“Megan Fox and U2”
September 26th, 2009
Saturday Night Live was last Fall’s biggest pop culture sensation. With Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impression saving the show from a weak Obama impression, and Thursday timeslots building the show’s reputation, it built to some of its best numbers ever and its cache went beyond viral internet sensations written by Justin Timberlake/Lonely Island and into the show itself.
But suddenly, coming back this Fall, there is no election to provide a new impression that will keep people tuning in, and the Thursday shows are less a chance to built momentum and more a chance to burn material that might have been saved for the Saturday show under different circumstances. So while this week’s Weekend Update Thursday was somewhat tepid, it was still pulling away people and ideas that could have been put to use here.
This is all relevant because the start of Saturday Night Live’s thirty-fifth season is a collosal failure of comedy, an endless string of one-joke sketches which feel the exact opposite of culturally relevant. If the goal of this episode was to remind us that Saturday Night Live was capable of being funny even without Sarah Palin or a political climate which welcomes satire, then they have not succeeded: perhaps unfairly handicapped by a host who can’t actually act, and perhaps feeling too secure with a musical act that knows how to put on a good show (but, really, didn’t live up to that), the cast and crew of Saturday Night Live delivered a complete and total dud, one where we expect a Judy Grimes-style “just kidding” at the end that says what we’ve seen is some sort of big mistake.
And that’s probably not the best way to reassert your cultural relevance.
I was writing notes about the show, and noted that Megan Fox’s two-minute monologue featured “jokes” about fake naked pictures. However, then I realized that I had mistyped: it featured a single joke about fake naked pictures. There was no other hook, no twist or turn, nothing interesting or unexpected. It was an internet-favourite actress talking about naked pictures of herself, and that was the end of it. Megan Fox is not a gifted actress, lacking in comic timing and general acting ability, but her speciality is to stand around and look attractive and the show pretty much used as such.
But none of the skits actually required anyone to stretch their acting abilities, and whatever comic timing was present was limited at best. Every skit came and went as one joke, played to death, with no variation and no sense of spontaneity. The cold open was one joke (Ghadafi apologizing for his U.N. speech), but by using a translator with a droll monotone the joke became “Fred Armisen exaggerates his expressions while translator remains monotone” as opposed to anything to do with the content. The ticker at the bottom wasn’t even making jokes: it was just picking out bits from the translation which often weren’t actually funny when isolated, making it just that much more pointless.
And then everything else can be boiled down to something that simple: the airline sketch is about Wiig and Fox treating serious news nonchalantly while treating the lack of chips as a horrible tragedy, the Russian Bride sketch is about people being unable to eliminate a cheaper option even when its guilty pleasure is heroin, the Biker Chit Chat was about the overuse of the word Frickin’ (ruined (not that it was good) when newcomer Jenny Slate actually drops an F-bomb), and the final “Awkward Conversation between Megan Fox and her Mother” sketch was just someone who doesn’t know the names of things (plus, there was a Pierce Brosnan joke).
Part of the show’s problem is that Weekend Update Thursday took away some of the show’s talent: Andy Samberg and Bill Hader were both featured on that show, and it seems as if they took a major backseat here. Instead, Kristen Wiig and Kenan Thompson were the two most dominant individuals, which is unsurprising for Wiig but kind of mind-boggling for Thompson. I like Wiig but felt that she didn’t have a single interesting character all night (Judy Grimes, who I believe is a recurring, was particularly painful), but Thompson has never been funny on his own and yet was given an entire segment on Weekend Update and a sketch of sex-based physical comedy that didn’t actually have a joke. At a certain point I thought the joke was going to be that he was sad and lonely so he only made positions on his own, but then they just moved Megan Fox into the sketch and replayed the same premise but with TWO people this time.
I wish they had taken the same strategy with Weekend Update. With Amy Poehler filling in on Thursdays, the one-man show with Seth Meyers lacks any sense of back and forth. Meyers is funny when he’s with Poehler, but he only has can only tell jokes straight or by making the punchline a reprimand (which worked well with “No one uses the weiner slot!”) so there’s no variety. The people who in the past have run the update desk are people like Dennis Miller who could actually treat it like a Daily Show-like experience (which, really, it is when you only have one person), and Meyers needs a partner. I had thought they were going to be giving him one, and perhaps they are just waiting for Poehler’s stint on Thursdays to be finished to avoid comparisons for the replacement, but it made the one change of pace in the night feel a little bit more off than usual.
But then, the two elements that really didn’t pull together weren’t really able to. While U2 did perform three songs, the two were from No Line on the Horizon, and the third (Ultraviolet (Light My Way) was from Achtung Baby and cut off (last time I remember them being on SNL, they used their third song to bring out another classic, in that instance “I Will Follow.”) I haven’t listened to the new album a lot, but “Breathe” and “Moment of Surrender,” didn’t do much for me and it almost seemed like there were some audio issues to go on top of it. It just didn’t feel like it was U2 delivering a powerhouse SNL performance, and even with three songs they still didn’t even come close to making the episode memorable.
And yet, perhaps the entire night’s failures can be summed up in the failure of a Digital Short. There’s potential to be had in Megan Fox living her life as if Optimus Prime is real and came to life as a dude in a mask, but the “Transforming” resulting in getting naked was beyond sophomoric, and while Brian Austin Green’s thumbs-up reveal was clever (For those who don’t know, he and Fox are dating) it wasn’t nearly enough to make up for what wasn’t a “so weird it’s funny” digital short, but a “is that seriously the best you can do” digital short.
I said about that SNL Thursday was tepid this week, but I would take that any day over this mess. There was no relevance, there was no major laughs, and not a single skit featured something memorable. The only memorable thing about the entire episode is that one of the new cast members dropped an F-Bomb, a fact which will either be the only focus of reviews due to lack of anything else of interest or buried beneath critical analysis of the bizarrely horrible show around it.
- I said that all of the skits were about only one joke, but my question now is whether the skit with Will Forte as a slightly mentally challenged SWAT commander who turned down Megan Fox for marriage actually had a joke. I’m not finding one, folks.
- Bladdivan was our only pre-taped commercial of the night, and it had as many jokes as the skits, so I guess that qualifies it as a relative success.
- Was that honestly a “Larry King confuses Michael Moore for other fat man who makes movies” joke?