SNL POWER RANKINGS: Josh Brolin / Gotye 04/14/2012
1) Andy Samberg (Up 9) - Not everyone likes it, but when Samberg is given as many chances as he was given last night to shine, he typically knocks it out. Last night was no exception. The dude was in everything: The awful Cold Open (as Santorum), the “Game of Thrones” sketch (as the lead character), the “New York State of Mind” parody sketch (as Weird Al, of all people), TWO Digital Shorts (both of which were hysterical), Piers Morgan (as the wire dancing guy), and the “Slow Motion Hallway” sketch. And there wasn’t one sketch wherein he did not make me laugh. They handed him an episode on a plate, and he took it with ease.
2) Jay Pharaoh (Up 10) – Okay, we get it now: Lorne Michaels likes to keep fans on their toes. After weeks of background spots and a few no-shows, Jay Pharaoh had several stand out moments in last night’s episode. Mostly, it was in his impressions; his Will Smith was in the monologue, and was funny as always. His Jay-Z was really the best part of the “New York” sketch. He even debuted a solid Kanye West impression. But his best part was inarguably his recurring character Principal Frye, who made me laugh harder than anyone else in the entire episode. Pharaoh’s character breaking wasn’t as prevalent as Bill Hader’s, but it was almost funnier, and his delivery was perfect. Really ended the show on a very high note.
3) Bill Hader (Down 1) -His sketch volume wasn’t as high as it usually is, but he was given good material and he made it play. He got to show off some technique in the “Slow Motion” sketch, and reprised his role in “Lazer Cats” (a personal favorite). But he owned the episode’s most talked-about moment in “The Californians.” Not only did he lose it, he lost it in full-face close-up. His face changed colors. It was a treat, and one people are going to remember.
4) Kristen Wiig (Down 1) – Wiig could have been higher here, because she made plenty of appearances throughout the night, but she rarely stood out in any sketch and was mostly used as support. Her main highlights were as Michelle Bachmann in the night’s worst sketch and as the main woman in “The Californians.” Otherwise, “Garth and Kath” was dreadful, and she basically danced through her parts in “New York State of Mind” and “Slow Motion Hallway.” They’ve stuck her into supporting roles for a few weeks now, and I wonder if she’s tiring of the treatment.
5) Taran Killam (Down 4) - The Killam train kept rolling last night, showing up in a high volume of sketches with mostly positive results. He shared space with Andy Samberg in the second Digital Short, which let him play around with the musical guest. He got to don the role of Piers Morgan again, and though his impression is dreadful, his caricature is infectious. And he played a small role in “Game of Thrones.” Was it a Killam blowout like last week? No. But they’ve clearly got a space for him going forward, and showcasing his skills has been a priority of late.
6) Fred Armisen (Up 5) - Armisen mostly redeemed himself from last week’s sh*t show, especially in “The Californians,” in which he pretty much single-handedly cracked up the rest of the cast. And while “Garth and Kath” and his rap in “New York State of Mind” weren’t really that funny, it wasn’t for lack of enthusiasm on Armisen’s part. His impression of Ice T was downright funny. Still, they need to keep him on a short leash if they don’t want Armisen overload like they’ve had in the past.
7) Keenan Thompson (Up 1) - From Herman Cain to Tay Zonday to his ridiculous villain’s role in “The Californians,” Thompson took his usual place in the production: The sweet petit fors that shows up out of the blue, makes everybody smile, and then quietly steps out. He’s the cleanup hitter of the team, popping up near the ends of sketches and ensuring they come to a satisfying conclusion.
8) Vanessa Bayer (Up 5) – Thankfully, they managed to bring Bayer out of whatever cellar in which they’ve kept her locked. Sure, she played straight man most of the night, in “Slow Motion Hallway” and “Booker T Washington High School Prom,” but they let her have a moment or two of fun in “The Californians.” It was so nice to see her again, it made up for a general lack of things for her to do.
9) Bobby Moynihan (Down 4) - I love this guy to death, and he had several solid spots this week. Of the rapping bits in “New York State of Mind,” his was the only really funny attempt, and even though they didn’t give him much to say, seeing him as George R.R. Martin was amusing. And though he didn’t have lines, he sold the “Newt Gingrich stealing nuts” bit in the Cold Open, which is no easy feat considering how stupid that whole sketch was.
10) Nasim Pedrad (Down 1) - All she gets are scraps, and she makes them into gold for a few minutes at a time. They just don’t know what to do with Nasim anymore, and it’s gotten very, very sad.
11) Kate McKinnon (Down 4) – Part of me expected McKinnon to be completely off the show this week, what with their recent track record of completely forgetting the featured cast members for weeks on end. But she was in the same number of sketches as her debut (two total) and though neither appearance was as visible as they were in her first week, she made the best of both of them.
12) Jason Sudekis (Down 8) - Are they winding down the clock in preparation for some end-of-season exodus from Jason Sudekis? I don’t know. But I can only recall his face from a Cold Open that did him no favors in terms of writing, and then I don’t recall seeing him again the rest of the night.
13) Abby Elliot (Down 6) -Abby Elliot was in this episode. I know, because she played Ke$ha in “New York State of Mind” and basically had one line (“My songs aren’t parodies”). That’s really all I can say about her this week. She was hardly seen or heard from, and wasn’t really a part of the show in any way beyond a moment or two of screen time.
Host Grade: C+ – It’s not a necessarily a knock against Josh Brolin to say he didn’t need to be on screen this week, but really, they didn’t write any sketches where he was prominent enough to factor in the show’s quality, and when he did have things to do, they were sort of passe. He’s a terrific actor, but this wasn’t his show.
Musical Guest Grade: A- – I find Gotye to be pretty middling on record. Decent output, decent background noise. But he really brought it in his two performances, and though he couldn’t stop smiling in the Digital Short, he got a whole sketch devoted to him, which is a high compliment.
SEASON 37 EPISODE RANKING
1) Jimmy Fallon / Michael Buble
2) Jason Segal / Florence and the Machine
3) Zooey Deschanel / Karmin
4) Josh Brolin / Gotye
-A rare example where the cast and the writers, not the personality of the host, made an episode great. After a dismal Cold Open, it immediately picked up steam, and then it was gold pretty much all night long.
5) Melissa McCarthy / Lady Antebellum
6) Danielle Radcliffe / Lana Del Rey
7) Maya Rudolph / Sleigh Bells
8) Alec Baldwin / Radiohead
9) Charlie Day / Maroon 5
10) Sofia Vergara / One Direction
11) Lindsay Lohan / Jack White
12) Emma Stone / Coldplay
13) Anna Faris / Drake
14) Ben Stiller / Foster the People
15) Channing Tatum / Bon Iver
16) Steve Buscemi / The Black Keys
17) Charles Barkley / Kelly Clarkson
18) Katy Perry / Robyn
[Still haven’t watched the Jonah Hill ep. I’ll work on that.]
05/15 – Eli Manning / Rhianna: This is my nightmare.