The last time Christina Applegate hosted Saturday Night Live was almost two decades ago, as she mentions in her opening monologue. In 1993, Applegate hosted at the height of Married…With Children’s popularity and in the middle of a creative renaissance for SNL. With a fresh cast and great writers on staff, she hosted the first episode to feature Chris Farley’s legendary character Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker. Now, close to 20 years later, Applegate returns to host SNL for her second time, but without any of the fantastic writing or hilarious characters to help her out. Instead she is a part of the worst episode of the season so far and one of the flattest episodes in recent memory.
The cold open had to be the vice presidential debate, but there wasn’t much to work off, except jokes about Paul Ryan drinking too much water and Biden using the word ‘malarkey.’ After Ryan lies about winning an Olympic medal, a cameo by Usain Bolt is a surprise, but doesn’t add anything. During the bland opening though, I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if Mitt Romney and Joe Biden ever had to be in a skit together since Jason Sudeikis plays both parts.
Christina Applegate’s opening monologue wasn’t much better. For the third time out of these first four episodes, the monologue focused on music—this time an uninspired song about how mid-October is great because it’s pre-holidays. The joke is that they don’t have to try that hard basically, and it shows. Instead of the Muppets, they get the Fruppets. Instead of the Swedish Chef, they have Dane Cook. It’s a pretty lazy opening for an episode that maintains that feeling throughout.
A parody Gillette commercial is amusing to see impersonations of Adrien Brody, Gael Garcia Bernal and Andre 3000, but when Jerry Sandusky shows up, it just seems like a cheap laugh. Speaking of going for an easy joke, “The Californians” is back, and it is becoming the new “Password” skit, the kind of skit that will be dragged into the ground. Too late. This skit has been done only a handful of times, and it’s already lost its humor. Another appearance of Usain Bolt feels more like a way to use him since he’s already there.
Tech Talk focuses on the idea that people have complained too much about iPhone 5, as three critics of the device must voice their opinions to the peasant Chinese laborers who made them. It’s basically “First World Problems: The Skit.” While we complain about not being able to play Angry Birds, the laborers worry about a bird trying to take their lunch. A trailer for a movie called Give Us All Our Daughters Back makes fun of action movies like Taken and The Expendables. SNL has started to do have these types of quick looks at various characters more often this season, but in this version none of the impressions are that impressive, except for Jay Pharaoh’s already proven Denzel Washington.
Even Weekend Update didn’t impress this week, bringing out old guests like Nasim Pedrad as Arianna Huffington to talk politics and Kenan Thompson’s French Def Jam comic Jean K. Jean. Once again, this week’s episode just recycled old characters and ideas from the past.
A bit about Odysseus was so weird it brought some laughs, but not enough, as Odysseus is drawn to the Sirens singing songs by Lisa Loeb, Paula Cole and TLC. Watching Sudeikis’ Odysseus dancing to ‘90s songs he should have no way of knowing was kind of funny, but the entire segment lacked a level of polish to the jokes.
Yet another reused skit was a school function featuring Pharaoh’s principal who starts every announcement with “attention teachers and students.” This has been done plenty of times as well, but watching Pharaoh crack himself up made for the night’s first laugh-out-loud moment, even if it was 70 minutes into the broadcast.
Passion Pit’s two songs of the night, “Take A Walk” and “Carried Away” were fine, but a little underwhelming. The only impressive musician of the year so far still remains Frank Ocean.
Ending the night was one of the only original skits (and one of the biggest flops), with Applegate playing Jillian Chizz, a Fosse devotee with her own dance studio. Applegate’s performance had too much Kristen Wiig in it and relied too heavily on Thompson saying “this don’t make no sense,” over and over.
Nothing seemed to click on this fourth episode of the season. Almost every segment was something that had been seen in the past and the new ideas just didn’t work. Altogether, Applegate’s second host spot was just a failure in so many ways, not because of her, but because the material she was given wouldn’t have worked with any host.
Best Line of the Night:
-Pharaoh as a principal had the best line of the night, making himself break character:
“Attention teachers and students, two students have just been expelled for fornicating inside a Mufasa costume. So what you saw on the dance floor was two students getting it on, and not a lion having a seizure.”