SNL disappoints with premiere

By Hannah Sparks

Courtesy of MCT

This weekend, television mainstay Saturday Night Live began its 35th season with host Amy Poehler and musical guest Katy Perry. NBC really hyped up this premiere by re-airing the already-classic Betty White episode last weekend and stressing Poehler’s return to the show, this time as host. With all this fanfare, viewers were expecting great things, but unfortunately this episode in general was rather lackluster.

Poehler’s monologue was less than impressive and couldn’t be brought to life even by the numerous cameos from former cast mates and might-as-well-be honorary cast member Justin Timberlake. The stress-dream concept was interesting, but the lack of commitment made it fall short. Also, much of this episode seemed to be relying on the cringe factor to get laughs. The Bosley Hair Restoration advertisement illustrated this by advocating for the use of pubic hair to fill in bald spots and the recurring Maternity Matters talk show sketch in which the sensitive female host has been replaced by her brusque male producer. Though briefly humorous, in the end these sketches came off as tasteless.

Andy Samberg’s Digital Short was also a disappointment in this episode. In the past, the Shorts have either been brilliant or awful. This week’s Shorts flopped, but maybe that was due to the fact that Perry was singing in it. Fans probably should expect better things from Samberg as the season progresses; after all, he is the man who thought up such fantastically creative classics as “Lazy Sunday,” “Dick in a Box,” “Iran So Far,” and last year’s under-appreciated “Great Day.”

That’s not to say that the show didn’t have its upsides: the opening sketch mocking Delaware’s Republican nominee for the Senate, Christine O’Donnell, was genius. Kristen Wiig portrayed O’Donnell spectacularly, poking fun at her anti-masturbation campaign by saying that when she formed her beliefs, she didn’t know what masturbation was and now that she does, she does it constantly. Another success was Poehler’s revival of Bronx Beat, a classic sketch from back in SNL’s earlier days with former cast mate Maya Rudolph.

Perry was the guest on the show, wearing a really low cut Elmo t-shirt, mocking the controversy surrounding her recent Sesame Street guest appearance in which her appearance was edited out of the show because of her excessive cleavage. It was refreshing that Perry could mock herself and the media’s obsession with her chest a little bit. This tradition of celebrity self-mockery has extended far back into SNL’s past, and its nice to see it continue.           

Weekend Update is usually the saving grace of an unsatisfactory SNL, and this weekend’s installment was fairly decent. In a recurring sketch, the extremely versatile and hilarious Fred Armisen reprised his imitation of New York’s Governor David Patterson. This week, the actual David Patterson appeared.

Although he talked a little too much politics for SNL, the banter between him and Armisen was pretty funny, and its comedic effect was enhanced by Armisen’s characteristic habit of drifting off stage in his rolling chair directly in front of the camera.

Newcomer Jay Pharaoh also impressed with a dead-on imitation of Will Smith. Rumors say that Pharaoh also has a killer Obama imitation that the audience should keep an eye out for.           

Even though this episode was somewhat disappointing as a season opener, hopefully the cast’s first day jitters have dissipated, and we can all look forward to another season as innovative and hilarious as last year’s season.

Hannah Sparks can be reached at [email protected]