October 15, 2012

THE SKED REVIEW: SNL With Christina Applegate


There were a few moments in this week’s SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE where you could actually have mistaken it for a place that offers trenchant political satire.  That’s hasn’t been SNL‘s mode since Tina Fey hung up her Sarah Palin glasses–the political bits have instead tended to the silly and bland.  But the “Tech Talk” sketch on Saturday, which started as a panel discussion about dweebs complaining about the iPhone 5 and its shortcomings, morphed unexpectedly into a confrontation between the techie types and the poverty-stricken Chinese peasants who actually put the gadgets together.  It was shooting fish in a barrel, of course–starvation stories versus complaints about iMaps–but who knew SNL was even packing heat?  The original panelists squirmed, and so did we, but in a good way.  Best moments included Nasim Pedrad’s “dance of sarcasm,” and Fred Armisen, prompted to complain about a US-made product, wondering if diabetes would count.

Later, during Weekend Update, there were another few bracing minutes, when Pedrad showed up as Ariana Huffington to do a desk piece.  Sure, she cougared Seth Meyers as “the cabana boy I never had,” but she also went after the male candidates on abortion, noting that if men could get pregnant, abortion clinics would be like Starbucks, with 2 on every street and 4 in every airport, while the morning-after pill would come in flavors like ranch dressing.

Ironically, the official “political” sketch of the night, a cold-open Vice Presidential Debate parody, was the least interesting.  In typical SNL style, it poked inoffensive fun at both Biden (over-broad sarcastic expressions and hostility) and Ryan (non-stop water drinking and vague economic plan), and featured a cameo by Usain Bolt that was too irrelevant to be funny.

There hasn’t been much mention of host Christina Applegate so far, and that’s because although she was an energetic and seemingly very happy host, who did what was asked of her, there was nothing really notable about her appearance.  Not that that’s a bad thing–it’s certainly better than Daniel Craig being notable for the wrong reasons.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about Applegate’s night was that there wasn’t a single reference to Up All Night, her primetime comedy that happens to be produced by Lorne Michaels–because it’s about to be yanked off the air?

Applegate’s monologue became a production number about the mid-October period before holiday season begins, highlighted by deliberately knock-off “Fruppets,” but stolen by Jason Sudeikis as Dane Cook (himself recently canceled by NBC for his unaired midseason show Next Caller).  Later on, she was the host on “Tech Talk,” which basically made her the straight man, and did a surprising amount of singing and dancing–not just in the monologue, but in a pointless sketch where the Sirens of “The Odyssey” sang 1990s pop hits, and in the 12:45AM sketch (actually about 10 minutes later), where she seemed to be doing an imitation of Up All Night co-star Maya Rudolph as a Fosse-devotee dance teacher (this sketch was for the viewers who long for Tommy Tune gags). She was also a librarian in a Halloween dance version of the high school auditorium sketch (with Jay Pharoah as the principal) that was last seen as Kristen Wiig’s exit bit–it was notable only for one funny line when Pharoah scolded two students for fornicating in a Mufasa costume.

Worst of all, although it wasn’t Applegate’s fault, was the return of “The Californians,” an acquired taste some of us haven’t acquired, and 7 minutes of cartoony LA Valley accents and driving directions that felt longer than a Wagnerian opera.

The pre-taped pieces were a mixed bag.  The Gillette commercial with Adrien Brody, Gael Garcia Bernal and Andre 3000 couldn’t be more ripe for a parody, but inserting Jerry Sandusky into the group without any kind of visible punchline was so aggressively unfunny that it killed the entire sketch.  A mash-up parody of Taken, The Expendables and every other movie where an action star has to save his or her child worked well, though, with Applegate as Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, and Jay Pharoah doing his Denzel, as to which there simply can never be too much.

The show is back with another new episode this week, its 5th in the past 6 weeks, with Bruno Mars as both host and musical guest.



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."