SNL Scorecard: Where the Hell Was Ed Helms?

AGD.jpgIt's apparent that there are certain Saturday Night Live hosts whom the show really has no idea how to use -- Elton John is a good example from earlier this season. Then there's the strange case of Ed Helms: For whatever reason, the show decided to pretty much ignore the fact that Helms was host altogether.

Put it this way: In the stretch between his monologue and "Weekend Update," you saw less than one minute of actual Ed Helms airtime. Then again, in the first hour of the show, there were only two live sketches. Regardless, Helms had the chance to be a Jon Hamm-type host; like Hamm (who, coincidentally, did show up), Helms doesn't have some sort of overwhelming public personality that would typecast him into certain sketches. He could have been a chameleon, so to speak. Instead, he was relegated to the last half-hour of what turned out to be the season's very sub-par penultimate show. On to the scorecard...

Sketch of the Night

"Ambiguously Gay Duo" (Hamm, Fallon, Carell, Colbert, Helms) More a marvel of wonderment than actually laugh-out-loud funny. Like pretty much anyone else watching last night, my first reaction to hearing Don Pardo announce "a cartoon by Robert Smigel" during the opening credits caused an initial reaction of, "Huh, haven't seen one of those in a while." Indeed, the last "TV Funhouse" segment was in March of 2008 and the last "Ambiguously Gay Duo" was in September of 2007. (The first "Ambiguously Gay Duo" to appear on SNL -- after debuting on The Dana Carvey Show -- was way back in September of 1996.) Nostalgia wise, it was nice, but even with a long break, the same old jokes were a bit tired. Then it happened. The animated characters of Ace and Garry -- voiced by Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell -- transformed into live-action versions portrayed by Jon Hamm and Jimmy Fallon, with Carell and Colbert still along for the ride as live action villains. Quite possibly the most surreal thing to air on SNL this entire season and, if nothing, else, really had me pining for Hamm as host once more.

Score: 9.0

The Good

"What's Up With That?" (Thompson, Sudeikis, Hader, Simon, Colfer, Helms, Ensemble): I have mixed feelings about the appearance of Lindsey Buckingham. On one hand, I'm never a fan of when the real-life version confronts the parody onstage. Then again, Bill Hader's Lindsey Buckingham was never really a parody. It was always more of a "Who is the most random person we can have as a recurring guest?" type situation. So, in the case of Buckingham, why not? His appearance actually kind of fit into the manic jumble of "What's Up With That?" And, as always, these are a delight just to see Jason Sudeikis dancing in a track suit.

Score: 8.5

"Ann-Margret" (Wiig, Helms): Ann-Margret tries to throw a wad of paper into a trash can, but she does so in a 1960s Ann-Margret-y mod dance style. Look, I have no excuse, but I laughed throughout this sketch. Maybe think of this as Wiig's victory dance in celebration of Bridesmaids $24.5 million haul over the weekend.

Score: 7.5

"One Take Tony" (Samberg, Helms, Wiig, Hader, Moynihan) Samberg, channeling the ghost of Jon Lovitz, plays an actor who only needs one take to nail a scene. Of course, his secret is that he asks the director to keep rolling after he continuously flubs his part. This is another one of those situations where the concept sounds funny, but the execution is, well.... Put it this way, the first time I watched this sketch, I hated it. I've watched it three times now and, for whatever reason, it gets funnier each time. I'm well aware this will fall into into the "Mike Ryan, how in the world could you have thought that was funny?" category; perhaps it's Samberg's strange backing-up motion after each missed take?

Score: 7.0

"Poker Night" (Hader, Samberg, Sudeikis, Helms): I really miss Will Forte in these sketches. Regardless, it was still nice to see the "singing a song while telling stories" sketch dusted off and, being the first post "Update" sketch, it gave Ed Helms something to do. And, hey! The first-ever SNL sketch based on The Human Centipede. (Video not available on Hulu.)

Score: 6.0

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  • Dan Tralder says:

    easily the worst episode this season. Except, of course, for the Scarlett Johansson episode, which is so far off the charts that it doesn't count.

  • lord-z says:

    I agree, this week, on most everything. The last several episodes I throught bland and that they could have hit the mark, with some rewriting. This time, the bad sketches never had a chance. I hate "Whats up with that", yet, it was one of the best sketches of the episode. That does not bode well. And what the heck was up with all the recurring sketches? Were they all counting on AGD to distract from the entirety of the episode? I am usually one of the first to defend SNL against people who hasn't liked it since their favourite performer left years ago, but this was just a disappointing episode. Perhaps because I had expected more from Helms, but, alas.

  • Scraps says:

    Garth and Kat have achieved immediate fast forward status, so I'll take your word for how bad they were. Pharoah's Will Smith is just pointless. He's like the guy who we all know who can do a good impression of someone. And Crispino isn't all that funny either. I know it is sort of the Update format now (4 or 5 jokes, guest segment, 3 or 4 jokes, guest segment...) but how about cutting the guest segments down and telling more jokes? I laugh most at update at Meyers' jokes.

  • Mike the Movie Tyke says:

    Yeesh. Nothing worked, although I did at least appreciate the originality and accuracy of the Ann-Margret sketch. But why make Helms look exactly like Mitt Romney and then make Romney one of the few names you don't mention? And why keep bringing back sketches and characters that simply aren't that good? Such an off, lazy show.

  • BeyoncesEvilTwin says:

    I agree with Scraps. Seth doing Weekend Update is good comedy to me. Never found Second Hand News guy funny. When Garth and Kat come on I go wash my face or unload the dishwasher or channel surf. NOT ENOUGH HELMS! I like What Up With That; sometimes it is hit or miss. They needed more Sexy Banjo Man because what Helms was wearing was cracking me up. Ambiguously Gay Duo started out lame w/ the same jokes from 1996 but I like when it became live action and I got to see my boyfriend Jon Hamm who needs to be on SNL more. The monologue is always lame but I watched it cause I was hoping Helms would bring it...he didn't. His story set up was too long and once he started batton twirling I thought we were going to see see him throw it high in the air and catch it. That didn't happen. After the guys singing Wild World/Human Centipede skit (which they seemed to just throw in to end the skit) I changed the channel and watched The Age of Innocence. Could not watch anymore.

  • Mary says:

    They did not include the monologue on the hulu version of the show- they have NEVER done that before. They also did not include the poker night sketch. Odd.

  • Mike Ryan says:

    It's a song rights issue. The monologue included an instrumental version of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" and the Poker Night sketch used Cat Stevens' "Wild World."

  • Nerd says:

    "I mean, it almost looked like Lorne Michaels whispered in Pharoah’s ear, “Last chance, kid,” right before Pharoah went on stage."
    Mike, I thought the EXACT same thing when I saw the impression last night. IMO, it was a train wreck.

  • Geoff says:

    Pretty average ep. Nothing outrageously bad (I kinda liked the monologue, and I probably enjoyed Garth and Kat more than usual just because I was watching with friends who had never seen them before and thought it hilarious), nothing really hilarious aside from Ambiguously Gay Duo (I loved the Ann-Margret bit, but it went on too long). And way too little Ed Helms. He's the kind of performer who could have blended right into the cast seamlessly - maybe that was the problem?
    Jay Pharoah did a good impression as usual, it just...wasn't funny. I'm not usually an Anthony Crispino fan, but the Oksana Baiul reference had me laughing hours later. And the death bells are starting to ring ever more loudly for Abby Elliott. Did she appear even once last night?

  • Mike Ryan says:

    No, she didn't. I didn't even see her lurking in the background of "What's Up With That?"

  • I've always assumed that when the host isn't given much to do, it's because the host demonstrated at some point during the week that he or she isn't capable of doing very much. I doubt it's ever like "Well, the host has some really funny and clever contributions to make -- but let's downplay that so we can focus on the cast members instead." I wouldn't have thought Ed Helms would be one of those, but look at what he DID do in the show: he seemed nervous, timid, and unsure. Stumbled over some lines. His monologue was low-energy. My hunch is that he surprised everyone by *not* being a good fit for the show, and so they did the best they could to work around him. Just a guess, though.

  • niallrobb says:

    I didn't hate any of it but I didn't like much of it either. AGD was really funny and What's Up With That was really good for Hader's facial expressions as Buckingham. They always crack me up. Paul Simon in that sketch wasn't great though and the real rhythm of the sketch was slightly too broken by the two changes in music.
    Weekend Update wasn't great and I still don't see what Jay Pharoah is there for. I haven't seen anything he has done this season as worth the time I spent watching it!
    I don't think I am the only person who saw Helms and Sudeikis as almost identical in ability making for an awkward clash?
    Um, more stray thoughts; I liked the situation room cold open's nod to the sketch they did with the stand up comedians and Zach G.
    Actually, that's it.

  • niallrobb says:

    Don't forget how horrid that Jane Lynch episode was.
    In fact, there are a few from this season I will never watch again like Mirren and Cyrus too.

  • Mike Ryan says:

    Good point. But why then even give Helms such a lengthy, dialogue heavey monologue? Why not just go with an easy Q&A session, or something? You're most likely right, but I just don't understand the strategy either way.

  • Al says:

    I got the feeling that Helms wrote his own monologue, & that the baton story from his childhood was actually true. It felt like something that would work to wrap up a half-hour standup special, but not as a 5-minute opening piece.

  • Al says:

    I would knock the AGD reprise down a few pegs. Outside the "oh, hey, look who's in the sketch" factor, it was just yet another AGD bit.
    I'd also knock the Republican Ad *up* a few pegs; I found it extremely amusing.
    What's Up With That was, without a doubt, the best sketch of the night.
    Fun fact: If you Googled "what's up with that colfer" last night, you would find dozens of angry Gleeks tweet-whining that Kurt didn't get to talk. The few who had SEEN a "What's Up With That" sketch before knew what was up with that & accepted it, but the rest were livid. It was hilarious.
    I feel like Poker Night would've been better without turning into Human Centipede at the end. In fact, the movie Human Centipede would've been better without turning into Human Centipede.
    One-Take Tony had amusing voice-work all around, but otherwise it almost lost me...until Kenan's glorious Zatarains-inspired cameo at the end. And the Ann-Margaret sketch was awesome to anyone who's seen Bye Bye Birdie, including me.
    Screw Garth & Kat. Yeah, you heard me. It was funny twice. Even their AD-LIBBED songs sound the same every freaking time, and Seth keeps waiting longer & longer to cut them off!

  • Geoff says:

    Whereas I thought Lynch and Mirren were both pretty strong episodes. Certainly miles better than De Niro, Cyrus, Cranston, Paltrow or Rudd, which is the only episode I can't remember a single sketch from.

  • Hollyfeld says:

    SNL is in dire need of some new talent - in the writing department.
    The majority of the cast are more than competent and quite capable of being very funny, but if they're given such blatantly mediocre material to work with, well, they're pretty much screwed before they even get started.

  • Andrew says:

    Garth & Kat isn't even a bit, it's just an improv exercise. And you're right, it sounds exactly the same every time they do it.
    Repeatedly putting it in the show is like a singer who doesn't actually sing songs and instead spends the evening running scales.

  • Ed says:

    The Rudd episode had the wonderful " What's My Name?" sketch, which is easily one of the best ones of the season.

  • Desmond Fizzbonhonus says:

    Here's the real problem with SNL. The 400 pound gorilla. Lorne Michaels should retire. Flat out retire. There has to be someone on top that actually understands modern humor. Someone who is going to put his foot down and say "one more goddamned 'What up with that' and you're all fired". Someone who can re-imagine this show to bring it back from the grave. I've heard about what goes on with this show; comedians fighting for air time, trying to prove their skit is funny, hoping that Michaels will agree. It makes me wonder how many good skits has the guy passed on the last 10 years and instead went for one that pretty much equated to Bug Bunny doing a gay joke. Enough is enough with this guy already. He should have the sense to step down and give it to the young. The really young. No one on this show should be over 30 save a couple actors needed for skits that Phil Hartman would be needed for. Mel Brooks was a comical genious, now he's not funny. Chevy Chase was the number one comedic box office star at one time, now he's not funny. Steve Martin, one of the best stand up comedians in the business, no longer funny. Comedy is for the young, and Lorne, your just effing old man. Hang it up.

  • Mike says:

    "Comedy is for the young"
    i largely agree with your comment but come on... if Comedy is for the young, then explain rodney dangerfield.
    it has nothing to do with age, and everything to do with how long someone's been in the game

  • David says:

    Why don't they bring back the Meryl Streep Ice skating sketch from a couple months ago? (Abby Elliot) --LMAO. She's highly skilled as an impressionist and really good at stuff no one else would attempt. Shame she's siting on a bench.

  • nature freak says:

    Comedy is for the young?
    Comedy is for all ages
    Lorne Michaels retiring? perhaps.
    Desmond, I hope you enjoyed your bedtime soon after that comment. I know 5th grade is tough but sleep will make you feel better. Your Momma knows best Desmond.
    Get out of my way whimper snapper.!