25 May 2013

Because it was on TV: The 38th SNL Season in Review

Well folks, another Season of Saturday Night Live has fallen down upon us, so let us now look back and recount some of the best and worst of what just happened. This season may have had more hits than misses this year, especially during a disastrous run after returning from the Christmas hiatus. There were some spectacular additions, some rough losses, and some real solid sketch comedy along the way, though. Let's take a gander at the best and brightest the season had to offer:

The Best Hosts:

Make that um...the only good hosts. It was sort of a rough year. High hopes for Melissa McCarthy and Zach Galifianakis returning were dashed, along with other hopefuls like Joseph Gordan-Levitt and Jennifer Lawrence who turned in some of the worst episodes of the year. While there may have been individual sketches from these that rise pretty damn high, the best episodes are those where enough sticks to make it a really damn funny episode. Let's get into it:

Kevin Hart (03/02/2013)

If there's anything I've learned about watching SNL this year and then reading reviews and contrasting it with my own opinion, is that no one can agree on anything. Mike Ryan at the Huffington Post isn't going to agree with David Sims at the A.V. Club, and neither often agree with me. The Kevin Hart episode was strange, because most of it seemed a little off. In general, Kevin was a terrible host, often flubbing his lines or garbling his delivery, which is strange, because he's a seasoned live performer. Popular theories run around that he's better off the cuff rather than reading cue cards. That being said, he elevated the episode largely due to two sketches that I just can't get enough of, "360 News" and "Dove Chocolate." The latter, especially gets points for the equally weird, yet understated performance of Vanessa Bayer, and the fact that Hart largely plays the straight man, but still keeps going out and crazy while actually reading his lines. Take a gander:

Other highlights: The first of a few sketches with a decent, reward callback - "Z-Shirt," and the real surreal "Steve Harvey Show Phobias," where Hart is tremendously afraid of a stuffed horse.

Justin Timberlake (03/09/2013)

Somehow, the former NSYNC Mouseketeer is now a legitimate candidate for one of the greatest SNL hosts of all time. To be sure, no one knows how this happened. Justin has transformed himself into an affable comic genius, and while the best sketch of the night is a return to the Five Timers Club sketch of yore, there are still some nice refinements of sketches that first appeared in the Jamie Foxx episode - "Maine Justice" and whatever you want to call the Bayer / Cecily Strong Porn Star sketch. Really though, this episode shines from this and "It's a Date", which unites two generations of swinging bros for the first time. Still, the best part of this episode is probably Chevy trying to hang up the phone in that opening monologue along with the iffy relationship explored between him and Steve Martin. Not to mention Martin Short's extreme eagerness to do the Three Amigos salute. Also, the fact that this photo came as a result. It's nothing short of legendary - but ultimately it's just a legends reunion, not really anyone new getting a chance to prove themselves.

Martin Short (12/15/2012)

Speaking of Martin Short, he proved himself to be an incredibly game host for one of the better SNL Christmas episodes of all time. Some of the better highlights include him ragging on Paul McCartney and knocking it out of the park as a Royal OBGYN, but I'm a fan of the extremely high level of non sequitors in the "Old Friends" sketch with Fred Armisen. It's just a stream of strange sentences back to back uttered with an extreme level of sincerity that presents one of the more strange moments in the show this year. It may not connect with everyone, but this is comic excellence:

Jamie Foxx (12/08/2012)

I was a big fan of just about everything in this episode. Even though it included two game show parodies and plenty of strange sketches. "Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney" highlighted this really strange phenomenon between these two white actors that seem eerily similar that was also hit on in The Campaign (2012) for some reason. "Maine Justice" was also this really insane sketch that really peaks when Sudeikis' Judge character sentences Bobby Moynihan to eat a spicy bowl of jumbalaya that will cause him to have enormous assfire. Charlie Day appears for no real reason other than to have a mini Horrible Bosses (2011) reunion, but it's solid. My favorite, though, is still Sammy Stamina and Sharkey Chrystals:

Other highlights: Jamie Foxx going all in playing Tyler Perry playing both Madea and Alex Cross. It's a treat.

Ben Affleck (05/18/2013)

There was a lot going on here. Around Kanye's tricked out performances, emotional moments with Bill Hader and Fred Armisen's last show, Ben Affleck did a really suitable job ending the season. From poking fun of Argo and a killer joke about Gigli (2003), to being game to do just about anything, Affleck was really solid and continued his rise to respectability. The best, of course, though, was Hader's send-off sketch as Stefon. While maybe not as emotional or memorable as Kristen Wiig's send-off by Mick Jagger, this rules:

Other Highlights: "Gay Camp," "Cop Family," "Greg's Funeral," and perhaps the best Porn Star sketch, "Hermes."

Seth MacFarlane (09/15/2013)

It's kind of a shame that the first episode of the season turned out to be the best one. Seth MacFarlane has had a wild year doing great things that aren't terrible, derivative animated shows, including TED (2012), this bit, and a hilarious hosting of the Oscars. He has an incredible confidence, swagger, and a true talent for voices and singing and couldn't appear more at home on the SNL stage. "Puppet Class" may rise above the rest based purely on Hader's Grenada Veteran, but I'll hold "Wooden Spoons" pretty high based on yes, the one joke that composes the entire sketch. The best, of course, though, is "Lids" that really captured that September zeitgeist better than anything the show did this year. It also captures a great douchey performance by Sudeikis and as the sketch suggests, there's nothing really that can put you in a better mood.

What makes it even more fun is if, like me, you didn't know who PSY was before this sketch. Congrats, world.

There's too much SNL for just one post. Stay tuned as we go over other great sketches in otherwise crudly episodes!

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