I don’t know where I read this online, but soomeone suggested that someone should do a weekly power ranking for SNL; who’s up, who’s down, who’s working, who’s not. So I thought, “Hey, I can co-opt that idea and pretend I came up with it!”
My typical (read: pathetic) Saturday night involves my wife, some booze, and SNL. I have a tendency to live-tweet the show every week, which, in my drunken state, can be both difficult and frustrating. But somehow, I enjoy it.
So now, each week, I’ll be re-capping the previous night’s episode by grading the performers based on 1) Their sketch volume, 2) Their sketch quality, 3) Intangibles (the ability to save/kill the quality of a sketch, quantity of flubs, ability to make mistakes funny, etc.). I’ll also grade the hosts and musical guests, and rank the best sketches. Then, each week, I’ll update a ranking of the season’s episodes.
ENOUGH EXPOSITION, NOLAN! Let’s do this thing:
SNL POWER RANKINGS: Zooey Deschanel/Karmin, 02/11/2012
1) Andy Samberg – The boy has his off moments from time to time, but Samberg was on fire last night. He was in a moderately high volume of sketches (five total) and was arguably the best part of almost all of them. His “Get in the Cage” is the funniest recurring sketch of the year, he was the only even remotely decent part of “Patio Party” (aka the ungodly Crab sketch), and he played well with the host in “Technology Hump.” Others may have more flash right now, but consistency wins this game.
2) Bill Hader – His usual spate of repetitive impressions/game show hosts was broken last night by an amazing series of ads parodying the Clint Eastwood Super Bowl commercial. His sketch volume low as a result, which is pretty much the only reason he’s not #1.
3) Kristen Wiig – Wiig finally broke out some fresh characters this week. Her “Victorian Lady” wasn’t amazingly funny, but it was refreshing. Her Madonna was also a lot better because she didn’t attempt to sing (I don’t know why the writers always try to make her sing, because she can’t impersonate singing voices to save her life). And the “Newspaper” sketch was all her; she embodied that classic film woman so perfectly it was uncanny. But perhaps her best moment of the night was her Bjork impression in “Bein’ Qurky,” saving a relatively dull sketch and shooting her up to this spot.
4) Taran Killam – His Piers Morgan and Michael Cera impressions sounded nothing like the real thing. But Killam sold his bits so well that he mined gold from the dirt. Plus his dancing in “Les Jeunes Des Paris” is always delightful. Killam is fast becoming a major star on this show.
5) Jason Sudekis – Sudekis was finally given a week to show off his skills. Unfortunately, for all the sketches they threw at him, including yet another Mitt Romney Cold Open, either he fell flat or the material never fully landed. The Cold Open in particular was rough because it seemed aimless until a dog (of all things) saved the material from itself. As one half of LMFAO, he didn’t get much to work with. His only real success came in the “Newspaper” sketch, though he did mess up a few lines. He’s finally getting the screen time his fans have been clamoring for, but it’s just not catching right now.
6) Nasim Pedrad - Her contributions were mostly minor, including voice-only work in “Technology Hump” that was fairly amusing. But they included two relatively strong impressions (M.I.A. and Arianna Huffington) that shined, even though the jokes they gave her weren’t the strongest.
7) Abby Elliott – Her Zooey Deschanel impression made up the main bulk of her contribution to the show, and though it was essentially the lead role in the sketch, it was a fairly one-note routine.
8) Bobby Moynihan – Moynihan is possibly the most under-utilized actor on the show. Watching him in the background of any sketch can make it better, including his dancing in Les Jeunes Des Paris and his typing in the “Newspaper” sketch. I just wish they’d give him more screen time. A few feature spots on Weekend Update aren’t enough; he needs a few real sketches of his own.
9) Fred Armisen – He was barely in this episode, which is surprising given his ubiquity the rest of the year, but his absence was, honestly, welcome. He showed up as one half of LMFAO and in the Verizon ad parody, but he was pretty underwhelming in both (he even seemed to be coasting a bit).
10) Keenan Thompson – Thompson was given no opportunities this week. They even squandered a chance for him to play Cee-Lo in the Piers Morgan/Madonna sketch. But his status is safer on the list than others.
11) Jay Pharoah – Pharoah was all but shut out of this week’s sketches, showing up briefly in “Victorian Ladies” and almost nowhere else. He seemed almost despondant during the “Jay Pharoah Show” sketch two weeks ago, as though he wasn’t happy with his material. Are the writers taking it out on him by writing him out of the show?
12) Vanessa Bayer – Bayer is sweet and adorable. But was she even in this episode? I don’t remember seeing her face once, which is a shame, as she was starting to showcase some solid comedy skills. We’ll see next week whether she can keep her head above water and stick it out to come back next season.
Host Grade: A- – With SNL hosts, comedic timing is a crapshoot. To find someone who can hit the right beats when they need to be hit is rare, and even if the host plays variations of herself for most of the episode, she still needs to be able to find the meat on the jokes. Thankfully, Zooey Deschanel made the material work for her, and worked more like a regular cast member than a star slumming it on late night comedy shows.
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) Alec Baldwin / Radiohead
7) Charlie Day / Maroon 5
8) Emma Stone / Coldplay
9) Anna Faris / Drake
10) Ben Stiller / Foster the People
11) Channing Tatum / Bon Iver
12) Steve Buscemi / The Black Keys
13) Charles Barkley / Kelly Clarkson
14) Katy Perry / Robyn
02/18 – Maya Rudolph / Sleigh Bells – Another SNL alum gets a hosting gig, and just in time to do a great Whitney Houston tribute. Although I dread the Twitter anti-hipster backlash against Sleigh Bells, who are absolutely intense live but are anything but populist fare.
02/25 – Eli Manning / J. Cole – Oh f*** my c***.