It’s been three weeks since the last new episode of Saturday Night Live, which is probably a good thing. Between the Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Renner episodes, it felt like the writers needed a bit of a break to come back with some fresh ideas. Thankfully, “Jamie Foxx/Ne-Yo” was full of plenty of great bits, even though the episode’s first half didn’t look so promising.
Starting off was a lukewarm C-SPAN segment, where Obama and Boehner discuss the fiscal cliff and that Obama will give Boehner what he wants because he feels sorry for the constant bullying Boehner has had to deal with. It’s mostly just recounting the increasing level of pranks that Bill Hader’s Boehner has been the butt of. Nothing special.
Foxx’s opening monologue was all over the place, starting with Foxx stating, “How black is that?” to different things and ending with some time at the piano and then dancing along with a cameo from 2 Chainz. It’s not surprising that once again the monologue relied on singing, especially since after winning the Oscar for Ray, Foxx seems to think he has been inhabited by the spirit of Ray Charles himself. Throughout the night, Foxx played two distinct character types: incredibly cocky and confident, and the somewhat dumb character. I’m not a fan of the former, which was at its most irritating point here.
Following that was Bitch, What’s the Answer?, a game show parody where Foxx yells at white contestants, calling them “bitch” when they don’t know the answer. It’s too easy of a joke to make, but does have a few decent lines. After that came the return of J-Pop America Funtime Now! This isn’t one of those recurring segments that SNL has run into the ground, but it is getting a little old at this point.
A trailer parody for Tyler Perry Presents Tyler Perry’s Alex Cross 2-Madea: Special Ops felt incredibly obvious, as Foxx played both Alex Cross and Madea at the same time. It wouldn’t have been a bad idea, but considering Alex Cross came out almost two months ago, it feels a bit stale.
Ne-Yo’s performances were pretty good, although he does come off as trying too hard to be Usher. But regardless, Ne-Yo did a fine job performing “Let Me Love You” and “She Is.”
Weekend Update was a rare disappointment, with Aidy Bryant as a sexually frustrated Mrs. Claus and Foxx as a Ding Dong. Seth Meyers’ headlines were good enough, but the characters just fell flat.
Then after Weekend Update, the set was revealed to have another game show, which just felt lazy. But surprisingly, this was just the show turning around, making up for the mediocre first half. The game show was Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney, having Foxx, Jay Pharaoh and Kenan Thompson looking at pictures of McDermott and Mulroney and trying to figure out which was which. It was already pretty great, but having Dermot Mulroney come out confused as to who he was was the perfect ending.
Following that once again, a pre-taped segment was understated but a nice change, this time with Thompson playing a former pimp trying to sell Christmas trees, a cute idea that didn’t overstay its welcome.
But then came the highlight of the night, and probably the highlight of the season so far: Maine Justice. From the very beginning, something felt odd about this courtroom parody, from the alligator in the logo to Sudeikis’ judge that looked like Colonel Sanders. The great reveal was that this entire community had relocated after Hurricane Katrina to Maine and didn’t want to lose their Louisiana ways. Sudeikis here was brilliant—so over-the-top, he made Foxx break—and Charlie Day making an appearance as a white trash congressman was brilliant. All the skit needed was Jason Bateman to make this a complete Horrible Bosses reunion. Also, I wouldn’t be mad if every skit ended with a Treme-level brass band bursting in, complete with Pharaoh’s odd dancing, umbrella in hand.
Another late-in-the-night surprise was a sketch featuring two former porn stars, played by Cecily Strong and Vanessa Bayer, who are filming a commercial for Swarovski Crystals in an attempt to get some free ones. Strong and Bayer play dumb pretty well, and the skit gets very dark, yet remains hilarious.
One thing that really stood out was that every single segment of this week’s episode was supposed to be either a TV show or commercial. Sure SNL does a lot of TV and commercial parodies, but this is the first time I can remember the entire show being completely built off of them.
It’s also notable that for the first time in a while, Foxx was part of every single segment, including Weekend Update, which is incredibly rare, but given his history with In Living Color, he pulled it off more than any other host this year would have been able to.
Foxx had a lot to do this episode and was the most outgoing host this season. His past in sketch comedy really helped him out, even if he can be a bit too much to take at times. It’s great that this break seemed to get the creative, and weird, juices flowing for the writers. That second half had some of the best skits this season and shows just how brilliant SNL can be when it really goes all-out.