Critics Reviews of 'SNL' Premiere Vary

Here are two reviews of the "Saturday Night Live" season premiere. The first appeared in Monday's "New York Daily News" and the latter appeared in this week's "Late Show News."

Bumpy 'SNL' Re-entry Show off-target on Prez while NBC shows its slip

By David Bianculli

"Saturday Night Live" presented its season premiere over the weekend, after a week of Starr Report controversy and televised grand jury presidential testimony.

Instead of rising to the occasion, though, the "SNL" writing staff fell flat.

The 24th-season premiere began with Tim Meadows as Oprah Winfrey, hosting a show set four years in the future and presenting a reunion of the principals in Bill Clinton's sexual scandals. The players included Molly Shannon as Monica, Darrell Hammond as Clinton, Ana Gasteyer as Clinton's "ex-wife" Hillary, featured guest John Goodman as Linda Tripp, and guest host Cameron Diaz as Tina Baxter, whom this futuristic sketch claims will be the central figure in the President's next sexual scandal.

On paper, this might have seemed a clever angle from which to approach the Clinton-Lewinsky issue. But on stage, except for Goodman's squeaky mugging as Tripp, it was deadly.

Meadows and Diaz fared a bit better in another Starr turn, a "Ladies' Man" skit in which Meadows' lisping Leon, with Diaz' exotic actress Julie as his assistant, suggestively acts out several intimate encounters from the Starr report and offers alternate advice. Diaz was a good sport throughout, but here, too, the script seemed interested in little other than basic shock value.

Even the Bob Smigel-J.J. Sedelmaier "Fun with Real Audio" animation, usually a high point of any "SNL" show, was a disappointment this time. Other taped bits, like ersatz Gap and MasterCard ads featuring scandal principals, worked much better, but were too few and far between. Other sketches, about a foul-smelling witches' brew and foul-spelling kiddie performers, were crude washouts.

Even Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd couldn't save the'SNL' season opener. Though a "Roxbury Guys" skit was otherwise unfunny and a too-blatant plug for the upcoming spinoff movie, it provided the show with a high point: cameos of Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin as two Wild and Crazy Guys.

The vintage humor, in this instance, smelled the sweetest.

1.5 stars out of 4

Source: New York Daily News

'SNL' Opener is 'Not Dismal'

By Aaron Barnhart

Three commercial parodies in its first 35 minutes. Seen one way, the strategy for the 24th season premiere of "Saturday Night Live" seemed a pre-emptive strike designed to pacify critics who might be tempted to write words to the effect of, "Another dismal opening for 'SNL.'" Not that such a scenario was even likely, considering the new benchmark for dismal that materialized over the summer in the form of "The Howard Stern Radio Show." What was it the pundits said about Clinton being blessed with enemies even dumber than himself?

Seen another way, of course, the commercial parodies -- all of them familiar-looking but good enough to redeem themselves -- offered hope that "SNL's" writers actually had a productive summer churning out "A" material. (The fake ad for a videotape of "The Best of the First 20 Minutes of Saturday Night Live" was my highlight.) That hope, however, was not completely borne out by the live sketches, which were dominated by Clinton themes. The opening sketch, "Oprah 2002," was too long, Colin Quinn's rants made no sense, and "The Ladies' Man" was tacky and hardly justified its weak payoff. Nothing that I saw approached Robert Smigel's warped time-warp "Real Audio" cartoon, which spliced together Clinton's televised apology, Richard Nixon's farewell and the latter's 1952 "Checkers" speech.

But the larger truth about "SNL's" not-dismal debut is that anyone expecting anything genuinely new and original to come out of this show's idea factory is thinking too wishfully. Just as 20 years ago it seemed every other "SNL" sketch took place at a restaurant, today every other sketch seems to be about a television show (this episode featured "Oprah," "Ladies' Man," "Weekend Update" and parodies of "The View" and the "Hollywood Squares"). Commercial parodies are not only dependable for a laugh -- like old New Yorker cartoons -- but reusable as well.

The show continues to cash in the best celebrity guest hosts (let's hope Cameron Diaz doesn't panel on "The View" anytime soon, after her devastating take on Debbie Matenopoulos). And NBC's promotional power virtually guarantees the show will not have ratings issues for at least another season. The question is whether any of this is cause for casual viewers, like me, to go out of our way to catch "SNL" every week. I for one remain skeptical.

Source: Late Show News

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