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by Jason Nummer
Episode 2: Jamie Pressly / Corinne Bailey Rae (10/7/06)
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)
When last season launched with four seemingly average episodes, it took
"My Name is Earl" star Jason Lee to help the show up the ante a little
bit. In retrospect, since Lee's episode also marked the debut of
Kristen Wiig, it was here when we first got a sense that change was finally
underway. One year later, last season's featured players have all been
promoted and pull the same air time as veterans. Now "My Name is Earl"
is giving us another host, B-grade celebrity and Playboy pinup turned
sitcom star, Jamie Pressly.
I'm not expecting Pressly to dish out comedy chops on par with Lee, but
I am expecting her to be as good as recent hosts like Eva Longoria or
Lindsay Lohan. I say that only because I went into both those episodes
last season with low hopes and ended up being pleasantly surprised.
Seeing that Pressly is now in Season 2 of a smart and successful sitcom,
something funny should have rubbed off on her that can be used in a
live comedy environment. Regardless, last week's premier showed some
promising signs in terms of moving into more absurdist humor. If SNL can
keep going in this direction and resist using Pressly for some easy jabs
at pop or celebrity culture, we could have a winner on our hands.
UK export Corinne Bailey Rae shouldn't hurt overall either. Given her roots in both rock and soul, she should at least pull the same scores as The Killers last week. And she probably won't have the cheesy mustaches either.
|THE GOOD||THE BAD|
After getting off to a redundant start with two sketches focusing on Mark Foley, Pressly and crew delivered the best episode of 2006 to date. By no means was the show flawless, but when your episode clocks in 17 total segments, coneys can add up pretty fast – especially if the cast and writers click and the musical guest holds her own weight.
Taking a cue from last week, once the Foley jokes were out of the way, SNL wisely shifted away from topical humor and the result was the first consistently funny episode in a long time. Laying the foundation were three smart segments from Armisen and Poehler called "New York City Stories". On the surface, they were nothing more than celebrity impressions, but the jokes were sharp and Fred seemed to get better in each one. Bill Hader then equaled his high point from last week's "Al Pacino Balances his Check Book" with a brilliant Peter O'Toole impression in Weekend Update. This marks the second time in two years O'Toole has been made the butt of a joke on SNL, the last being when Jude Law played him in 2004. Law's version did have that wonderful line about getting a "Gin Lovers Pizza", but Hader's descriptions on how drunks behave (stealing trays and taking circus elephants to dances) gave his 2006 edition the edge. Samberg's "Kuato" sketch, revolving around a supporting character from 1990's Total Recall, came out of nowhere and easily eclipsed his Usual Suspects parody from May's Spacey episode to become his best work since "Lazy Sunday". "Which one of you Quiads does a Kuato have to blow to get a Molson around here?" Bravo Samberg.
Filling the gaps between high points were Sudeikis and Forte's absurd "Jon Bovi", Armisen's "Fugly Betsy" on Update, the one-liner marathon that was Wiig and Pressly's "Cider in the Fall" and the slightly under developed "Big Wigs", Principal's Office and WVIR News. While these moments ranked in the average 2-3 coney range, each was good enough for a few laughs and kept the show from getting dull.
Capping off the show were two great performances from the previously unheard of Corinne Bailey Rae. She's been compared to everyone from Norah Jones to Joss Stone, and whatever mix she's going for is obviously working.
Not surprisingly, the episode only lacked bite when the comedy motivation was current events. Building the cold opening, Poehler's Nancy Grace spoof and the lead-in jokes on Update around Mark Foley didn't exactly put the "variety" in a "variety show". One too many pedophile jokes tend to be redundant, especially when you can see the punch line a mile away. Still, if this is all I have to complain about in tonight's show, I'll take it.
|THE BOTTOM LINE!|
I'm not surprised in the least why Pressly was nominated for an Emmy. She did exceptionally well with everything given to her tonight, and she never played two things the same way. Sure her episode benefited from shorter segments delivered at a rapid fire pace, but a bad host can and has bombed in the exact same situation (see Sarah Michelle Geller's 17 segment episode from 2002).
A few odd things I noticed: we're now two episodes in and still no commercial parodies. What gives? Have Digital Shorts and wraparound concepts like NYC Stories temporarily taken their place? Also, the experimental lead-in segments from Dane Cook's season premiere were also nowhere to be found tonight. I'd hate to see those given up on so fast. Finally, the title sequence was slightly tweaked. Some sites have mentioned it was done specifically for this episode, but if that's true, I'm not sure why Pressly would get the honor.
Looking forward to more episodes like this in Season 32.
1. Cold Opening: Dennis Hastert Address
2. Monologue: Pressly
3. Sketch: Nancy Grace
4. Pre-Recorded Segment: New York City Stories #1
5. Sketch: Jon Bovi
6. Sketch: WVIR News
7. Pre-Recorded Segment: New York City Stories #2
8. Sketch: Principal's Office
9. Music: Corinne Bailey Rae "Put Your Records On"
10. Weekend Update
11. Sketch: Charlotte Motor Speedway
12. Pre-Recoded Segment: New York City Stories #3
13. Sketch: The Big Wigs
14. Sketch: Kuato and the Quaids
15. Music: Corinne Bailey Rae "Like a Star"
16. Sketch: Cider in the Fall
17. Sketch: A Moment With the Out-of-Breath Jogger from 1982
49 / 68 Coneys