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Saturday Night Live: 38.01: “Seth MacFarlane/Frank Ocean”

Saturday Night Live, or Sunday Morning DVR Playback (as I like to watch it), entered it’s 38th season last night. Kristen Wiig & Andy Samberg were major forces that drove the show over the past few years, but they left the show over the summer so SNL had some rebuilding to do. They added three new cast members to fill the void. Here’s a look at how the show did.

Cold Open:
Another big piece of SNL news was that Jay Pharaoh was taking over the role of Barack Obama from Fred Armisen. The sketch started with Armisen as an anonymous political figure introducing the president. Probably a way to show that Armisen is passing the torch. The sketch had some funny moments. The basis was that Obama’s secret weapon in the campaign is Mitt Romney being a big gaffe machine. Pharaoh was decent as Obama, but Sudeikis really has a handle on Romney and saved the sketch. It was also the first appearance of Taran Killam as VP candidate Paul Ryan. It wasn’t a funny moment, but Killam really nailed the nasal Northern accent that Ryan has.

Monologue:
Seth MacFarlane walked out and did the monologue. He showed up his range of vocal abilities by doing his voices of Peter, Stewie & Quagmire from Family Guy. That led into a song where he also did his impressions of George Takei, Droopy Dog, Marty McFly and Kermit the Frog. It wasn’t great, but it showed off MacFarlane’s voice talents and I guess that’s why some people tuned in for, so he made good on his promise.

Commercial: Romney Attack Ad:
A commercial parodying the real Obama ad about Mitt Romney’s killing the guy’s wife by taking away health care (this isn’t a hard news blog, so Google the story yourself). It was pretty much throwaway and went on a little too long.

Sex After 50:
Fred Armisen returned as his executive producer character filling in for a host. He’s much more brash and insensitive than the host he is replacing. It’s gotten a little old at this point and this was one of the more forgettable sketches of the night. They should’ve saved it for later in the show and not have it right after the monologue. The biggest moment here was the first appearance of new cast member Tim Robinson, who played Seth MacFarlane’s boyfriend. He was fine, but didn’t get much to do.

Commercial #2: Eastwood & Chair:
This was what everyone was waiting for, something about Clint Eastwood and the chair. This one was promoting Eastwood & Chair. Clint Eastwood is going on a national tour with Chair to do their comedy routine. It had a lot of laughs. My favorite was when they had different chairs for different politicians that Eastwood would talk to. A chair for Chris Christie: “I think we’re going to need a bigger chair.”

Lids:
This was a really random sketch. MacFarlane & Kenan Thompson played Lids (a store that sells baseball caps) who were bored and down. Kenan reveals a button, that when pressed makes the Gangam Style guy appear (it’s a YouTube sensation, Google it). It had some funny moments and then the actual guy from the video appeared at the end, his name is Psy. It was pretty random but that added to the craziness.

Puppet Class:
Best sketch of the night. MacFarlane played a nerdy guy teaching an Introduction to Puppetry class. Kenan Thompson, Vanessa Bayer & Bill Hader were the students. He was basically teaching them how to give their puppets a character. Hader’s character was an Army veteran with some major PTSD symptoms. While the others were being playful and fun with their characters, Hader was completely creepy. He had his puppet tell a story about having to kill a village of children in Grenada, his puppet had a cigarette for a prop. Hader was brilliant and proved why he got an Emmy nomination this year. If you can only Hulu one sketch from last night, this is the one.

Frank Ocean Performance #1:
Frank Ocean is one of my favorite artists on the scene right now, so I was excited to see him as the musical guest this week. He performed “Thinkin Bout You” with John Mayer playing guitar in the background. It was a great performance and Ocean never sounded better.

Weekend Update:
Seth Meyers is back as the sole host of Weekend Update. Being Election season, there were a lot of political jokes. Although my guess is that they’re saving most of them for their Election specials coming up on the next two Thursdays. There was also a myriad of guest appearances. Vanessa Bayer & Bobby Moynihan appeared as Honey Boo Boo and her mother. Seth MacFarlane was hilarious as an inarticulate, dumb, childish, awkward Ryan Lochte. And most importantly, new cast member Cecily Strong made her debut as Mimi Morales, a volunteer for the ‘Get Out and Vote’ group. She was decent, but the character and writing wasn’t very strong. My favorite joke of WU was from Seth about Ryan Reynolds & Blakely Lively’s marriage: “It’s nice to go that they’re going into something knowing it’s not the worst thing they’ve done together.” *The poster for Green Lantern appears.

Drill Sergeant:
Seth MacFarlane as a stuttering drill sergeant screaming to a bunch of soldiers. Not much to say about this sketch. This had a few laughs, but it wasn’t very memorable.

The Steve Harvey Show:
A sketch parodying Steve Harvey’s new daytime talk show. Kenan played Harvey and he was great. The whole premise was that Harvey did a Style Makeover segment helping a woman’s boyfriend become more fashionable. He does the reveal to the girlfriend, and Seth MacFarlane walks out dresses exactly like Harvey. He’s now bald, has a thick moustache, and wears a pinstripe suit. It was pretty funny but maybe went on a touch too long.

First Date:
Seth MacFarlane & Nasim Pedrad are on a blind date and keep doing impressions of people that they know, but the voices are all very similar. They make everyone sound ridiculous with high inflections and goofy movements. This keeps building with other people walking up and doing similar things and finally Fred Armisen coming in to rob the place and doing the same type of vocal choices. It was random but got a few laughs out of me. This was the final new cast member Aidy Bryant’s debut sketch. She had one line and didn’t make much of an impression.

Frank Ocean Performance #2:
Ocean performed a shortened version of “Pyramids” (the album version is over 9 minutes long). He was brilliant again and it ended with John Mayer doing a guitar solo. Buy his album now if you don’t have it yet.

Wooden Spoons:
There wasn’t much time left, so this was filler. MacFarlane & Tim Robinson were Amish farmers doing a commercial from their handmade wooden spoons, which can be bought online. They give the web address by giving weird names to the letters. It was good for the 1 minute sketch that it was. And this was followed by a commercial break, with MacFarlane giving his thanks and good nights.

OVERALL:
It was a strong premiere. MacFarlane was game for anything and had some memorable moments. The Puppet Class sketch is going to go down as a classic and Frank Ocean was a strong musical guest. The new cast members didn’t make much of an impression, but there’s still a lot of time for that.

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