Category Archives: Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live (April 21st, 2007) – Scarlett Johansson & Bjork

Due to an unfortunate circumstance of having a particularly fiendish acquaintance in possession of my property, I was unable to actually watch Saturday Night Live. However, for a short time, every single skit was on YouTube. So, I have “watched” it. And here’s some links that will likely go down, but at least a few of you could enjoy it.

The Digital Short – Roy Rules

This is really, really, really not funny. Is it kind of cute in some of its jokes? Sure, Andy Samberg has good timing and the production is strong. And it does a good job of not peaking too early, and doesn’t outlive itself too easily. I just think it’s a bit too crude, too simple, for me to really embrace it. After last week’s digital short was a biting social satire (violence or no violence), it was somewhat disappointing for this descent into low brow humour.

SNL – Regis & Kelly – Ivanka Trump

Considering that Regis is returning from his Triple Bypass Surgery this week, this is a timely sketch return that benefitted from the rather fantastic cuts to Armisen’s Howie Mandel (He’s no Kattan’s Gillman, but he’ll do). However, Ivanka is actually far more full of life than the sketch gave her credit for. And now here I am revealing my secret fascination with Ivanka Trump. Sigh.

Weekend Update

I have a lunch meeting, so I am unable to completely finish watching this, but it started on a mildly humorous note. And the “Really!” back and forth was, well, really funny regarding Gonzalez. I approve.

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Changing Perspectives: Television and the Virginia Tech Tragedy

It happens with any tragedy. As the news media begins to cover the story 24/7, as its true ramifications and impact begin to take hold on our minds, it fundamentally changes our perspective. Things which were once innocuous, things which were once seemingly harmless, take on new meanings. And really, I think it’s only human nature; as human beings, we are affected by tragedies which are so relatable, which could happen to anyone. What happened at Virginia Tech is something relatable for me: as an RA who sees people in residence who have issue with anger, issues with violence, I can’t help but become hypothetical. I can’t help but think about these realities in my own life, and thus it’s also impossible to ignore connections between the tragedy at Virginia Tech and the television we watch. As a reflection of our lives, and in many ways an extension of our societal values, television is going to provide unintended context to a tragic event.

The shootings have already resulted in a network reaction from FOX in regards to this week’s episode of ‘Bones,’ which had been about a college student who had been murdered and buried a set of bleachers. And, although I do not believe anything has been made official, there has been some reaction to this weekend’s Saturday Night Live Digital Short, “The Shooting.” I think that the short certainly takes a somewhat different turn when you consider it in the light of the shootings, and NBC agrees. Although they weren’t too quick to take down the short when it aired (NBC was apparently unable to legally clear the song for use on YouTube, but didn’t want to kill the hype), NBC is now making legal claims about anyone posting the video on YouTube themselves.

My opinion on these two reactions is that I think they are both for the best, and both justified, and yet I think it’s important to avoid the types of reactions seen on the Saturday Night Live message boards. This one, an example of the sentiment, in particular is a problem [Highlights are mine]:

“I created an account and I am commenting here on this site for one reason only — to STRONGLY agree [the first poster]. I’m a longterm SNL fan, and I can certainly take a joke, but SNL needs to realize that they are absolutely no different than the Quinten Tarrintino’s of the world, violent video game producers, and all the media outlets that indirectly promote this behavior by showing people shooting other people on TV or on computers. SNL — you all have a responsibility to society as well. Some jokes don’t need to be said, and skits don’t need to be shown. You didn’t cause this event, but it’s shows like yours that slowly make these “nut cases” lose their sensitivity and become enamored with this kind of behavior — and ultimately do it. SNL and NBC — you are partly responsible.

I think we need to draw a major line in the sand in regards to responsibility for the event and responsibility to the public. What SNL did was create a comedy sketch that made light of violence…in order to satirize the dramatization of violence on other television shows. In the end, the sketch was written and presented as comedy. It cannot, in any way, be retroactively declared as a glorification of violence simply because of this terrible event. SNL and NBC are not responsible for anything other than poor timing, and that was out of their control.

Look at Bones, which is dealing with a problem of an episode that has been filmed and completed and yet can’t possibly air considering its subject matter. They are not at fault for producing an episode which featured a college student being killed considering that we’re talking about a forensics procedural drama. We live in a television environment where every CSI, every Law and Order, every Criminal Minds or NCIS, are all dealing with death on a regular basis. I would hate to have the job that those writers have, planning out how they’re going to create a murder for these people to solve every week. And yet, can we hold them responsible for doing their jobs? Can we hold the shows responsible when they have some of the highest ratings on TV? Can we hold us responsible, then, for consuming and demanding this type of programming?

This is the problem with attempting to find blame within the mass media, specifically within television or video games. Consumption of television, of video games, is far too subjective to even consider its effects without opening up a Pandora’s box that is simply impossible to close cleanly. It’s an easy out, a nice story for the media, and yet I don’t think it actually has enough true relevance to consider as an issue of responsibility. What SNL presented, what Bones was planning to present, was a reality of what we as viewers consume, wish to consume, and find funny or dramatic on a regular basis.

FOX and NBC made the right call removing these from air/YouTube, as it is a sign of their own remorse and sensitivity towards these events. However, I want to make it very clear that no one should be blaming any of the parties involved for anything. So, I can only hope that I don’t see a nationwide boycott of SNL, or Shia LaBeouf, or Andy Samberg, or David Boreanaz. This tragedy is not an issue of blame, no matter how much the media wants to find a catchy byline to scroll on the bottom of the screen to sum everything up. The actions of that student were actions that were personal, emotional, contextual, and can never be boiled down to any show, any societal construct. The micro, in this case, is where you begin, not with the macro mass media element of things.

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Filed under Bones, FOX, NBC, Saturday Night Live

Cultural Feedback: SNL’s Sofa King, 24’s Final Act

In the midst of a current wave of fairly heavy hits regarding Saturday Night Live and its Digital Short, I’m going to press my luck and see if anyone actually has an opinion on some things. I’ve been receiving from feedback with certain opinions (See: Scrubs/30 Rock), but there certainly hasn’t been a whole lot of comments. Feedback is an important thing, so I’d like to see if you could help me out with two things.

Why is this Funny?

“Sofa King”

First, to those SNL fans out there…why is Sofa King funny? I’ve watched this skit a few more times after seeing it originally, and I’ve still yet to figure out what makes this particular skit worthy of so many google searches yesterday. Can anyone explain to me its charms?

I just can’t, for the life of me, figure out what is funny about this skit. If anyone can provide some context, that would be fantastic, because I’m just not getting it.

[Edit: Um, I’m officially an idiot and totally missed the entire punchline of the skit (For those silly like me, treat “Sofa King Great” as a Mad Lib), but I still think that it’s a one-note skit that has some really weird elements like twitchy songs and a lack of any material other than that…so I’m still lost on its real appeal. But I’m still an idiot. Oy Vey.]

What’s your Thoughts?

24’s Final Act

Second, the sixth season of 24 is heading into its final act tonight as Jack heads out in an attempt to save Audrey’s life. I doubt that anyone really thought she was dead, I’m sure, but I’m curious if anyone else maybe had any thoughts about the season thus far. We’re through 17 episodes, and I know that there’s some people who have stopped watching. Considering that last week featured perhaps the best sequence of the season, do you think things are back on track? Is the season’s new direction a good one, or was the old plot wrapped up too quickly?

I’m of two minds on this one. I think the first plot wrapped up without true resolution, and on the whole was a waste of time outside of its beginning and its end, and so I think a better resolution could have come with more time. That said, I think that a Jack-centric final narrative is in the show’s best interest…although Presidential affairs should be an interesting challenge.

So if you’ve got an opinion, do let it be known!

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Saturday Night Live (April 14th, 2007) – Shia LaBeouf & Avril Lavigne

Saturday Night Live

April 14th, 2007

Shia LaBeouf and Avril Lavigne

It’s a very youth-skewed Saturday Night Live with two early 20s younglings taking the stage. Does it result in a show which reflects the revived nature of the Digital Short generation, or does the show just drag them down with them? Let’s take a look.

The Monologue

It was clear that LaBeouf was fairly uncomfortable, as he immediately headed out into the backstage area and basically had the rest of the cast carry the monologue for him while he played a rather manic and simplistic straight man. It was cute, sure, but it was certainly not enough to make me have great hopes for LeBouf’s ability to carry the show.

The Host

Shia LaBeouf comes from a background of comedy, having spent years on Even Stevens on the Disney Channel, and yet it didn’t translate well into this scenario for the simple reason that the material just isn’t as polished. That sounds like an odd comment to make, but LaBeouf never really got to sink his teeth into a character, a common problem in the modern days of SNL. He’s just kind of there in pretty well every skit, and it resulted in a lack of an impact. I always feel like a host should be able to establish themselves, and yet LaBeouf was never given the chance even within the Digital Short. The only skit which Shia LeBouf really seemed to be in some way involved in was the one featuring ‘Shia’ LaBeouf with ‘Maya’ Rudolph, which was still him playing the straight man like in the monologue. He wasn’t a bad host, but rather an uneventful one.

The Skits

Yawn. I’m sorry, but the skits just don’t do it anymore, and I really don’t feel that Saturday Night Live is living up to its skits. The Prince Show is a great concept that seems to have been driven in the ground, and it has no depth beyond Armisen’s strong performance. The skit about kids buying beer had some really funny bits but ended so damn quickly I became annoyed at it, and the Sofa king sketch was just derivative. I like the Dakota Fanning Show as a concept, and it was nice to see Avril get involved in a sketch, and I like Keenan’s reactions…actually, I kind of liked that sketch. A lot. Really, the sketches weren’t too bad. The sketch between Shia and Maya (They rhyme!) was quirky, cute and charming…something that can’t be said for the rest of the show. And yet, in the end, it was still inconsequential, and none of the sketches will be remembered. Stuff like the Knives sketch was still all LaBeouf playing straight man, and I wish he would have had room to break out somewhere in there. The ‘Intimate Moment with John Mayer and Jessica Simpson’ was a smart little piece, didn’t run too long, and yet it was so short that it had little to no impact on the show as a whole.

The Digital Short

[Note: The Digital Short has been taken off YouTube, and is unlikely to return considering the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech.]

The basic premise: “Let’s Make fun of the use of overdramatic music in death scenes on TV shows.” The song in question was Imogen Heap’s ‘Hide and Seek,’ and it was quite effective as satire [Edit: Actually, it’s incredibly effective. Head to YouTube to watch the O.C. scene in question (Starts at 2:00) and it’s freakin’ hilarious]. The only problem is that it was really just the same joke being driven into the ground, which works fine as an overall statement but lacks the variety to make a digital short truly memorable. That being said, as someone who watches those shows I found it quite funny, and I think it has satirical value of a different sort than other digital shorts which is good for variety. [Edit: I now think it is bloody hilarious, it’s growing on me]

Weekend Update

Darrell Hammond does a great Imus, they did a decent job of dealing with the Anna Nicole baby situation (Rudolph and Samberg nailed that short interview piece), so on the whole it was a half decent edition of Weekend Update. I think it could have done better with the material, but there was nothing which intensely disagreed with me.

The Musical Guest: Avril Lavigne

Songs Performed: ‘Girlfriend’ [Music Video – YouTube] and ‘I Can Do Better’ [MP3 – YouSendIt] from The Best Damn Thing

I think that ‘Girlfriend’ is a cute little song that has potential from a summer single perspective, and I’m glad to see that there was not a full choreographed dance routine when performed live, but there was still far too much dancing for someone like Lavigne who should simply not be dancing. The problem is that her second song (‘I Can do Better’) also featured odd choreography and a lyric which was just terrible. It even had the same really annoying cheerleader bridge that just isn’t worth anyone’s time, and the melody of the song more or less disappeared when performed live. Avril’s voice is best on ballads and songs with melody, not these worthless attempts at emulating Gwen Stefani and a derivative version of herself. After reaching some level of maturity or at least mature-esque behaviour with the last album, this is kind of insulting. [Random Note? I totally just realized that the guy playing guitar for Avril Lavigne was the guitar player for the House Band on Rock Star: INXS. And that makes me mildly amused.]

The Verdict

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Saturday Night Live (February 24th): Rainn Wilson and The Arcade Fire

I’ve stolen this image from The Elder because I want to make a few brief comments on the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live. While it was certainly a pairing which served well for my elder brother, and myself, in terms of our tastes, let’s consider this for a second.

The episode itself remained mired in the general shithole that has been created in recent years. The Nooni/Nuny sketch has never, ever been funny, and the addition of new actors will never change that fact (It’s SNL’s Peripheral Vision Man, if we wish to get all meta about it). The cold open about Anna Nicole Smith was a one-note Weekend Update joke stretched into a painfully long segment with no personality or purpose. Weekend Update, as per usual, had its occasional solid joke before getting lost in boring “guests” and jokes that were never funny even in their wildest dreams.

The only sketches that really got off the ground were the ones which seemed most suited to Rainn Wilson. The Peeping Tom sketch was great purely because of Wilson’s ability to make creepy facial expressions. While perhaps not expanding far enough past its initial concept, at least White Possum Croak was somewhat relevant. And, while no Dick in a Box, the Digital Short was a lesson in absurdism that was a welcome break from the drudgery of live comedy.

But, really, why do people watch Saturday Night Live? Part of me remembers a day when people hosting Saturday Night Live would be there to support their upcoming movie, and this would be a launching pad of sorts for them. There is no question this is true: Arcade Fire will likely see a slight uptake in album sales come March 5th (Neon Bible Woo!), and Wilson’s small indie film might make a few extra bucks. Earlier this year The Shins launched with unprecedented success in the States after performing on SNL; clearly, it has some clout.

But, maybe it was just me, but it really felt that Rainn Wilson and The Arcade Fire were helping SNL more than it was helping them. There were likely more Office fans tuning into SNL tonight than there will be SNL fans switching off Ugly Betty to give this here Office show a chance. The monologue was designed purely as an in-joke to these fans, and one that I found quite humorous indeed. The treatment of the Arcade Fire as indie gods doesn’t really do the band any good, but it helps build SNL’s cred with the blogs that much more.

Gone are the days when SNL is a launching pad for artists, or actors, or TV shows. Instead, at this point it appears that SNL is instead looking for opportunities to boost its own profile and save its own cultural relevance. While YouTube has allowed for the Digital Shorts to gain widespread viewership, how many of these people are tuning into NBC on Saturday nights instead of just waiting until it’s on YouTube the next day? YouTube is beneficial to SNL’s mindshare, perhaps, but I don’t think it goes beyond “OMG Justin and some guy” for most people, and I doubt people take an hour and a half out of their Saturday nights to take in the new week’s episode.

All of that aside, Wilson did a fine job and I was very happy with the song selection from the Arcade Fire. While songs were a little Win heavy so is the album, and Intervention and Keep the Car Running are pretty much my favourite songs I’ve heard from the album. Both songs had a sense of energy, a sense of build, and while I somewhat wish they had gone a bit more nuts with the performance I can’t help but be pleased with how it all went.

It’s funny…when you cut out 90% of the sketches and 75% of Weekend Update, you’re left with a pretty darn good 1/2 hour show. Maybe that’s an idea for the future?

Anyways, The Elder has more detailed thoughts on the Arcade Fire performances, as well as some YouTube links that he’s constantly rotating. Here’s their performance on Keep the Car Running; head over to McNutt Against the Music for Intervention.

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Filed under Music, Saturday Night Live, Television, The Office