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Date Posted: 07:53:27 03/10/17 Fri
Author: Stooge
Subject: James Franco / Kings of Leon - September 20, 2008 (S34 E2)
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
***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?


Cold Opening - McCain’s Attack Ads
• Darrell’s McCain impression makes its first appearance of the season. We still have yet to see anything on Fred’s Obama, but hopefully, he’s still working hard on perfecting it.
• Bill was awesome as the sarcastic-voiced announcer. Glad to finally see him get something funny to do this season.
• The ad comparing Obama to Charles Barkley and the bit about tax benefits for pedophiles were the funniest parts for me.
Stars: ***1/2

[2017 UPDATE: "We still have yet to see anything on Fred’s Obama, but hopefully, he’s still working hard on perfecting it." Oh, don't make me laugh, 2008 Me.]


Opening Montage
• They used Casey’s alternate credit pic tonight (the one that’s only been shown in the reruns) instead of the usual one that they showed last week. Why don’t they make up their minds already? They keep going back-and-forth between her pic every week.


Monologue - James Franco
• Decent monologue. Nothing too amazing, but Jason helped this a lot with his appearance as the frat buddy and his beatboxing at the end.
• The cutaways to Franco’s roommate in the audience were good for a chuckle.
Stars: ***


Sketch - The Cougar Den
• I actually liked this sketch a lot the first time, but was worried that it would be less funny if they made it recurring. I was right. Tonight’s version was okay but I liked the original much, much more. At least this wasn’t a complete carbon copy of the first version like so many recurring sketches do these days. There was enough new stuff to keep it semi-fresh, the problem was it just needed to be funnier.
• Surprised they got Cameron Diaz to come back just for this. Are they only going to do this sketch whenever she’s available? Never mind, I just realized that they might stop doing this sketch anyway after Amy leaves.
• At least Casey can finally say she has a recurring character now. I’m all for seeing her get more airtime and comedic roles on the show, but I’d rather see her get them in original sketches rather than a retread.
• Kenan’s interjections were too similar to last time, but I admit, he manages to get a rare laugh out of me in roles like this and the Dakota Fanning Show sketches.
Stars: **1/2

[2017 UPDATE: "Never mind, I just realized that they might stop doing this sketch anyway after Amy leaves." Nope, they actually kept it going later this season after her departure by having future newbie Michaela Watkins take her spot. And then the following season, there was a cut installment I read about that replaced both Michaela AND Casey - who were both unfortunately gone by that point - with future newbies Abby Elliott and either Jenny Slate or Nasim Pedrad (I can't remember which one). All this proves is just how erratic the female cast got after Amy Poehler's departure, with so many female featured players coming and going.]


Sketch - Agent 420
• Obvious that they’d have Franco play a stoner in at least one sketch, after the success of his movie "Pineapple Express". This reminded me a lot of a sketch Jack Black did the first time he hosted several years ago where he played a pothead who was an investigative reporter.
• This really wasn’t good at all and stoner humor always seems to come across as stale on SNL these days. And what was with the explosion at the end? Was that even supposed to be funny?
• The Bond-style theme song by Kristen was probably more entertaining than the sketch content itself.
• Fred looked and sounded hilarious as the Chinese enemy Dr. Huang.
Stars: *1/2


Sketch - OJ Simpson Jury Selection
• Nice to see Casey in another semi-big part tonight, although this was just a straight role.
• This was a really good sketch. All the different jury members inexplicably knowing about the OJ murders was very funny, especially Kristen and Fred’s parts. I loved Fred’s delivery of “Come on, he’s OJ!” Plus, those weird long fake sideburns of his alone had me chuckling.
• Glad that Kenan was barely given any dialogue as OJ, since his OJ impression last season was god awful.
Stars: ****


Digital Short - Murray Hill
• Very out-of-nowhere, but any short featuring no Andy Samberg these days is automatically a plus in my book.
• The “tiny ding dong” references didn’t get any laughs at first, although Kristen’s disturbed facial reactions were good. But Blake Lively’s random cameo with her saying “so do I” in a deep voice and her and Franco walking away arm-in-arm was really unexpected and made this whole short.
Stars: ***


Sketch/Commercial - The Looker
• A strange and completely random way of parodying The Closer, but Fred as Penny Marshall with that droopy frozen expression was priceless and never stopped being funny, especially when he put on the even-smaller glasses and Jason just smiled and said “son of a bitch” and immediately confessed.
• Did the camera cut away too early before Franco even finished his line? His line at the end of his scene overlapped with the voice-over, and I'm not sure if that was intentional or not.
• After that annoying Cathy bit on Update last week, I was ready to never see Andy in drag again, but he was actually really funny in this as Juliette Lewis and looked eerily a lot like her.
Stars: ***1/2


Musical Performance


Weekend Update - Poehler & Meyers, featuring Richard Fuld and Doug Charney
• Best jokes: Weather Channel, George Takei, Sit-on-my-facebook, Sex and the City, giant pants
• Jason wearing a barrel was a funny sight gag and his commentary got some good laughs, especially his remark about french-kissing a homeless guy for an egg mcmuffin.
• The Rosie Perez/Dora the Explorer bit was so absurd that it was funny.
• Fred as the nasty perv was just hilarious and was probably the hardest I laughed all night. It was also great when he touched Amy’s chest and she actually liked it.
• Seth and Amy really seemed to be having a lot of fun tonight. You can tell they’re definitely going to miss working with each other when Amy leaves soon.
Stars: ****


Sketch - The New York Times
• While it was nice to see an almost-full cast sketch (minus Amy, who’s barely appeared in anything tonight), some of the characters and pieces could’ve been cut. This went on longer than it should have, but there were still many good pieces and characters to keep the sketch interesting throughout.
• Jason played a good moderator.
• Kinda surprised to see Darrell in this. He looked similar to his Donald Rumseld impression.
• Will’s paranoia and recurring questions about polar bear attacks was my favorite part, especially the disclaimer at the end where it turned out he actually did get attacked by a polar bear, then got struck by lightning.
• Other best parts were Bill’s over-confidence in his completely idiotic answers, Andy and Kenan leaving after hearing there’s no Thai food, and Bobby mentioning how he’s in the middle of a sex change.
Stars: ***1/2


Sketch - George & Lenny
• Of Mice and Men is my all-time favorite book, so I already knew I was going to like this sketch as soon as it started. I also loved the other Of Mice and Men parody they did in the early 90’s, with John Malkovich and Chris Farley both playing Lennies and petting/killing everything in sight.
• Tonight's Mice and Men parody was clever and funny. It was nice seeing more low-key, smart humor on SNL, and I really enjoyed Bobby Moynihan’s performance. I hope everyone who hated last week’s Pepper sketch and who was ready to write Bobby off are a little more impressed with him after this sketch.
• I gotta say, though, I find it strange that Bobby has gotten his own starring role in a sketch in BOTH of his episodes so far, whereas Casey has gotten pretty much that same little amount of starring roles even though she’s been on over half a season. Hmm…
Stars: ****


Miscellaneous - Yankee Stadium Stories
• This was cut from late last season (Amy’s flat tummy made it especially obvious). Strange that they used this now, but I really enjoyed it. It was nice seeing Fred and Amy’s Scorsese and Perez impressions back, after the similar New York Stories segments a few seasons ago. Odd, though, having Amy play Rosie Perez twice in the same episode.
• I wonder why they didn’t air the other two Yankee Stadium Stories that I remember reading also got cut. I can’t remember who Amy and Fred played in those.
• Fred’s Scorsese was even more dead-on tonight than it was last time. He sounded EXACTLY like him and his impression just cracked me up. There was also one part where he snorted as he laughed and that had me almost dying laughing for some weird reason. Fred’s really having a great episode. He’s been awesome in just about every appearance tonight. Nice rebound from his disappointing performance in the season premiere.
Stars: ***1/2


Musical Performance


Miscellaneous - James Franco and Willem Dafoe
• Bill Hader pulls out yet another amazing, brilliant impression. His Dafoe was hilarious, and this whole sketch was awesome.
• Nice to see SNL finally using Hader’s talents tonight. The man just amazes me to no end whenever he’s showcased. It was great seeing him all over this episode, after he got jack squat to do in the season premiere. They way they used him in this episode is how it should be every week. Same thing with how they heavily featured Jason Sudeikis tonight. I always said those two need to be the leads of this cast, and I hope SNL finally realizes it.
• Loved Bill's smart-mouthed remark about Franco having to stress over “wearing wigs and squinting to see the cue cards all night”.
• Andy’s exaggerated goofiness like his appearance here usually kinda annoys me, but it actually worked perfectly in this sketch and made me laugh a lot. It also kinda reminded me of his “wazzup” impressions from that Impression-Off contest he and Bill had on Weekend Update in their very first episode.
Stars: ****1/2

_________________________________________________________

Episode Highlights:
• James Franco and Willem Dafoe
• OJ Simpson Jury Selection
• Weekend Update
• Of Mice and Men
• Yankee Stadium Stories
• Bill as the sarcastic announcer in the cold opening

Episode Lowlights:
• Agent 420
• The Cougar Den
• A few characters in The New York Times

Best Performer of the Night:
• Fred Armisen / Bill Hader / Jason Sudeikis


FINAL THOUGHTS
Massive improvement over last week’s awful season opener. There seemed to be a lot of actual original material and premises unlike last week’s recycle-fest, and most of the sketches worked. The second half of the show was especially strong.
James Franco mostly seemed to get cast in straight man roles in this episode, but as expected he was still miles better than Michael Phelps. Franco certainly wasn’t amazing or anything, but he was an adequate host tonight and played all of his parts convincingly. No real complaints here.


CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 6 sketches (Agent 420, Jury Selection, Looker, Update, New York Times, Yankee Stadium)
FORTE: 5 sketches (Agent 420, Jury Selection, Looker, New York Times, George & Lenny)
HADER: 6 sketches (McCain, Agent 420, Jury Selection, New York Times, George & Lenny, Franco and Dafoe)
HAMMOND: 2 sketches (McCain, New York Times)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
POEHLER: 3 sketches (Cougar Den, Update, Yankee Stadium)
SAMBERG: 5 sketches (Agent 420, Jury Selection, Looker, New York Times, Franco and Dafoe)
SUDEIKIS: 8 sketches (McCain, Monologue, Agent 420, Jury Selection, Looker, Update, New York Times, George & Lenny)
THOMPSON: 3 sketches (Cougar Den, Jury Selection, New York Times)
WIIG: 7 sketches (McCain, Cougar Den, Agent 420, Jury Selection, Digital Short, Looker, New York Times)

MOYNIHAN: 3 sketches (Jury Selection, New York Times, George & Lenny)
WILSON: 4 sketches (Cougar Den, Jury Selection, New York Times, Franco and Dafoe)

JAMES FRANCO: 9 sketches (Monologue, Cougar Den, Agent 420, Jury Selection, Digital Short, Looker, New York Times, George & Lenny, Franco and Dafoe)

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