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Date Posted: 11:49:32 04/13/17 Thu
Author: Stooge
Subject: Ben Affleck / David Cook - November 1, 2008 (S34 E7)
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.

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

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


Cold Opening - A Special Message from Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin
• Even though I think it’s kinda ridiculous to have either of the candidates appearing on the show just days before the election (wasn’t Obama supposed to appear this weekend originally?), I’ll tolerate McCain being on since he’s always funny on SNL.
• This may be the very last time we’ll see Fey as Palin. She was a great impression by Tina and did a lot to help boost SNL’s ratings and publicity this season. Her impression will be missed.
• The premise of McCain and Palin selling their items on QVC was a nice original idea and there were several great parts. The blank commemorative plates, the talking Joe Biden doll, the Ayers freshener, and Palin “goin’ rogue” by secretly talking to the side camera and hawking her “Palin in 2012” shirts.
• McCain was good here and his line towards the end about a true maverick being a republican without money was funny.
Stars: ****1/2

[2017 UPDATE: Contrary to my prediction, this ended up being FAR from the last time we saw Fey's Palin. That impression would later return in Fey's 2010, 2011, and 2015 hosting stints, plus a cameo appearance in a Darrell-Hammond-as-Trump cold opening from early 2016.]


Opening Montage
• What? I thought Amy was officially out of the cast now. Why is she still credited? C’mon, Lorne, she’s done. Don’t force her to come back. This was the right time for her to leave. You need to concentrate more on hiring new women.


Monologue - Ben Affleck
• Shortest monologue ever? It may very well be. I swear, these monologues seem to be increasingly quicker each week, but I don’t care since I’m just happy that they’re keeping the streak of solo monologues alive (five in a row now!). Plus, Affleck had plenty to do throughout the rest of the show, so it’s not like this was a waste of him.
• What little there was in this monologue was still funny. Affleck talking about supporting losing candidates in the past, then going ahead and announcing his endorsement of McCain was pretty ballsy considering McCain was there.
Stars: ***

[2017 UPDATE: I didn't remember at the time I originally wrote this review, but the shortest SNL monologue of all-time may actually be Teri Garr's from season 5 - it literally consisted of her just saying she's thrilled to be there and there's so much show to get to tonight that they're just gonna go right ahead and do it. That was it. I always found that odd, and wondered if she maybe did a different monologue in dress but it didn't go over well.]


Commercial - Jar Glove
• Rerun. While it’s not unusual to show a repeat commercial 7 episodes into the season, it’s still incredibly lazy considering we only had TWO new commercials all season (this and Readitrade.com).


Sketch - The View
• Reminds me of when they used to do The View sketches all the time back in the late 90’s.
• When I first saw Kenan and Fred, I thought this was going to be an all-drag parody of The View, but then they showed Kristen and Casey.
• Fred as Joy Behar was hilarious, and his voice kept killing me.
• The Hasselbeck stuff was okay but started to become a little overdone by the end.
• They obviously had to write Sherry Shepard out of the sketch since nobody was left in the cast to play her as Kenan was already playing Whoopi. This once again shows how SNL desperately needs a black female castmember.
• I remember reading an interview with Casey over the summer where she said she’s working on a Jennifer Aniston impression (among other impressions) that she’s hoping she’ll get to do on the show this season, so I wasn’t surprised to see it here. I can see what she was going for with the voice and she did sound pretty close to Aniston and some of the physical mannerisms were accurate as well (i.e. the way she leaning her upper body to the side), but the strange facial expressions kinda ruined it. The expressions were way too exaggerated and made her look nothing like Aniston. I’ll give Casey bonus points anyway just because I’ve rarely seen anybody attempt a Jennifer Aniston impression.
• I’ve also don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone attempt an Alec Baldwin impression before, and Affleck was awesome as him here. His voice sounded just like Baldwin and he had several good lines, especially when he compared Hasselbeck to his ex-wife and said he doesn’t know whether to kiss her or throw her off a cliff.
• Affleck cracked up briefly after Casey said something to him, but he quickly got back into character. He usually always laughs at least once in every episode he hosts (remember the Escalator sketch from his last episode?)
Stars: ***1/2

[2017 UPDATE: "I’ll give Casey bonus points anyway just because I’ve rarely seen anybody attempt a Jennifer Aniston impression." Things have changed quite a bit since then with future castmember Vanessa Bayer doing a well-known and spot-on Aniston/Rachel Green, plus - and I'm probably one of the few people who remember this - future castmember Taran Killam did a surprisingly-great Aniston impression in that Jennifer Aniston Look-a-like Contest sketch from Zach Galifianakis' 2013 episode. Compared to all of this, Casey Wilson's impression pales horribly and does not hold up well at all. Her Aniston felt like a work in progress, and as I said in the above review, she kept making stupid faces throughout.]


Sketch - Countdown with Keith Olbermann
• It’s about time SNL made fun of Keith Olbermann.
• Affleck’s impression wasn’t really accurate (since when does Olbermann speak in an almost-British accent?), but his performance was amazing in this. He was great and his increasingly-angry voice and delivery was hilarious and kept cracking me up non-stop, even in the parts where he wasn’t saying something intentionally funny.
• This sketch ended up going on for a really long time - probably way too long, but I didn’t care because Affleck’s impression kept me laughing the whole time. The fact that he was able to carry almost the entire long sketch by himself and without missing a single beat (except for yet another minor character break after the “World’s Worst” segment) is even more impressive. This sketch is one of the best performances from a host in quite a while.
• The sudden changes in camera angles was great, too, especially when he spun all the way around and when he looked up at the ceiling.
• Fred was also funny in this, especially the way his lips looked.
• The Mitt Romney joke was awesome.
Stars: ****


Sketch - Target Lady
• NOOOOOOOOO!!!! Die, Target Lady, die!
• Thank God once again for Affleck. He completely saved this sketch with his funny wigger character and helped shake the format up a little bit. I especially liked the part with him speaking/singing into the PA system, and him scanning Target Lady with the scanner and then saying “Just as I thought - priceless!”
• Poor Bobby. This was his only appearance of the night, and it was just a 3-second walk-on. After getting a surprisingly good amount of airtime in his first four episodes, he’s gotten practically nothing to do these last three weeks.
Stars: **1/2


Miscellaneous - Giraffes!
• I liked this better the first time… when it was called Sloths! [/Spade mode off]
• Seriously, what was the point of just ripping-off and rewriting Sloths? Did they think nobody would notice, and did they honestly think they could actually top Sloths? Part of the reason why Sloths worked the first time was because of the unexpected shock value and because of Kristen’s reaction at the end. Plus, sloths are inherently funny. Giraffes aren’t. This just wasn’t good at all, and was a waste of Sudeikis. The Lonely Island’s recent downhill spiral continues.
• Was that Akiva I just saw?
Stars: *

[2017 UPDATE: My "Was that Akiva I just saw?" question was referring to a part where a graphic is shown of a guy's head who's eyes are missing and his brain is getting eaten by a giraffe. That was indeed Akiva.
Also, as much as this was an inferior Sloths knock-off, a one-star rating is still a bit harsh. After all, the formula was still fairly funny and there were SOME amusing lyrics and graphics during this song. I'd probably give it a two-star rating today.]



Musical Performance


Weekend Update - [blank] & Meyers, featuring Sen. John McCain, Drs. Patrick and Gunther Kelly, Aunt Linda
• They’re STILL using the same Update set? C’mon, what’s the point? I don’t think Amy’s coming back. This set is way too big for just one anchor and Seth looks strange sitting all alone at just one half of that huge desk. They need to build a new, smaller set for Seth and start officially announcing this as “Weekend Update with Seth Meyers”. Time to move on past Amy, SNL.
• Seth did another good job on Update solo, although there didn’t seem to be many jokes this time. For example, what was with having only TWO jokes in between the second and third guest commentaries?
• Best jokes: Joe the Plumber, C.S.Oy, Phil Spector, Entourage
• McCain getting booed during his entrance - OUCH! That was just unnecessary. Not even Sarah freakin Palin got any boos when she appeared on the show a few weeks ago.
• McCain’s commentary was funny once again and I liked his list of choices and his descriptions, especially the Double Maverick, the Sad Grandpa, and the Rocky IV.
• Will Forte continues his streak of appearing on almost every Update this season.
• The Kelly Brothers! We haven’t seen them in a long time. Their “informative” songs are always good and Forte’s insanely-high singing never fails to kill me.
• What the hell is with the overload on all of Kristen Wiig’s characters this season? When will she (or is it the writers?) realize that recurring characters are NOT her strong point? I thought they retired Aunt Linda a year ago. And after watching her tonight, I wish she stayed retired. Aunt Linda was funny the first one or two times she appeared, then they ran her into the ground and she started getting old, one-note, and annoying. Tonight was no different, and her TV show reviews were the same-old, same-old. And did anyone else notice that Kristen’s Linda voice actually sounded very similar to her Target Lady voice at times? Maybe it’s always been like that, but I didn’t notice until now since both characters appeared tonight. I used to kind of just ignore when people always said that all of Kristen’s recurring characters are the same, but lately, I’m starting to see what they mean…
Stars: ***1/2

[2017 UPDATE: More and more, you can see my Wiig Fatigue officially starting to set in around this time. It wouldn't hit full-force until a little later this season in January when she debuted both Gilly AND the "Thomas!" lady in back-to-back episodes - that's when I knew I officially couldn't stand Wiig anymore.
Also, LOL at McCain getting booed. This was just a few days before the election, and by this point, the writing was on the wall that he was gonna lose. His guest appearance in this episode was clearly a last-ditch effort to garner up some desperate votes. At least he had a good sense of humor about himself, though, even laughing hammily when he got booed here.]



Sketch - Night School Musical
• An okay High School Musical parody. At least Casey got a rare big role and I did laugh at her line about being addicted to meth.
• Darrell’s always so awkward in non-impression walk-on roles like this and brings these sketches to a screeching halt. The audience never seems to know whether to laugh or not at him as these characters.
• I wish Will had more lines. He barely did anything in this sketch.
• Affleck as the new transfer student/crazy person was the funniest part. It looked like he forgot to sing during some parts at the end, though (either that or he just couldn’t remember the lyrics).
Stars: ***


Sketch - Grady Wilson’s Put the Fire Back in Your Marriage Techniques
• A rare decent sketch starring Kenan. I usually can’t stand sketches featuring him in the lead role, but some of the pre-taped sex technique scenes gave me a good laugh.
• Kenan was also tolerable in the live portions of this sketch. He toned down his usual overacting and mugging for once, which is good.
Stars: ***


Sketch - David and Stefan
• Hader! I was wondering where the hell he was tonight. The fact that his first and ONLY appearance of the whole episode was in the last 15 minutes is a shame. I said it before and I’ll say it again - the way they constantly under-utilize Bill should be a crime. He’s one of the most talented, funniest, and versatile members of this cast, yet they still treat him like he’s a featured player. I don’t understand.
• Bill was hilarious in this sketch and his voice was amazing. He seems almost TOO good at playing gay. I laughed out loud just as soon as he appeared in that ridiculous wig and shirt. The funniest parts were him talking about “diaper people”, “effed-up leprechaun situations” and ripped midgets, and his bizarre freeze-frame at the end.
• I also laughed at Jason’s line about Bill’s “half-remembered gay nightmare”.
Stars: ***1/2

[2017 UPDATE: Wow, little did I know at the time that I was witnessing the birth of an iconic character. I think a lot of people today forget that Stefon (who I misspelled in this review as "Stefan", since his name wasn't displayed on-screen during this sketch unlike his Update commentaries later on) originally got his start in a normal sketch before he later became a hugely-popular Update staple. It seems like this character/sketch was originally intended to just be a one-off, since we never saw him again until two years later where he randomly appeared in his own Update commentary. That commentary ended up going over very well and his popularity quickly grew from that point on when they kept frequently bringing him back on Update in one memorable commentary after another.
And yes, it's insane how SNL constantly underused and underappreciated Hader during the first half of his 8-season tenure. Viewers like me could see his comedic brilliance and indispensable talents right off the bat as early as his first season in 2005, yet SNL inexplicably waited until around 2010 before they finally treated him as one of the star players of the cast by letting him be the utility guy and consistently giving him plenty of airtime.]



Musical Performance


Sketch/Commercial - Bierhoff Bros. House of German Coats
• An okay closing sketch and an accurate parody of foreign tourists you see in New York. The material wasn’t amazing, but Armisen and Affleck’s angry German accents were very funny and helped make the writing funnier than it was.
• The extending red flag, sausages, and tent features of the coats were the best parts.
Stars: ***

_________________________________________________________

Episode Highlights:
• A Message from Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin
• Parts of Weekend Update
• Affleck as Keith Olbermann
• Parts of The View
• Bill as Stefan

Episode Lowlights:
• Giraffes
• Kristen as Target Lady
• Aunt Linda

Best Performer of the Night:
• Ben Affleck / Fred Armisen


FINAL THOUGHTS
An average episode overall, nothing too special with a few exceptions. I certainly can’t complain since I was expecting much worse, considering this was the 7th live Saturday show in 8 weeks and, thanks to all those Weekend Update Thursdays, the cast/writers have yet to get a full week break until now. Hopefully they all get some well-deserved rest next week and are fully re-energized for the next live show.
Despite a few flubs throughout the show, Ben Affleck was an excellent host as usual and helped salvage some of weaker material. His performances in the first three sketches were especially memorable. I look forward to him joining the five-timers club next time he hosts.

[2017 UPDATE: Not sure why I had a fairly-tepid reaction to this episode, calling it just "average" and "not too special". This was a consistently solid, steady show, and the fact that I gave only two sketches a rating below three stars speaks volumes.]


CASTMEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
ARMISEN: 5 sketches (View, Keith Olbermann, Update, Night School, German Coats)
FORTE: 2 sketches (Update, Night School)
HADER: 1 sketch (David/Stefan)
HAMMOND: 1 sketch (Night School)
MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)
POEHLER: 0 sketches
SAMBERG: 2 sketches (Night School, David/Stefan)
SUDEIKIS: 2 sketches (Giraffes, David/Stefan)
THOMPSON: 4 sketches (View, Keith Olbermann, Target Lady, Grady Wilson)
WIIG: 4 sketches (View, Target Lady, Update, Night School)

MOYNIHAN: 1 sketch (Target Lady)
WILSON: 3 sketches (View, Target Lady, Night School)

BEN AFFLECK: 7 sketches (Monologue, View, Keith Olbermann, Target Lady, Night School, David/Stefan, German Coats)

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