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"Saturday Night Live": Better Than Last Week, But Still Needs Work

By admin Published: October 7, 2007

So, do you think there was no digital short this week because of the problems with "Iran So Far"? Other notes (and a little bit of adult humor) after the jump ...

In the glory days of "The Carol Burnett Show," its biggest flaw was that sketches would start hilariously but had nowhere to go. They'd just be funny for awhile, then stop, and I never thought the show was as great as some observers did because of those lame endings.

"Saturday Night Live" has long had the same problem: Setups are easy, endings are hard. A somewhat funny piece like the "Douchebag of the Year" sketch in last night's show didn't have an ending; in fact, it felt a lot like a middle -- since we hear but don't see the talent portion of the competition. (And didn't you want to see Rogen with the cellphone?)

That said, even in the "Douchebag" sketch -- and you cannot imagine how much fun it is to write the word "douchebag" over and over -- there was some marvelous stuff. Amy Poehler's Sharon Osbourne made me laugh a lot, and Fred Armisen -- currently the show's performing MVP -- nailed Gene Simmons.

The high-definition ultrasound: Very funny. The cast as Muppets: a great photo op, even though -- again -- it didn't go anywhere, and the song choice ("Beyond the Sea") seemed arbitrary and uninteresting. Couple of good lines in Darrell Hammond's Fred Thompson monologue -- and there was Armisen again, capturing the squeaky histrionics of Sam Waterston's "Law & Order" speeches. Good Samberg-as-Federline open. Some good stuff in the "Stonetown" sketch, and it was a nice fit with Seth Rogen. In fact, Rogen was a model host for the show, more than ready to do anything, however ridiculous; a little too much cue-card watching, especially in the Tennessee Williams parody with Maya Rudolph (and how great is she, even when given something like the thermos lines to say?), but he was able -- and far more relaxed than LeBron James a week ago.

Oh, and in my scribbled notes I had a positive reference to "Meyers-convent" that, since I've now seen a transcript, referred to this line: "A convent in Italy was shut down after three of its nuns got into a fight. Said God, 'Ladies relax, there's enough of Me to go around.' "

Overall, in fact, the show felt like an improvement over last week's season opener. Could be Rogen. Could just be that they've got the first show of the season behind them. But while the show is uneven as all get out (as it has often been over its long history), there are things worth a laugh. Rogen and Kristen Wiig as those kids!

Which brings me, alas to Chevy Chase. In what felt terribly like some kind of ancient favor repaid by Lorne Michaels, Chase did a political roundup. My buddy Alan Sepinwall was at the dress rehearsal and thought seeing Chase was cool. I thought his bit was hammy, slow, forced and mostly not funny, an attempt to recapture something that lost its freshness about 30 years ago.

But I'm still seeing enough to record the show.

And, a final douchebag note: As I mentioned over on Sepinwall's blog, the use of the word "douchebag" has some "SNL" tradition behind it. In the fifth-season finale in May 1980, a cast looking at life after the show did a sketch that involved, among others, Lord and Lady Douchebag. Buck Henry was in it. It was a shocker, but it was also deadly funny. (A transcript is here. One line: "Douchebag, how are you? I haven't seen you in the House of Lords in ages! Don't tell me for the first time in memory we are going to have a House of Parliament without a Douchebag?")

"Douchebag" is timeless, and Chevy's not.

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