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Date Posted: 20:55:17 04/03/17 Mon
Author: Stooge
Subject: Jon Hamm / Coldplay - October 25, 2008 (S34 E6)
In reply to: HerbertMcHoover 's message, "Retro Reviews - April 2017" on 18:35:53 04/02/17 Sun

Here's the original review I posted back when this episode first aired. This episode is significant for a few reasons: 1) it was Jon Hamm's debut hosting stint, and 2) Amy Poehler went into labor earlier the same day of the live show and was taken to the hospital where she gave birth. This is mentioned a couple of times in this episode's Weekend Update, which was Seth Meyers' first time anchoring the segment by himself.

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

RATINGS SYSTEM
***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?


Cold Opening - Biden/Murtha Rally
• Interesting seeing Darrell breaking out a new impression.
• Jason’s Biden is always fun to watch, but this opening wasn’t too good. Some funny lines here and there, but a lot of it seemed to drag and go on too long.
• What was the point of all those castmembers just standing in the background playing extras? I kept expecting them to say or do something at some point, but it never happened. I mean, I guess it’s not unusual for Casey or Bobby to get a role like that since they’re featured players, but still, it seemed like a waste to have them and the other castmembers not doing/saying anything.
• Best lines were the parts about Obama being tested by a crisis, the Deliverance reference, and the line about Palin’s kids.
• Judging from how the LFNY seemed really tacked-on and abrupt after the “Next on CSPAN” announcement, I’m betting that this wasn’t the cold open in dress.
Stars: **1/2

[2017 UPDATE: I was correct in my assumption that this wasn't used as the cold opening in dress. The Barack Obama Variety Half Hour sketch from later tonight was the dress rehearsal cold opening -- in fact, the syndicated 60-minute version of this episode that was aired on some cable channels (Comedy Central, VH1, etc.) used the dress version of that Obama Variety sketch in the cold opening slot (with the LFNY included), which is odd because the regular NBC rerun of this episode never did that.]


Opening Montage
• I was a bit surprised to see Amy still credited after hearing she just gave birth earlier the same day, since it’s obvious she won’t be appearing tonight, but then I figured she’s probably going to be in a pre-recorded segment like a commercial or Digital Short. Anyway, I’d like to use this part of my review to say congratulations to her on her new baby. I actually thought beforehand she would be able to make it through this week’s show before going into labor, but oh well. The woman is one hell of a trooper for working on SNL up to the very last minute.

[2017 UPDATE: Not sure why I assumed Amy would be removed from the credits in this episode just because she had given birth. I'm pretty sure the only times they remove a castmember from the credits during their run is when they take time off from the show to film a movie or TV show (i.e. Will Ferrell in early 2002, David Spade in early '96, Mike Myers in fall '92 ... wouldn't be surprised if this happens with Kate McKinnon next season, considering her upcoming busy movie schedule).]


Monologue - Jon Hamm
• I really like how lately, they seem to be doing actual monologues now instead of the typical “castmembers interrupt the host/question from audience/host sings and dances” monologues. If you ignore Oliver Stone’s brief cameo last week, then this is the fourth straight monologue in a row where the host just talked to the camera the whole time by themselves. Keep this trend going, SNL.
• Hamm was good here and came off as so natural that it seemed like he could’ve been improvising his monologue on the spot (although obviously he wasn’t). The random stuff about Mad Men being a dancing reality show and having appearances by Obama and McCain doing weed made me laugh.
Stars: ***1/2


Sketch - Sex Offender on Halloween
• I swear I remember reading about this sketch getting cut before, about a year or two ago.
• Will Forte playing a creep is ALWAYS funny. He’s the go-to guy for these roles it seems, but it never gets old for me. He was both disturbing and hilarious at the same time in this sketch, especially his line about his only crime being sexually assaulting 5 teens. His voice in some of the parts was great, too.
• Hamm’s facial reactions to Will were very funny as well.
• Excellent ending.
Stars: ****


Digital Short - Ras-Trent
• When are they ever going to finally fucking realize that Andy Samberg’s singing in digital shorts already officially jumped the shark last season? I’m sick of seeing these and they seem to be getting worse and worse each time. It’s not working anymore, Andy. Sorry to break it to you, but you need to have more than just a stupid goofy wig and cheesy on-screen graphics to make a funny musical short.
• I thought Space Olympics was unfunny enough, but at least that had a somewhat-catchy tune and was wisely put on in a late time slot at 12:40. This short, on the other hand, was an absolute waste of time, a waste of Kristen and Casey, and this had no discernable joke or point, yet it gets put on in an early time slot at 11:45 right after the first sketch. Go figure.
Stars: *

[2017 UPDATE: Looking back on that comment of mine about Samberg over-relying on "stupid goofy wigs" for his musical Digital Shorts, I'm reminded of something from the Digital Short he later did with Adam Sandler in the 40th Anniversary special, where it began with Sandler just saying "Hey, it's us in stupid wigs." Looks like even Samberg himself was aware of his tendency to use goofy wigs for laughs in his musical shorts.]


Sketch - Two A-Holes at an Ad Agency in the 1960s
• At first, I was wondering who the heck that woman sitting in between Will and Bobby was, and then I assumed she was just a writer or extra filling in for a part Amy was supposed to have. I knew she couldn’t have been a new castmember because she would’ve been credited in the opening montage. I soon was told that she’s an actress from the actual show Mad Men and then I felt really dumb.
• Casey in that tight red dress - wow!
• The Two A-Holes literally came out of nowhere. I thought this was just going to be a straightforward Mad Men parody, but this was a very interesting idea combining Mad Men with the Two A-Holes and it ended up working well. This proves the writers still have creativity left with SOME of their recurring characters. And the two a-holes are a few of the recurring characters these days I can tolerate, so I don’t mind seeing them. Some good parts in their appearance tonight were them licking all the sandwiches on the table and saying “Those are ours”, and Kristen’s Marilyn Monroe “impression”.
• The “looks like a rabbit” lines in these sketches really need to go, though, because they never seem to get any laughs anymore and always feel tacked on. It ended tonight’s sketch on a somewhat weak note.
• Bill’s voice and facial expressions was great.
• Bobby leaving in tears during Hamm’s speech was hilarious.
Stars: ***1/2

[2017 UPDATE: This would end up being the final Two A-Holes installment, which is strange since Sudeikis and Wiig both remained on the show for years. They actually were going to bring these characters back a few years later when Tina Fey hosted in either 2010 or 2011 (can't remember which hosting stint it was), but the sketch got cut after dress.]


Sketch - Barack Obama Variety Half Hour
• I knew it was inevitable that Maya Rudolph would come back sooner or later to play Michelle Obama, but I still groaned and rolled my eyes when she appeared. And as soon as I saw her with the microphone in her hand, I knew she was going to sing for the 820,656th time in a sketch. Ugh. When will Lorne finally hire an actual black female castmember so we don’t have to see Maya making cameos to play black female celebrities she looks nothing like?
• I heard that Maya was also supposed to be appearing in a Bronx Beat sketch tonight. Thank GOD Amy went into labor before the show, so I didn’t have to see that damn sketch again.
• How come Fred didn’t have his own microphone to sing into at the beginning like Maya did? I guess the crew members forgot to give him his mike before the sketch started; he did have one at the end.
• Minor complaints aside, this was a really creative and funny sketch, and it’s about time they did something fun and different with Fred’s Obama impression instead of just having him in debate sketches playing the straight man to McCain. Although Fred STILL hasn’t improved on making his voice sound deeper and at this point I’m starting to wonder if he ever will, or if we should just accept that this is as good as his Obama is going to get.
• Very funny use of Kristen’s Pelosi impression.
• Darrell as Clinton! He always kills, especially in the JFK scene with Hamm.
• Funny seeing Jason’s Biden impression twice in the same episode.
• The brief Wright/Ayers scene was hilarious, and one of the few times Kenan has ever genuinely made me laugh.
Stars: ****

[2017 UPDATE: "When will Lorne finally hire an actual black female castmember so we don’t have to see Maya making cameos to play black female celebrities she looks nothing like?" The answer? 6 years. 6 entire years. Unbelievable. We had to wait until freakin' 2014 for Lorne to start adding black women to the cast again, and the only reason he did it was because of all the backlash the show was receiving for hiring SIX white castmembers at the beginning of the 2013-14 season.]


Miscellaneous - Don Draper’s Guide to Picking up Women
• This was an interesting and clever way of parodying Hamm’s Mad Men character once again. Hamm was awesome here, and loved the part with him very rapidly listing all the other tips at the end.
• The part with Fred’s dorky name and the ladies walking away from him was funny.
• I was right about Amy appearing in a pre-recorded scene tonight. So I take it this is her last episode, even though she wasn’t really “in” it, you know? I think to me, my last memory of her as a castmember will be her busting out a rap on Weekend Update and shooting a fake moose. Anyway, she will certainly be missed on SNL, but it is her time to move on. That being said... when do we get our new female castmember?
Stars: ****


Musical Performance


Weekend Update - [blank] & Meyers, featuring Robo-Call, Ralph Nader, Nicholas Fehn, Maya Rudolph & Kenan Thompson
• Okay, this is the part of the episode I was anticipating the most after I heard Amy had her baby. I was wondering if they’d let Seth anchor Update by himself and I was very anxious to see how he’d do. I was not disappointed. Seth did great and proved that he will be able to carry a solo Update just fine. It was very interesting and refreshing to see a one-man Update again (for the first time in 8 1/2 years), although I admit it did take some getting used to tonight. For the first 2-3 minutes, I kept expecting the camera to cut to Amy after every one of Seth’s jokes before I reminded myself “Oh yeah, she’s gone”.
• Seth’s fast-paced delivery during the Greenspan bit was awesome.
• Best jokes: Palin, Greenspan, Mr. Blackwell, Japan, boneyourage.com, The View
• They must have had a lot of time to fill in with Amy out, since they stuffed this Update to the max with tons of guests.
• Will has been on Update a lot this season (Alaska Pete, republican/democrat song, Hall & Oates, Tim Calhoun, and now Robo-Call), but I’m certainly not complaining because he’s always good on Update and tonight’s robot bit was very funny. I especially liked him drinking from the flask of oil as if it was liquor and his line about telling “black people election cancelled”.
• I heard before on another board about Bill’s Ralph Nader bit being cut after dress from the last Thursday night show, so I wasn’t surprised to see it tonight. Bill’s Nader impression was very good (although he should've done that eye-twitching thing Nader seems to have) and he had some funny lines. The Spanish sock puppet at the end made me laugh a lot.
• Fucking Nicholas Fehn AGAIN for, what, the 150th time??!!! I actually yelled angrily at my TV screen when he showed up, and I almost never do that during SNL. WHY FRED, WHY??!! I can only assume that they needed a last-minute time filler for Update due to Amy’s absence, so they threw Fred out there to ad-lib the same Fehn material. But please, no more of these. Ever.
• The tribute for Amy at the end was a nice and sweet idea, but Maya coming on and singing YET AGAIN ruined it for me. Thanks, Maya, for reminding me why I was so fucking happy you left the cast in the first place.
• I wonder if next week, they’ll shorten the Weekend Update set or build a completely new one for Seth since the current set is obviously too big for a solo-anchor Update.
Stars: ****

[2017 UPDATE: Too bad Seth's strong start as solo Update anchor ended up being short-lived. It was at some point in the following 09-10 season merely one year later when the quality of his Updates began to go south (then again, a lot of things about SNL in general started to go south that season) and I started getting completely sick of him behind the desk... and to think, we had YEARS to go until he finally left. I personally consider 2009-2014 as one of the dark ages of Update.
Also, I was definitely getting way ahead of myself in the above review with expecting the show to change the Update set the following week & stuff. I mean, Amy wasn't even officially gone yet. I guess I was just very eager for some big changes and assumed that Amy wouldn't be returning after giving birth. BTW, they never did end up giving Seth a new Update set, not even after Amy officially left after December and not even in 2013 when Cecily Strong was added as his new co-anchor when he was on his way out. In fact, they still continued using that same set even right after Seth left, during the short-lived Cecily Strong/Colin Jost team-up (ugh). We wouldn't get our new Update set until the 2014-15 season when Michael Che replaced Cecily as Colin's co-anchor & the whole Update format was given a much-needed revamp.]



Sketch - Vincent Price’s Halloween Special
• This was a pleasant surprise! They haven’t done a Vincent Price sketch in ages, and I remembered how much I used to love these. Great to see it back. I’m glad the writers didn’t lose their touch with this sketch, as tonight’s was very funny as usual.
• Everybody in the sketch got huge laughs throughout and each gave excellent performances. Bill as Vincent Price was awesome as usual and anchored the sketch perfectly. The malfunctioning elevating chair was a good running gag, too.
• Kristen’s always great as the different celebrities she impersonates in these Price sketches - her Gloria Swanson tonight was a riot, especially when she was acting like a pirate and when she ate the pumpkin.
• Fred’s Liberace was a welcome addition to this (I loved that Liberace/Ann Margaret sketch from the 2006 Lindsay Lohan episode) and he was very funny as expected. Even his facial expressions in the background while happily playing the piano cracked me up.
• And Jon Hamm stole the whole sketch as James Mason. His impression was dead-on and all of his lines were raunchy and simply hilarious, especially his lines to the sailor kid.
Stars: ****1/2

[2017 UPDATE: Hamm's great performance in this sketch is even more impressive when you realize him playing James Mason was a last-minute change. At dress, he originally played another celebrity in this sketch (I want to say Dean Martin, but I'm not 100% sure), but struggled badly with the impression. After talking it over with Lorne & the writers, they allowed him to play someone else who he would be more comfortable impersonating, which is how we ended up with his James Mason.]


Sketch/Commercial - Jon Hamm’s John Ham
• At first, this brought back unwanted memories of the awful Peter Sarsgaard episode from 2006 (where half the damn show was filled with sketches making fun of his last name).
• This was a very, very silly and potentially stupid idea, but Hamm completely sold it with his delivery. The toilet paper/ham dispenser sight gag was strange enough to work, and Hamm had some great lines. His “If it feels like a slice of ham, don’t wipe your ass with it” motto at the end almost made me fall off my couch. He’s really surprising me tonight so far with his performances.
Stars: ***


Musical Performance


Sketch - Pat Finger for City Council
• Yet another sketch featuring only Hamm and nobody else? Hmm… Don’t get me wrong, he’s doing an outstanding job tonight, but I couldn’t help but wonder by this point why the cast seemed to have disappeared. I actually almost considered if maybe they left the building mid-show to go to the hospital to see Amy and her new baby, until I saw the cast onstage during the goodnights. The last 30 minutes of the show featured nothing but sketches with Jon Hamm flying solo & many musical performances from Coldplay. No castmembers appeared at all in the last half-hour, excluding the goodnights. Just thought that was strange.
• This was kind of similar to the preceding Jon Hamm’s John Ham sketch, in that this would have absolutely died a horrible death if it wasn’t for Hamm’s performance and likeability. The writing in this sketch was really dumb, but Hamm’s delivery was enough to make the lazy butt jokes barely passable.
• The E.T. Finger line was actually somewhat clever, although the audience didn’t seem to catch that.
Stars: **1/2


Musical Performance

_________________________________________________________

Episode Highlights:
• Vincent Price’s Halloween Special
• Weekend Update, minus Nicholas Fehn
• Sex Offender on Halloween
• Barack Obama Variety Half Hour
• Don Draper’s Guide to Picking up Women

Episode Lowlights:
• Maya Rudolph
• Nicholas Fehn
• Digital Short
• Parts of the cold opening

Best Performer of the Night:
• Jon Hamm


FINAL THOUGHTS
For the most part, this was a very strong episode with only a few down points. This season has kinda been all over the place so far, but if they keep their focus on writing episodes like this, Anne Hathaway, and James Franco, they’d definitely be headed in the right direction.
Jon Hamm really impressed the hell out of me tonight. Not that I was expecting him to be a bad host, but I didn’t think he’d be all that great either. I thought he’d just be an average host who didn’t hurt or help the show much. But he did a surprisingly outstanding job and got big laughs throughout the whole show. The way he carried several parts of the show all by himself with total ease, you’d think he was a veteran host already. He managed to even top Anne Hathaway as the best host of the season so far. He definitely needs to come back again, and in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up becoming a regular recurring host. I see quite a few similarities between his performance tonight and Alec Baldwin’s performance when he first hosted in 1990 - and look how many times Baldwin hosted since then.

[2017 UPDATE: In hindsight, this episode is the official point where this season really started taking off. After a very up-and-down first month, this episode started a long consecutive streak of solid episodes that lasted all the way to around mid-January, where they unfortunately hit a mid-season slump for several episodes, from Rosario Dawson to Alec Baldwin (though honestly, the Bradley Cooper one wasn't too bad). Then after getting out of that slump, the remainder of the season was another long consecutive streak of solid episodes from March to May. Damn, this was a really strong season. It's not often in recent years like this where SNL is able to go through several months without a single bad episode.]


CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 4 sketches (Barack Obama, Don Draper, Update, Vincent Price)
FORTE: 3 sketches (Sex Offender, Two A-Holes, Update)
HADER: 4 sketches (Two A-Holes, Barack Obama, Update, Vincent Price)
HAMMOND: 2 sketches (Biden/Murtha, Barack Obama)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
POEHLER: 1 sketch (Don Draper)
SAMBERG: 3 sketches (Biden/Murtha, Digital Short, Barack Obama)
SUDEIKIS: 3 sketches (Biden/Murtha, Two A-Holes, Barack Obama)
THOMPSON: 3 sketches (Biden/Murtha, Barack Obama, Update)
WIIG: 5 sketches (Digital Short, Two A-Holes, Barack Obama, Don Draper, Vincent Price)

MOYNIHAN: 3 sketches (Biden/Murtha, Two A-Holes, Barack Obama)
WILSON: 4 sketches (Biden/Murtha, Digital Short, Two A-Holes, Don Draper)

JON HAMM: 8 sketches (Monologue, Sex Offender, Two A-Holes, Barack Obama, Don Draper, Vincent Price, John Ham, Pat Finger)

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