SNL: 38.1 – “Seth MacFarlane/Frank Ocean” Review

There’s a crisp note in the air (actually here in south Georgia there is no such thing but I like to pretend) which means fall is back and so is Saturday Night Live! Saturday’s premiere was hosted by a man known more for his voice than his face, Seth MacFarlane. I feel the need to be honest here, I actually can not stand Seth MacFarlane. I know, I know… it’s incredibly hard to believe, but it’s true. There is a very good chance my hatred stems from the fact that my husband watches two categories of television:

1. Reality shows that paint us southerners as toothless hicks who either hunt alligators, shoot hogs, or catch fish with our hands

and

2. Family Guy

I’m pretty sure that as I take my last shuffle off the mortal coil, I will hear Peter Griffin in the background saying something stupid so I come by my hatred honestly.
That being said, I didn’t hate Mr. MacFarlane as host of the premiere. I might even go so far as to say I actually enjoyed it.

The show opened up with Fred Armisen at the podium as we’ve seen him countless times. This time however, he wasn’t there as President Obama but rather as the guy introducing the President. I usually really enjoy Jay Pharoah’s impressions (Eddie Murphy probably being my favorite) but his Obama was just good, not great. But it’s the first episode of the season and the first time he’s done it so here’s hoping he settles into it a bit more.

What really needs work is Taran Killam’s Paul Ryan. Yikes. Killam is rarely that bad which leads me to believe he just hasn’t worked on it that long. I am a huge fan of Killam and hate saying bad things about him.

To cleanse my palate I need a moment to watch this for the ten thousandth time. Taran Killam recreating Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” video in a tiny office filled with people. And flashlights.

Moving on- it’s a new title sequence! Thank god, that “walking the streets of NYC at night” sequence was getting old.
Of course the monologue was next and even though it was filled with voices that haunt my dreams at night, it was really good. I was incredibly surprised at how nice a singing voice MacFarlane has. Of course I’m a sucker for anything Sinatra/Darin-esque, and he nailed it pretty well.

I do have to wonder how many people there are watching SNL that remember Droopy Dog.

There was a prerecorded Obama “ad” that was okay. Not much to write home about. That was followed by an incredibly non-funny “Sex after 50”. Words can not express how much I do not like Fred Armisen’s “producer turned talk show host stand-in” character. If he never appeared again, I’d be a happy woman.

Next up was one of my top three sketches of the night- Bill Hader in “Clint Eastwood and Chair”, a traveling show featuring Clint Eastwood and a cast of chairs representing everyone from Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter. ¬†The “high-waisted hijinks” were really well done. “Whoop chair it is!”

The writers decided that they really needed to show the audience how incredibly random they could be. The “Lids” sketch that started off as MacFarlane (first sketch of his), Jason Sudeikis, and Keenan Thompson working at one of the mall hat stores.
Thompson is upset because he didn’t get a promotion and MacFarlane decides to make him feel better by hitting a button and having Bobby Moynihan, as the Korean rapper Psy, come out and sing the song that is everywhere right now, Gangnam Style.
So very odd.

And just when I thought it was played out… Psy himself came out and yelled at a dancer chic’s ass for a little bit. I would have loved to see the cast rehearse this sketch because it was just so random it was probably a blast. Horses, smoke, brahs… it had a little bit of everything.

If I had to choose the best sketch of the night, it would probably have to go to “Intro to Puppetry”. There’s something about seeing puppets talk about burning down villages in Grenada with a flamethrower that I just really enjoy. And puppet murder? Yes, please! And don’t even get me started on puppet sex! There was just so much to love in this one- put a wig on Bill Hader, give him a creepy voice, and he is in his element, that is for sure.

The episode’s musical guest was Frank Ocean and the most I can muster up about his performance is this- hmmmm. I am currently nursing a hangover to end all hangovers and his soft voice and soft music and soft skin and soft clothes and soft pillowcase and soft mattress and what the hell I’ve fallen asleep.

With Weekend Update we finally get to see a new cast member actually speak! Cecily Strong came out as Mimi, a Latino woman who wanted everyone to know that her boyfriend (Jay Pharaoh) was Dominican and that people should vote. She did well. Weekend Update was hit or miss, with the biggest hit coming from MacFarlane as Ryan Lochte, Olympic swimming’s idiot super douche.

I will say though, a Weekend Update that has two mentions of neck tattoos? That’s a good Weekend Update.

There were another two sketches that weren’t very good- a stuttering Drill Sergeant and Steve Harvey gives Seth MacFarlane a makeover.

If SNL were to be honest with themselves about their faults, they would readily admit that they are awful when it comes to playing out a bit way too long. The “First Date” sketch was a perfect example. It was good. We got to see both Tim Robinson and Aidy Bryant and MacFarlane did a good job, but it went right past the line of “know when to quit”.

It was getting late and I was glad to see Frank Ocean again so I could close my eyes and drift off for a little while. When I awoke I was fairly certain I’d slept right on until the late late late night movie because there was some dude playing an arcade game while an electric guitar solo played in the background. I was expecting Peter Cetera to jump out at any moment.

It has been a long time since I was able to say I like the last sketch of the night. Usually it’s just some throw away piece of crap that they decided was the right amount of time to fit.

The “Amish Spoons” sketch however, was fabulous. It was simple, it was straightforward, and it was funny. I really wish they’d created a page for http://www.woodenspoonwarehouse.com instead of just redirecting to the SNL site but whatever, it was good. And we got a chance to see Tim Robinson say more than one line. He did good!

So, what does the premiere tell us about what’s to come? Well hopefully it doesn’t say that we won’t hardly see the new people at all. Aidy Bryant had perhaps 10 seconds of airtime. Yikes. With the election in the home stretch (thank you jesus), we can expect to see plenty more of the Pharaoh/Sudeikis/Killam trio. And perhaps a return to hosts who can actually be watchable in sketches instead of just making the audience cringe for the entire episode.

Until next week when we rehash the second episode hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt with musical guest Mumford and Sons.

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