-- The first season finale in a long time without a Hardball sketch as the cold opening. But those sketches are pretty much officially dead now and AC 360 is obviously being groomed as the new Hardball.
-- Seth’s Anderson Cooper was a little less bland this time and he had some good lines and reactions to the guests. He’s slowly improving.
-- Kenan was the funniest part of this.
-- Darrell’s Arnold impression still sucks, but his whole spiel about crossing boarders was really funny.
-- Rachel was okay, but a little too random and she was basically just playing her Boston Teens character. I assume they put her in here to say LFNY since this is supposedly her last show.
[MONOLOGUE] Kevin Spacey
-- I was disappointed at first to see them doing yet another singing monologue, but Spacey made this work
[SKETCH] Two A-Holes at a Crime Scene
-- The usual good A-Holes sketch. Jason and Kristen continue to be perfect in these.
-- The “He looked like a rabbit” line is starting to get old, though.
-- Spacey was a perfect straight-man here and I loved his reactions into the camera.
-- The ending was kinda weak.
[SKETCH/COMMERCIAL] Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball Special
-- Maya’s Oprah was a little better vocally this time around.
-- Kenan having to dress as two different women for one sketch was funny in itself. As was his mouthing “Hey, man, what the f---?!” as Maya Angelou.
-- I still can’t stand Darrell’s Travolta impression. It’s just him doing a variation of his Clinton voice and since when does Travolta sound like that? If this turns out to be Darrell’s last episode, it’s odd that he’s going out with his two weakest impressions (Travolta and Arnold).
-- The Tom Cruise/Katie Cruise-Hubbard part was good for a laugh, and SNL’s waited more than long enough to parody those two.
[SKETCH] That Fat Dumb Bitch Carol
-- For the love of God, no. I did my usual turn-away-from-the-TV-and-check-my-email during this sketch. I just hope the only reason they did this tonight is because it’s Horatio’s last show. Please, God, please.
[TV FUNHOUSE] All-New Presidential Outtakes
-- One-joke, but got funnier as it went on, especially Larry King spitting out his lung along with his ice cream sundae (that had me dying), and the presidential seal eagle doing a spittake and swearing at Bush.
[MISCELLANEOUS] Andy’s Excuse
-- A slow start and I was wondering where this was going at first, but it was worth it because once it became obvious this was a Usual Suspects parody, this turned out hilarious and the camera showing all the visuals where Andy got his story from.
-- Yet another Jorma sighting. I agree with everyone else saying that he has a good chance to be added as a featured player next season and I would love that, but at the same time, Lorne might feel a little weird having 2/3rds of the Lonely Island in the SNL cast so they might not add him just for that reason. It would almost be like if they had Kevin McDonald, Dave Foley, Scott Thompson, or Bruce McCullogh also in the cast during the years when Mark McKinney was on. This isn’t a bad thing, though, and hopefully, Lorne will go through with it anyway.
[WEEKEND UPDATE] Fey & Poehler, Hicks, Houston
-- Best jokes: DaVinci Code, cockfighting, and Pink Taco.
-- It was great to see Jason’s Taylor Hicks impression back. His bit was very funny like last time.
-- Nice to see the Women’s News segment back after a long hiatus, although to nitpick, I’m pretty sure I remember them doing several Women’s News bits with Tina back in the day, so this wasn’t the second one like Amy said.
-- I pretty much knew this was Tina’s last episode as soon as they showed a clip from her very first Update. The tribute song from Whitney Houston and Tina’s wave to the camera and big hug to Amy at the end just cinched it even more.
-- The characters brought on during the song were hilarious, and it was a treat to finally see Frondi brought back, who was one of my favorite one-shot characters in recent years. Hopefully, they’ll use him in an actual sketch again sometime.
-- An actual good Update overall, and a good one for Tina to end her tenure with. A lot of SNL fans including me have been harsh on her for her recent work on Update in the last 2 or 3 seasons, but it’s because of how badly downhill she went from how good she used to be. She started out as a very strong anchor back in 2000 and was always funny and clever (as proven by that old clip they showed), but somewhere around the 03-04 season, she seemed to change a lot and her style started getting worn out, and these last 2 years with her and Amy were just not good at all. With Jimmy Fallon’s departure 2 years ago and now Tina being gone, this is now the end of an era for Weekend Update, and will hopefully mean that long-needed major changes will finally happen at the desk. Amy needs to be booted far away from Update (she’ll probably resign on her own anyway since I can’t see her wanting to continue doing Update without Tina), and we should go back to a one-anchor format. A lot of people are suggesting that Jason do it, and I’ll have to go along with that sentiment. He’d be good and has that serious, deadpan-in-a-funny-way news anchor type delivery that we haven’t seen at the desk for a long time. Throw in a brand-new Update set as well, and we’ll have the perfect overhaul Weekend Update’s been hurting for.
[SKETCH] The Falconer
-- Good lord, this was absolutely insane and off-the-wall and I was laughing my ass off at every second it. I love the Falconer sketches, but it was good to see them do something completely different with it, and seeing castmember after castmember playing the Falconer was just a riot (Kenan had me laughing the hardest).
-- I wish they put Tina in this since her absence prevented this from being a full cast sketch, and it’s not everyday you see a sketch like that when you have 16 freaking castmembers so that would’ve been amazing to see. Plus, you’d figure she would want to be in a sketch for her last show.
-- I wonder if this means this is the last Falconer sketch. Nice to retire a sketch before it gets stale, I suppose. I highly doubt this means Will himself is leaving, though, like others are speculating because why would he leave after only 4 years?
[DIGITAL SHORT] Andy Walking
-- This was really silly and one-joke, but still cracked me up and Andy looks so goofy when he laughs that it’s infectious. Still, a bit below standards for a Digital Short, but if this is the weakest they have to offer, then I’m okay with that.
[SKETCH] Phillip Sarc and the Dawn of Sarcasm
-- A very good sketch and this was a character that stone-faced Spacey was born to play.
-- Oddly enough, this is the first time Parnell’s ever dressed in drag on SNL even though he’s been on 7 years. Interesting way of celebrating which may be your last episode.
[SKETCH/COMMERCIAL] I Do Not Agree With Many of This Administrations Policies
-- The “subtle” anti-Bush titles and lyrics were pretty funny and this was a good sketch to close the season out with.
-- Sadly, this was Spacey’s only celebrity impression tonight. Compared to all the hilarious impressions he did last time he hosted, this is a little disappointing.
-- I’m not sure which singer Andy was playing, but his voice made me laugh. For some reason, his guitar playing and high-pitched voice reminded me of Adam Sandler.
-- See ya, Tina. Can’t say all of her years on the show were all good or that I’m sad to see her leave now, but I’ll give her credit for the good things she’s done for SNL over the years and I hope she does well with her career in the future.
-- If this is Rachel’s last show, too, (I’m not 100% sure about this but I checked at the Rachel Dratch messageboard and according to them, it is) then I’ll miss her a little more; she had a pretty consistently good run on the show and this was the right time for her to leave.
-- It was very nice to see them end the season will the full uncut goodnights for a change.
-- The Falconer
-- Andy’s Excuse
-- Two A-Holes at a Crime Scene
-- Phillip Sarc and the Dawn of Sarcasm
-- Anderson Cooper 360
-- Taylor Hicks, Women’s News, and the recurring characters during Tina’s tribute song on Weekend Update
-- The Larry King part of TV Funhouse
-- Darrell’s Arnold and Travolta impressions
-- The lack of celebrity impressions from Spacey
-- A not-as-strong-as-usual Digital Short (although it was still funny)
OVERALL THOUGHTS: A pretty good episode and a nice close to an overall decent season. Kevin Spacey may not have brought down the house with a huge number of dead-on impressions like in his last episode, but he was still very good in all his roles and did a great job. He’s welcome back to the show again anytime.
OVERALL RATING: ***1/2
CASTMEMBER COUNT DOWN:
ARMISEN: 3 sketches [Weekend Update | The Falconer | Phillip Sarc and the Dawn of Sarcasm]
DRATCH: 4 sketches [Anderson Cooper 360 | Weekend Update | The Falconer | I Do Not Agree With Many of This Administrations Policies]
FEY: 1 sketch [Weekend Update]
FORTE: 1 sketch [The Falconer]
HAMMOND: 4 sketches [Anderson Cooper 360 | Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball Special | The Falconer | Phillip Sarc and the Dawn of Sarcasm]
MEYERS: 5 sketches [Anderson Cooper 360 | Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball Special | Carol | The Falconer | Phillip Sarc and the Dawn of Sarcasm]
MITCHELL: 3 sketches [Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball Special | Weekend Update | The Falconer]
PARNELL: 5 sketches [Two A-Holes at a Crime Scene | Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball Special | The Falconer | Phillip Sarc and the Dawn of Sarcasm | I Do Not Agree With Many of This Administrations Policies]
POEHLER: 5 sketches [Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball Special | Carol | Weekend Update | The Falconer | I Do Not Agree With Many of This Administrations Policies]
RUDOLPH: 4 sketches [Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball Special | Weekend Update | The Falconer | I Do Not Agree With Many of This Administrations Policies]
SANZ: 3 sketches [Carol | Weekend Update | The Falconer]
THOMPSON: 3 sketches [Anderson Cooper 360 | Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball Special | The Falconer]
HADER: 2 sketches [The Falconer | Phillip Sarc and the Dawn of Sarcasm]
SAMBERG: 4 sketches [Andy’s Excuse | The Falconer | Andy Walking | I Do Not Agree With Many of This Administrations Policies]
SUDEIKIS: 4 sketches [Two A-Holes at a Crime Scene | Carol | Weekend Update | The Falconer]
WIIG: 2 sketches [Two A-Holes at a Crime Scene | The Falconer]
2005-2006 YEAR IN-REVIEW:
Top 5 Best Episodes:
1. Jack Black / Neil Young
2. Steve Martin / Prince
3. Julia Louis-Dreyfus / Paul Simon
4. Alec Baldwin / Shakira
5. Matt Dillon / Arctic Monkeys
Top 5 Worst Episodes:
1. Peter Sarsgaard / The Strokes
2. Jason Lee / Foo Fighters
3. Scarlett Johansson / Death Cab for Cutie
4. Antonio Banderas / Mary J. Blige
5. Lance Armstrong / Sheryl Crow
Top 5 Best Hosts:
1. Alec Baldwin
2. Steve Martin
3. Jack Black
4. Tom Hanks
5. (tie) Julia Louis-Dreyfus / Natalie Portman
Top 3 Worst Hosts:
1. Peter Sarsgaard
2. Lance Armstrong
3. Jon Heder
Top 10 Best Sketches:
1. Lazy Sunday
2. Spelling Bee
3. Vincent Price’s Thanksgiving Special 1958
4. MySpace Seminar
5. Anderson Cooper 360: Celebrities Rebuild New Orleans
6. (tie) The Real Natalie Portman / The Tangent
7. Kanye West backstage
8. Glengarry Glen Elves
9. (tie) Duluth Live / The Falconer goes back in time
Best Performance: Judy Garland (Vincent Price’s Thanksgiving Special 1958)
Runner-Up: Jean (Co-Workers at a Bar)
Worst Performance: Target Cashier
THE 2005-2006 SEASON OVERALL:
When the season began, I could already see a slight improvement from the dismal 04-05 season in the first 2 episodes (Carell and Heder). The show still had a lot of problems, but the sketches were becoming a little consistently funnier, the show had a bit of a different feel and did some new things, the two newcomers Hader and Samberg were showing loads of promise and actually getting decent airtime, and you could sense that this wasn’t going to be another 04-05. However, after the first two shows, things slowed down a bit as show went through a bit of a slump from the Zeta Jones show to the Longoria show. Of the 4 shows in that slump, only the Jason Lee show was bad enough to seem like something of 04-05 quality (or non-quality), but the other three shows were pretty mediocre and didn’t have too much stuff to brag about like the first two shows of the season did. But then December arrived and the good vibes from the Carell and Heder shows came back even stronger as December was a great month for SNL. From the very good and surprising Dane Cook show, to the typically great Alec Baldwin show, to the Jack Black show which is practically a modern classic, the show got better and better every week that month. And from that point on, the rest of the season was pretty good in general; there were only a few of the typical weak episodes (Sarsgaard, Banderas), yet only a couple of the good episodes could match the December episodes in greatness, but most of the stuff from January to May was actually pretty good and washed away the sour feel of 04-05.
The show’s main problem this season and a part of the show that had not seen improvement was Weekend Update. Update had the same basic problems as last season; Tina’s humor and delivery changed from biting and funny to old and tired, Amy still seemed out-of-place and too silly and animated behind the desk, the jokes were mostly forgettable at best, and the commentaries from guests were usually the only hopes for any real laughs. With Tina leaving the show, next season of Update will hopefully go through a complete makeover and go back to being the sharp, clever news parody it once was.
Overall, this has been the most consistently good season since 01-02, although that year was still funnier. But the writing got better from the last few seasons, the show took more chances, the cast tried harder and seemed more confident, the host selection improved and we got more veteran hosts, and even the show’s political sketches are slowly getting back to its biting, clever self. This was a transitional season and next season of SNL will get even better if they continue the improvements they made and bid adieu to all the veterans of the cast that need to go and are bringing down the show (oh, and you, too, Finesse).
The two biggest assets to this season were, without a doubt, the addition of Digital Shorts and the 4 new featured players. Sudeikis started very late in 04-05 but didn’t get to show his talent until the beginning of this season. He’s has excellent straight man skills, funny impressions, and great, energetic character work. He’s been the most consistent of the 4 newcomers in both airtime and performances, and he may have potential to be the new leading man of the cast. Hader’s airtime this season was inconsistent but whenever he was given something to actually do, he was always very funny. He seems very talented with his dead-on impressions, good straight man stills and delivery, variety of voices, and I also notice he has a bit of a classical approach to humor. In fact, he sometimes gives me a Dan Aykroyd vibe, which is very good for the show. Everyone was iffy on Samberg in the first few months and at times he really seemed to be struggling pretty badly for airtime and almost headed down Rob Riggle path, but then the classic Lazy Sunday came and basically saved his ass. Since then, he got a lot more attention, a lot more fans, and his screen time for the rest of the season became a little more consistent. He still seems pretty limited in his range and he mostly plays goofy roles, but for him, that’s not really a bad thing. His goofy roles usually always get laughs and he might turn out to be like Adam Sandler, who excelled at silly humor on SNL, too. Wiig impressed everyone early on with her dead-on and funny Megan Mullally and Judy Garland impressions. Since then, she’s continued to do a mostly good job with a few more dead-on impressions and good character work like the A-Holes and Co-Workers at a Bar. She just needs to stay away from the unfunny Mad TV/Mo Collins-esque roles like Target Lady and she’s good. These 4 performers have added a new energy to the SNL cast and with them as the future of the show, things are looking to be in very good hands.
The Digital Shorts were also a very welcome new addition to the show. They were the most creative thing about this season of SNL and have given the show a ton of buzz and attention. Lazy Sunday speaks for itself and has been the main reason for the popularity of the shorts, but there have also been plenty of other memorable Digital Shorts, from Natalie’s Rap to Doppelgangers to The Tangent to Laser Cats. SNL and, in particular, The Lonely Island crew have struck a goldmine with these and I hope we continue to get more fresh, creative, and hilarious shorts next season.
In conclusion, here is my wish list for next season’s returning cast:
MEYERS--maybe (No offense to any huge Seth fans reading this, but IMO, he could easily just stick to behind the scenes as a head writer without performing on the show anymore and I don’t think too many people would be affected by his on-air absence. He almost seems to be headed this way with his decreasing airtime as this year went on.)
SAMBERG (possibly still only a FP, although his live non-Digital Short performances have improved in the last few shows of the season)
With possibly Jorma Taccone and Liz Cackowski promoted to featured player status and maybe one more new castmember hired from outside SNL.