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SNL: The Season So Far 2008

New cast member Bobby Moynahan with host James Franco in "Of Mice and Men" sketch.

The first four episodes of this season of Saturday Night Live have now aired in succeeding weeks without any re-runs, and with SNL’s spin-off extra “Weekend Update” show scheduled to debut on October 9, it’s time to look at the season so far.

The first episode, with record-breaking Olympic swim champion Michael Phelps as host, buried its best bits deep in the show, namely a commercial parody for a “Michael Phelps” diet playing off its subject’s notoriously carbo-loaded appetite, and the one truly edgy piece, a sketch in which Jason Sudeikis plays a father who gets in trouble for being too interested in his daughter’s friends, having them on his cellphone friends list. New cast member Bobby Moynahan got to showcase his “Pepper” character, but the set-up by the writers didn’t seem to know how to end the performance and wrap it up. Grade: B minus.

Week two featured James Franco in the most solid episode so far, and the one that best showcased its host. It had several great sketches, including the opening political sketch about John McCain’s willingness to approve any almost any baseless slander of Obama in his ads; Franco as (playing off his Pineapple Express character) “Agent 420,” the pot-smoking replacement for an absent James Bond; plus the return of “The Cougar Den,” with Franco as guest “cougar” Cameron Diaz’s boyfriend. Lastly, a sketch on the alternate ending for “Of Mice and Men” made great use of Bobby Moynahan as Lenny -- possibly his best appearance this season. All this and Bill Hader’s dead-on Willem Dafoe impression. Grade: A.

The third epsiode, with gifted comic actress Anna Faris as host, ranks a close second to the previous week’s, making even Kenan Thompson bearable in a sketch as a hitman who’s supposed to kill Faris and has contrived to date her through the Internet to get her out on a rowboat with no one around, and ends up being softened up by her singing. Grade: B.

And last week, with Anne Hathaway as host, the quality suddenly slipped a bit, with a very weak Katy Perry parody, and a couple so-so contributions from Andy Samberg -- a video short of a nonsensical “competition” and a bland impersonation of Mark Wahlberg without much of a point to it, that dragged down a few brighter moments, like a send-up of the vice presidential debate and an amusing Mary Poppins sketch that implied “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” was a veneral disease she’d been spreading around. Grade: C plus.

However, with the Update spinoff for the election season on its way, and an October 18 episode to feature Josh Brolin as host, what’s aired so far does make the upcoming stuff look promising.




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