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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

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3 comments

  1. john | September 16, 2012 at 11:34 am

    I was disappointed with Jay’s Obama, if you watch him do his impression on Letterman or in his standup, it was much better. Hopefully he was just nervous since it was his first time doing it on SNL,

  2. Brad | September 16, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I disagree with you about the “most edgy line” from Weekend Update. I thought it was clear from the audience’s moans that the Al Pacino/Joe Paterno joke rubbed more people the wrong way than the fairly safe YouTube comment section punchline of the Innocence of Muslims joke.

  3. metal2000 | September 16, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    New feature players are very rarely (if ever?) given prominent screen-time on their “SNL” debuts. Considering most of the writing staff and other cast weren’t familiar with them prior to a couple weeks ago, it’s hard to know who would work in a sketch, and tough for them to make a push to be in a sketch when they’re newbies.

    I’m not sure why it’s a surprise worthy of being the focal point of the review.

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