Cold Opening - The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer
• Jason's occasional mumbling as Blitzer always makes me laugh.
• Kind of a dull cold opening, and yet another run-of-the-mill political one. Parts of this dragged on, but Fred was able to get in a few funny moments.
• The bit towards the end with Bill and Fred making fun of Will in foreign language and him not being able to understand was the best part for me.
Monologue - Charles Barkley
• Barkley actually did a pretty good job here in the monologue and had several funny lines. His comments to the female audience member (nice to see Jessi Klein make her on-screen SNL debut) and to the “black nerd” were good.
• I enjoyed Kenan's brief appearance, too, and it was a nice way to do the inevitable “Kenan as Barkley next to the real Barkley” bit without having Kenan actually play him.
Commercial - Thomas Peepers Insurance
• I remember reading this got cut after dress from, I think, the previous episode.
• Bill was a good creepy pitchman and I got a strong Dan Aykroyd-esque vibe from him in this; I kept picturing Aykroyd doing this same bit if this was on SNL in the 70's.
• My favorite part was probably when Bill was looking through the window right directly in front of Kristen's face and she didn't even notice him.
Sketch - Reel Quotes
• Yet another gameshow parody, but at least this was set in modern time.
• Barkley gave his best performance of the night here and he had lots of great lines throughout this sketch, mainly the “You can't handle my privates”, bigger ocean, and “You shouldn't be looking at kids” comments.
• Kristen's long-winded answers, on the other hand, were just unfunny and got annoying after a while. And I'm not saying this because of my bias against Kristen Wiig; the material she was given here just wasn't funny. Even if Nasim, Jenny, Abby or whatever played this same role, it still would've fallen flat with me.
• Was Bill supposed to have a hard time tearing up the card at the end?
Mini-Sketch - MacGruber #1
• This is one of the few current recurring sketches that actually have me cheering when it appears. MacGruber is always very enjoyable and I was happy to see this again for the first time all season. I was beginning to think they wouldn't do the sketch on the show anymore since they filmed the movie.
• I'm a bit surprised they didn't change/update Kristen's wig (no pun intended!) for this, since in the pictures I've seen from the MacGruber movie, her character's hair looks different and more 70's-esque.
• The “black assistant” angle was a good premise and Will's racist joke at the end quickly followed by the explosion was a funny ending.
Sketch - “Sexy” Shana (or however her name is spelled)
• I actually didn't mind this character too much the first time she appeared and I thought it was just okay as a one-time thing, but I knew SNL would ruin it by making it recurring and reusing the exact same premise, and having her basically go the same route as Penelope, Judy Grimes, Surprise Sue, and all of Kristen's other annoying recurring characters. I'm just surprised that it took them this long to bring her back, considering how much SNL loves shoving Kristen's recurring characters down our throats.
• That being said, Shana isn't quite as annoying as most recurring Kristen Wiig characters. I still didn't enjoy this, though, and I barely laughed at all. There weren't any moments that stood out to me. And like I expected, this used pretty much the same template as the first installment, down to having Barkley in the Malkovich role as the only guy turned on by Shana's gross un-sexy actions (he even used the same "You guys wouldn't know sexy if it sat on your face" line that Malkovich had last time), Jenny in Casey Wilson's role as the girl who's ignored by the other guys, and Will, Kenan, and Andy reprising their same roles.
• One positive thing I can say is that at least they were somewhat creative enough to change the setting to a ski lounge. Knowing how lazy these current writers are with how they handle recurring sketches, I'm surprised they didn't just reuse the same office setting again.
Mini-Sketch - MacGruber #2
• Will's reluctance to say “black pen”, then spraying Barkley with mace when he was simply going to hand him the pen was great.
• I thought the ending of this one before the explosion could've been a little funnier, though.
Sketch - Inside the NBA
• Andy's “That'll move the chains” kid again? Seriously? Then again, I don't even know why I'm surprised; this is the 09-10 season. NO sketch is safe from being unnecessarily brought back this year.
• This was barely funny the first time (which was THREE years ago; how friggin random to reach that far back in the vault to bring back some one-joke character), but like Shana, it was acceptable as a one-time bit only. Yet here they go bringing it back again anyway and changing nothing about the sketch, only now Andy's kid character is a basketball announcer instead of a football announcer, and now he has OCD instead of ADD. Wow, big difference! This whole sketch was just dumb and I saw every joke in this coming from a mile away.
• Did anyone notice Barkley trying not to laugh at one point in the middle of the sketch while Jason was talking to Andy? Was Barkley really trying not to crack up or was that in-character?
• Also, I know I shouldn't be looking for logic in a recurring SNL sketch, but how is this kid able to keep coming back when he dies at the end of each installment?
Mini-Sketch - MacGruber #3
• A great finish to tonight's series of MacGruber shorts and I got a lot of big laughs from this third one, right from the theme song at the beginning with the “He's Facebook friends with Spike Lee now - MacGruber!!!” lyric.
• Will in the African dashiki, the “Martin Rufus King” bit, and Barkley suddenly getting sprayed with mace once again during the sentimental handshake at the end were hilarious as well.
Weekend Update - Seth Meyers, featuring James Carville, Nicolas Cage, Gov. David Paterson
• Best jokes: Giuliani, Whites in Harlem, Lady Gaga
• I always enjoy Bill as James Carville, so I was happy to see him again tonight. He had his funny comments as usual, like the snake-face line, the “grasping at straws” joke, and prank he suggested to play on Cheney.
• Andy still does a good Nicolas Cage impression and it was good at first to see it back, but this commentary parodying his action movies ended up being just dumb and one-note. I did get a laugh from him saying “I'm gonna eat the president of the United States” at the end, though.
• Every time Fred shows up as Paterson, I think at first that it's just going to be the same-old same-old, but Fred always ends up winning me over in these and making me laugh a lot. He had quite a number of clever lines tonight, like “Classic Paterson” and saying Jersey Shore is New Jersey's McLaughlin Group. I also love how each time he appears, his eyes progressively open bigger when he gives that sly stare into the camera after slamming New Jersey.
Sketch - The Haney Project
• Not too much to say about this sketch. It was pretty one-joke, but the execution of it actually turned out decent. I did laugh at some of the scenes with Barkley's halting “stopping short, then continuing” method of doing everything and Jason was also a good straight man. And they were wise to keep this sketch short instead of letting it run too long.
• I've never actually seen Barkley's golfing technique until now. I thought those clips they showed of him golfing were fake at first, until I found out that was actual footage. Wow, he really IS that bad, huh?
Digital Short - Booty Call
• Surprised to see another digital short featuring a musical guest. This one wasn't too great, but I enjoyed this slightly more than Shy Ronnie with Rihanna.
• Andy's bizarre, grotesque character was really silly, but he had his moments; some of his comments made me laugh, and the intervention twist at the end worked well.
• Surprisingly, this was Bobby's first appearance of the night. I was wondering where the hell he was. This was also Abby's second of only a measly two brief appearances all night, and they were both pre-taped and she had no lines in either of them. She was MIA in the live show; I didn't even see her onstage at the goodnights (although, of course, the goodnights were so short - I couldn't find the other two new girls onstage either).
Sketch - Scared Straight
• Oh, come on, didn't they just do this damn sketch a few episodes ago? It sure feels like it. I did have a weird feeling before the show tonight, though, that someone at SNL would find it funny to have Barkley play Kenan's sidekick in a Scared Straight Sketch.
• The only thing in these Lorenzo MacIntosh sketches I consistently laugh at is when Bill and the others break character. And Barkley was laughing from the start a few seconds after he and Kenan first walked on, although I don't know what it was that caused him to break up. And I like how Kenan's getting creative with his ways of making Bill crack up. The finger in the ear bit was hilarious, as was one of the guys off-camera (I think it was Jason) chanting “Do it!” right before Kenan did that to Bill.
• Did anyone notice at the beginning when Kenan and Barkley were doing the usual “Stand up; sit yo ass down” routine, Jason was also repeatedly standing up and sitting down at the same time as the three boys?
• Most of the rest of the sketch was the usual movie references and tedious prison rape jokes that I find dull and same-old same-old, but I have to admit the Jerry Maguire bit was actually good and made me laugh.
• The ending was really weak and abrupt. While I'm glad they didn't do the usual ending with one of the boys pointing out the window and asking “Hey, are they (insert unusual action here)?” and Jason saying “No, they're just (insert worse action here)” then doing a double-take and running out of the room, they couldn't have found a better way to end this one than just having the boys shake their heads and Jason mutter “Damn it”? Lazy.
• Also, I'm probably the only one who realized this, but this is the third segment in a row tonight that ended with a character muttering “Damn”. Barkley did it at the end of Haney Project when Jason watched him trying to open the door, Alicia Keys said it at the end of the digital short after the phone call, and Jason did it at the end of this one. Strange.
Sketch/Commercial - Barkley's Bank
• I don't know what the hell to say about this. What little we DID see of the sketch barely had any jokes and the testimonial from Fred and Jenny as the old couple got no laughs. Then after Barkley showed the bank logo on the wall, they abruptly cut to the SNL bumper of Barkley while we could still hear him talking, then they cut to commercial as he was mid-sentence. What the fuck?
• I guess they ran out of time mid-sketch, which I'm actually not surprised about because right before this sketch started, when they came back from commercial, I looked at the clock and thought to myself that they don't have much time left to do an actual sketch, unless it's super-short. I think the last time a sketch got cut off mid-progress was the Cat Laywer sketch with Annette Bening in '06. It also almost happened in the last episode with James Franco, too, with the way they rushed through the Fartface & Mark Wahlberg sketches at the end, but at least they were able to (very barely) finish those two sketches on time.
• I can't even give this a proper rating. I wonder what we ended up missing from this. Hopefully, it was something actually funny, because if not, then this bit was just a pointless waste of time and shouldn't have made it on air in the first place.
• David Paterson and James Carville on Weekend Update
• Inside the NBA
• Nicolas Cage on Weekend Update
• the last sketch getting cut off mid-progress
Best Performer of the Night:
• Bill Hader
Overall, not too bad. Certainly better than what I was expecting with Charles Barkley as the host. And Barkley himself was surprisingly better than his awful effort the first time he hosted; he definitely had his shining moments tonight like the gameshow sketch and his monologue and he didn't have too many awkward, stumbling scenes like he did in his '93 episode.
I don't have too much to complain about for tonight's episode, except for this season's continued bad habit of overstuffing each episode with too many unnecessary recurring sketches. Even all three guests on Weekend Update were nothing new; they were impressions we've already seen before. This whole issue is still a huge problem with me, and you have to wonder if the reason for the over-reliance on recurring material this year is because most of the writing staff has possibly been there so long and are getting burned out on original ideas. Lorne seriously needs to shake the writing staff and cast up a little bit after this season (or a major shake-up if the remainder of this season gets worse).