Here we are at the end of another season of “Saturday Night Live,” aka “the latest season that just proved for most people the show isn”t what it used to be, even though that particular version of the show only lives in selective, imperfect memory in the first place.” Pulling double duty tonight is host/musical guest Mick Jagger. Accompanying Jagger musically will be Jeff Beck, The Foo Fighters and Arcade Fire. That”s like “The Avengers” of guitar-based rock. And yes, I just saw “The Avengers” tonight for the second time, so I might accuse a lot of sketches tonight of lacking conviction. Just thought I”d preface that up front.
Once more unto the recapping breach!
The Lawrence Welk Show: Oh God. Well, this sketch pretty much confirms Kristen Wiig is leaving, no? Here to soften the blow is Jon Hamm, as an Italian crooner complete with overbearing mother. Listen to the crowd each time Wiig does something: It sure sounds like the in-house crowd is in on the departure. The mood is infectious, however, as this iteration of a normally weak sketch feels fairly invigorated. It helps to have Hamm be so game for the proceedings as well and OH GOD HER HAND IS IN HIS MOUTH! Well, now I know what I”ll be having nightmares about over the summer. [Grade: B+]
Monologue: Man, this crowd is alive tonight. Did Mick Jagger buy them all prostitutes during the cold open? He”s here to do a “Mick Jagger FAQ,” answering all the questions normally asked of him. He has an easy charm, which isn”t surprising in the least. I mean, chemistry”s sort of his thing, right? I”ve always hated the “I can”t hear you!” shtick at concerts, so I”m happy to have him skewer it during his monologue. Nothing too flashy here, but I imagine this is just a slight pause in what will be a series of showcases sketches for cast members about to leave the show. [Grade: B]
Secret Word: Stop the series: I want to get off. If Wiig leaving means this sketch will get taken out in a back alley and shot in the head, I guess this helps dull the pain. Jagger makes his first sketch appearance, apparently playing a barely disguised Charles Nelson Reilly. Just for fun, “SNL” throws in a double entendre left over from the “Jeopardy!” sketches, with the “c” in “canal” making Mindy think the word is…well, you know. Why not have her complete a successful round, if this was the last time? Just for fun? I don”t know. The best thing about this? It was mercifully short, as far as these sketches go. Good riddance, “Secret Word.” [Grade: C-]
Karaoke Champ: It”s Karaoke Night for an insurance conference, with several cast members doing increasingly awful Mick Jagger impressions. See…it”s funny because…well, that”s MICK JAGGER onstage as well! He gets exasperated, which leaves him alone onstage to perform a semi-intentionally awful version of “Satisfaction.” OK, I”ll ask: how many Jagger entourage members are there in the audience? It sounds like a bunch of PR hacks laughing overly hard at every joke. Heck, I heard a loud “Awww!” when Jagger”s character was abandoned. It”s weird, right? [Grade: C+]
Lazy Sunday 2: Last week, I thought we might have seen the last of the Digital Shorts. But it makes sense to round the series out by harkening back to where it all began in the public mind. This iteration was good, but also a pale shadow of the original. Ninety percent of what made the original so fresh is that it essentially invented a new type of language for comedic short film production, in addition to being so unexpected. “LS2” built upon that language with better visuals and crisper editing, but little of the original charm. Rapping about “The Chronicles of Narnia” was an inspired choice. Rapping about “Sister Act: The Musical” seems like a long way to go for a “That”s So Raven!” joke. I can watch Chris Parnell rap for hours on end, and it”s nice to see Samberg get in a dig at YouTube. But while it seems THIS is the actual end of The Lonely Island digital shorts, I kind of wish last week had been the true capper. [Grade: B]
Politics Nation: Al Sharpton interviews a high-ranking head of J.P. Morgan, played by Jagger. But God forbid the host get in a full sketch, so we”re soon onto other guests such as Mayor Bloomberg and a seafood cannery worker. But the primary joke of the sketch centers around Sharpton”s inability to read cue cards. God, when “The Lawrence Welk Show” is the current highlight, you know the show needs a long vacation. [Grade: C-]
Mick Jagger takes the stage to perform “The Last Time”, backed up by The Arcade Fire. And, unsurprisingly, it sounds freakin” great. I wouldn”t mind a tour in which Arcade Fire serves as The Hawks” to Jagger”s Bob Dylan. That won”t happen, but a man can dream. It”s more than a little shocking “SNL” can”t channel Jagger”s energy, enthusiasm, and inherent theatricality into an actual sketch. [Grade: A]
Weekend Update: It”s a short update, with only one special guest. But it”s the only one I actually want. Stefon comes by to offer up some fun places for families to enjoy the summer. And poor Bill Hader doesn”t have a chance with the cue cards given to him at the last minute by John Mulaney. And hey, who doesn”t want to go to a party with Jewish fireworks with “A Woman With Nowhere To Turn!” There”s no way this character should still be funny, and I sense we”re approach the end of this nearly perfect run with him. Still, you have to admire the way the writing and performance for Stefon is consistently great in a way that “SNL” seemingly cannot replicate in any other aspect of its production. [Grade: B+, A- for Stefon himself]
So You Think You Can Dance At An Outdoor Music Festival: Have we seen Bill Hader do Dave Matthews before? He”s great, which comes as no surprise. And he is joined by judges Santana, Jewel, and Jagger”s Steven Tyler. This is a fantastic idea for a sketch, and each dance is well-conceived and well-executed. (I may or may not have done BobbyMoynihan”s finger point dance once or thrice in my life.) Plus? Any sketch with Phish”s “Sample In A Jar” is OK in my books. If there”s a flaw in the sketch, it”s Jagger”s impression of Tyler. Now I”m even more self-conscious of my fake British accent than ever before. My wife sitting next me just said, “This is one of the few sketches I wish had gone on longer,” and I think I agree. More dancing, coupled with less judging, would have yielded a higher grade. Still, fun stuff. [Grade: B+]
Foo Fighters join Jagger for a rendition of “19th Nervous Breakdown.” Whereas Arcade Fire seemed to match Jagger”s energy, the Foo Fighters seem to be outpacing him a bit. It”s not bad, but it”s chaotic in a way that feels like two energies colliding in slightly off-kilter ways. Just when it seems like the whole thing will careen off-track, the band quickly segues into “It”s Only Rock ‘n Roll”. This is a much better match of band and singer, with the snarling guitars augmenting Jagger”s sinewy performance. The song stretches out to a surprising length, but it never feels too long. Sure, Jagger can”t hit the high notes anymore. But can you? Exactly. [Grade: B]
The Californians: Wow. Didn”t expect this to get a repeat sketch. Jagger plays the long-long father to Armisen”s lead character…and for most of this sketch, I”m just really sad Casey Wilson still isn”t on the show. She”d kill this material. Her “A-mah-zing” on “Happy Endings” would fit right in. It seems as if “SNL” realized this was a terribly dull sketch, and thus brought in Steve Martin to extend this already interminable sketch even longer. I think I was clean-shaven when it started, and now I look like the Unabomber. [Grade: C-]
Jagger takes the stage to perform with Jeff Beck. I started to Google the lyrics, until I realized it”s a standard blues riff with contemporary political lyrics. Is it a musical performance? A sketch? A satire? It”s unclear. All I know is that it looks like Lisa Shay from “Suburgatory” is playing the bass. So I LOVE it. (I kid. It”s Tal Wilkenfeld, and she”s a freakin” incredible bass player.) I don”t know the purpose of the segment, why Beck agreed to do it, or why Jagger/Beck couldn”t have just done a straight-up blues classic. It”s a fantastically confusing few minutes of television, and I”m worried someone slipped me a lot of drugs in the recent past. Stefon? I”m looking at you, buddy. [Grade: C+]
Graduation Day: It”s a good-bye for Wiig, and she gets to dance off with each cast member while Arcade Fire performs “She”s a Rainbow.” It”s a lovely little grace note for someone who will go down as one of the all-time best on the show. Even if recent years haven”t been her best, there”s no denying her place in the pantheon. Jason Sudeikis and Andy Samberg are the last among the cast members to hug her, followed by Lorne Michaels himself. As the band shifts into “Ruby Tuesday,” former cast members come on to pay their respects as well. I kind of love how sloppy it was, almost as if no one wanted to rehearse. After all, doing so would have been admitting the end of era. [Grade: N/A]
Best Sketch: The Lawrence Welk Show
Worst Sketch: Secret Word
Worst Kept Secret: Jason Sudeikis has to be gone as well, even though there”s no announcement yet. He was a mess during that final segment.
Overall Impressions of The Season: I”m looking over past recaps this season, and it was a fairly middling one over all. There were very few truly terrible top-to-bottom shows, but very few home runs either. The Emma Stone and Maya Rudolph shows stands out as highlights, with Charlie Day and Jonah Hill participating in surprisingly inert outings. We didn”t get hosting gigs from either Jon Hamm or Justin Timberlake, but got multiple appearances from both anyways. If I had to give a “Most Surprising” performance, it would have to go to Eli Manning, which absolutely kills me to say it. He wasn”t the best host, but defied expectations to such a degree that I couldn”t help but be impressed.
Overall Predictions For Next Season: Wiig, Sudeikis, Samberg are gone. Those three seem obvious. Next on the list: Jay Pharaoh, who might have already been let go had Paul Brittain”s departure a few months ago not thrown a monkey wrench into that plan. Stepping into the spotlight in a big way next year? Taran Killam and Nasim Pedrad. Also stepping up? Vanessa Bayer. The biggest wild card? Abby Elliot, who has garnered interest outside the show but has also seen those projects fizzle. She could be off the show come this Fall or its biggest star come January. Neither situation would surprise me in the least. My biggest hope? That whomever joins the cast in the Fall diversifies the show. Diversification can mean race, gender, sexuality, to be sure. But it also refers to perspective in this case. The show needs new blood, but it”s in more dire need of new voices.
What did you think of tonight”s Jagger-centric show? How did it measure up to the season as a whole? How many of my predictions do you think will come true? How many run counter to your instincts? Sounds off below!