It's Not Her Fault: January Jones on Saturday Night Live

This weekend's groundbreakingly unfunny episode of Saturday Night Live spawned a new straw man in the seven year old argument "Why is Lorne Michaels's sketch show so disappointing?" Usually the only two parties indicted are the non-Kristin Wiig/Bill Hader castmembers and the writers, but following January Jones's particularly stiff night headlining Studio 8H, some online reviewers and ardent SNL fans placed the blame squarely on Betty Draper's dainty shoulders. The truth is that no matter how much Jones left to be desired in an SNL host, the precautions that Seth Meyers & Co. usually take for its model-turned-actress, athlete or pop star hosts, went egregiously ignored.

On Saturday night, there were two kinds of SNL viewers making up the show's 4.7 rating: the kind who recognized January Jones and the kind who had no idea who the f*ck she was. Mad Men fans knew not to expect any characters outside the Betty Draper Range-of-Stiffness (demonstrated during her appearance on Late Night last week). But there was that slim chance that Jon Hamm, John Slattery and Elisabeth Moss might appear in a Mad Men sketch, so they tuned in.

Alas, SNL squandered its Sterling Cooper currency on Jones's monologue, when a few Mad Men-superfans clambered on stage to sing their own lyrics to the the AMC program's theme song. The show continued, with Jones appearing in a Today Show sketch, as an animal wrangler who complains that Kathie Lee's singing is enraging the caged talent, a 50s party-planning instructional video, a cloud-gazing skit in which Jones plays a ditzy first date who is not familiar with Guns N' Roses and then that Rear Window flatulence gag (below).

Jones delivered a Fallon-esque performance, in which she giggled through her lines, and at one point, asked which camera she should be looking at. But again, all blame could have been avoided if SNL writers had given her some of their typical host-proof sketches. Here are three ideas:

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  • erica says:

    Um yeah it is.
    I may be mistaken, but I believe it is the host who picks the sketches that appear in the show that week. So I think we can blame her. She was not the best host I've seen or even a decent one. She lacked all of the personality needed, had no timing, she couldn't even deliver her monologue.
    I get laughs from the cast every week- all of them, not just Wiig and Hader who are hilarious, but Forte, Sudeikis, Armisen! How could you not have mentioned Armisen! Meyers! I get laughs from each of them every week. I mean I know I'm not going to watch every episode and laugh the entire time. Yeah it sucks, but I'm sure people are laughing when I’m not.
    I mean you recommend the Vinny Vedecci sketch. I never laugh at that sketch until they show the guys eating spaghetti. Jimmy Fallon? How would the writers know she was going to laugh? She probably just started laughing ‘cause she knew she was bombing.
    There was plenty to laugh at Saturday- Jon Bovi, weekend update, the digital short, rear window had its moments, Dairy Queen robbery the perfect first date was hysterical… mostly sketches when Ms. Jones' lines were limited.

  • The Dude says:

    @ Erica
    Yeah... you are mistaken. Lorne Michaels has the final say on all sketches. The random guest host/celebrity who just stumbled in the door is not in charge.

  • Desk_hack says:

    Lorne has the final say, but the host works very closely with the writers initially, and then the head writers to shape the show. I'm sure she vetoed anything that made her even remotely uncomfortable.

  • whoneedslight says:

    What I hate is that this came after the funniest episode in a long time (Taylor Swift). I don't know who the girl is, I fast-forwarded through the musical performances, but the show was FUNNY.

  • rebecca says:

    The party planning sketch was really funny. If only they'd bothered to write everything else funny as well.

  • Rosie says:

    I don't think all of the blame should fall on her shoulders. I haven't found SNL funny since the early 1980s. However, one must realize that January Jones never had much experience acting before a live audience. And it probably showed. She may not be suited for live or stage acting. Robert DeNiro certainly isn't. He made a horrible SNL host. But just because someone bombed on SN, does not mean that he or she is a lousy actor/actress or lousy at comedy. Again, DeNiro is a prime example.

  • fenpen says:

    "Mad Men" apologists are hilarious. Jones sucked and it was her fault.

  • Star Gow says:

    Great post, newspaper will have to change and get with the online media revilution or die. It will be a difficult transition for some but an opportunity for othere.

  • Excellant page! Will it be alright if I cite it as a source my site?

  • Joe Faso says:

    It seems like you're making problems on your own by attempting to solve this matter instead of looking at why there is a problem from the start

  • Sommer says:

    If you ever behave exactly like a spoiled child it's good to expect to be handled as a spoiled child, the desirable triple A rating was always at risk and only an idiot wouldn't have been mindful of this issue.

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