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Date Posted: 05:25:54 03/02/17 Thu
Author: Stooge
Subject: Steve Carell / Usher - May 17, 2008 (S33 E12)
In reply to: Stooge 's message, "Retro Reviews - March 2017" on 05:01:55 03/02/17 Thu

Here's the original review I posted back when this episode first aired.

---------------------------------------

RATINGS SYSTEM
***** = Brilliant, a possible future classic
**** = Great, but not quite perfect
*** = Average
** = Meh, but not complete crap
* = How'd this get past dress?


Cold Opening - Pounder School Commencement
• While I was relieved to finally see a non-political opening for a change and glad to see Steve Carell appear in the opening, this whole thing was done before with the two Robert DeNiro cold openings with the dirty terrorist names. Those openings were sort-of funny, just for the novelty of seeing a respected actor like DeNiro doing dick and fart jokes, plus some of those names were actually somewhat creative. This sketch, on the other hand, got old really fast and the names were all old cliched jokes that everybody’s heard before. A disappointing choice for a season finale cold opening.
• Carell’s delivery helped salvage it a little, and I admit I laughed at the Asian names part.
• At least it was nice to see the whole cast, although most of them didn’t do anything in it. I liked them all throwing their graduation caps in the air after Carell’s LFNY.
Stars: **

[2017 UPDATE: IIRC, this cold opening was actually written by Jack Handey, in a guest writing spot. I remember being pretty disappointed when I found that out, as this juvenile sketch doesn't fit his usual oddball, creative style at all.]


Opening Credits
• Did anyone else notice the theme music sounded a bit different?
• Still no Smigel cartoon. Is it safe to assume that after all these years, TV Funhouse is officially over? There have only been two this whole season, and the last one was months ago. TV Funhouse has pretty much run its course, as Smigel has had way more misses than hits these last two seasons. I just wish his last cartoon was the Ambiguously Gay Duo one from the Lebron James season premiere, instead of the lackluster Obama Files one.


Monologue - Steve Carell
• Steve acting hopped up on Red Bull and sour patch candy was hilarious. I also liked his audience interaction. That was really good.
• Nancy Walls! That was a pretty nice surprise. I never thought I’d see her on SNL again. I wonder if most of the studio audience even knew who she was.
Stars: ****


Commercial - There Can Only Be One
• This is the type of GOOD political satire the show has failed to give us most of this season. This was a clever and funny commercial, and they finally found a way to make Amy’s Hillary and Fred’s Obama funny.
• Each of their quick comments when they weren’t speaking in unison were good, especially Amy’s “hard-working white people” and “I deserve this” lines.
• Armisen seems to have given up completely on trying to get Obama’s voice down. He just spoke in his normal voice here, instead of that semi-cartoonish voice he usually used for Obama. Not sure if this is better or worse.
Stars: ****

[2017 UPDATE: The fact that Fred completely gave up trying to sound like Obama by this point should've been the final straw that led to Lorne spending that summer searching hard for a new Obama impersonator. Instead, Lorne inexplicably refused to do that and hung on to false hope that Fred's Obama would improve by the following season. SPOILER ALERT: It never improved.]


Sketch - Deal or No Deal
• This wasn’t as good as the Deal or No Deal parody with Antonio Banderas two seasons ago. The writing could’ve been much better in this.
• The performances in this sketch made it better. Armisen’s Howie Mandell continues to crack me up. Forte was good as the angry ranting father, and Carell’s whiny comebacks to him were funny.
• Kristen as the silent model fooling around with the suitcase was great and she stole the sketch, especially when she revealed she’s been drinking and that she wasn’t kidding.
• I had a feeling that Casey’s one line in this sketch would end up being her only line of the whole night, and I turned out to be right. Poor girl hasn’t gotten many good roles for her first season. Compare this to how Hader, Sudeikis, and Wiig initially came in doing a whole bunch of stuff & consistently getting good roles right off the bat when they first joined the cast.
Stars: ***

[2017 UPDATE: I haven't re-watched this sketch in years, but I can tell that part with Kristen won't hold up well at all. From what I remember, that "scene-stealing" sequence she had in this sketch was exactly the type of hammy camera-hogging stuff that I would later find VERY annoying from her.]


Sketch - Two A-Holes Do Karaoke
• The Two A-Holes!! It’s about time these characters appeared again; it was over a year since their last sketch and I was worried that they retired these two. While I’m glad they’re keeping the sketch fresh by not running into the ground, I wouldn’t have spaced their appearances out for quite this long.
• Sudeikis and Kristen were their usual funny a-holic selves. I especially liked Sudeikis’ “what, too soon?” joke when he mentioned Aaliyah. The studio audience didn’t seem very into this sketch, though. Not even a response to Kristen’s hilarious “that’s about buttsex” line after Carell brought up Brown Eyed Girl.
• Started to lose a little steam towards the end. The silence/non-singing while Baby Got Back was playing was too predictable.
Stars: ***1/2


Digital Short - Original Japanese version of The Office
• After the recent string of terrible digital shorts, I didn’t know what to expect for the season finale. In fact for the first time ever, I actually groaned a little tonight when the “An SNL Digital Short” title popped up. But then they showed RICKY GERVAIS!!!!! and then I automatically knew we were in for an enjoyable digital short. It was awesome seeing him on SNL.
• This Japanese version of the Office was brilliant and priceless. It was great to see Sudeikis and Kristen as Jim and Pam again, after the Rainn Wilson monologue. Their impressions and resemblances to those two continue to be dead-on. And it’s about time Bill Hader did a Dwight impression, since everyone always says how much Hader and Rainn Wilson look alike. When they showed Hader as Dwight in the fake opening credits, I thought it really was Rainn at first.
• Even the quick shot of Kenan as Stanley doing a crossword puzzle was gold.
• They missed yet another opportunity, though, to have Seth show up as Ryan. C’mon, Seth was born to do a B.J. Novak impression.
• Gervais’ “It’s funny because it’s racist” line sold the whole thing and was a perfect ending.
• This definitely makes up for the digital shorts from the last few shows. Good to see the Lonely Island back on their game again.
Stars: *****


Miscellaneous - McCain 2008
• Although SNL has really gone overboard with getting all the presidential candidates to cameo this season, I have no problem with McCain appearing since he’s proven before to be funny on SNL.
• This was pretty slow and rambling at parts and took a long time to take off, but had its moments. Nice to see McCain has no problem with making elderly jokes about himself.
Stars: **1/2


Musical Performance


Weekend Update - Poehler & Meyers, featuring Sen. John McCain, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton
• Best jokes: Studio 54 bill, President Bush/mission accomplished, “The Woman Who Went Outside”, Britney Spears, Wii Fit, Train conductor
• Surprised to see McCain yet again, but he was actually much funnier this time around. His commentary got a lot of laughs. I also liked him telling Seth and Amy to “fight amongst yourselves”.
• Lots of good interaction pieces between Seth and Amy tonight. I especially liked the penis collection bit.
• The Jackson and Sharpton bits on Update are always good, and this was no exception. All the “They take it away”’s they listed were great.
• Overall, one of the best Updates of the year, and a great way to close out the season.
• If Amy returns next season (I kinda hope not, but I’ll elaborate further on that later in the review), but misses the first few shows due to maternity leave, I wonder what will happen with Weekend Update. I hope they don’t pull something similar to what they did during Fey’s maternity leave when they got Horatio freaking Sanz to fill in for her. Seth has been pretty awesome on Update these last two seasons, and I don’t think he’ll have a problem hosting it by himself in the meantime. I’ve always wanted to see how he’d do on a solo Update.
Stars: ****1/2


Sketch - The Charlie Flitt Show
• This was an accurate take-off on these types of weight loss shows/commercials, but it just wasn’t that funny. Carell did his best with the material.
• Amy’s pregnancy is really becoming noticeable now.
• I thought the funniest line was Carell mentioning his addiction to Google images, but again, the audience didn’t seem to respond much to that.
• Hammond still comes off as awkward in non-impression roles like this.
• Hader in the fat make-up was a funny visual, and I chuckled at his unenthusiastic “yeah, yeah, yeah”s. But I was hoping they’d focus a little more on his character. He didn’t really do anything after he walked on set. Aside from the pre-taped digital short, Hader basically did next-to-nothing for the whole night.
• Didn’t care at all for the song at the end.
Stars: **


Sketch - CPR Training
• At the beginning, I got worried and thought this was a set-up for another Penelope appearance, but then I realized that it couldn't be Penelope because I spotted Kristen in a normal role as one of the students. I thought that was Casey at first.
• Samberg has barely been on this episode (I’ve been saying that about a lot of people tonight, I know; it feels like most of the cast barely did anything tonight, except for Kristen who was all over the show). I didn’t even realize until this point in the episode that he wasn’t in tonight’s digital short at all, which is very rare for him. It was actually refreshing not seeing him in the short for a change.
• I normally don’t mind fake blood-spewing sketches these days, but this wasn’t good at all and was far more gruesome than funny. The extreme amounts of blood was too over-the-top for its own good.
• Kenan’s one-liner, “Where are you standing? That is BAD!” was actually the only time I laughed out loud in the sketch. And I did get a minor laugh out of Samberg saying at least he got a free wristwatch.
• Samberg looked like he almost cracked up at one point when the blood kept spurting into his mouth while he was speaking.
• Usher’s cameo at the end was probably supposed to save this, but his message was just pointless.
Stars: *1/2

[2017 UPDATE: Hmm, Kristen Wiig appearing in nearly every single sketch while the rest of the cast gets a minimal amount of screentime.... An unfortunate sign of things to come.
Also, they would later do an Acupuncture sketch similar to this CPR one, with Kristen Wiig & Aidy Bryant, the first time Wiig hosted in 2013. However, that sketch actually turned out much funnier than this CPR one.]



Musical Performance


Sketch - Bless this Child
• A very strange final sketch. I didn’t know quite what to expect when Steve and Kristen started singing calmly at the beginning and I thought this would be some kind of sappy, serious 10-to-1 sketch, but then it got pretty crazy.
• I laughed at some of the stuff they were doing with the baby doll like when they did the Wave and when Carell skipped over the baby like a jump rope. The ending with Carell spinning a dummy of Kristen around was lame, though.
• I’m still not quite sure what to think of this sketch overall. I probably would’ve rated it higher if it were the closing sketch of any other episode this year, but this didn’t deserve to be season-ending material. This wasn’t much better than last season’s weak final sketch, with Armisen in drag flirting and making out with Zach Braff. I miss the days when they would do something really special with the whole cast for the final sketch, like the Grease parody from Jimmy Fallon’s last show, and Phil Hartman’s last show with all the recurring characters singing on stage. Why don’t they do that kind of stuff anymore?
Stars: **1/2

[2017 UPDATE: In more recent years, they thankfully HAVE gone back to doing special full-cast season-ending sketches, like 2009's Goodnight Saigon, 2012's Kristen Wiig graduation/farewell, and 2016's Fred band sketch. I definitely prefer when the final sketch of a season is something special like those examples rather than just ending the season with a normal run-of-the-mill sketch.]

_______________________________________

Overall Highlights:
• Digital Short
• Weekend Update
• Monologue
• There Can Only Be One
• Kristen in Deal or No Deal
• The Two A-Holes making their return

Overall Lowlights:
• CPR Training
• Cold Opening
• The Charlie Flitt Show
• Some parts of McCain’s first sketch

Best Performer of the Night:
• Kristen Wiig


FINAL THOUGHTS
The season closes out with an average episode. The first half had some great segments like the digital short, commercial, monologue, and Update. But the show really trailed off after Update, as weak sketches dominated the whole second half of the night. I was hoping the finale would end a little stronger, but overall, not too bad.
Steve Carell was given a bigger variety of stuff to do, compared to his last SNL show in '05 where he was typecast in unfunny straight man roles all night and saddled with way too many recurring sketches (Needlers, Debbie Downer, that 70’s variety show thing). He got a lot of laughs tonight and did his best even with the weaker scripts, although not even he could save that lame CPR thing.


CASTMEMBER/HOST COUNT DOWN:
ARMISEN: 4 sketches (Commencement, Only One, No Deal, Charlie Flitt)
FORTE: 2 sketches (Commencement, No Deal)
HADER: 3 sketches (Commencement, Digital Short, Charlie Flitt)
HAMMOND: 4 sketches (Commencement, Digital Short, Update, Charlie Flitt)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
POEHLER: 6 sketches (Commencement, Monologue, Only One, No Deal, Update, Charlie Flitt)
SAMBERG: 2 sketches (Commencement, CPR)
SUDEIKIS: 5 sketches (Commencement, Two A-Holes, Digital Short, Charlie Flitt, CPR)
THOMPSON: 6 sketches (Commencement, Two A-Holes, Digital Short, Update, Charlie Flitt, CPR)
WIIG: 7 sketches (Commencement, No Deal, Two A-Holes, Digital Short, Charlie Flitt, CPR, Bless this Child)

WILSON: 2 sketches (Commencement, No Deal)

STEVE CARELL: 8 sketches (Commencement, Monologue, No Deal, Two A-Holes, Digital Short, Charlie Flitt, CPR, Bless this Child)


_______________________________________

2007-2008 YEAR IN REVIEW


First, here are my best/worst sketch, best performer, and overall rating from each episode:

Lebron James/Kanye West
BEST SKETCH: Iran So Far
WORST SKETCH: Penelope
BEST PERFORMER: Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen
FINAL RATING: ***

Seth Rogen/Spoon
BEST SKETCH: Disturbing Twins
WORST SKETCH: Mad Joe Dixon
BEST PERFORMER: Bill Hader
FINAL RATING: ***


Jon Bon Jovi/Foo Fighters
BEST SKETCH: Iconoclasts
WORST SKETCH: Missing Purse
BEST PERFORMER: Fred Armisen
FINAL RATING: **


Brian Williams/Feist
BEST SKETCH: A Day in the Life of Brian Williams
WORST SKETCH: Bronx Beat
BEST PERFORMER: Fred Armisen
FINAL RATING: ***1/2


Tina Fey/Carrie Underwood
BEST SKETCH: I Drink Your Milkshake
WORST SKETCH: Rock of Love 2
BEST PERFORMER: Kristen Wiig
FINAL RATING: ****


Ellen Page/Wilco
BEST SKETCH: The Mirror
WORST SKETCH: Shopping with Virginiaca
BEST PERFORMER: Andy Samberg
FINAL RATING: **


Amy Adams/Vampire Weekend
BEST SKETCH: Dr. Uncle Jimmy’s Smokehouse and Outpatient Surgical Facility
WORST SKETCH: The Tookie Styles Show
BEST PEFORMER: Will Forte
FINAL RATING: **1/2


Jonah Hill/Mariah Carey
BEST SKETCH: Dating Andy Samberg’s Dad
WORST SKETCH: Target Lady
BEST PERFORMER: Kristen Wiig, Will Forte
FINAL RATING: ***


Christopher Walken/Panic at the Disco
BEST SKETCH: Indoor Gardening Tips from a Man Who’s Very Scared of Plants
WORST SKETCH: Top Chef
BEST PERFORMER: Christopher Walken
FINAL RATING: ****


Ashton Kutcher/Gnarls Barkley
BEST SKETCH: Death by Chocolate
WORST SKETCH: Daiquiri Girl
BEST PERFORMER: Will Forte, Casey Wilson
FINAL RATING: ***1/2


Shia LaBeouf/My Morning Jacket
BEST SKETCH: MacGruber
WORST SKETCH: Funky New York Style
BEST PERFORMER: Bill Hader
FINAL RATING: ****


Steve Carell/Usher
BEST SKETCH: Japanese version of The Office
WORST SKETCH: CPR Training
BEST PERFORMER: Kristen Wiig
FINAL RATING: ***

-----------

Best Episodes
1. Christopher Walken/Panic at the Disco
2. Shia LaBeouf/My Morning Jacket
3. Tina Fey/Carrie Underwood

Worst Episodes
1. Jon Bon Jovi/Foo Fighters
2. Ellen Page/Wilco
3. Amy Adams/Vampire Weekend

Best Sketches
1. Iran So Far
2. Indoor Gardening Tips from a Man Who’s Very Scared of Plants
3. MacGruber (with Shia LaBeouf)
4. Japanese version of The Office
5. I Drink Your Milkshake
6. Iconoclasts
7. Disturbing Twins
8. Dating Andy Samberg’s Dad
9. Death by Chocolate
10. Creepy Office Stalker

Worst Sketches
1. Missing Purse
2. Shopping with Virginiaca
3. The Tookie Styles Show
4. Target Lady
5. Daiquiri Girl
6. Funky New York Style
7. Bronx Beat
8. A Visit with Former Vice President Al Gore
9. Lesbian Girlfriend
10. Mad Joe Dixon

Best Hosts
1. Christopher Walken
2. Brian Williams
3. Tina Fey

Worst Hosts
1. Ellen Page
2. Jon Bon Jovi
3. Jonah Hill

Best Commercials
1. Annuale
2. iPhone
3. There Can Only Be One

Worst Commercials
1. Notre Dame Football on NBC
2. Maybelline for Men Only

Best Monologues
1. Christopher Walken
2. Brian Williams
3. Steve Carell

Worst Monologues
1. Amy Adams
2. Jon Bon Jovi
3. Jonah Hill

Best Weekend Update Commentaries
1. Tracy Morgan
2. Roger A. Trivanti
3. Tim Calhoun
4. Gov. Mike Huckabee
5. Sen. John McCain

Worst Weekend Update Commentaries
1. O.J. Simpson
2. Pregnant Man
3. Jean K. Jean
4. Barbara Birmingham
5. The third Nicholas Fehn appearance

And finally, my hope for what the cast will look like next season:
*Armisen
*Forte
*Hader
*Meyers (doing Update solo)
*Samberg (maybe)
*Sudeikis
*Wiig
*Wilson
*One or two new females
*A new black male with a lot of talent and range; preferably one who can also do an accurate and funny Obama impression

I think now is the right time for Amy to move on, especially now with her pregnancy. I know she said she'll likely return to the cast next season, but she might still change her mind during the summer break (ala Ana Gasteyer in summer 2002). Amy has done just about everything she can on SNL, and I can actually see her getting stale if she stayed an 8th year. It's obvious that Kristen has taken over her place as the lead female on the show. Judging from the success of Baby Mama and Amy's other big-screen roles, it seems like she'll have a good and successful career in movies, so there's no point in clinging onto SNL for an extra year too long.

They seriously should relegate Darrell to only occasional special guest appearances whenever they really need an impression of his in a particular week (ala Jan Hooks in the early 90’s). But that probably won’t happen since he’ll need to play McCain in the debate sketches, so he’ll probably still be in the cast next season, especially if McCain wins.

I’m not too sure on where I stand with Andy lately. I don’t think I would be bothered by him coming back, but at the same time, I wouldn’t exactly be angry if he got demoted to behind the scenes to just work on occasional digital shorts and other filmed pieces. But considering his popularity, we all know that he'll never get demoted like that.

And Kenan…well, it was nice knowing ya.

Can’t wait till 08-09. See you then, everybody.

[2017 UPDATE: It’s funny to look back at how off these predictions/suggestions of mines were. Let's break it down:
Turns out Amy would end up sticking around for the first half of the following season, and no, she thankfully DIDN’T become stale like I was worried she would. In fact, one of my favorite Amy Poehler moments - and one of her most well-remembered SNL moments in general - ended up happening in the first half of that season, when she did her Sarah Palin rap on Update. Amy’s overall airtime that season was limited due to her being VERY pregnant, and she was absent for a chunk of episodes from late October to late November after giving birth to her baby. She returned from maternity leave in December for just two episodes before leaving SNL for good. I now thank god they hung onto to her as long as they did; her presence was the final thing keeping the increasingly-overused & increasingly-annoying Kristen Wiig from COMPLETELY taking over the show, which we saw happen pretty much right after Amy’s mid-season departure.
My prediction about Darrell staying in the cast next season due to having to play McCain in election-related sketches turned out to be correct, but McCain ended up losing that election, which rendered Darrell more useless than ever afterwards. After struggling BADLY for roles in the post-election half of that season, he finally left when that season ended, and then afterwards, the suggestion I made above to relegate him to only occasional special guest appearances actually ended up happening for the first two seasons after he left, although he never received a special guest credit in the opening montage like Jan Hooks did.
I’m glad SNL didn’t follow through on my suggestion to demote Andy Samberg, because he ended up gradually improving as a live performer more and more over the next few years and the Digital Shorts that featured him in the main role would eventually get out of the rut they were currently in at the time.
My “It was nice knowing ya, Kenan” comment, as if this was possibly Kenan’s farewell, is just plain LAUGHABLE at how inaccurate it turned out, which time continues to prove nine years later with Kenan STILL being in the cast and showing no signs of leaving any time soon.
Regarding how badly I wanted Seth to do Update solo, ugh. You know, it’s kinda funny how I seemed to be in such a hurry to get rid of Amy. In addition to Wiig’s dominance in the wake of Amy’s departure, if I had known back then how dull and insufferable Update eventually got during the solo Seth years, I would’ve wanted Amy to stick around as long as fucking possible.
As far as how my suggestions/predictions for new hires turned out, they actually DID hire two female castmembers the next season (Abby Elliott and Michaela Watkins), although not until a few months into the season, in November. One of those two ladies turned out to have an impressive debut season, showing lots of potential, displaying lots of versatility, professionalism, and range, and having a hit character on Update, yet she ended up inexplicably getting fired after just one season. The other one of the two ladies turned out to be pretty much a flop, not contributing anything aside from occasional celebrity impressions, yet she lasted four long seasons. Now tell me what’s wrong with this picture, kiddies. Anyway, moving on, we wouldn’t get our “new black male with a lot of talent who can do an accurate Obama impression” until three whole seasons later when they hired Jay Pharoah, and even then, he had to wait until his THIRD SEASON before he was finally allowed to play Obama. I guess Lorne doesn’t like the idea of a new featured player playing a sitting president, although honestly, would that really be much more ridiculous than having someone who’s not even in the cast play a sitting president on a regular basis, like we’re currently seeing with Alec Baldwin?
A new hire they made the following season that I DIDN'T predict/suggest was a heavyset white male (Bobby Moynihan), which is an archetype I certainly wouldn't have thought the cast was in need of at the time. This particular hire ended up being a solid performer and he's still currently in the cast, though he's seemingly in the homestretch of his tenure.]


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  • Marisa Tomei / Bonnie Raitt - October 1, 1994 (20.2) -- HerbertMcHoover, 21:55:28 03/04/17 Sat
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