'SNL' Recap: Seth MacFarlane And Frank Ocean

Senior Pop Culture Editor
09.16.12 63 Comments

To call my feelings for Seth MacFarlane conflicted would be an understatement, like that time I invited Tony Clifton and a tit mouse over for a Quinceañera. [eyes glaze over for 20 seconds] On one hand, MacFarlane, who occasionally seems like the kind of Boston transplant who you’d want to dunk in a pool of green beer and rotten cabbage, is the creator of Family Guy, a once-quality series that has, with one or two exceptions a season (like “Back to Pilot”), become one of the laziest shows on TV.

On the other, he’s also the guy who gave us the woefully underrated American Dad!, and more specifically, Steve and Roger. I wasn’t sure which MacFarlane would show up hosting SNL, though I was 100% sure The Cleveland Show would not be mentioned.

Much to my surprise, and general happiness, the (mostly) good MacFarlane showed up. SNL‘s season premiere (its 38th!) wasn’t a classic, but it wasn’t a dud, either; as per usual, there were three or four solid sketches surrounded by mediocrity. Nothing was brilliant (though Bill Hader speaking about his days as a solider via a puppet was close), only one was awful — even that late “Look, I’m like…” bit had Nasim Pedrad, which is always a good thing. Plus, hey, there wasn’t a single sketch involving a talking bear! Consider it a success.

It’s just nice to see a black guy playing our black president, y’know? Those Armisen-as-Obama days already seem like a long-ago nightmare. Anyway, this was a strong start to the season, with Jay Pharoah unsurprisingly nailing all of Obama’s mannerisms and Jason Sudeikis’s Mitt Romney extolling the virtues of that snappy new song, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”

The surest bet of the night: MacFarlane singing during the cold open. But why didn’t he impersonate Roger?

“Please go out with me, Farrah Fawcett?”

WHY WAS THIS THE FIRST REAL SKETCH OF THE NIGHT? YOU HAD AN ENTIRE SUMMER TO THINK OF A STELLAR IDEA, AND THIS WAS THE BEST YOU COULD COME UP WITH, SNL? RODGER BRUSH WASN’T FUNNY THE FIRST FOUR TIMES YOU USED THE CHARACTER. I was wondering how long it’d take for me to get into my first all-caps rant. I should have known the answer would involve Fred Armisen and anti-comedy. He’s my Kenan.

Eastwood and Chair > Trouble With the Curve, which I’m convinced was written after a debate between two white guys in their 50s, with the one white guy betting $10,000 that the other white guy couldn’t write an entire movie in which every line of a dialogue is a cliché or sports metaphor. After shaking hands, they then had a circle jerk session over a Mitch Albom book.

Best of the night. Thank you, Bill Hader.

This isn’t a knock on “Gangnam Style,” which is fantastic and will now be in your head for another 18 days, but…I dunno, this sketch felt kind of pointless. It was SNL pandering to the Internet crowd, without actually crafting a good joke around the cultural phenomenon that was being covered. So, Psy — being played by decidedly non-Asian Bobby Moynihan — makes people happy? Yes, and? Relevant.

Now this is how you cover a sensation: by mocking the sh*t out of it. MacFarlane was in fine form all episode, but this was an impersonation masterpiece. He nailed Ryan Lochte’s proud dimness and never broke character; “Oh man, it feels so weird to be dry” was a personal favorite. If only Ryan’s lovely sister had been brought out, too.

When reached for comment, Mama Boo Boo responded:

But seriously, good job, Vanessa Bayer, who’s presumably being groomed to be the next Kristen Wiig.

More impressive than funny, MacFarlane pulled off a character — a stuttering drill sergeant — that most other guests wouldn’t have been able to. One note: why was there such a lack of Taran Killam, who many expect big things from this season, in the episode? Was it because MacFarlane was playing the roles he’d usually get?


Yup, channel ORANGE, still very good.

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