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by Nummer and H-Bomb
Episode 9: Topher Grace / The Killers (1/15/05)
CONEY RATING SYSTEM
0-10 Coneys – Garbage
OAD = Original Air Date*
(*To be fair, coneys will be awarded the same as they were the first time they aired)
On paper, tonight’s show looked decent: Only one recurring sketch, truckers gossiping about celebrities, a break from the rap/R&B musical guests and a host with a background in comedy. The intentions may have been good, but 2005’s first episode of SNL can be summed up as “forgettable”. Topher Grace never seemed to grasp what was going on and looked very out of place as a result. Sadly, he didn’t have an inspired performance until the show’s last sketch where he played a life-sized Euro bill. As the credits rolled, I’m sure many viewers were wondering if the originally scheduled host Jennifer Garner could have carried a better show. Then again, maybe she couldn’t. Sunday night’s box office figures are showing “Elektra” opened this weekend to worst numbers than last summer’s flop “Catwoman”.
In all fairness, Mr. Grace can’t carry all the blame. Most of the sketches this week were downright lousy. Opening the show was Forte as George W. Bush (1st appearance since November), Armisen as a surprisingly good Bush Sr. and Hammond as Clinton (which according to SNL archives is the SEVENTY-THIRD time he has done this impersonation). Some of the lines during the opener were funny until I realized Forte was simply rehashing the Bush jokes that proved successful during the debate sketches earlier this season. Forte likes to use the “hard work” line for his Bush impression’s catch phrase. This seems to be ironic since it seems to also be “hard work” for SNL to think up some fresh political humor if there aren’t any presidential debates to spoof.
Next came Topher’s monologue which was another go at the host/audience Q&A format. There was a good line about the origins of Topher’s name, but the audience didn’t seem to get into anything else he said.
Trucker Talk, MLK Day at the Hospital, Dan Rather jokes and a dirty prostitute sketch filled up the next 20-25 minutes. All four of these sketches either used boring celebrity gossip jokes, recycled SNL material (didn’t the “Bikini Inspector” card forgery during the Rather sketch seem a bit like the “Florida Passport” forgery from Walken’s Census character back in 2000?) and run of the mill African-American stereotype jokes. “Beaver Ranch” started off with a little going for it, until Dratch rolled out her “Scheinwald Studio” voice with a different wig and called it a new character. C’mon Dratch! That’s a play out of Maya’s handbook. I almost dozed off during this stretch of the episode. Luckily the phone rang which got me up again for a few minutes.
I will say that The Killers injected some life into the show. Despite their pretty-boy appearance and faux UK attitudes, these four boys from Las Vegas do know how to belt out catchy songs. No need to mention Brandon Flowers’ pink suit during “Mr. Brightside” right?
Coming off the horrible Weekend Update during the DeNiro episode, Tina Fey continued her currently slump of obvious Bush jabs, jokes relying on video tape clips (ala Daily Show) and quirky comments after punchlines (“back to you freakshow”). Thankfully, Poehler earned her paycheck by winning the audience over with four solid jokes in a row – “you’re a black widow spider Angelina Jolie” (in a whispered voice) and exercise flavored pizza were uh, ahh, totally best. What was the deal with Maya and Keenan coming on as The Huxtables though? Somebody watch a little too much Nick at Nite over the holiday break? Some say unnecessary.
When compiling my next best of SNL tape and the Topher episode comes up in the rotation, I can honestly only see myself including “Visiting the Art Dealers” and “Dollar Bill”. The Art Dealers sketch had to be one of the more bizarre sketches we’ve seen in awhile and that is exactly why it worked. How can you hate a sketch with lines like “you sit on that and it will ruin your ass” or why would the chair turn? It’s a 1950’s Adler”. Apparently Armisen knows if a show is going nowhere, time to start making fun of art lovers.
The Dollar Bill sketch came out of left field too. Basically a few cast members dressed up as life-sized currency from around the globe and ganged up on the US dollar bill. Thanks to Poehler we now know what a depressed dollar bill sounds like. And why did that nasty English pound have to keep taunting her with his cane? Buzz.
Filling out the show was Hardball which coincidentally was tonight’s only recurring sketch. It was a typical Hardball installment, but I can see that Forte’s Zell Miller character is shaping up to be a guest every time Hammond dusts this thing off. Although it was funny hearing Zell explain that he would have punched or shot a threatening tsunami wave, his crazy screaming just didn’t seem as funny this time around.
Next week brings us the surprise host Paul Giamatti. I’d be lying if I didn’t say this show has potential.
Gee, I’m so glad to see that the staff at SNL really utilized their time off well and came back in full swing with an episode full of original and hilarious sketches! For those of you who couldn’t tell, that was major sarcasm on my part. While the first show of 2005 was definitely full of new skit ideas, they were far from hilarious. With the exception of maybe two sketches and The Killers’ somewhat entertaining sets, this week’s show with host Topher Grace was complete snoozevilles.
As with the last live episode with host Robert Deniro, the sketches didn’t really begin to pick up speed until after Weekend Update. I find this latest trend a bit baffling since I was under the impression that the sketches were run in order from most laughs to least laughs, based on the dress rehearsal audience. Regardless, my attention span was tested to the extreme from the cold opener to Weekend Update. It seemed that every single sketch in that time period was mediocre at best, each receiving, on average, a mere coney. The Cold Opener was actually the most tolerable out of the bunch, but that was simply because of Armisen’s facial expressions as George Bush, Sr. In fact, Armisen appeared to be quite the saving grace of this episode, garnering more chuckles in Trucker Talk as “Fastlane” talking from his “homebase,” and as Noony Showner in the Art Dealer sketch.
Besides those few laughs courtesy of Mr. Armisen, the rest of the skits were pretty dull. Grace’s monologue was the standard “question and answer” segment we tend to see from time to time, although we did find out the answer to the long-asked question about the meaning behind the name “Topher.” The CBS Evening Fraudulent Document Update dragged on and on, eventually leading to the conclusion that Dan Rather’s entire existence is a fraud. Beaver Ranch, with Grace’s young expectant virgin finally having sex with Dratch’s old beat up prostitute felt like it had been done a million times before on this show. And finally, we have the customary African American stereotype skit, this time for the upcoming Martin Luther King Day where two paramedics refuse to work on “their one and only holiday.” I’m sorry, but I have never been a fan of these stereotypical sketches, regardless of who they are targeting. Unless they are extremely clever, I say move on.
Fortunately, the show did move on with the Killer’s first song, “Somebody Told Me.” Despite their annoying appearance, I was intrigued enough to watch the entire set and, if truth be told, the rest of the show. It’s too bad that Weekend Update had to almost immediately zap my second wind when it came to enjoying the rest of the episode. Honestly, I didn’t think Fey or Poehler did a good job at the news desk this time around. Not a single joke stood out as particularly funny to me, not even Poehler’s threats to Angelina Jolie. Perhaps I just viewed the show as a lost cause by this point, but this installment of WU turned out a lot of tiresome material. Not to mention the fact that the guests this week were Cliff and Claire Huxtable! Granted, Keenan does a great impression of Cosby, but the mere thought of using these characters is so completely outdated!! They just seemed like a really odd choice.
As I said earlier, it wasn’t until after the dreary Weekend Update that the skits started to produce some actual humor. Once again, the Art Dealers sketch with Armisen was, indeed, the highlight of the episode. His appearance and accent were hilarious. Parnell also provided some comedy with his butler character Tato. All that, plus Kraftwerk being played in the background equals best! The Not Incredible Adventures of the Down and Out Dollar was also a great and unexpected surprise. This kind of humor reminds me of the older SNL days, where the writers could write a clever skit out of such a simple issue as the U.S. dollar and it’s current drop in value as compared to the rest of the world’s currency. Plus, Poehler had some kind of crazy Rodney Dangerfield voice going on, which was quite entertaining! Even Hardball, which was probably only on par with it’s previous appearances, seemed humorous when compared to the show’s earlier, uninspired skits. Riggle’s face as Howard Dean had me chuckling as did Forte’s second emergence as Zell Miller. Granted, one can only take so much of his screaming and I would be absolutely fine not seeing this character again this season, but “punching and shooting a tsunami,” is still amusing. Finally, Mr. Flowers and his band were able to neatly wrap up the show with “Mr. Brightside,” and his darling pink jacket.
Although there were a few moments of decent comedy, I hate to say that this episode with host Topher Grace was basically awful. It was totally uneventful, almost like the writers just whipped up any sketches to fill up the show’s time slot. Needless to say, it was not what I was expecting to see after a four week break. Let’s hope SNL gets it’s act together next week with host Paul Giamatti. I would hate to see his buzz diminished by another round of poor SNL writing.
1. Cold Opening: CNN – Presidential Tsunami Relief Briefing
2. Monologue: Topher Grace
3. Sketch: Trucker Talk
4. Sketch: Martin Luther King Day at the Hospital
5. Sketch: CBS Evening Fraudulent Document Update
6. Sketch: Beaver Ranch
7. Music: The Killers “Somebody Told Me”
8. Weekend Update
9. Sketch: Visiting the Art Dealers
10. Sketch: Hardball
11. Sketch: The Not Incredible Adventures of the Down and Out Dollar
12. Music: The Killers “Mr. Brightside”
21 / 48 Coneys
17 / 48 Coneys