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SNL: The Season So Far

Will Forte and Dane Cook as Poland Spring deliverymen.

Saturday Night Live will always have its ups and downs, so to take a look at its shows so far this season by assigning them letter grades, here’s a take on recent episodes this season:

Dane Cook, season opener -- B+. As reviewed here last season, Dane Cook’s first guest hosting spot last season was one of the stronger episodes last year. His appearance this time leading off the latest season was apt because generous use of his stand-up for the opening monologues which can be a tortured affair especially when comedic songs are grafted onto hosts who don’t really know how to take them over the top. Cook’s comic acting style fits well into the current sensibility of the show, highlighted by a skit in which delinquent Poland Springs deliverymen try to camouflage numerous emptied bottles in their apartment.

Jamie Pressly -- B. This episode kept its head above water, with a highlight being a NASCARettes sketch, in which NASCAR cheerleaders make the mistake of doing their thing on the track itself. Recurring short films called New York Stories featuring Amy Poehler and Fred Armisen together playing pairings of people like Rosie Perez and Lou Reed also raised the quality of this episode.

John C. Reilly -- B minus. This episode’s strongest moments came in its first half-hour, namely in sketches featuring Reilly as a predatory swimming coach with Will Forte’s unlikely Olympian, Reilly as a racist Colonial Williamsburg employee, the recurring A-Holes characters by Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig, and lastly Amy Poehler’s outlandish Kim Jong-Il impression. The latter part of the show went downhill rapidly though, with a thrice recurring sketch featuring Reilly as a deluded dad trying to have special moments with his son, which just didn’t break a laugh threshold, and a truly terrible experiment at going for meta commenting comedy, “The Bear Shark Project.”

Hugh Laurie -- C minus. This episode was particularly disappointing, considering Laurie’s pedigree from the British comedy duo of Fry & Laurie. The first skit, a spoof of a Ghost Hunters cable show, turned out to be an extended fart joke -- with infrared vision showing the source of the emanations -- a lot of trouble to go to for something that really fell flat. … The episode was only really saved by its opening appearance by Sasha Baron Cohen’s Borat character, which has nothing to do with what SNL can present on its own, and Will Forte’s return to the Tim Calhoun bewildered politician character, which hasn’t been seen for awhile on the show. Without these, this episode would be graded a D at best.

The episodes slated next, with hosts Alec Baldwin and rapper/actor Ludacris do seem to have potential to top these, as Baldwin always seems to greatly improve the show in his many guest hosting appearances, and Ludacris is a talented performer who promises to inject a different quality into the show if used right. At least Darrell Hammond, who seems to only get used selectively so far, gets his props tonight with a Best Of compilation.




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