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Date Posted: 07:13:37 03/10/17 Fri
Author: Stooge
Subject: Michael Phelps / Lil Wayne - September 13, 2008 (S34 E1)
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. BTW, this episode was the debut of Bobby Moynihan, as well as a certain famous political impression from SNL alum Tina Fey.

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

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

Cold Opening - A Nonpartisan Message from Sarah Palin & Hillary Clinton
• I was a little bit disappointed but not surprised to see Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin. I know everybody expected Fey to play her, but I was hoping they'd give it to Casey. Casey could use the spotlight and airtime since they rarely give the girl anything big to do, and I can see her doing a dead-on Palin. Plus, she's in the cast so she would already be available whenever they want to do a Palin sketch. Oh, well...
• Even though I wasn't initially 100% thrilled to see Fey as Palin and even though I never liked Amy's Hillary much to begin with, this turned out to be a really strong and hilarious opening. Tina and Amy's performances were very good, and there were many great lines, like Amy's boner-shrinker line, Tina's "I can see Russia from my house", and Amy saying that if you can't grow a pair, borrow hers.
Stars: ****1/2

[2017 UPDATE: There were news articles earlier that week stating that if Tina Fey wasn't available that weekend, Casey was going to be SNL's back-up plan for a Sarah Palin. It's interesting to think of an alternate universe in which Casey DID get the role and did successfully with it. Her SNL career would've turned out completely different. Her success as Palin would've led to her getting good buzz in the media, which in turn would've led to her getting much more airtime on the show and having a nice lengthy tenure as a castmember. It's really difficult, though, to picture all the well-known Palin sketches from this season being done with Casey in place of Tina.]


Opening Montage
• Third straight season in a row with the same credits. I actually thought they would change it this year. The only differences this season is that some shots are now shown in black-and-white for some reason, the SNL logo and castmember's names are now in yellow text, and of course, new castmember Bobby Moynihan is now added in.
• Casey's still a feaured player, which I know shouldn't be a surprise. But since Amy is leaving in October/November, are they going to have Kristen left as the only female repertory player? That would be strange, especially since Kristen's all the way near the end of the credits (since her last name starts with 'W'). What I think they should do is, after Amy's departure, they'll bring in a brand-new female featured player while promoting Casey to the repertory cast.
• Also, why do they keep changing Casey's opening credits picture back-and-forth? The one they showed of her tonight was the one they showed in last season's live shows, but there's also another picture they have of her that was shown in some of last season's reruns, and most people agreed that that's the better of the two pics of her. They should use that one regularly in the live shows.

[2017 UPDATE: Casey never did get that mid-season promotion after Amy's departure, and thus, Wiig indeed ended up being the only female repertory player not only in the post-Poehler half of this season, but for the entire following season as well. It wasn't THAT unusual, though. After all, Julia Sweeney was the only female repertory player in the whole 92-93 season, as was Ana Gasteyer in the second half of 00-01 after Molly Shannon's mid-season departure.
Also, regarding Casey's constantly-changing opening credits pic, they eventually settled on the one that I stated above was the better pic of her (the one initially only shown in reruns of the previous season).]



Monologue - Michael Phelps
• Amy as Phelps' mom was completely predictable, standard stuff.
• Will mentioning the "My First Meth Lab" kit with Phelps' face on the back was good.
• The Swim Cop thing was dumb.
• William Shatner! Very unexpected to see him. He saved the whole monolgue.
• The camera took forever to cut to Phelps' real mom after he mentioned her. The first of many camera screw-ups tonight...
Stars: **1/2


Sketch - Quiz Bowl
• SNL really seems to love doing gameshow sketches these days. Jason was a good gameshow host as usual.
• This was an okay sketch and the homeschooled kids' strange answers were humorous, but this sketch felt like it could've been fleshed out a lot more.
• Although Phelps' looked silly in that wig, he was still stiff and did nothing special here.
• Kristen was funny, but it felt like she already did a character exactly like this before. Also, the whole "wandering around in front of the camera" thing is starting to become overdone on SNL these days.
• Bobby Moynihan's delivery with his "no, public school" comment made me laugh.
• Bizarre camera errors all throughout this sketch. The camera constantly kept cutting to a close-up of the wrong person when another person was talking, and the camera had a hard time following Kristen. There were several points where you could only see her hand when she was supposed to be on screen.
• Jason saying at the end that social services are waiting outside for the homeschooled kids was great.
Stars: ***

[2017 UPDATE: Technical errors like the camera stuff I mentioned in this sketch are usually prevalent in season premieres, most likely because the production crew is (understandably) a little rusty after their summer hiatus.]


Commercial - Jar Glove
• It looked like they accidentally almost cut to a real commercial break right before this showed up.
• I was a bit surprised that the first commercial parody of the season was shown here instead of right after the monologue like it usually is. Since this commercial wasn't all that great, though, I can see why it wasn't shown in an earlier time slot. I bet they'll still re-air this about 50 times throughout the season.
• The increasingly-crazier messes they showed Kristen getting into while we heard the cheery voice-over was a pretty funny take-off on these kinds of commercials you see on TV (with the black-and-white "dramatizations" and someone in the commercial saying "There's gotta be a better way!"), but then there was absolutely no punchline. It just ended normally with Kristen back at home and showing her opening the jar successfully. I don't get it.
Stars: **1/2


Sketch - Dancing Swim Coach
• As soon as Will walked in the locker room with that fake moustache, I knew right away that this was going to be the dancing coach sketch from the Peyton Manning episode again. That was a hilarious sketch the first time, but I never would've guessed it would end up being done a second time. Goes to show you that SNL will make a recurring sketch out of anything nowadays.
• This was literally an EXACT carbon copy and rewrite of the first sketch. Even Peyton Manning's original "a little pee came out" line was copied in this one as Phelps saying he think he fudged his speedo. Thankfully, the audience tonight barely even responded to that line.
• This sketch isn't something that works a second time. Most of the reason the first sketch worked was because of the surprise of seeing Will and then Peyton Manning dance like that. But now, everyone knew exactly what Will was going to do, so the element of surprise was gone. A few parts of Will's dancing tonight still made me chuckle, though. It's hard not to at least smile when you look at his insane facial expressions while he's dancing to cheery music. But still, this wasn't necessary to repeat at all. And Phelps' "goofy dancing" wasn't even funny. He only danced half-heartedly for, like, 5 seconds before leaving the locker room. Compare that to Peyton Manning's dance, which was really funny because he got so into it and did it for much longer than Phelps.
• At least the castmembers in the background did a better job keeping a straight face this time. Though you could see Bill covering his mouth with his hand a few times throughout the sketch.
Stars: *1/2


Sketch - Stacia & Craig
• I knew the weird twins sketch with Kristen and Seth Rogen was going to be done again eventually. Surprised they brought it back it this week, though. Which idiot writer assumed that Michael freakin' Phelps would be funny enough to step into Seth Rogen's shoes?
• Like the preceding Dancing Coach sketch, the writers didn't bother changing a damn thing this time, right down to repeating the subtle joke of having a same-sex couple (Kenan and Andy this time, Jason and Fred the first time) at the party. And also like the coach sketch, this sketch only really worked the first time. What is with the writers this week? They had months to come up with fresh, funny ideas, and they waste time dusting off old scripts and making no changes to them? Lazy, lazy, lazy. Couldn't they have at least put the weird twins in a different setting this time, instead of using the exact same dinner party set-up like last time?
• The "I said Nintendo Wii" line seemed to be the only real attempt to make this any different from the first sketch.
• Andy's facial reactions each time were great, though.
• Disappointing that this was the only speaking part Hader got tonight, and it was just a straight man role. Why does the show constantly waste him like this? I know I say this a lot, but Hader should be leading the cast every week and be treated as the go-to utility player/alpha male of SNL (in the same vein of Aykroyd, Hartman, and Ferrell), not appearing in only one sketch per week with nothing funny to do. Ridiculous.
Stars: *1/2

[2017 UPDATE: "Which idiot writer assumed that Michael freakin' Phelps would be funny enough to step into Seth Rogen's shoes?" The idiot writer in question: James Anderson & Kent Sublette, I'm assuming, because, as bjdwsm pointed out recently, these Twins sketches contain some of Anderlette's well-known "trademarks".
Also, I had to cringe a bit when reading this comment of mine above: "They had months to come up with fresh, funny ideas, and they waste time dusting off old scripts and making no changes to them?" Really, 2008 Me? Usually, it's only casual viewers who say the old annoying 'they had all summer to come up with ideas, and THIS is the best they could come up with???' complaint whenever SNL has a bad season premiere. By this time in 2008, I was a long-time hardcore SNL viewer and thus, I should've known better than to think SNL's writers spend their whole summer break coming up with ideas for the season premiere.]



Musical Performance


Weekend Update - Poehler & Meyers, featuring Alaska Pete, Nicholas Fehn, and Cathy
• Best jokes: OJ, Michigan State, Tom Brady's replacement, Jose Canseco, Kennedy Center Honors
• The Alaska Pete commentary was a bit slow and not quite as good as Will's usual Weekend Update pieces, but it was still okay. He had a couple of funny lines, like the GILF comment and talking about getting an Inuit girl pregnant.
• During the cockatoo phone call bit, was that Seth's voice as the officer and Amy as the bird's voice? It sounded like them.
• Continuing tonight's theme of lazy writing and rehashing, Nicholas Fehn is brought on YET AGAIN! You've gotta be kidding me. He does the same thing EVERY SINGLE TIME, and it only worked the first one or two times. Why does Fred keep doing this character so damn much? This was also the only notable thing Fred even appeared in tonight, too. It wasn't until this point in the episode when I realized that we haven't seen an Obama or McCain sketch in this episode so far, and they ended up not doing one at all by the end of the episode. Strange. I was curious to see how Fred's Obama impression changed over the summer, too.
• Lots of meth references on tonight's episode.
• Andy as Cathy - ugh. Samberg's Weekend Update pieces are usually lame (remember that pregnant man thing last season?), and this was no exception. After the initial sight gag of seeing Andy dressed as Cathy, there was nothing. No material or jokes. Just Andy talking in a screechy voice and twirling his hair. I did kinda laugh at the "chocolates" line, though. At least they kept this segment fairly short.
• Very long Update this week. Too bad most of the guest commentators weren't funny. They could've saved time and got a higher rating if they cut out the last two guests.
Stars: ***


[2017 UPDATE: Alaska Pete: a rare failed attempt at a recurring character by Will Forte. You KNOW this episode is awful when even Will Forte is failing to get laughs, between the unnecessary Dancing Coach sequel and this Alaska Pete character.]


Sketch - The Charles Barkley Show
• As soon as I saw the title, I cringed. And why does SNL always have to resort to the beyond-tired talk show format? That worries me that this sketch will be recurring.
• I thought Kenan's Barkley impression used to be decent when he did it last season, because he at least did okay with mimicking Barkley's marble-mouthed way of speaking. But tonight, Kenan didn't even change his voice AT ALL. It was just his normal voice and he didn't even remotely attempt to sound like Barkley. Horrible.
• Episodes like this make me wonder why Darrell even bothers showing up anymore. Anyone could've played his role in this sketch. He did nothing special here, and the same goes for Phelps (oh, wow, big surprise there).
• Also, when Darrell started speaking, you could hear a crash sound off-camera and he clearly got distracted by it. It sounded like a clipboard hitting the floor.
• The whole sketch overall wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be, but it still was pretty weak. The main parts that made me laugh were having kids as crew members (which certainly would explain the shitty camerawork in general on tonight's whole show), and Kenan's Michael Jordan/Angola/casino story.
Stars: **

[2017 UPDATE: "That worries me that this sketch will be recurring." They did attempt to make this recurring later this season (I want to say in the Ben Affleck episode, but I'm not sure), but it got cut after dress.]


Sketch/Commercial - T-Mobile
• At first, I was wondering why the dialogue in the first scene sounded so familiar, then I realized they were parodying that "your friends are HOT" T-Mobile commercial. Surprised they're parodying a commercial that must be at least one year old, but this was still really funny and definitely better than most of the stuff tonight. Jason and Kristen gave awesome performances.
• This was the only time all night where Phelps got a laugh out of me. Also, did anyone else think he looked kinda like Samberg in that wig?
Stars: ****

[2017 UPDATE: This was the very first sketch that then-new writer John Mulaney got on the air. Definitely a great sign of things to come from him.]


Digital Short - Space Olympics
• Somebody needs to tell Andy Samberg that his singing in digital shorts officially stopped being funny at some point in the middle of last season. It's clearly not working anymore. There didn't even seem to be a joke or point to this whole short and I didn't laugh a single time. It was just Andy singing, and the lyrics weren't even humorous. In addition to that, did anyone else think the song melody sounded very identical to the "superhero song" (from the Amy Adams episode last season)?
• Sad to think that the digital shorts, which you used to always count on to be great no matter how good or bad the rest of the episode was, are now just as hit-or-miss as the rest of SNL. The last digital short, "The Japanese Office", was brilliant and hilarious, and guess what? There was no Samberg in there at all. I think it's time for Andy to give up on appearing in digital shorts. In fact, after the Cathy thing tonight, I'm thinking that it may be better if Andy stopped appearing on SNL entirely and just worked as a writer behind the scenes on the digital shorts or something. He's been increasingly getting more and more on my nerves since the second half of last season, and he's almost headed down there with Kenan as my least favorite current castmember. Although I did laugh at Andy's facial expressions in the Stacia sketch earlier tonight. In fact, he's actually good at sketches like that where he has to have angry or disturbed facial reactions, like last season's Paraplegic Stripper sketch and the Jonah Hill/Jim Downey short. Maybe he should just be relegated to only non-speaking/straight man roles from now on.
Stars: *

[2017 UPDATE: Man, was I harsh on Samberg back then. Also, it's kinda funny how I was all gloom-and-doom about the state of Samberg's musical shorts at the time. While they were indeed in a very bad slump, they would eventually get out of it a few months later starting with the classic "Jizz in My Pants" short. I was correct, though, about this being when the Digital Shorts in general officially started being just as hit-and-miss as the rest of SNL. The shorts from 2005-2007 were almost always reliable and rarely ever let us down, but early 2008 was when the quality of the shorts started being very up-and-down. Incidentally, that's also the time when Jorma Taccone started working on other projects and had no involvement with most of the Digital Shorts from around this time.]


Sketch - Uno Waiter
• I bet at lot of people probably didn't know what to think during this sketch or didn't like it at all, but I admit I laughed throughout this. Bobby Moynihan's character and delivery was so strange that it made me laugh, even if some of the lines weren't that funny. But several of his lines were really good, like "We have over four flavors of soda", and I laughed out loud at the the random "Yo, I left my kid on the bus" line at the end. Plus, it was nice to see an original character, after all the rehashed stuff tonight.
• The pepper thing started out dumb and random, but I thought it actually got funnier the more he kept bringing it up, especially the comparison to Twister and "it's an old reference but it still holds up".
• It was also interesting and surprising to see Bobby starring in his own sketch in his very first episode. Even Jason, Kristen, Bill, and Andy didn't get their own sketch on the nights they debuted, and as we know, Casey has barely starred in any sketches at all so far.
• Bobby's performance in this sketch was completely different from the online videos I've seen of him. Those videos made me think he would be a Will Forte-type castmember. Not sure what to expect from him now. But he made me laugh throughout the sketch, so that's not a bad thing I guess, especially on a weak episode like tonight's. Doesn't mean I want to see this become a recurring character, though...
Stars: ***

[2017 UPDATE: Oh my god, what the hell were you thinking, 2008 Me? How could you give this infamous "peppuh" sketch such a positive review? Ugh. This may be one of the most cringeworthy sketch reviews I've ever posted. Who knows, maybe I just wanted to go easy on the new guy and didn't want to heavily criticize him on his first night; I do remember feeling bad for him because of the huge negative reaction this sketch was (deservedly) receiving on SNL boards at the time I wrote the review. Boy, was this sketch an inaccurate sign of what was to come from Bobby. It's funny thinking back on how many people were ready to write him off completely after this debut episode and were already declaring him a dud hire. He ended up redeeming himself big-time the following week with a clever "Of Mice and Men" parody he starred in, written by John Mulaney.]


Musical Performance


Sketch - The Michael Phelps Diet
• Phelps was flubbing his lines left and right during this, which brought back bad memories of Nancy Kerrigan. This was actually a well-written sketch, but Phelps' stumbling almost ruined some funny lines. Also, what was with him coughing into his sleeve right when the camera first cut to him? You can tell by the embarrassed look on his face right afterwards that he knew the camera caught that. I'm betting they'll show the dress version of this sketch in the reruns.
• The "actual pig in a blanket" made me laugh.
• The before/after pictures were hilarious.
• Jared from Subway's cameo was surprisingly great, and his one-liner may have been the funniest line of the whole night. I usually can't stand this guy, but now he earned a little bit of respect from me.
Stars: ***1/2

[2017 UPDATE: Ohhhhhhhh, boy. I had already said some pretty cringeworthy things in this review earlier that I wish I could take back, but that "now [Jared Fogle] earned a little bit of respect from me" comment has to be BY FAR one of the biggest cringeworthy-in-hindsight statements I've ever made in all my years as an SNL reviewer. The only way I can find a statement even more embarrassing in my reviews is if I had ever made a comment stating "Bill Cosby will forever be a great role model."]

_________________________________________________________

Episode Highlights:
• Sarah Palin & Hillary Clinton
• T-Mobile
• Parts of Weekend Update
• The Michael Phelps Diet
• William Shatner's cameo

Episode Lowlights:
• Digital Short
• Dancing Swim Coach
• Stacia & Craig
• Nicholas Fehn and Cathy on Weekend Update
• The Charles Barkley Show
• The ending of Jar Glove

Best Performer of the Night:
• Honestly, nobody in the cast really stood out to me much in this episode. I guess the closest would be Sudeikis and Wiig, but Wiig loses points for doing nothing new in the Stacia sketch.


FINAL THOUGHTS
I expected a weak season premiere considering who the host was and that's exactly what we got, yet I was STILL disappointed. Not surprised, but disappointed. SNL's season premieres in general usually aren't exactly the best, but this was the weakest season opener in quite a while. I hope this isn't a preview of what the rest of the 08-09 season will be like, or we're in some big trouble.
As for Michael Phelps, let's just say he certainly won't be going down on any "best athlete hosts" lists, and that's putting it kindly. He was exactly what I expected him to be - stiff, boring, and unfunny.
Here's hoping the season takes off better next week with James Franco.

[2017 UPDATE: "I hope this isn't a preview of what the rest of the 08-09 season will be like, or we're in some big trouble." Thankfully, I turned out to be dead wrong about that, as this season would end up being very strong & memorable. I think the poor quality of this season premiere was just the bad combination of a lousy host with zero acting experience and a writing staff that had just come off of a summer break.]


CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 3 sketches (Jar Glove, Dancing Coach, Update)
FORTE: 5 sketches (Monologue, Quiz Bowl, Dancing Coach, Update, Michael Phelps Diet)
HADER: 4 sketches (Dancing Coach, Stacia & Craig, Space Olympics, Michael Phelps Diet)
HAMMOND: 1 sketch (Charles Barkley)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
POEHLER: 7 sketches (Palin & Clinton, Monologue, Quiz Bowl, Stacia & Craig, Update, Uno, Michael Phelps Diet)
SAMBERG: 4 sketches (Dancing Coach, Stacia & Craig, Update, Space Olympics)
SUDEIKIS: 7 sketches (Quiz Bowl, Jar Glove, Dancing Coach, Charles Barkley, T-Mobile, Space Olympics, Michael Phelps Diet)
THOMPSON: 8 sketches (Monologue, Quiz Bowl, Jar Glove, Dancing Coach, Stacia & Craig, Charles Barkley, T-Mobile, Uno)
WIIG: 4 sketches (Quiz Bowl, Jar Glove, Stacia & Craig, T-Mobile)

MOYNIHAN: 5 sketches (Quiz Bowl, Jar Glove, Dancing Coach, Stacia & Craig, Uno)
WILSON: 5 sketches (Quiz Bowl, Stacia & Craig, T-Mobile, Space Olympics, Michael Phelps Diet)

MICHAEL PHELPS: 9 sketches (Monologue, Quiz Bowl, Dancing Coach, Stacia & Craig, Charles Barkley, T-Mobile, Space Olympics, Uno, Michael Phelps Diet)

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