December 21, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Review: “Saturday Night Live” with Amy Adams


Amy Adams was the host of 2014’s final new SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, but although she performed enthusiastsically, the show was dominated by surprise guests and by the pre-tape team, which contributed a couple of gems to the episode.  One was a mock commercial for a new Asian-American doll, which drolly illustrated how paranoid and nervous a toy company could get after going through multiple rounds of politically correct focus testing.  (The voice-over announcer practically had a stroke when the kids in the commercial linked the doll’s carefully vanilla accessories of a cute puppy and a chef’s hat to mean she was going to cook her dog.)  There was also a beautifully staged parody of the phenom podcast Serial, this time investigating whether Santa Claus was lying about his claim of bringing toys all around the world in a single night, including an attempt to duplicate his Christmas Eve ride with a homemade sleigh and a non-magical horse.  It perfectly captured the root This American Life NPR tone.  (A third pre-tape, about an office Christmas party, tried all too hard to recreate the feel of an Andy Samberg-era Lonely Island music video, with Jay Pharoah and Pete Davidson in what would have been the Samberg and Justin Timberlake roles, and didn’t hit the target.)

The live material was mostly gimmicky, and that started with the cold open, in which a supposed Christmas special with Sam Smith was interrupted by a pirate telecast from… Mike Myers as Dr. Evil, giving his commentary on the North Korean hack of Sony and the studio’s cancellation of The Interview.  Great idea, and Myers (who got off a Love Guru gag) and Dr. Evil have been absent long enough to make their returns worth celebrating, but as usual with SNL these days when it comes to politics, the material had zero punch.  That was true of Weekend Update, too, which took two swings at the North Korea/Sony story:  first with Michael Che addressing the camera to speak to the dictator (as “Kimberly”), and then with Bobby Moynihan hurriedly retreating from a bit where he’d impersonate Kim Jong-Un once targeting dots appeared on his chest.  They were amusing pieces, but with no point of view other than trying to milk low-level laughs.

Adams’s monologue was essentially hijacked by Kristen Wiig, who turned Adams’s rendition of “We Need A Little Christmas” into a production number complete with back-up dancers and maracas.  Wiig being in the building, and Fred Armisen never being far away now that he’s bandleader on the Seth Meyers show, they both showed up to reprise their unprepared songwriters Garth and Kat on Update,which was probably a treat for those who miss Garth and Kat.  Armisen then came back for another flat sketch with political pretensions, this one a Christmas special commemorating the opening of relations between the US and Cuba.  It was marked by some unusually so-so celebrity impressions, including the usually reliable Taran Killam as Pitbull and Kenan Thompson as Cuba Gooding, Jr.  (Adams, though, nailed her bit as the Michelle Pfeiffer of Scarface.)

In case that wasn’t enough celebrity overload, the return of the Girlfriends talk show with Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant was really just an excuse for a sketch appearance by musical guests One Direction (as members of Bryant’s school dance team and Strong’s ex-boyfriends), to general live audience swooning.

With all that going on, there wasn’t much chance for Adams to make an impression.  The showcase parts in a family video Christmas card sketch went to Killam as the dad and Kate McKinnon as the family’s sociopathic daughter, with Adams in a relatively straight role as mom.  Her best material came in the night’s last two sketches.  One was a notably weird piece in which a trio of 1947-era bar singers with a penchant for chewing on garbage (Strong and McKinnon with Adams) turned out to be raccoons whose Christmas wish had been to become human for an evening–it never quite came together, but the women were remarkably good shuttling from rapid-fire post-war dialogue to crazy songs.  And the 12:55AM bit was the return of “Whiskers R We,” a collection of cat puns with Adams as McKinnon’s very enthusiastic (and handsy) new girlfriend, in which the pair seemed to be having a ball performing together.

Aside from the toy commercial and the Serial parody, nothing tonight hit it out of the park, but on the other hand an SNL without flat-out losers (the Cuban Christmas sketch came closest) is something of a holiday miracle.  The show returns on January 17 with Kevin Hart (who’ll be promoting his comedy The Wedding Ringer) as host, and no musical guest set as of yet.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."