SNL Scorecard: Was Tina Fey Overshadowed by Captain Jack Sparrow?

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There was a sense that, after a few recent not-so-great shows and a month off to recharge (the last new SNL was back on April 9), Saturday Night Live was due for a triumphant return this week -- especially with its most heralded recent alum, Tina Fey, hosting the Mother's Day episode in the same week that Osama bin Laden was killed. And Fey even brought Maya Rudolph along for the ride to help out. So, plenty of material to go around, right? Right?

As it turns out: Sort of. The Bin Laden reaction was, all things considered, fairly weak. And it was odd that Fey would host the show without even appearing on "Weekend Update," which, obviously, is one of her huge strengths. (Though, as you will see below, "Update" did just fine without her.) Unfortunately, it felt like Fey's appearance as host became an afterthought -- with Michael Bolton as Captain Jack Sparrow and Stefon upstaging Fey's return -- which is a shame because Fey's last two appearances has host were so memorable. Even Fey's Sarah Palin impression -- which, at least this time around, should have stayed tucked away in the closet -- seemed forced in a "Tina's the host, so we have to do Palin" kind of way. Anyway, off to the Scorecard we go...

Sketch of the Night

"Weekend Update" (Meyers, Sudeikis, Armisen, Bayer, Hader) Bill Hader's Stefon, of course, is going to get the headlines. Everyone loves Stefon! Hader breaks character! Admittedly, I thought Stefon had a fresher feel to him than the last time we saw him, which was way back in mid February. Put it this way: It actually looked like Hader was genuinely laughing this time as opposed to, let's say, enhancing his laughter for comedic effect -- for what that's worth. Regardless, everything about "Update" clicked this week: Meyers appears to still be riding high from last week's performance at the White House Correspondence Dinner, and Sudeikis as the Devil was the best Bin Laden commentary of the evening. The absurdity of Armisen and Bayer as "Gaddafi's Best Friends Growing Up" was my personal highlight of "Update" because, well, we all know people just like this. It's too bad the rest of the show didn't have the energy that "Update" possessed.

Score: 9.0

The Good

"Digital Short: Jack Sparrow" (Samberg, Taccone, Schaffer, Bolton): "It turns out Michael Bolton is a major cinephile." Michael Bolton was so good in this that he may have just earned himself top billing in tomorrow's SNL Relevancy Poll. Good on him for having a sense of humor about himself. Or, if he doesn't have a sense of humor about himself, the dude really likes Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (and Erin Brockovich, apparently). This is proof that an OK idea can hit another level by just having a more than willing participant. Where's the "Michael Bolton should host SNL" Facebook page? I'd "like" that right now.

Score: 8.5

"Mermaid" (Fey, Thompson, Brittain, Armisen, Bayer, Elliott): "Mermaid" is only up this high in the scorecard because of the brilliant concept: Undersea utopia ruined by Bin Laden's corpse. The concept alone makes me laugh, as I'm sure it did everyone at the pitch meeting. The execution, on the other hand, was... mildly amusing. Yeah, yeah, there's a 9/11 truther under the sea. OK, fine, whatever. That's the problem: once Bin Laden's body shows up, where do you go with it? Obviously SNL didn't know, either.

Score: 7.0

"Pregnant in Heels" (Elliott, Fey, Wiig, Pharoah, Killam): "I'm not so much a person as I am a collection of choices." You know, perhaps it's just the jolt of seeing Abby Elliott and Jay Pharoah featured so prominently, together, in a sketch that shocked me into laughter. Perhaps that's the key for those two: team up! Become the new Farley and Spade or the new Belushi and Aykroyd. Elliott and Pharoah forever! And nice job by Elliott for nailing Rosie Pope's "born in England, moved to America, every morning a thousand bees sting my tongue" accent.

Score: 7.0

"GOP Debate" (Fey, Hammond, Hader, Sudeikis, Thompson, Moynihan, Wiig): I bet Tina Fey hates playing Sarah Palin by this point. I bet when this idea was raised at the pitch meeting her first reaction was, "Really, guys? She's not even in the news right now. I mean, Seth, come on, you didn't mention her once at the White House Correspondence Dinner. Why are we doing this?" So, yeah, this whole sketch seemed like a contrived way to get Fey in the Palin makeup once again. Then again, it's always nice to see Darrell Hammond as Donald Trump. But why wasn't more time set aside to hammer that guy? You know, someone who actually is in the news. (To be fair, Meyers did a pretty great job of doing just that last weekend, so perhaps he felt that was enough.)

Score: 6.5

"Hallmark Mother's Day" (Brittain): This ran so late in the evening that it was tacked on after the sketch following the last musical performance -- so, yeah, I'm sure Paul Brittain was watching the clock all evening, hoping nothing went too long, because this would have been the first to get cut. Anyway, well, this was weird. Happy Mother's Day!

Score: 6.0

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Comments

  • Al says:

    I would swap "Birthing Class", which was hilarious in its freaky-bizarrity, with "Mermaid", which seemed like it needed one more rehearsal to learn the timing and camera cues.
    Bedelia and Googie both dragged on a bit.
    Maya Rudolph singing is a recipe for success; the monologue song worked until the awkward sonogram duets.
    The cold open had...2 good jokes. The "fear of being eaten by fish" & "bullet-proof vest" things were funny. The Dakota Fanning thing was weird, since they dated the video as being made in at least 2008, so Fanning was already over 12.
    But yeah, without a doubt the stars of last night's show were Stefon and Bolton.

  • Mike Ryan says:

    Like I was kind of saying, I could probably be talked into "Birthing Class." Seems like a "had to experience it" type of situation.

  • Nerd says:

    Birthing Class and Hallmark Mother's Day were the best sketches I've seen on SNL in a long ass time. Did anyone else notice that someone in the audience said "Fuck your yurt!"??? Maya and Bobby almost lost it.

  • Scraps says:

    The only thing unrealistic about the birthing class sketch was the fact they were able to crack wise while the video was being played. No self respecting maternity nurse who shows a video like that to a Lamaze class would stand for that sort of tomfoolery. The video, by the way, DEAD ON!!
    And didn't Myers mention Palin at the White House thingy when saying that out of all the great accomplishments in journalism Katie Couric has achieved, she'll be most remembered for a question, name a newspaper, that could double as a 'Family Feud' question.

  • Brian Van says:

    On one hand, if Will Ferrell was involved in it somehow, I bet you
    would have thought it was a lot funnier.
    On the other hand, if Will Ferrell was involved in it somehow, I bet
    it would have actually been a lot funnier without analysis.
    It was bizarre, absurd, and lousy with sight gags and one-liners -
    like the massive vagina 'fro, the huge "VHM" tape, the face-licking,
    Hader's makeup transformation, the sight of Rudolph and Wiig doing
    some sort of 69-birth thing and making faces at the camera, and
    Sudekis' reactions to everything. (I see that putting Sudekis into a
    "commentary" role is maybe the best way to revive a skit that isn't
    already being completely owned by someone else) This is not meant as a
    knock on the skit, but it probably goes over much better if you're
    stoned. But all the pieces were there. At least for me.
    I'd have rated it a 6. It's much better than "Bedelia", which was a
    bomb this time. That's sad because it's won me over before.

  • josh says:

    Actually Seth mentioned Palin, he had a funny joke about not having a president that get stumped by questions from the Family Feud. "NAME A NEWSPAPER"

  • Mike Ryan says:

    (And for Scraps, too) Fair enough, but I don't think he mentioned her name, right?

  • Kristen says:

    Overall I was pretty let down with this episode. It's a shame because I adore Tina Fey. It wasn't necessarily a horrible episode, though. Some things really made me laugh while others left me grimacing. Not to mention I was surprised by Tina's absence from Weekend Update but I quickly forgot about it when Stefon popped up.

  • lord-z says:

    Even if the episode was rather bland overall, there was a few good sketches. The Birth-training sketch was great, I might have said the Hallmark sketch was the best of the evening, but it was a good update. Much like the Elton John show, and the Mirren show to a degree, the worst thing you can accuse it of is probably of missing a lot of great potential. Even in the bad sketches, it seems like there is potential for a good, if not great sketch, but somehow it never came to be. Huge wastes of great ideas. The Osama sketch, I think that if Fred had been allowed to do his thing, instead of being stuck looking at a piece of paper, I think it could have been good. The mermaid sketch, few sketches can get away with no one moving from their spot. It just looks dull on camera.
    On another note, congratulations to the featureds, for a good night. Even Pharoah got a nice role as, dare I say it, an original character. Though I don't watch these sort of shows, so for all I know, it could have been a spot-on impression of someone.

  • Dan says:

    It's disturbing how much Michael Bolton as Erin Brocovich resembles Sarah Jessica Parker...

  • Anonymous says:

    I apologize Tina Fey...I tried SO HARD to stay awake and watch but I was dead tired. I'll have to catch it on Hulu...

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  • lord-z says:

    Never mind. I just learned that "Pregnant in heels" is, to my horror, a real show, and Pharoah was imitating a guy on that.

  • john says:

    I read a good comment from someone on the Palin impression that it missed an opportunity. Fey played the naive Palin of 2008 that she was so good at, but since then Palin has morphed into an angry and mean-spirited figure. Fey's take on that Palin would have been interesting.

  • Mike Ryan says:

    Yep. I had to look that up, too. But, yes, he was, unfortunately.

  • I knew it! The opening monologue and the birthing class were two of my favorite sketches, so I knew Mike wouldn't like them very much. Why are we so different??
    I was flabbergasted by Maya Rudolph's, um, afro in the birthing sketch. You don't usually see that much pubic hair -- even obviously fake pubic hair -- on network TV.

  • Mike Ryan says:

    We're not that different! We did seem to have a few similar opinions at Tribeca, if I remember correctly.
    And, to be fair, I openly admit that I can be talked into liking the birthing sketch.

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