November 18, 2012

THE SKED REVIEW: SNL With Jeremy Renner


For the most part, the cast, writers and even the crew of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE seemed to have taken off for their holiday break a week early, leaving the worst episode of the season (so far) behind.  The only saving graces:  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and, of all things, the second consecutive funny 12:55AM sketch.

It wouldn’t be fair to put much of the blame on host Jeremy Renner, although the show confirmed that comedy isn’t really his thing.  He was given yet another SNL musical monologue, this time singing supposedly discarded theme songs from his serious movies, and his best moment came when someone backstage didn’t hit the correct audio button, so the pre-record of his “piano playing” didn’t begin when it was supposed to, a glitch Renner faced with aplomb.  After that, although he participated in several sketches, he was mostly a supporting character, the exception being that 12:55AM bit.  There he was haplessly supposed to identify his dead brother in a morgue, coming up with more and more surreal guesses for who the body on the slab was (Yao Ming?  Morris Day and the Time?  OK, Morris Day and just 2 of The Time?) while coroner Jason Sudeikis did a slow burn and assistant Bill Hader started playing bongos on the corpse (“I want to hear what he’ll say next!” he protested when Sudeikis started to kick Renner out).  Apart from Sudeikis going up on his lines, that was the best sketch of the night.

By the way, is it already 2013?  Because I could swear that the week’s installment of “The Californians” stretched past December into the new year, with Fred Armisen giggling through his lines the entire time.  If Lorne Michaels should find himself in Hades after he passes away, his particular torture will be to be forced, Clockwork Orange-style, to watch a loop of these sketches and their like unto eternity.

Nothing else approached the agony of “The Californians,” but another pointless sketch had Renner interacting with Sudeikis as a supporting actor in an action movie who was determined to avoid being slapped on camera.  Sudeikis, for some reason, chose to make the guy look like character actor J.K. Simmons and sound like Sylvester Stallone.  A very outdated, witless The Avengers parody was built on Renner’s Hawkeye being useless without his arrows.

SNL was so determined to pull comedy from the Petreus sex scandal that it tried 3, count ’em, 3 times to make it happen.  The cold open was a deadly bit with Cecily Strong as Paula Broadwell, reading the network equivalent of pornographic excerpts from her Petreus biography… one joke, repeated over and over, to almost total silence from the studio audience.  Later on there was a parody “Situation Room” with Renner as the self-proclaimed mayor of Tampa being interviewed by Sudeikis’ Wolf Blitzer about Jill Kelly–the only thing that worked here was the mileage the sketch got from the idea that in the absence of any new Kelly footage, the show would have to keep showing the same quick clip over and over, running it backwards, in slow motion and in a “reenactment” with Tim McKinnon as Kelly.  Then “Update” kicked off with a Winners/Losers piece on the Petreus affair, which was the most amusing of the trio.

“Update” also included a desk piece by the real Chris Christie, who despite some cue-card fixation (and the very conspicuous omission of any jokes about his much-criticized praise for President Obama post-Sandy), demonstrated full comic commitment to his bit.  The other “Update” desk piece had Jay Pharoah, not at his best, as Katt Williams.

The show was heavy in prerecorded pieces.  A parody commercial for spending your vacation in your childhood home, which seemed to be a Thanksgiving gag that dared not speak its name, had some funny ideas but never really caught fire.  An amusing action-movie spoof where gunmen in a Mexican stand-off keep their guns on each other while showering, having dinner, and ice skating, among other things, was lacking in visual style.  Late in the show, for what may have been the first time since the heyday of Robert Smigel, there was an original “Midnight Snack” animation (by Zach Kanin and Rob Klein), about drone missiles whose alter egos perform as a boy band.  It wasn’t great, but it was nice to see the show mix things up a bit.

SNL is now taking two much-needed weeks off, before returning on December 8 with host Jamie Foxx (starting his marketing tour for Quentin Tarantino’s Christmas Day opener Django Unchained) and musical guest Ne-Yo.


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."