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by Jason Nummer
Episode 5: Alec Baldwin / Christina Aguilera (11/11/06)
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)
Superhost Alec Baldwin just did an episode last December, then followed that up with a cameo in February, but I'm not calling SNL overexposure just yet. After seeing the dynamite 2006 Baldwin's had in not only Martin Scorsese's The Departed ("I'm gonna go have a smoke right now. You want a smoke? You don't smoke do ya? What are ya, one of those fitness freaks? Go fuck yourself"), but also his show-stealing turn as Jack Donaghy in Tina Fey's SNL themed 30 Rock, I have to say this episode is oozing buzz. What's the secret to that ooze? I'm sure rushing Baldwin back probably has something to do with 30 Rock's luke warm ratings reception, but I doubt the episode will feel forced.
Speaking of 30 Rock, should we expect Fey, Morgan or even Dratch cameos? I'm sure we'll get at least one, so let's hope its Morgan. Sure he just showed up in March's Natalie Portman/Fall Out Boy episode, but since Fey's only been off the show for six months, Morgan won't have that "too soon" feeling.
Aguilera, promoting her sales struggling "Back to Basics" album, takes on SNL musical duties for the third time. Don't forget Aguilera also hosted an episode back in 2004 and did a surprisingly good job. Anyone remember the "Celebration of Women Week", "Do You Know Who My Father Is?" or the "Final Episode of Sex in the City" sketches from her show? Well, she nailed all three of them that night. Hopefully she'll get worked into a few things with Baldwin so her participation extends beyond music segments.
|THE GOOD||THE BAD|
During the closing credits of tonight's episode, Bill Hader appeared to mouth the words "Oh My God". After seeing what became the second "Instant Classic" episode of this young season, I can't imagine another way to sum up what the cast and crew must have been feeling at 1:00 AM Sunday morning.
First things first: the cameos. I counted six in all – Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett. As mentioned in my pre-show comments, I was half expecting some "30 Rock" representation, so Fey and Morgan didn't come as a surprise. I'm just glad they were limited to only the monologue.
Then came the "Platinum Lounge" sketch. Once it became obvious we were in for a "Five Timers Club" retread, the question simply became, what recurring guests would show up? Steve Martin bit first, perhaps repaying the favor to Baldwin for the cameo he did in Martin's own episode back in February. Martin Short trotted out next and basically played the servant role Jon Lovitz originated back in the "Five Timers Club". It was nice to see this part mixed up a bit, but a Lovitz cameo would have been the bee's knees. This brings us full circle to Paul McCartney. Interestingly enough, the other two episodes McCartney has appeared in were either hosted by Steve Martin (5/17/80) or Alec Baldwin (2/13/93). Its just too bad John Goodman didn't come along as well. He's been strangely absent from SNL since 2003. He recently did a great two-episode guest spot on Studio 60, so what gives?
Wrapping up the cameos was the real live Tony Bennett who showed up during Baldwin's recurring sketch, "The Tony Bennett Show". While it was nice seeing the other cameos tonight, I have to say Bennett took the cake. Despite relying on cue cards and appearing a little unrehearsed, Baldwin and the 80-year-old Bennett had hilarious chemistry. And how about those profile shots of Baldwin? Who knew Alec's nose piece was so underutilized in past Bennett sketches? So best. The real Bennett then teamed up with Christina Aguilera to cap off the episode with a duet of "Steppin' out with my Baby". There were a few miscues, but still worth all of four coneys.
Making sure the episode didn't coast by on the strength of gimmicky cameos, Kristen Wiig brought nothing less than her A-Game. This was especially nice considering the one second of air time she got during Baldwin's last episode. Tonight she landed the cold opening spot with the debut of a Nancy Pelosi impression, followed that up with the excellent "Carpool" sketch (who's increasingly stranger comments made it play like the sister to Wiig's "Cider in the Fall" segment from Pressly's episode) and then delivered a great guest spot on Weekend Update as Poehler's Aunt. This new Aunt character, who doubles as a movie critic, is immediately up there with Wiig's best. Of all the movies released in 2006, she only appears to have enjoyed "Saw III" and "Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties". As Wiig would say, Oh Brother.
Lastly, a million props to Baldwin. Tonight only built on the momentum from his great December 2005 episode and perfectly defined why Baldwin deserves the SNL status he has.
I'm glad to say there wasn't much bad. Thanks to Baldwin's comedic timing and Aguilera's pipes, even the "weaker" moments managed to earn 2 coneys. I'd say the only real trouble spots were Samberg's "A Moment With the Out-of-Breath Jogger From 1992" and the commercial parodies. Samberg's original jogger sketch from Pressly's episode was decent, but didn't warrant recurring status. As for the commercial parodies, they were pretty much just run of the mill. I've read online that "e-zdate.com" had been pulled from the four previous episodes this season. If that is true, it validates Lorne's decision to hold a commercial parody until this late into the season.
I guess if I had to make one more complaint, it would be the lack of Poehler. Sure she had some big laughs early on when she dusted off the Britney Spears impression (last seen in that wonderful "Angry Dance Off" sketch with Matt Damon in Season 28), but during the 2003 Baldwin episode, a number of sketches paired up him and Amy because the pair worked so well on screen. This role was obviously filled by Wiig in tonight's episode, but maybe the second Aguilera solo song could have been scrapped for another Baldwin sketch with Poehler...just for old time's sake.
|THE BOTTOM LINE!|
Tonight's episode easily could have limped through 90 minutes just on the excitement surrounding so many guest stars. However, SNL didn't get lazy and saw to it that the sketch quality actually matched the talent on loan for the evening. I mean, even Robert Smigel's latest cartoon and Weekend Update were above par. You've got to love when everything gels like this…and now its happened twice in five episodes. Not bad for a season everyone seems so quick to dismiss.
Baldwin will no doubt be back to tie Steve Martin's hosting record at 14 shows, and then for who knows how many episodes after that. Now if only this energy could be carried back to the struggling "30 Rock".
1. Cold Opening: A Message from the Speaker Elect
2. Monologue: Baldwin
3. Commercial Parody: e-zdate.com
4. Sketch: Britney's Divorce
5. Sketch: Saddam's Defense Team
6. Commercial Parody: Valtrex
7. Sketch: Carpool
8. Cartoon by Robert Smigel: Kobayashi
9. Sketch: The Platinum Lounge
10. Music: Christina Aguilera "Ain't No Other Man"
11. Weekend Update
12. Sketch: The Tony Bennett Show
13. Sketch: Brazilian Bar
14. Music: Christina Aguilera "Hurt"
15. Sketch: A Moment with the Out-of-Breath Jogger form 1992
16. Music: Tony Bennett and Christina Aguilera "Steppin' Out With My Baby"
48 / 64 Coneys