EPISODE REVIEWS


Alan Cumming / Jennifer Lopez
February 5, 2000


Interesting and sophisticated...refusing to be celebrated
It's a monumental big screen kiss...it's so deep it's meaningless
- So Hard Done By, The Tragically Hip

Now does that sum up my reviews or what?

You might want to scroll down for the actual review, because I'm finished my
"Best of the Year...So Far." This season is shaping up to be a lot like
last year; several solid shows topped off by the occasional excellent show
(such as the shows hosted by Garth Brooks and Freddie Prinze) and the
occasional show that makes you want to kill yourself (Jamie Foxx).

HOSTS: The hosting has been terrific, save for Heather Graham (10/16)'s
shaky but not altogether bad performance. I'd have to say that Garth Brooks
(11/13) was the best host of the year, so far, in a close shave over
Jennifer Aniston. I hope Brooks doesn't also retire from TV appearances,
because he's an excellent host.

MUSICAL GUESTS: Almost the opposite of the hosts. The music on SNL has
been mediocre, with the nadir being Dr. Dre and his crew (10/23). Of
course, I'm realize I'm stretching in referring to this performance as
music. David "Just Because I'm Original Doesn't Mean I'm Good" Bowie
(Oct.2) was also nothing special. The one shining light for SNL music was
R.E.M. (Dec.11). This was not only the best of this season, but also one of
the best in a while on SNL. They managed to bring the rest of the show up,
which is hard for a musical guest to do.

THE CAST: This is likely to be the end of the road for most of the current
cast, with most of the newer players holding on for the next few years.
Unfortunately, some are leaving us with a bad taste in the mouth. Chris
Kattan has been giving his Mango character a real workout this season;
what's he been on, like four times? Molly Shannon's characters are all
becoming knockoffs of Helen Madden (who SUCKS AND IS AN AWFUL
CHARACTER...ahem, excuse me). Cheri Oteri apparently can only play
sociopaths now. Tim Meadows, in his ninth year, has been virtually reduced
to being the Ladies' Man and nothing else. The core of the cast (Will
Ferrell, Ana Gasteyer and Darrell Hammond) have all had good seasons, and
the new core of Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon, Rachel Dratch and Chris Parnell
are getting experienced for when they take over next season. Dratch, I
think, has been very good in her stint so far. However, SNL needs to put
these new stars on the screen more. Sanz and the enigmatic Tracy Morgan
both need to be in more sketches, because both have proven to be very funny
in their limited time.

CHARACTERS: The only new characters that have been in more than one sketch
have been the kids from Bahston (Jimmy Fahlon and Rachel Drahtch). It's not
the wist skit they could put ahn, but it could get a little repehtitive ovah
time. At least it's still fun to write in a Bahston accent. The only
other recurring characters have been Tracy Morgan, as Mrs Parker, who always
defends her "baby," and Fallon as Nick Burns, the computer guy. Both are
funny, but already repetitive.
The major recurring characters (Mary Catherine Gallagher, Spartans, Ladies'
Man, the Kulps, Delicious Dish, the Zimmermans, Mango, etc.) have been
generally funny. I mentioned about Mango being overused before, but this
season at least they're changing the format of the Mango sketches so it's
not always "Male host falls in love with Mango" every week. The Ladies' Man
has been weak this year, which doesn't bode well for the movie if they've
already run out of jokes.

SKETCHES: The sketches have been pretty steady, with a lean towards the
positive side. I've found this more with the recurring characters, but the
writers are getting lazy with the set-ups. Sketches like the Ladies' Man
are sort of spinning their wheels, and doing the same bits over and over
again. Now, the honour roll.

TOP 5 BEST SKETCHES:
1. ****5/8 Celebrity Jeopardy 10/23
2. ****1/2 Boy Band Blowout w/Seven Degrees Celsius 01/15
3. **** 3/8 Latino stars on Charlie Rose 01/15
4. ****1/4 (tie) So This is Hanukah 12/4; Clinton Bashes the Republicans
12/4; Puffy and Jennifer Lopez at Counseling 01/08; Idiot Doctor Loses the
Baby 01/15; The Uncomfortable Three-Way 10/16

BOTTOM 5 WORST SKETCHES
1. ** Sally, Save Me From My Wild Teen 12/4
2. **1/2 (tie) Amateur Night at the Apollo 01/08; Reform Party Leaders
10/2
4. *** (tie) Blackjack's Bitch 01/08; Co-workers defend Jeffrey, the
Black Guy 01/08

WEEKEND UPDATE: Pure gold this season. Maybe watching the Daily Show has
increased my appreciation for news-based humour, but I think Update's been
great. Colin Quinn seems to be the most divisive issue that concerns SNL
fans, as some love him and some loathe him. I choose to be a pussy, and sit
on the fence. I think he's okay, but if he doesn't come back next season,
it wouldn't break my heart.

COMMERCIALS: There have only been, what, four or five new commercials this
season? I did really enjoy the ads for the Javis Home Security System
(10/2) and the Litter Critters (10/16).

CARTOONS: I didn't think Smiegel was coming back to do cartoons this year,
but I almost wish he hadn't. He's stuck with the "Fun With Real Audio"
format, and of his three cartoons, only one (News Year in Review, 12/11) has
been funny at all. The other two were pure junk. I hope that Smiegel
breaks out the Ambiguously Gay Duo one more time.

And the drum roll please...
BEST SHOW: Freddie Prinze Jr./Macy Gray, Jan. 15
Runners-up: Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines, Nov. 13; Jennifer Aniston/Sting,
Nov. 20

Four of the year's best sketches. It's hard to overcome that. I originally
gave the Aniston show a higher star rating, but I think I was blinded by the
Pretty Living sketch on the show that was actually funny. It was still
good, as was the Brooks show.

WORST SHOW: Jamie Foxx/Blink 182, Jan. 8
Runners-up: Jerry Seinfeld/David Bowie, Oct.2; Danny DeVito/R.E.M., Dec.
11
Racial humour can be funny, if it works. This stuff didn't work. A bad
show that wasted a good performance from Jamie Foxx and a funny sketch about
Puff Daddy. The DeVito/Seinfeld shows were pretty unremarkable (except for
R.E.M.'s performance on the Devito show). How good is this season when the
second worst show is only unremarkable?

Whew. Show time.

OVERVIEW: Don't worry...Alan Cumming isn't a porn star. He's a Scottish
actor who has appeared in such far-ranging films as the awful Eyes Wide
Shut
to the equally awful Spice Girls movie. He is best known for his
role in the 1995 Bond movie Goldeneye, where he played Boris, the
computer nerd (by coincidence, my dad's name is Boris. He's no computer
nerd, though. He just plays Hearts). Needless to say, this guy is pretty
much a blank slate to me. Jennifer Lopez, however, is a pretty big name
musical star despite her awful songs. She must be a good sport considering
the mighty insulting sketch that SNL did last month about her and her main
squeeze, Puff Daddy. Good show? Mayhaps.

[COLD OPENING] Breakfast in New Hampshire
* Your average political sketch. The ending was kinda weird.
* I liked Tim as Alan Keyes, especially how concerned he was about the
effects of his movies on his campaign. I also liked how he darted out of
the room with the USA Today.
* I love the USA Today. Talk about information! It could use a better
crossword though.
* So if McCain wins, Parnell will play him as a crazy vet for four years?
Hmm....
* On a side note, I'm glad to see that McCain won in New Hampshire. He
seems like a guy who knows what he's doing, as opposed to George W. As long
as Bush doesn't win, I don't really care which of the other three gets the
presidency.
* GREAT LINE ALERT: "No votey, no tippy."-- Darrell Hammond, as Al Gore
RATING: ***1/2

[MONOLOGUE] Alan Cumming
* He looks kind of like Edward Norton...can I count that for the Guess the
Hosts contest, because otherwise I'm screwed for that one. I'm only 3/11 on
the season.
* Can't we find a host who can do a monologue by themselves? This is
getting tiresome.
* A funny idea for the monologue would have been to have some totally
unfamiliar guy go onstage and pretend to be Alan Cumming, because nobody in
the greater populace knows who he is. The Broadway stuff was fairly
predictable.
* I feel Ana's pain about the body hair and all...uh, I mean, never mind.
RATING: ***1/2

[COMMERCIAL] Uncle Jemima's Mash Liquor
* An okay commercial. Tim's straight-man character was pretty funny.
* Just so you know, 95% alcohol content would be enough to kill a small
army, or even to satisfy the country of Ireland for a week.
* GREAT LINE ALERT: "What are you swattin' at?"-- Tim Meadows, to the
delusional Uncle Jemima
RATING: ***5/8

[COMMERCIAL/SKETCH] John & Paul's (not Jimmy's) Chicken Shack
* Dana Carvey did a really good Paul McCartney impression. Gee, I wonder
what would cause me to remember a past impression so fondly? Just as a cold
day makes one yearn for the summer, this impression of Cumming's is
certainly not quite up to par.
* "Yearn for the summer?" Damn, that was downright poetic!
* Not a lot to say about this sketch. I liked the use of song lyrics in
the various operations of the chicken restaurant.
RATING: ***1/2

[SKETCH] The Kulps
* My British friend Lorna Mitchell informed me that over in Britain, Alan
Cumming is part of a Kulps-esque singing group with another guy. Ergo, I'm
not surprised to see this sketch tonight.
* Is it just me, or does this Cumming guy look like Pee-Wee Herman?
* They used She's So High by Tal Bachman? People in the US have
heard of that song? I thought it was just a Canadian hit.
* Your typical good Kulps sketch. Cumming isn't much of a singer, though.
RATING: ***3/4

[SKETCH] Dog Show
* What a weird, weird, weird, weird sketch. I've seen it several times,
and I still don't get it. I find it generally funny, I guess, but it's just
so damn weird.
* Rocky Balboa looked really freaking cute in his trapeze outfit. Sue me,
I'm a dog person.
* GREAT LINE ALERT: "Can I just say one thing, or is this Russia?"-- Will
Ferrell, as the voice of Mr. Bojangles
RATING: ***3/4

[UHHH...MOVIE?] The Heat is On, written and directed by Adam McKay
* SNL studios? What the ass? This came out of leftfield like a bottle
thrown at John Rocker. The idea of bringing short films back to SNL (like
Albert Brooks' movies back in the day) could be interesting, though.
* Gee, um, it's...great to see (grumble) Ben Stiller back on SNL. He sure
was a...talented cast member who's, uh...a top (grit teeth) Hollywood star.
* I was watching a celebrity golf tournament a couple of weeks back, and
the course reporter was talking to Glenn Frye. I thought Frye came off like
kind of a pretentious ass. Maybe Adam McKay saw the interview and thought
"I'll show that Frye. I'll write a short film about him having sex with Ben
Stiller! That'll show him!"
* This was funny, but it made Dog Show look as conventional as a Jay Leno
monologue.
RATING: ***3/4

[MUSICAL GUEST] Jennifer Lopez
* I think Jennifer Lopez is a talented actress, as anyone who's seen Out
of Sight
can attest to. She's got a good voice, and Lord knows she's
easy on the eyes. But would somebody please kill the idiot who writes her
songs? It's all crap!
* I could have done without the inclusion of Fat Joe and that other rapper.
I guess the other guy had to fill in for Big Pun, who probably couldn't
have fit on stage without that big chair they used in Star Wars for Jabba
the Hut.
RATING: **

[WEEKEND UPDATE] Colin Quinn w/Tracy Morgan and Darrell Hammond
* Good update, although the only really funny bits were sports-related
(O.J. as the Baltimore murder coach, the double standard of Reggie White).
* Tracy's bit was okay, but he just kept stumbling over the damn words!
* Darrell's Clinton bit was great. Darrell's Clinton bit is almost always
great.
* GREAT LINE ALERT: "President Clinton is eligible for the Nobel Peace
Prize. His major act of peacekeeping this year was keeping his wife from
killing him."-- Colin Quinn
RATING: ****

[SKETCH] Siegfried and Roy's Night of 1000 Tigers
* This was about two minutes too long, and kind of random. I mean, did
they just decide to do a Siegfried and Roy sketch out of the blue or what?
* Kattan and Cumming both did good impressions of the two ambiguous
magicians.
* I saw Siegfried & Roy's act when I went to Las Vegas in 1996. It was a
pretty good show, but not g-r-r-reat. Get it? G-r-r-reat? With the
tigers?....well, I thought it was funny. Screw you!
* Cheri looked vaguely like a girl who goes to my school. Scary, huh?
* Fred Willard as Clinton? Feh. He wouldn't as good as Darrell Hammond.
* The only really inspired part of this sketch was the "hidden" microphone.
Seeing this huge speaker on the bench, and these two sitting in an open
van about two feet away was pretty funny.
RATING: ***1/2

[SKETCH] Hello Dolly
* Feh. This recurring bit is last sketch fodder if I've ever seen it.
* In a fun bit of SNL trivia, Husky Doodle was also John Belushi's
nickname.
* GREAT LINE ALERT: "I'd like to spray them with a can of hush." -- Alan
Cumming, as the weird doll guy.
RATING: ***

INTERLUDE...Right now, Howard Stern is playing "Who Wants to be A
Millionaire" with Crackhead Bob. The question is "Who's buried in Grant's
Tomb?" Bob is using his lifeline, to call a retard. Robin is trying to
help the retard with the answer, by asking if any of his parents are dead.
The retard says his mom is dead, and Robin says then if his mother is in his
mother's grave, then who's in Grant's grave? The retard says Grant's mom,
and everyone nearly dies laughing. Sue me, it was funny.

[MUSICAL GUEST] Jennifer Lopez
* It must be cold in the studio. Yes, I'd have to say it's pretty
nipply...er, nippy there tonight.
* I'll rate this song marginally higher because of the absence of rappers
and Jennifer's outfit. Yes, I am a pig.
RATING: ***

We come back from commercial to a random shot of the sax player. I was
watching Headline Sports during the break, so I might have missed something.
Oh well.

ACTOR OF THE NIGHT: Will Ferrell
SKETCH OF THE NIGHT: Weekend Update, the Kulps
WORST SKETCH OF THE NIGHT: Hello Dolly
LINE OF THE NIGHT: "The NFL was proud to announce that none of their players
committed murder today!"-- Colin Quinn, from Weekend Update
BUSIEST CAST MEMBER: Will Ferrell (5 sketches)
CAST MEMBERS WITH TIME TO WASH LORNE'S CAR: Rachel Dratch, Horatio Sanz,
Molly Shannon (one sketch each).
NOTICEABLE MISTAKES: Poor coordination between the video and the dialogue in
the Lennon/McCartney sketch; Molly did her usual breaks during Dog Show.
AVERAGE SKETCH RATING: ***2/5
GUT FEELING OVERALL RATING: ***3/8

AFTERSHOCKS
A big thumbs-in-the-middle show, with that thumb angling slightly downward.
Nothing really outright good or bad about it. Alan Cumming did an okay job,
and I think he may have been the first person to non-verbally "out" himself
on national television. Come on, I know you were thinking the same thing!
Jennifer Lopez should only be allowed back on the show to host, or until she
gets a better songwriter.
Next week is hosted by Juliana Marguiles. Sigh, 3/12 in the Guess the Hosts
contest. The musical guest is DMX, who will more than likely suck. Sigh.
See you next week.


Episode Review written by Mark Polishuk


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