Sunday, October 12, 2014

SNL: Season 40 Ep. 3

Easily the best SNL of the season, and the same could probably be said for last season as well, Bill Hader brought his best this week to 30 rock (as did Hozier).

The cold open was kind of a hit and miss, with Bobby Moynihan as a gout-ridden Kim Jong Un. Moynihan really tried to make this work, and it did produce a few smirks but really nothing more.

The monologue featured Bill Hader's Skeleton Twins co-star kristin wiig, trying to get Bill Hader to sing (it tuned out he couldn't sing), but Harvey Fierstein made a cameo to encourage Hader. It was actually fairly amusing.

The legendary reporter Herb Welch returned. Taran Killam took over from Jason Sudeikis as the lead anchor. The interaction between Hader and Pete Davidson was really good here.

There was a pretty good fake movie trailer parodying the various dystopian Y.A novel adaptions. It went from The Maze Runner to Divergent and The Hunger Games (with even some Harry Potter thrown in). The production level was also crazy good.

There was a lackadasical Hollywood Game Night skit, because celebrity impersonations. Kristin Wiig brought back her Kathie Lee Gifford impersonation in a cameo. Taran Killam was a bright spot though as Christoph Waltz.

One of the top bits was a "HelpFund" PSA on how "$0.39 can save a life". This is one that SNL couldn't have done a couple of years ago. It really made you think.

Hader and Wiig did a tribute to Jan Hooks, and it was followed with SNL showing "Love Is But A Dream" with Jan and Phil Hartman

Love Is But A Dream

I usually don't feature the music acts on here, but I'll make an exception for Hozier. His SNL performance was sublime. I think he's going to be big here, just like Sam Smith.

Weekend Update was really good this week. Michael Che is really developing. Pete Davidson made his return to talk chains.

Pete Davidson - Gold Chains

Bill Hader returning meant one thing.....Stefon!!! Apparently Dan Cortese is at all the clubs......

Hader brought his "Anthony Peter Coleman" character back in the Puppetry class skit. I had forgotten about it, but this character really is brilliant, and we even saw a war flashback.....with puppets.

Mooney/Bennett had another short, "Inside SoCal", a public access show. It was pretty much a miss, but not necessarily a complete dud. Mooney/Beckett need to step up their game though to make these a thing.

SNL ended with a bizarre Cat In The Hat skit.....with the Cat having a previous affair with the mother....who was instead with Thing happened.

All in all, it was a really strong episode, and just showed how great Bill Hader was during his tenure at SNL.

Avg. Score: 8.06 (each segment was scored out of 10, and averaged, including the musical act).

Bill Hader - 8.06
Chris Pratt - 7.5
Sarah Silverman - 7.15

Friday, October 10, 2014

Remembering Jan Hooks

Late 1980s SNL star Jan Hooks passed away from an undisclosed illness Thursday, October 9th. Being among cast-members like Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Nora Dunn and Kevin Nealon, she was able to shine, and in my opinion, was one of the most underrated cast-members.

She had success post SNL with stints on The Simpsons, Designing Women and 30 Rock.

One of her most well-known impersonations on SNL was of evangelist Tammy Faye. Here she is with Dana Carvey on "Church Chat" with the Church Lady

She was among the first Hillary Clinton impersonations on SNL.....which will likely still be continuing with the 2016 Presidential Election. Here's a brief clip.

She was one of the top impressionists on SNL, even as Kathie Lee.

And, what I think is one of the top acted dramatic/comedic skits on SNL, one of her most iconic roles as Brenda The Waitress.

RIP Jan Hooks

Monday, October 6, 2014

SNL: Season 40 Ep.2

SNL continued with Sarah Silverman and Maroon 5 (with Adam Levine making a few sketch cameos)

The features were better than the actual skits this week. It started off with a rather poor opening with a mediocre 60 minutes opening interview with Jay Pharoah's 1st appearance as President Obama on the season. It tried to make connections with ISIS and "hip" social media that just turned into a yawn-fest.

Things really picked up though with Sarah Silverman's monologue, as she ad-libbed with a member of the audience.....and then fielded questions from a younger version of herself.

The monologue was followed up by a great trailer parody, Fault In Our Stars: The Ebola In Our Everything. This was just laugh out loud in every sense. 

The first skit was a tribute to Joan Rivers with Silverman portraying the late comedian at a roast in Heaven. It wasn't necessarily bad, it was just blah, and felt forced. Adam Levine portrayed Freddie yeah.

If you blinked, you missed it, but there was a sort of PSA ad on "whites". Right off the bat, it could sound offensive, but it was actually well done, with the message of "Enjoy it now while we're on top....still calling the shots until 2050, 2060 tops". It certainly caught me off guard.

There was a "forgotten tv gems" skit with a soap opera called "supportive women". It was somewhat clever and drew a few smirks, but that was about it.

Weekend Update was fairly strong this week. Michael Che seemed to have already settled in, and there was some actual chemistry between Che and Colin Jost, particularly during this piece of banter.

Weekend Update: What You Can Say

Another amusing Update bit was when Silverman and Kate McKinnon appeared as a feminist music duo "Garage & Her". It was just one of those things that was so random yet hilarious.

Weekend Update: Garage & Her

Another weak skit followed Update, about a singing trio called the "River Sisters" on a river cruise. It was incredibly forgettable.

There was a fairly good 2nd half skit, featuring Bobby Moynihan and Taran Killam, with Silverman coming back from Amsterdam admitting she cheated on her boyfriend who was about to propose. It featured Adam Adam Levine. It ended oddly enough with....Pizza Hut.

This week also saw a better Kyle Mooney/Beck Bennett short. I think it'll just take time for them to grow, but easy to say they haven't reached "Lonely Island" status quite yet.

The show ended with a Vitamix commercial skit between Silverman and Vanessa Bayer that broke out into Silverman's finances and whether she could afford a vitamix blender. Think of last year's "Blue River Dog Food" skit with Cecily Strong and Seth Rogen....but not quite as good.

 Avg. Score: 7.15 (each segment was scored out of 10, and averaged, including the musical act).

Chris Pratt - 7.5
Sarah Silverman - 7.15

Sunday, September 28, 2014

SNL: Season 40 Ep. 1

Being the 40th season, I'll be doing brief reviews of each episode this year. The season premeire started off with Chris Pratt & Ariana Grande.

Overall, it was an average episode, no real clunkers. It got off with a roasting of the NFL, using CNN's "State of the Union". Keenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah were present with great impersonations of Ray Lewis and Shannon Sharpe (respectively). Chris Pratt portrayed Roger Goodell during his horrible press conference. 

Chris Pratt did a predictable safe, singing monologue, with a cameo appearance by his wife Anna Faris. That was followed by another fairly predictable commercial (although it had its moments) on "Cialis: Turnt".

The first skit was just bizarre. A kid (Kyle Mooney)'s He-Man toys came to life, and I just don't know what was happening. Was chock-full of sexual innuendos though. Ariana Grande made an appearance.

The next skit at least got back into the realms of normalcy, but it was a "done that" Animal Hospital sketch. 

That was followed by one of the highlights of the episode, a spoof of Marvel trailers. This was just brilliant, and surprisingly wasn't really overdone as even the best skits/pieces tend to be.

Weekend Update saw the introduction of Michael Che, as he joined Colin Jost. Che was visible nervous (which was understandable), but he started to get into the pace of it. Colin is still too much like Seth Myers. Cecily Strong made a nice return as "The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation At A Party". 

Writer Leslie Jones made a hilarious return to Update in what will hopefully become a regular appearance. 

New featured player Pete Davidson also made a brilliant appearance on Update as the "resident young person", (He's just 20!). Davidson made everything with this. He really established himself, and you can already tell he'll be around SNL for a while. 

Aidy Bryant was featured well in a singing 'girl's night out' bar scene, also with good work from Pratt.

SNL continues trying to make the Kyle Mooney/Beck Bennett features a thing, and while they've had some good work, it just hasn't coalesced yet.

There was a good (if not somewhat ripped from Key & peele) NFL lineup skit, with the players (Ravens/Panthers) announcing their criminal convictions instead of their alma maters.

The night ended on another bizarre skit, on video game testers playing an odd, sensual puzzle game (yes, you read that right). Vanessa Bayer made it work somewhat.

Avg. Score: 7.50 (each segment was scored out of 10, and averaged, including the musical act).

Chris Pratt - 7.5

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Remembering Robin Williams & Joan Rivers

It's been a sad end to the summer in the comedy world, as we lost both Robin Williams and Joan Rivers. Both made their own marks in entertainment and stretched the boundaries. Now I could go on like this, but I think the best way to remember them, is to actually see them doing what they did best.

(A segment from when Williams appeared on 'Inside The Actors Studio'. This was his improvisation at best).

(Robin was never above doing anything. At 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' he again showed off his best improvisation)

(Robin wasn't afraid to take on controversial issues)

(Much like Robin, Joan also wasn't afraid to get edgy. Here she returned to 'The Tonight Show', following her long absence.)

(Joan with Johnny Carson back in the day.)

This was just a sample. Robin Williams was also known for his dramatic work, from 'Dead Poets Society' to 'Good Will Hunting'. Meanwhile, Joan Rivers stepped into the fashion world with her red carpet interviews, and hosting E!'s "Fashion Police". Joan was working up until the end, even with her own youtube series "In Bed With Joan", which I highly recommend.

Both left a mark, and will be greatly missed.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Time To Go

The outrage over the Ray Rice incident went up significantly following TMZ sports releasing the elevator video of the assault on his then fiance. What the video did was show the reality of domestic violence, although in this case, it looked like flat out aggravated assault. It is quite disturbing to watch, but necessary to watch to get a sense of the actual incident. 

To get some perspective, this incident occurred in February. Weeks ago the NFL handed down a flat out disgraceful 2-week suspension, then saved face by creating a new policy of domestic assault. Then it happened, TMZ obtained and released the actual video of the incident, and Rice was quickly released by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely. But this isn't good enough.

These responses were too little, too late. Ray Rice's description of the incident to law-officials matched up with what is seen in the video. There isn't any provocation seen, just aggravated assault. So my question is, how is it that TMZ somehow got to this video before the all mighty and powerful NFL?

As Deadspin reports, NFL journalists state during the summer that some NFL officials had seen this elevator video. In descriptions of it then, those who claimed to have seen it tried to paint it that Rice was somehow provoked (which clearly isn't the case). Was this to white-wash the incident? Did they actually see the video? Was that a lie?

It wouldn't seem to make sense that the journalists lied.

An even more disturbing thought, is if Roger Goodell and company did in fact see this video, and then thought that it warranted just a 2-game suspension. Goodell has said, following the formation of the new policy, that it was his greatest mistake, but lets be honest: everything was to just save face for this nightmare. This is one of the most embarrassing moments for the NFL. Goodell and the NFL have since said that they hadn't seen the video before.

Goodell has botched this case throughout. During the "investigation", Goodell interviewed Ray Rice's now wife Janay Palmer, with Ray Rice present. How can you have a credible interview within the presence of her attacker?  

Being that the video matched up with the reported description, how did Goodell think that it just warranted 2 games? 2 games?? He would have been eligible to return to the team following the Week 2 Thursday night game versus the Steelers. 

Goodell isn't the only person to blame here. The Baltimore Ravens handled this about as poorly as they possibly could. First, there was a staged press conference with Ray Rice and Janay. Then there was a victim-blaming tweet, that has since been deleted (where Janay said that she deeply regretted the actions of that night). There was the Ravens showing Rice on the big screen during practices and preseason, resulting in cheers from the crowd. 

Just like Goodell and the NFL, Coach Harbaugh said that the Ravens had also never seen the video before.

Along with the NFL, the legal system also failed to act here. The Atlantic County prosecutor's office agreed to a pretrial settlement of counseling. The legal system swept this under the rug just as much as the NFL. 

Whether this was a cover-up by the NFL, people involved here need to take responsibility and step down. 

If Roger Goodell was truly caught off guard by TMZ Sports, it shows a lack of credibility. If he had seen the video beforehand, even more-so it destroys any shred his commissioner-ship. 

If Goodell has any ounce of respect for himself and for the NFL, he must resign.

It shouldn't have taken both the NFL, and the Ravens the video to take action. Ravens President Dick Cass and GM Ozzie Newsome must resign.

The legal system failed Janay Palmer here, The Atlantic County Prosecutor, and all involved who signed off on this pretrial agreement must resign.

As stated first, Goodell is ultimately on the top of this list. He has either been too harsh or too lenient in his history dealing with players. Just look at the suspensions of Wes Welker, Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon  (the drug policy is a post for another day). Goodell has been a failure, and must accept responsibility. 

This video didn't change anything. We knew the violent details of what happened. The only thing that changed was that we saw it. What about the domestic incidents that we haven't seen? Where there wasn't video? 49ers Ray McDonald and Panther's Greg Hardy have pending cases, both are still playing. Things need to change, starting with this case.

As ESPN's Keith Olbermann states, everyone must go 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

NFL 2014 Preview

AFC East

New England Patriots: 11-5
Miami Dolphins: 8-8
Buffalo Bills: 7-9
New York Jets: 6-10

Another year, another trip to the playoffs for the Patriots. I think the Patriots will be a bit more stable on offense this year, hopefully with a healthy Rob Gronkowski. I just don't see the Dolphins improving upon their 2013. There are still offensive question marks, so a .500 season it is. Along with the Dolphins, I see mediocre seasons for the Bills and Jets. The Bills defense keeps building, but there are still questions on EJ Manuel, and while the Jets added Michael Vick, they still lack quality receivers, despite adding Eric Decker.

AFC West

Denver Broncos: 13-3
San Diego Chargers: 10-6
Kansas City Chiefs: 9-7
Oakland Raiders: 5-11
I don't see anything changing with the West. Despite being without Wes Welker for the first 4 weeks, fact is the Broncos still have Peyton Manning, and an added defense that even saw some starters get released during the last roster cuts. I think the Philip Rivers renaissance last year was for real, and he'll lead the Chargers to a wild card spot. As for the Chiefs, I think they'll have a fairly up and down year, but just miss out. As for the Raiders? Well, the offense should be somewhat improved with rookie Derek Carr getting the start, but alas, they're still the Raiders.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-5
Cincinnati Bengals: 10-6 
Baltimore Ravens: 9-7
Cleveland Browns: 5-11

The AFC North is up for grabs this year between the Steelers, Bengals and Ravens. Ultimately, I think stability on offense and increasing speed on defense will give Pittsburgh the edge. However, they'll have to stay healthy, especially the O-Line (where the depth is non-existent). Is Andy Dalton under or over-rated? The debate keeps going, but I think Dalton plays consistently, and gets the Bengals a wild-card spot. The Ravens should be in the playoff hunt until the end, but just miss out with inconsistent showings on offense. And while the Browns may now have Johnny Manziel, he'll probably experience some growing pains when he eventually gets his first start (which won't come in Week 1 against Pittsburgh).

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts: 12-4
Jacksonville Jaguars: 7-9
Tennessee Titans: 5-11
Houston Texans: 4-12

The AFC South looks fairly weak. The Colts should run away with this division, with hopefully an improved running game from Trent Richardson and company. The only other bright spot in this division might be an improved Jaguars team. A laughing-stock the last couple of years, I think Blake Bortles can step in and lead the Jaguars to a 7-win season, a step in the right direction. 

Playoff Seeds:
1) Denver Broncos
2) Indianapolis Colts
3) New England Patriots
4) Pittsburgh Steelers
5) San Diego Chargers
6) Cincinnati Bengals

Wild Card Rd:

Once again, I think Andy Dalton will still be looking for that playoff win, as Tom Brady leads a prolific offense to a win. Patriots

An interesting match-up. I think the Steelers D is able to hold on, and the Steelers not only get back to the playoffs, but get a win. Steelers

Division Rd:
A re-match of the Steelers last playoff game before 2014, however instead of Tim Tebow, it'll be Peyton Manning. I think Manning would pretty much have his way here. Broncos

A rivalry begun anew? Analysts like to call Andrew Luck the next great young QB, but in this case the real Tom Brady marches on. Patriots

Quite an intriguing match-up. Brady vs Manning once again. I actually think the Broncos D would be the difference here. The Broncos get to another super bowl. Broncos

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles: 11-5
Dallas Cowboys: 8-8
New York Giants: 7-9
Washington: 6-10

Entering his second year, Chip Kelly's system keeps evolving. The Eagles have been trying to get their offense even faster. They may hit a few minor bumps, but I see the Eagles taking the division. The Cowboys are tough to gauge. Their defense has been inconsistent/ravaged by injuries in the past. Their offense shouldn't be much of a problem, baring Tony Romo is healthy. The Giants always seem to be a mystery, so I'll go with another mediocre year. Eli Manning has had some extreme up and down moments recently. As for Washington, it all rides on "RG3", whether he can bounce back to his promise.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks: 13-3
Arizona Cardinals: 12-4
San Francisco 49ers: 8-8
St. Louis Rams: 3-13
I don't see a super bowl hangover in the Seahawks' future. They will have to find some replacements, particularly with Golden Tate going to Detroit, but they really like rookie Paul Richardson, and they're hoping that Percy Harvin can stay healthy. However, the MVP of Seattle is their defense, which should be just as fierce. I see two surprises out of the West, Arizona and San Francisco. The 49ers offense has struggled to score in preseason, and while its preseason, its still a concern. Plus their defense will be without Ray McDonald (domestic violence) and Aldon Smith (suspension). Meanwhile, "Pittsburgh West" have been an up and coming team. I think Carson Palmer can pull off a 2013 Philip Rivers and have a mini-comeback of his own to lead Arizona to a wildcard. As for the Rams? Well, being without Sam Bradford, they may get a shot at the #1 draft pick.

NFC North
Green Bay Packers: 11-5
Detroit Lions: 10-6
Chicago Bears: 9-7
Minnesota Vikings: 4-12
With a healthy year from Aaron Rodgers, the Packers should be able to take the division (as usual). However, I think the Lions are just too good not to make a run at the playoffs. The Lions have always been a team that's good on paper, but doesn't translate all the time on the field. The Bears (which seems to be a common theme) will likely also be in the hunt, up until the end. They're a good, but not great team. The Vikings are transitioning, and it'll remain to be seen if top pick Teddy Bridgewater will see the field this year.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints: 12-4
Carolina Panthers: 8-8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7-9
Atlanta Falcons: 6-10

A weak division, it shouldn't be difficult for the Saints to come away with it. The Panthers are experiencing a lot of offensive turnover this year, leading the way to a .500 season. Tampa Bay is a young team rising, but with their schedule, I don't see anything more than 7-8 wins. As for the Falcons, they still have major defensive question-marks.

Playoff Seeds:
1) Seattle Seahawks
2) New Orleans Saints
3) Philadelphia Eagles
4) Green Bay Packers
5) Arizona Cardinals
6) Detroit Lions

Wild Card Rd:
I think the Eagles fast-paced offense would be too much for the Lions. Eagles

An intriguing match-up. While playoff games at Lambeau field can be particularly difficult for visiting teams, there's just something about the Cardinals that I like. I think they're able to start a run here. Cardinals

Divisional Rd:
An NFC West match-up that many probably aren't expecting. Its always tough for a defending SB champion to repeat, and I think the Cardinals have enough defense here to hold on. Cardinals

In this match-up, I don't think the Eagles defense will be able to hold off Drew Brees, and that'll be the difference. Saints


This is where the run from the Cardinals ends. Drew Brees and the Saints are just too good. Saints

A QB rematch of Super Bowl 44 between the Colts and Saints, Manning will be looking for a better outcome both from then and from last year. With an improved defense, and the Saints having a lesser D than the Seahawks, I think Peyton gets that 2nd Super Bowl ring. Broncos