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Air Farce, Ron James plan an “ex-PSY-ting” New Year’s Eve, Stephen Harper style

- December 30th, 2012

Air Farce - Paul Henderson, Craig Lauzon as Don Cherry

Canada doesn’t seem to treasure as many traditions as it has in the past. That can be a good thing or a bad thing depending upon your point of view.

But one Canadian tradition that has hung on is comedy on CBC on New Year’s Eve.

First up at 8 p.m. (local time) is the annual Air Farce New Year’s Eve special. That’s followed at 9 p.m. by The Ron James Show’s New Year’s Eve Special.

Then at 10 p.m., it’s the news, which rarely is funny. So let’s focus on those first two.

The Air Farce extravaganza this year features a hilarious video parody starring Craig Lauzon, doing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, doing Korean rapper PSY. The words to PSY’s massive hit “Gangnam Style” have been changed to reflect Harper’s world.

Besides Lauzon, the usual Air Farce crew of Don Ferguson, Luba Goy, Alan Park, Penelope Corrin and Arnold Pinnock will be on hand. Guests include hockey legend Paul Henderson (pictured above left, with Lauzon as Don Cherry at right), Olympic gold medallist Rosie MacLennan, Yannick Bisson of Murdoch Mysteries, recording artist Victoria Duffield and David Chilton of Dragons’ Den.

Then it’s time for Ron James (pictured below), who – as we successfully head into 2013 – vows “never to listen to a Mayan again.” Damn straight.

Regular James characters Aunt Vivien, Buell Crawford and fan favourite Li’l Ronnie also stop by to help ring in the new year.

The real beauty of the back-to-back Air Farce and Ron James New Year’s Eve specials is that you can watch both and still have two hours to get drunk.

Now THAT’s a Canadian tradition.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Ron James New Years Eve

Manage your expectations when watching Saturday Night Live

- September 16th, 2012

seth macfarlane and seth meyers

I don’t expect Saturday Night Live to be good.

I guess that’s the difference between me and other people.

SNL is a live TV show, pre-taped bits notwithstanding. I expect it to be largely bad, with flashes of brilliance. That’s what it always has been, which will be shocking news to those who watch only “best of” DVDs, or seek out selected clips on the internet.

A lot of the comedy on SNL should be experimental, and as such, much of it probably will miss the mark. It’s when the show doesn’t try that it really deserves to be criticized. It should be swinging for the fences, which often means a high strikeout percentage, but the home runs stay in our memories forever.

Which brings us to the debut of the 38th season of SNL, which occurred this past weekend on NBC and Global. With Seth MacFarlane serving as host, were there any home runs?

Well, SNL is at its best when it’s daring, and the most daring moment came during Weekend Update. Anchorman Seth Meyers referenced the film Innocence of Muslims, which has caused violent and deadly protests in the Middle East.

With a picture of a riot in the background, Meyers said, “This week the new film Innocence of Muslims was released, and so far, the reviews are not great. You guys know YouTube has a comments section, right?”

There were some nervous, uncomfortable murmurs from the live audience. But those almost always are a good sign, if you ask me.

The ballyhooed new blood never got flowing. With the likes of Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg and Abby Elliott gone this season, rookies Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson, Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon virtually were invisible.

High points included Vanessa Bayer’s Honey Boo Boo, MacFarlane’s Ryan Lochte (pictured above left, with Meyers at right) and a cameo appearance by Korean rapper Psy, who probably got the biggest cheer of the night.

The musical guest was Frank Ocean, who was wearing a hockey-style sweater that looked as if it had been purchased in a casino gift shop. John Mayer played guitar for Ocean.

Significantly as the U.S. plods toward a presidential election, all the moaning that people used to do about Fred Armisen’s Barack Obama impersonation finally can stop. Cast member Jay Pharoah is the new Obama, with Jason Sudeikis back as Mitt Romney.

You knew SNL would have to reference the infamous Clint Eastwood performance talking to a chair at the Republican National Convention, and it did so with a pre-taped bit. Bill Hader played Eastwood in an ad promoting Eastwood’s tour with the chair, with the tag line, “No script, no set tour dates, no predetermined theatres.”

Hey, didn’t Charlie Sheen do that already?

Overall, the return of SNL can be described as steady. It was an okay start, provided your expectations are properly aligned.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Clint Eastwood and chair, the newbies nowhere; review of SNL 38th-season debut

- September 16th, 2012

Frank Ocean, Seth MacFarlane, Fred Armisen

The new blood on Saturday Night Live never really got flowing as the 38th season began with a reasonably clot-free episode Saturday night on NBC and Global.

Host Seth MacFarlane served as an able utility player in a series of skits that had good energy, which is a key consideration on SNL. Notably, for a guy with basically normal hair, MacFarlane had more wig changes than Lady Gaga in concert, for some unknown reason.

But with the likes of Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg and Abby Elliott gone from SNL this season, new featured players Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson, Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon virtually were invisible. The only extended contribution came from Strong, playing a Dominican voter with a bad accent in a Weekend Update segment that never quite took off.

The most edgy line during Weekend Update surfaced when anchorman Seth Meyers referenced the film Innocence of Muslims, which has caused violent and deadly protests in the Middle East. With a picture of a riot in the background, Meyers said, “This week the new film Innocence of Muslims was released, and so far, the reviews are not great. You guys know YouTube has a comments section, right?”

SNL leaned heavily on returning cast member Bill Hader early in the show, and heavily on returning cast member Kenan Thompson later in the show.

You knew SNL would have to reference the infamous Clint Eastwood performance talking to a chair at the Republican National Convention, and it did so with a pre-taped bit. Hader played Eastwood in an ad promoting Eastwood’s tour with the chair, with the tag line, “No script; no set tour dates; no predetermined theatres.”

Hey, didn’t Charlie Sheen do that already?

High points included Vanessa Bayer’s Honey Boo Boo, MacFarlane’s Ryan Lochte and a cameo appearance by Korean rapper Psy, who probably got the biggest cheer of the night.

The musical guest was Frank Ocean, who was wearing a sweater that looked as if it had been purchased in a casino gift shop (that’s him, and it, at far left in the above photo, with MacFarlane in the middle and Fred Armisen at right). John Mayer played guitar for Ocean.

Speaking of Armisen, as the U.S. plods toward a presidential election, all the moaning that people used to do about Armisen’s Barack Obama impersonation finally can stop. Cast member Jay Pharoah is the new Obama, with Jason Sudeikis back as Mitt Romney.

Pharoah’s Obama posed a question to America: “Stick with what’s been barely working, or take your chances with that.”

The “that” referred to Romney. But the jab had unexpected resonance on an evening when Saturday Night Live leaned heavily on its veterans and left the newbies to dream of future glories.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv