Saturday Night Live – Power Rankings 04/07/2012
It’s been over a month since I wrote one of these (two weeks I was in Washington D.C. and didn’t have my computer, then three weeks of re-runs), and it feels surprisingly good to be back at it. Kinda like revisiting an old friend. This was an especially weird week too, so without further ado…
SNL POWER RANKINGS: Sofia Vergara / One Direction 04/07/2012
1) Taran Killam (Up 10) - It was inevitable. Killam’s been getting more and more screen time, and with each new sketch he manages to find a different way to nail the role. Michael Cera impression? He knew how to hang back and wait for the big moment. Andy Cohen impression? He made it all him, and it killed. And he was the only part of the godawful “Manuel Ortiz Show” that made me laugh, and that actually counts for a lot. Actually, he wasn’t in the most sketches this week, but if his work continues to stand out like this, he’s got big things coming.
2) Bill Hader (Up 1) - Bill Hader is slowly turning into the guy whose friends have heard all of his jokes but they’re too nice to say anything, so he goes extra big on every line to make people laugh. And sometimes it works, but more often, it’s just kind of disappointing, because this guy that we love is trapped in this cycle and can’t get out of it. That, or everything written for him lately was bad. Either way, he’s getting all the screen time, and a fair amount of laughs, but last night it felt a bit stale.
3) Kristen Wiig (Up 3) -The fact that they brought Gilly back is reason enough to see her this high on the list. That’s a bold move: A character that at least half the audience outright hates and one that hasn’t been seen in over a year. That’s a vote of confidence in Wiig’s abilities. Beyond that, a batch of familiar character types brought her screen time up, and her Drew Barrymore was actually the surprise impression of the night.
4) Jason Sudekis (Up 1) - The front half of this show might as well have been “The Jason Sudekis Power Hour.” Then he all but disappeared. His Mitt Romney Cold Opens aren’t getting better, but I honestly don’t think it’s him; they just have no bite to them at all. That’s a writing issue. He was straight man in the “Action News” disaster and the “Pantene” sketch and cuddled with Andy in the “Just Friends” ad. He’s so likable, he climbs up the ranks bit by bit, week by week.
5) Bobby Moynihan (Up 5) – From here, the cast was so evenly spread, it comes down to very minor differences to break up the rankings. Moynihan’s “Drunk Uncle” was the only Weekend Update correspondant, and was hilarious as always. He also appeared for humorous facial expressions along the way in other sketches, but being the only character in Weekend Update is a big deal. Let’s see if he can break out of it and into some real sketch leads.
6) Kate McKinnon (NEW) -The newest cast member, added over the break, didn’t appear until the back half and provided two impressions. However, these impressions were absolutely hysterical, first as Tabitha Coffey in the “Watch What Happens” sketch and then as a co-lead with the host in the “Pantene” sketch. Most impressively, she didn’t seem at all nervous on screen, really laying into each character with perfect timing and tone. It was really skilled. Don’t expect to see her this high again for a while, though; new people rarely get any screen time after their first episode or two. But this bodes well for her future.
7) Abby Elliot (Up 5) - She was only in two sketches that I can recall, but she was the lead character in one of them, and the other was “Gilly,” in which her part is always fairly large. Weird that her Zooey Deschanel impression would be the only thing keeping her on the show, but it’s a good bit, and any lead role where you can actually draw the laughs is a plus. She’s better off than another female cast member whose most frequent contribution is a celebrity talk show impression*.
8) Keenan Thompson (Down 7) - It simply couldn’t last. The last rankings I did had this man at #1, and I stand by that. But the abnormality of a highly racial SNL episode ensured he’d be somewhere in the bottom half of the list by now. Why does he jump ahead of other cast members who appeared in more sketches? Simple: His turn as Desmond Tutu in “Watch What Happens” made me laugh the hardest of anything in the episode. Add his always amusing awkwardness in the “Manuel Ortiz Show” and you’ve got a case for a place that’s not high, but certainly respectable.
9) Nasim Pedrad (Down 2) – What does this show have against letting Nasim Pedrad have screen time? I don’t know, but it’s getting frustrating.
10) Andy Samberg (Down 2) - I miss Andy when he’s not a big part of an episode, because he typically finds a way to make me chuckle even when he’s doing lame material. Honestly, I know he was there last night, but other than the “Just Friends” ad, I can’t even remember him.
11) Fred Armisen (Down 9) - This isn’t an exact science. If it was, Armisen’s sketch volume would probably vault him higher than this. But his sketches were by far the worst of the night (“Action News” and “Manuel Ortiz”), and basically represented characters I’d like to see buried alive. I’ll concede because he was actually on my television enough to be represented, but if I could, I’d have let him off this week’s list all together.
12/13) Jay Pharoah / *Vanessa Bayer (Down 8/Down 4) – Someone’s bound to be underwritten on this show every week, but honestly, these two are in a bad position. Pharoah has yet to prove he can be a good comedy actor without the impressions on any consistent basis. And poor Vanessa. Clearly somebody just isn’t liking her material for some reason.
Host Grade: B+ – Vergara surprised me. I had very low expectations for her going in; I’ve never particularly liked Modern Family and have actually always thought of her as the most annoying character on that show. But from her monologue, I could tell something good was coming, and she really did quite well, even getting the beats mostly right in the very weirdly written bits like “Gilly.”
Musical Guest Grade: C – One Direction could not be more innocuous if they tried. They’re less N*Sync, more New Kids on the Block. If that distinction even means anything. Iwill give them credit for trying in the “Manuel Ortiz Show” and looking like they were having a genuinely good time poking each other in the face…yeah, I’ve got nothing.
SEASON 37 EPISODE RANKING
1) Jimmy Fallon / Michael Buble
2) Jason Segal / Florence and the Machine
3) Zooey Deschanel / Karmin
4) Melissa McCarthy / Lady Antebellum
5) Danielle Radcliffe / Lana Del Rey
6) Maya Rudolph / Sleigh Bells
7) Alec Baldwin / Radiohead
8) Charlie Day / Maroon 5
9) Sofia Vergara / One Direction
-Sofia was good, but the writing was hit-and-miss at best. Some sketches made me laugh almost too hard. Many left me bored.
10) Lindsay Lohan / Jack White
-Missed ranking this one from the road, but while Lindsay Lohan was a disaster in everything, the cast managed to pull themselves together and pull out a relatively decent show.
11) Emma Stone / Coldplay
12) Anna Faris / Drake
13) Ben Stiller / Foster the People
14) Channing Tatum / Bon Iver
15) Steve Buscemi / The Black Keys
16) Charles Barkley / Kelly Clarkson
17) Katy Perry / Robyn
[Still haven't watched the Jonah Hill ep. I'll work on that.]
04/11 – Josh Brolin / Gotye: The only confirmed episode I can find right now, but a great line-up. I have a really good feeling about Brolin in comedy, and the world is all abuzz about Gotye right now (my wife will be pleased, to be sure).