in my mind. I doubt I”ll remember a single thing about this episode come this time in 2012.
What did you think of tonight”s show? Were you surprised in a good or bad way by Wiig”s absence tonight? Did the amount of content make up for the lack of its overall quality? Which of the show”s performers are standing out so far for you this season? Sound off below!