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by Nummer and H-Bomb
Episode 7: Robert DeNiro / Norah Jones (12/7/02)
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)
It has been 3 weeks since a new episode of SNL. Hopefully the cast and writers have rested up and are ready to come back swinging. The last handful of episodes have been very inconsistent which still leaves Season 28 without a true standout episode. Will DeNiro come to the rescue? Probably not.
Of his recent comedic turns in 2000's "Meet the Parents" and 1999's "Analyze This", neither one impressed me too greatly. Both of these films simply put his tough guy character in silly situations - a formula that got old after 20 minutes. If you ask me, DeNiro proved he could be funny back in 1997's "Jackie Brown" where he played a burnt out convict. Tarantino didn't rely on him acting tough in stupid scenarios, he actually had the faith to give him a character that was funny in the first place. DeNiro delivered one of his best performances and hasn't really been funny since (unless you count his death scene in 2001's awful "15 Minutes").
Will SNL be as bold as Tarantino and not rely on DeNiro's star power to carry the episode? Doubtful. DeNiro has suprisingly never hosted before, so I don't really have anything to compare it too. I'm also writing this a few days early, so the sketch spoilers haven't leaked out yet. But I'm sure by Weekend Update DeNiro will have developed a crush on Mango while the costume department gets ready to dress him in drag at commercial break. Hopefully I'm wrong.
Oh, and I've never heard of Norah Jones.
I don't know why, but I think the upcoming Robert DeNiro episode might be end up being pretty good. I'm probably being overly optimistic, but it's been three weeks since there's been a new episode and I guess I'm just hoping the SNL staff has come up with a ton of new off the wall stuff. Plus I really like DeNiro, and I think given some good skits, he could really run with it. Now, I'm definitely not thinking best episode evs. But when I think about how surprisingly good McCain was (which initially I thought would suck), I can't help but feel that DeNiro might have the same potential. And look at Christopher Walken. A tough creepy villain guy in all the movies, but he was hilarious on SNL, and it didn't even seem like he was even trying since he was more concerned about reading the cue cards. I'm hoping DeNiro will end up the same way. I think he's got a funny guy lurking inside, but is always cast as the tough mob guy so we never get the opportunity to see it.
As for Norah Jones, I've heard only the one song she has on the radio. It was ok, but I wouldn't rush out to by the album. Nevertheless, it will be a nice change of pace given the past musical guests of this season.
|Cold Opening: Tom Ridge Delivers Home Security Briefing
Premise: High School and College Students have called in warning of fake terrorists with silly names
This was fucking stupid. Where the hell was a Bush opening regarding the UN developments? I was home sick with a cold all day and watched a ton of coverage on Iraq turning over their weapon plans and how pissed Bush got. I thought FOR SURE this would have been covered in the cold opening. Instead we get DeNiro bumbling through high school prank calls about terrorists named “M’Balz Es-Hari”. Stupid.
This was not a good opener. And I’m getting pretty sick of the play on arabic names. It’s so old!! And how many times are they going to joke about the color of the national threat level?? No one was even remotely funny in this sketch. Off to a bad start.
What just happened? This monologue was over in like 90 seconds! Was it supposed to be funny when he said he’d reconsider live TV after tonight? This made the Vardalos monologue look like Damon.
What the hell was this? The shortest monologue ever?? I mean, I know that this is scripted and rehearsed, but this is usually the host’s time to shine. It’s their monologue for crying out loud. Show a little emotion!! DeNiro’s lack of anything slightly humorous made this by far one of the worst monologues I’ve ever seen. Oh, that and the fact that it was about 30 seconds long. Maybe he missed a few lines on the cue cards?? Horrible monologue.
|Commercial Vignette: Big N’ Tasty
Premise: McDonalds reviews disclaimers about the Big N’ Tasty
This was a basic re-packaging of the classic Happy Fun Ball concept. Although rooted in current events surrounding the guys who sued McDonalds for making them fat, this idea still felt a little used and predictable. There were a few good jokes like “The Big N’ Tasty should not be used as an artificial heart”, but other than that, this idea is played out.
This was way too long. While it’s funny the things that people will try to blame big corporations for (i.e. suing McDonalds for weight gain, suing McDonalds for coffee being too hot), this commercial parody was most definitely not.
|Sketch: Thomas Jefferson
Premise: Thomas Jefferson tries to pick up a black slave
I got really excited when this one first started. Usually I like the historical sketches. This one quickly got off to nowhere though. Maya played the new slave in the house and DeNiro as Jefferson (call me “TJ”) spent a few minutes trying to impress her. DeNiro didn’t look comfortable, Maya was doing her typical overacting bit and Fallon tried to do too much with the lines he had. Although this did have some historical roots, the whole white guy/black girl concept was already visited during the Baldwin episode last season (4/20/02). Bad way to start off the sketches.
I can’t believe the funniest thing about this sketch was Tracy Morgan’s bit at the end where he’s demanding his rightful inheritance from Jefferson, simply because he’s black. “Which is why someone owes me a million dollars, man. I need to get paid. I have four more payments left on this coat.” But even then I only cracked a smile. Otherwise the rest of the skit sucked. DeNiro has not been funny in the least. I found myself wishing this sketch were actually a joke and that Forte would break out into The Falconer. “Reeeaally?”
|Sketch: Peter Pan
Premise: DeNiro is a veteran Peter Pan actor who plays by his rules
This is exactly the type of stuff I was talking about in my preshow comments Friday. Here we simply have DeNiro playing his typical tough routine in tights. This actually worked a little better than I thought it would have though. I really liked when he kept throwing his cigarettes at the kids – and the bit with the Tinkerbell was classic. Hopefully SNL now has the “tough guy out of water” premise out of its system now.
At long last, the 0 Coney streak is finally broken! It wasn’t a real breakout, laugh your ass off type of sketch, but it had some good moments that earned a few chuckles. Poehler was decent as Wendy. And I liked Richards, with his big smile and little kid english accent. DeNiro did fall into the tough guy role, but at least attempted some humor in this one, most notably when he flicked his cigarette at Meyers.
|Sketch: Mall Santa
Premise: DeNiro plays a mall Santa with an attitude
Uggh! Back to back DeNiro tough guy skits. This is exactly what I was afraid of. Instead of Peter Pan tights, now he’s acting pissed in a Santa Clause suit. Maya played an elf who is really upset that Santa hasn’t asked her to marry him yet. This role is getting so OLD for Maya. How many more sketches will she play the upset girlfriend (I’m speaking mostly about the Maya/Morgan bits)? This sketch also had a very abrupt ending which made it very uneven. Could have been much better.
WORST! Looks like we’re right back to the 0 Coney trend. I can’t believe how bad this episode has been so far. Seems like the writers are taking an extended absence, even though they just had the last 2 weeks off from live shows. And there was absolutely no chemistry between DeNiro’s Santa and his nagging elf girlfriend, Rudolf. I was so tempted to just start fast-forwarding.
|Sketch: UN Weapon Inspectors
Premise: Fake TV action/adventure show about the weapon inspectors surprising Iraqi people
This was sort of a good idea. We finally get to see Armisen (albeit for 5 seconds) as an unsuspecting Iraqi guard.
Ah Armisen!! You are a true friend. He was the only thing that saved this sketch from yet another 0 Coney rating.
|Sketch: Judge Horace
Premise: Morgan plays a sassy judge from the ghetto
“Shut your big ass”! Here Morgan puts yet another spin on his tough urban black guy character. He actually even used two lines/phrases from Astronaut Jones and one from the recent Missy Elliot sketch (see Vardalos). Here we had DeNiro playing a white trash guy suing his overweight girlfriend (Sanz in drag) for overdue gym bills. This sketch immediately lost 2 coneys when Sanz said “I’m not fat, I’m big boned”! C’MON! This is SNL! I expect better comebacks to fat jokes than that.
Not even Horatio in drag could rescue this one. No laughs.
|Music: Norah Jones
Norah performs “Don’t Know Why”. Now I know who Norah Jones is! I remember hearing this song a few months ago. Not a bad tune. Morpheus revealed the MP3 after the show and it hasn’t left the Winamp since.
I actually liked Ms. Jones very much. Great voice and it’s nice to see young singers playing their own instruments. This song is beginning to grow on me.
I’m really beginning to think the novelty of Fey and Fallon is wearing off. Most of the Updates this season have been memorable only because of the guests. The jokes are starting to get very formulaic and Fey’s little side comments/reactions don’t seem spontaneous anymore. This Update was no exception. The guests, Morgan and Maya as Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown and Dratch and Kattan as an elderly couple just off a cruise where OK, but couldn’t save WU overall. I also couldn’t tell if Fallon’s marijuana/Phish joke was actually a snap against the band (who is musical guest next week). Fallon can go to hell.
Ugh. I don’t even have the words anymore to describe how awful these sketches have been. This Weekend Update was soooo booorring. Not one funny joke. Not a one!! There is no hope of saving the episode at this point.
|Sketch: A Very Versache Chanukah
Premise: Drunk Versache hosts a Chanukah special
I used to like the Versache sketches. The last one with Damon was pretty funny. This shouldn’t have been an exception seeing that Harvey Keitel made a surprise cameo! In the end, this still came off very bad. If you’re going to have a recurring character, please bring something new to the premise each time. Maya failed in this department hard this time around and the only real laughs came from a desperate visit by The Osbournes (Poehler and Sanz) and Keitel (playing Sigfried and Roy with DeNiro). Despite all the star power, this sketch still managed to suck hard. I wouldn’t mind if we never see Versache again.
Are Lorne and Maya falling in love?? She’s been in almost every sketch it seems! There have been few Versache moments that I’ve truly laughed at (Versache Pockets!). They usually just drag on and on with the same lines said over and over. This one really wasn’t an exception. But Poehler!! I actually thought it was Sharon Osbourne for a minute, making a cameo appearance. She sounded and looked so much like her with that wig! Poehler. My hero. But DeNiro and surprise guest Harvey Keitel as Sigfried and Roy?? So weird. Not so good.
|Sketch: Used Car Salesman
Premise: DeNiro plays a high pressure used car salesman
Third time is a charm I guess. Instead of Peter Pan or Santa Clause, DeNiro gets to do the tough guy premise ONE MORE TIME as a used car salesman. Here we have Meyers and Poehler as a couple with a tight budget. DeNiro only sees it fit to use physical force and threats to get them to spend more money. This is officially the least creative SNL episode we’ve seen in a long time.
Honestly you guys. I can’t stand this episode any longer. What? DeNiro slapping some guy around?? So original.
|Sketch: Bedtime Story
Premise: Deniro plays dad telling his son a not so reassuring bedtime story
Stupid. I’m so sick of Kattan’s little boy character. It was funny for 30 minutes back in 1998, now that blank smile is just annoying. And DeNiro. He looked like he didn’t care one bit how this turned out. Worst.
Magical squirrels that grant wishes?? Kattan as the annoyingly cute little kid? DeNiro as the psycho dad who would rather talk about how his ex-wife drives him crazy? My God, make it stop!!
|Music: Norah Jones
This time she did “Come away with me”. Good, but not as memorable as the first song.
Another good performance. Calmed my frazzled nerves after sitting through DeNiro.
|Sketch: Channel 5 Late Night Movie: Radioactive Bear
Premise: A 900 foot bear terrorizes the city
This was very reminiscent of the Bear Researcher sketch from the Ryder episode last season (5/18/02). It still managed to get a few laughs though. At one point the military, desperate to stop the bear, resorts to using a poison sandwich to kill it! The closing credits also revealed Armisen to be one of the bears. That’s good for something.
Well, at least they saved a somewhat amusing sketch for last. Forte’s face when trying to fire at the bear with his tiny gun was pretty funny. However, not much else was.
This episode came dangerously close to being worse than the Gellar disaster. I’m really upset by that fact too. DeNiro is one of our generation’s best actors. He didn’t get there by playing the same role over and over and over either. Granted, his tough guy image has been very effective many times, but this is a comedy show. Give him some silly characters to play!
It has also been 4 episodes since Season 28’s best feature, Fred Armisen, has gotten to play anything more than a background character. Instead we have episodes like this with fucking Maya Rudolph showing up in FIVE sketches! C’Mon! She’s good when she plays off the wall characters like Time Traveling Scott Joplin (see Murphy episode), but her sassy/bitchy character (used tonight for Whitney Houston, Versache and Santa’s elf) is simply overused and not funny anymore. Kattan got to stretch his legs farther than he has in probably a year tonight too. Too bad none of it was funny.
Next week we have Al Gore and Phish. Although I hate Al Gore and know that every sketch will be political, I’m highly anticipating next week’s show. Phish has been a staple of my musical interests for nearly a decade. This is also Phish’s first public performance since they went on hiatus in late 2000! The buzz doesn’t get any better for me! Can’t wait.
It seems the optimism I showed in my preshow comments failed to follow through big time!! DeNiro’s episode actually ended up tying the Gellar episode, which I found to be the worst show of the season. So disappointing. And I can’t even blame it entirely on the cast, because most of the writing sucked too. Maybe they were too busy getting their Christmas shopping done??
DeNiro. I guess some actors of that caliber can really pull off SNL hosting duties (Spacey and Walken come immediately to mind). But it seems that DeNiro is not one of them. It was almost like “ok, he’s a big star on the show so it’ll be good no matter what.” I hope that SNL doesn’t rely on that idea too heavily. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being too hard on them, but I was very unimpressed with everything in this episode, not just DeNiro. I mean, when you laugh your hardest at Armisen in a bear costume during the credits, something is very wrong.
18 out of 60 Coneys.
10 Coneys out of a possible 60.