‘SNL’ Recap: Tina Fey And Arcade Fire (And Aaron Paul)

Tina Fey is one of the most beloved, admired, and respected SNL cast members of all-time, but the thing to remember is: with the exception of Weekend Update, she didn’t have much of an on-screen presence. With few impressions and even fewer characters, Fey was Sarah Palin…and not much else. This isn’t a criticism — she was hired as a writer, and eventually became head writer when Adam McKay departed, and had better things to do than play Background Dancer #4 for Andy Roddick (although she did that, too) — but it might explain why most of her characters from last night could be described as “Tina Fey-esque,” if she wasn’t already playing “Tina Fey” herself.

Fey was asked to host the premiere to usher in a new era for SNL, one with six new cast members and without Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and Jason Sudeikis. Her mere presence was reassuring, and she often held back, letting others own the spotlight in a fine episode that felt too safe and unable to surprise. Except for Blerta. Long live Blerta.

Cold Open

An inauspicious beginning to an uncertain season. Not even Kate McKinnon (WE DEMAND MORE KATE MCKINNON) or Aaron Paul could save this corpse of a cold open choking on its own vomit. OK, that may have been a bit harsh, but didja hear the Breaking Bad finale is on tonight? Sorry we haven’t covered it more.


Meet the newbies: Beck Bennett, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, Mike O’Brien, Noël Wells, and Brooks Wheelan. Before long, you’ll be praising some of them, choosing favorites based on which one drops the first The Wire reference, and irrationally wishing others would crawl back into the pit that brought us Gary Kroeger. CAN’T WAIT.


Easily the best sketch of the night. Just as I haven’t been able to look at Homeland‘s Carrie Mathison the same after Anne Hathaway’s weepy impression last season, Lena Dunham will now forever be “weak and soft and dressed like baby.” Blerta is the best thing that’s ever happened to Brooklyn, in all her heavy eyebrow glory.

New Cast Member or Arcade Fire?

Lorne Michaels got one of the episode’s biggest laugh with, “Is it the black one?” I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not. I don’t recall SNL ever acknowledging a new batch of cast members as head on as it did with “New Cast Member or Arcade Fire?” — it was sketch comedy exposition, needed, if a little tiring. Also, the Black One, a.k.a. Kenan, did a fine job as a game show host, but he’s no Bill Hader. No one is.



Weekend Update

The reason Cecily Strong was anointed to be the first female Weekend Update anchor since Tina Fey and Amy Poehler is because of the instant rapport she had with Seth Meyers with Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party. They bounce off each other very well, and in her co-host debut, Strong laid on the voices a little thick, but otherwise did a presentable job, with good timing and a weird admiration for OJ Simpson. There were also two characters: Kyle Mooney’s Bruce Chandling, who could be Fred Armisen Anti-Humor Character #45 (not a good thing), and, of course, a particularly prickly Drunk Uncle, with special guest, Meth Nephew.

Cinema Classics

You know: they lost me with the set up, brought me back with the wonky-eyed bear, and won me over with the squirrel dressed as a basketball. “Cinema Classics” was the requisite “Awful Thing That I Actually Enjoyed Because It’s 12:15 a.m. And I’ve Got a Flight to Catch at 6 a.m. And That Squirrel Thinks He’s People” sketch.

Rick Model T’s

And the leader in the New SNL Cast Member Power Rankings is: Mike O’Brien, thanks to his performance as a “crazy” car salesman from the black-and-white past with a literally crazy wife. Tina’s empty, dark reading of lines like, “I gave all my babies to the well” was superb, too. Blerta’s American ancestor?

Manolo Blahnik

The ex-porn stars are my favorite recurring characters since Vance and Stefon, which reminds me: I’m pretty sure I saw Stefon at the Glass Blumpkin last night. Did someone say who let the dogs out?

Arcade Fire

It’s best to close your eyes when Arcade Fire is performing. Don’t look at the “eccentric” pants, or confusing Lone Ranger/Michael Stipe eye makeup, or Régine Chassagne being trapped in a glass case of emotion — just listen to songs like the massive dance-off “Refkletor” (courtesy of James Murphy’s indie-disco production), and enjoy SO hard. (And in case you didn’t watch the post-SNL special, you missed Bono, Ben Stiller, James Franco, Rainn Wilson, Bill Hader, Zach Galifianakis, Aziz Ansari, and Michael Cera.)