I know, I know: you”re worried about Miley Cyrus hosting “Saturday Night Live.” But look at it this way: a lot of people were worried about Taylor Swift hosting, and that ended up being one of the strongest episodes in recent years. Plus, given this season”s tendency to make the host fit around the cast (as opposed to the other way around), it”s possible that her youth, singing voice, and hopefully game attitude will produce some interesting sketches.
Then again, it”s possible that the entire show will consist of “The Miley Cyrus Show,” a lot of Charlie Sheen sketches, plus The Strokes intermittently saving the day. Could go either way. I”m staying positive until showtime.
As always, I”ll be grading each sketch in real time. Onto the show!
“Duh! Winning!”: Bill Hader gets the role of Charlie Sheen, hosting his own talk show. Good get for him, until Sheen dies in the next five days, in which case let”s forget this happened. Other disgraced stars such as Christina Aguilera and John Galliano appear as well. Having this be a talk show is a pretty lazy way to attack the situation, though when Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi shows up claiming to dress like Humpty Hump from Digital Underground, things do pick up. Miley Cyrus actually shows up pre-monologue as Lindsey Lohan to almost no applause, then leaves almost instantly. Huh. Overall: harmless, but toothless. Nothing you haven”t already read on Twitter or Tumblr. [Grade: B-]
“Monologue”: Miley Cyrus sings a song about not being perfect, but it”s not self-depreciating so much as off-putting and defensive. I also count at least three instances of her literally begging for applause. It”s the monologue, and I may have to start drinking tiger blood to get through this episode. [Grade: C-]
“Baby Spanx”: Hey, it”s the commercial from the Emma Stone episode. Is there a law that bans the production of more than four fake commercials a year on the show now? [Grade: Redundant]
“Our Time with Taboo and apl.de.ap!” Another talk show, this time hosted by the lesser known members of the Black Eyed Peas? Why not! Andy Samberg is essentially doing a happier version of his Mark Wahlberg here, but that”s hardly a bad thing since Taboo comes off as innocently naïve in the process. Cyrus is asked to do little more than occasionally show up and scream Fergie-style, but that”s fine: the interplay between Kenan Thompson and Samberg is great, Abby Elliot gets to bust out her fantastic Khloe Kardashian, and most of the jokes were truly funny. (“I am from The Matrix!”) Great pick-me-up after a horrific start to the show. [Grade: A-]
“TCM Essentials: The Sound of Music”: Wow, Kristin Wiig looks eerily like Julie Andrews. Color me freaked out. The lost scenes this time around concern a Hispanic stand-up comedian inserted into into the von Trapp family. It”s about as funny as it sounds. Half of Armisen”s characters slay me, and the other half just kill the show dead. File this one under the latter category. Sigh. So much for comedic momentum. At least Cyrus got more than five seconds of time in a sketch. So, there”s that? [Grade: C-]
“Disney Channel Acting School”: It”s pre-produced, and pretty great. (Draw your own conclusions about the connection there.) Even if you don”t watch the Disney Channel, all of the references land pretty solidly, says that man that only knows of “iCarly” as a theoretical entity. (I particularly liked the examples “Peeking Through a Doorway” and “Entering on a Scooter.”) I”m guessing Cyrus, like Efron before her, has no worries about an assassin dressed as Mickey Mouse coming over to her pad after an “SNL” appearance. [Grade: B+]
“The Miley Cyrus Show”: As expected. Cyrus comes on as Justin Bieber (or as Amanda Bynes in “She”s The Man,” it”s initially unclear), complete with new ‘do and “Swagger Coach.” Her Bieber impression starts off strong, but the writers don”t have much in the tank in terms of variety for mocking The Biebster. At one point, it seems like Cyrus-as-Bieber was going to challenge the overall theme of the sketch, mocking the show”s mockery of Cyrus herself, but that didn”t amount to much of anything. Nor did the sketch as a whole. [Grade: C]
The Strokes take the stage, singing “Under Cover of Darkness.” Their hipster cool might alienate some, but I like the fact they both look and sound like rock stars. And THAT, unlike “The Miley Cyrus Show,” is pretty cool. It”s not as instantly catchy as tunes like “Reptilia,” but I”m chalking that up to that song being on my iPod for years, whereas this one”s a relatively new addition. Still: solid, solid stuff here. [Grade: A-]
“Weekend Update”: Plenty of Sheen stuff here, including a “Winners/Losers” segment that would have been right up David Spade”s alley back in his “Hollywood Minute” days. The Devil comes on to hate on the Westboro Baptist Church protestors, who are offensive even to him. (His take on gay people: “I hate ’em, but I can”t stay mad at ’em.”) Anthony Crispino comes on to give me a great time to leave the couch and contemplate my life instead of listening to his tired act. Fairly short, as far as “Update”s go. You”d think that with all the news this week, this segment would have been bursting at the seams. [Grade: C+]
“Les Jeunes de Paris”: Holy crap, THIS sketch gets a second go round? Don”t get me wrong: I”m surprised in the good way. It”s just so different from everything else the show does, and has more energy than just about every other thing the show does live, that I”d be happy to see this as often as they can find a wordless story to tell. This was even better than the first instance of the sketch, and one of the strongest moments of the entire season. Go on: throw water on me in the comments if you must. But there”s a focus, commitment, and execution in this little world that is almost peerless at this point. [Grade: A]
“Beastly”: I guess this is also a recurring thing now, where Samberg”s nerdy guy appears in trailers for other movies. (We saw him last in the parody of “The Roommate.”) Insanely short, but anything with the lines “Burn! Rango!” in it is OK by me. But I”m probably just humming the song from the last sketch and riding the high, which will inflate my grade for this. Oh well. History will judge. As it so often, and so cruelly, does. [Grade: B]
“Facial Cream and Rockabilly”: WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING? WHO SLIPPED ME DRUGS? I WANT MY MOM! I think the writers decided to make something weirder than the “Sparkling Apple Juice” sketch from earlier this year, and took a wrong turn from “weird” to “unwatchable”. Poor Kristin Wiig”s face screamed, “Save me, Judd Apatow. You”re my only hope.” [Grade: F]
The Strokes return, just in the nick of time, with the last track on their upcoming album “Angles”, entitled “Life is Simple in the Moonlight.” Trying to decipher Julian Casablancas” lyrics is a pretty futile effort, both from his low register and his valiant attempts to hide his mouth behind the microphone for the entire song. The chorus had much more color than the verses, with a change of both timbre and tempo. It didn”t grab me like “Darkness”, but still infinitely better than hearing “Party in the USA.” [Grade: B]
“Ginger Rangers”: Cyrus plays an entertainer on an elderly cruise, hating her life and her job. Other than one woman requesting “My Heart Will Go On, by Titanic,” no laughs here. Just a spoiled woman mocking old people trying to enjoy their vacation. Maybe there”s some dark humor to be mined here, but not by pointing out these people are “gross.” Go all in or just do another Charlie Sheen sketch. (Speaking of, we”ve barely seen Hader all night. Tragedy.) [Grade: D]
“Gurney Month on CBS”: A parody promo, featuring a nameless voice using stock footage from shows on another network. Too bad that song in “Paris” wasn”t one minute longer, saving us from this unnecessary piece. [Grade: D]
MVP Sketch: “Les Jeunes de Paris”,
Worst Sketch: “Facial Cream and Rockabilly”
Biggest Non-Surprise: Squeezing Charlie Sheen jokes into half of the night”s sketches, even though social media has made the window that “SNL” used to be able to exploit almost non-existent at this point
What did you think of Ms. Cyrus? Did she acquit herself, or did the writing do her a disservice? Should Taboo and apl.de.ap earn the repeat performance that so many other sketches did tonight? And did The Strokes rock your world or have you reaching for the remote? Sound off below!