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Saturday Night Live: 38.04 – “Christina Applegate/Passion Pit”

Christina Applegate is back hosting for the first time since 1993. Her most memorable moment from that episode was the classic “Down by the River” sketch with Chris Farley as the motivational speaker. Will she have another memorable sketch like that? Let’s take a look.

Cold Open: Vice Presidential Debate:
This was pretty great. Easily the best cold open and one of the best sketches of the season. They took on the Vice Presidential debate and hit on the biggest watercooler moments and making them even funnier. Jason Sudeikis played Joe Biden, Taran Killam was Paul Ryan, and Kate McKinnon was Martha Raddatz. Sudeikis nailed Biden’s interrupting and incredulous looks while Ryan was speaking. My favorite part was when he taking about his workout when the Amtrak train breaks down: “I strip down to my tighty whiteys and I push that bitch all the way to Washington.” Killam also nailed Ryan’s mannerisms. The weird cadence, the constantly pursed lips, the weird staring. Perfect. And I also loved the running gag of him constantly drinking water. First it was the regular glass, then a huge cylinder of water, and then a hamster water bottle that came down from above. McKinnon didn’t get much to do as Raddatz, but she had one great exchange about not being Jim Lehrer. “Don’t try to fuck with me like Jim Lehrer.” I found it interesting that they snuck a swear (it was bleeped of course) in the opening sketch. The only moment that felt off was the Usain Bolt cameo (actually Bolt himself) to tell Ryan that he wasn’t in the Olympics. Otherwise, fantastic way to start the show.

Christina brings up her previous appearance in 1993 and makes fun of a picture of her monologue outfit. It’s her favorite time of year because there’s no holidays. Then shockingly, a song ensues. She goes on and on about why it’s her favorite time of year. Jay Pharaoh is one of the backup singers and you can see him struggling through the song and simple choreography. He really distracted from it. Then there was a part where Bobby, Keenan & Hader walk out with “Fruppets” and Sudeikis as Dane Cook playing the Swedish Chef. Sudeikis was great but it felt a little dated to be making fun of Dane Cook. His NBC sitcom was just cancelled this week. They only filmed 4 episodes and NBC didn’t even want to air them. Otherwise, it was a solid monologue.

Commercial: Gillette Styler Razor:
A 30 second spot making fun of that Gillette commercial they always play with Adrien Brody, Gael Garcia Bernal & Andre 3000. It had Killam as Brody, Armisen as Bernal, Pharaoh as Andre 3000 and a new fourth person: Jason Sudeikis as Jerry Sandusky. It was random and didn’t make sense.

The Californians:
This is about the 4th or 5th time they’ve done this sketch. Basically, it’s a bunch of blonde people living in California who’s lives are bad soap operas and they love giving directions from different highways in California. Armisen & Applegate played a married couple at the center of this edition of “The Californians”. It was hilarious the first time, but it’s gotten less and less funny each time they’ve done them. All of the performers are committed to the accents and it makes it somewhat interesting. The jokes are getting thinner and thinner though. Usain Bolt had another cameo in this sketch. It was random again. This should probably be the last time they trot out this sketch idea.

Tech Talk:
Christina Applegate as Caitlin Owens, the host of Tech Talk. She has a panel of experts played by Hader, McKinnon & Thompson. They talk about their complaints and grievances with the new iPhone 5. The host then introduces three peasant workers from China who manufacture the iPhone. They are played by Armisen, Pedrad & Strong. They are condescending to the three experts because their complaints seem ridiculous compared to the working conditions of the peasant workers. It had a few laughs but mostly fell flat.

Commercial: Give Us All Our Daughters Back trailer:
A fake movie trailer making fun of Taken 2 and The Expendables. A bunch of action stars getting together to try to save their daughters from kidnappers. It featured Killam as Neeson, Pharaoh as Denzel, Armisen as Harrison Ford, Christina Applegate as Uma Thurman, Sudeikis as Mel Gibson, Moynihan as Steven Seagal. “Over 45 minutes of threatening phone calls. Then another 45 minutes where they’re just shooting the breeze.” And a special cameo from Arnold Schwarzenegger with his new memoir.” Hader was Schwarzenegger in that little bit. It was funny but could’ve been a little bit sharper.

Passion Pit – “Take a Walk”:
I’ve never heard of this band before, so I was looking forward to see what they sounded like. It was actually a good performance. The best sign: I didn’t fast forward through the song. The lead singer has likable vocals and the song itself had a good melody. I could see myself downloading this one.

Weekend Update:
Weekend Update opened up with a lot of political jokes about the Vice Presidential Debate. “Joe Biden prepared by shotgunning Red Bulls and watching Yosemite Sam cartoons.” Then Nasim Pedrad came out as Ariana Huffington. It’s easy to make fun of Huffington’s accent and cadence, but there were also a few funny jokes about men talking about women’s rights. “Men talk like they understand the vagina. I’m a woman and I barely understand the vagina.” Later, Kenan come out as French Def Jam comedian Jean K. Jean to talk about the revelation of Lance Armstrong cheating in the Tour de France. I really didn’t understand it, but Seth was hysterically laughing during a bit about cheese so maybe I didn’t get the point. It was one of the shorter Updates I’ve seen recently. A few funny jokes but it really lacked overall.

The Aegean Sea: 13th Century B.C.:
This starred, Sudeikis as Odysseus; Armisen, Killam & Moynihan as his shipmates. Applegate, Strong & McKinnon as the sirens luring them to the island. The sirens are singing popular “chick songs” from the 90s, instead of some other alluring chant propbaly meant for the time. They sing Lisa Loeb’s “Stay”, Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait”, Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much”, Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do”, & TLC’s “No Scrubs”. Odysseus completely falls for them. The shipmates make fun of him because they are songs for women. They resist it too until the Sheryl Crow song. They all jump overboard. Odysseus makes the final plunge after the TLC one. It was solid sketch. I liked the concept and it was executed well.

The Hell-oween Ball:
A little bit of a recurring sketch. It takes place at a dance at Booker T. Washington High School. Pharaoh is back at the stammering old principal and Vanessa Bayer as the dance coordinator. Applegate makes an appearance as the school librarian who is lonely. She’s accepting new donations for the library. The donation box contained a copy of King Magazine, the instructional manual for Madden 06 and a DVD of Poetic Justice*. That was the funniest moment but Applegate didn’t have a good grasp of the character. Pharaoh was the most solid part of the sketch. He has the old stammering principal down pat. He’s great to watch and he even broke character for a few seconds at the end. Overall, not the most memorable sketch.

Passion Pit – “Carried Away”:
I didn’t like it as much as the first performance, but it was stellar.

Jillian Chizz Dance Studio:
Christina Applegate is Jillian Chizz, a dance instructor who considers herself an expert in Bob Fosse. She’s a complete narcisist who talks about her career and is a terrible instructor. She uses weird words and goes way too fast through the steps. She doesn’t give normal counts, she just does weird grunts and noises. This was Applegate’s strongest moment on the show outside of the monologue. This was probably her idea too. She’s a dancer and was a guest judge twice this season on So You Think You Can Dance*. She was completely committed to the character and probably brought a lot of her experience with dance teachers to the table. This deserved to make it earlier in the show and not the last sketch.

It was a solid show. It wasn’t terrible but it didn’t have too many memorable moments. The VP debate sketch was fantastic and the final sketch was the strongest outside of the cold open. It was the most fun Applegate got to have all night and it showed. I wish it had been earlier in the night. Passion Pit was also a decent musical performance. I’m going to go to iTunes to get “Take a Walk”. Next week: Bruno Mars is the host and the musical guest. Should be interesting. By the way, I loved this image of Applegate in-between the commercials…

Christina Applegate, Saturday Night Live