Daniel Craig hosts and Muse performs on a Season 38 episode of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE - Season 38 | ©2012 NBC/Dana Edelson

Daniel Craig hosts and Muse performs on a Season 38 episode of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE - Season 38 | ©2012 NBC/Dana Edelson

Stars: Fred Armisen, Vanessa Bayer, Bill Hader, Taran Killam, Seth Meyers, Bobby Moynihan, Nasim Pedrad, Jay Pharoah, Jason Sudeikis, Kenan Thompson, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Tim Robinson, Cecily Strong
Network: NBC, airs Saturday nights
Original Telecast: October 6, 2012

It’s pretty clear, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE is officially struggling this year. The mix of the new and old cast members is a bit rocky, there are few stand-outs of the new crop and the writing, sadly, is absolutely atrocious.

And with James Bond himself, Daniel Craig hosting, the prospects for a hilarious episode could have went either way, but after Craig’s first official sketch, it’s clear his strengths are more with intense dramatic and action roles and less with sketch comedy.

The episode kicked off with another horrible political sketch parodying this week’s Presidential Debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.  When LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON does a better sketch than SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on the same topic, there’s seriously something wrong here.

Aside from Jason Sudeikis’ Romney impersonation and the occasionally amusing wild looks he gives Obama, there wasn’t much too recommend here. Jay Pharoah, unfortunately, is a terrible Obama. When you put him next to someone like Sudeikis, it’s the difference between a seasoned performer and someone in high school trying to do an over-the-top impression of someone. He’s no match, and the show made a huge mistake replacing Fred Armisen’s Obama with Pharoah’s. I wanted to give Pharoah the benefit of the doubt, and this sealed the deal. It’s not working.

After the brilliance of the last SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE election cycle (especially with Sarah Palin and all that there was to milk from that situation), the writers are really struggling to find humor this time around.

However, it was great to see former cast member Chris Parnell guest as Jim Lehrer. His presence alone reminds you of what you need to be on the show, and many of the newer male performers (aside from the always top notch Taran Killan who they are not using enough), sadly don’t have that skill. (Grade: C)

Now on to the rest of the sketches.

Monologue: This was the best bit the entire night as Craig does an In Memoriam monologue of all the characters he’s killed on film. Very funny and quick and concise. (Grade: B+)

Construction Workers: Craig plays a new construction worker who doesn’t understand how to harass women on the street. Instead of using euphemisms, he’s very blatant about his taunts. His New York accent is very rough and the sketch is awful and embarrassing. It’s the kind of thing as an actor you want to bury and make sure never sees the light of day again. I’ve always liked Craig as an actor, but some actors are great sketch comedians and others just aren’t.  (Grade: F)

Bond 50: A fake promotion of the very real BOND 50 Blu-ray box set of all the James Bond films featuring the “lesser known Bond girls from every era.” So you get Diane Keaton (Vanessa Bayer) circa ANNIE HALL in NEVER DIE TWICE TOMORROW and Lea Michele (Nasim Padrad) in HIPPOPOTOPUSSY among others. I like the recreation of the Bond-style, but the jokes just aren’t there. (Grade: C-)

Rachel Madow/MSNBC: Cecily Strong does a really great Madow as MSNBC looks back at the Obama Debate Disaster. Somewhat clever, it has a few laughs as the guests try to put a spin on what exactly happened with our President during the debate. (Grade: C)

Long Island Medium: Kate McKinnon is rising to the top as SNL’s best female performer. She’s creating quirky characters and she has a great spark. I like her in all the sketches she does, but the writing just isn’t there yet for her. Case in point this spoof of a reality TV show. She’s energetic as a Long Island Medium who talks to the dead, but a performer can’t carry lousy writing. (Grade: C+)

Space Cat: A crew on a spaceship find out their lead scientist (Bobby Moynihan) is cat crazy. Moynihan is very funny and weird, but the sketch goes nowhere even if there is a cute kitten at the very end. (Grade: C-)

Weekend Update: Still the most consistently funny segment of the entire episode. Plus you get a guest appearance by the actual Big Bird. When Big Bird gets the biggest audience reaction the entire night, you know you’re in trouble. (Grade: B)

A Sorry Lot We Are: A spoof of those depressing BBC series about a bunch of down-on-their-luck blue collar workers. The sketch tries very hard, but fails miserably. Plus, and I hate to say this, Aidy Bryant just isn’t making an impression on the show. She comes off very green and not very funny. Bill Hader adds another amusing character to his repertoire, but again, it all comes back to writing, writing, writing! (Grade: D-)

New Girlfriend: Craig brings his new girlfriend over to meet his friends and it’s played by Armisen. Bad. It tries to make up for the lack of jokes by being salacious and over-the-top. It doesn’t work at all. (Grade: F)

Undecided Voters: This is a pre-taped commercial parody that previously aired a couple of weeks ago about how oblivious undecided voters are. I liked the commercial the first time it aired, but since it’s a repeat, it doesn’t count toward this week’s grade.

Overall, another disappointing episode for SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Nothing is clicking and everything is out of whack. The show needs to replace Pharoah with Armisen quickly, otherwise all of these Presidential sketches are going to bomb horribly in the next few weeks.

One other positive thing about this episode is musical guest Muse. One thing SNL does do well is picking great bands on the show and they were no exception.

As I’ve said before, SNL is hit and miss, especially when it goes through transitory times with new cast additions and defections. I’m sure it will rebound eventually, but for now, we’ll just have to suffer through until the series can find a way to be consistently funny again.

Related: TV Review of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE – Season 38 Hosted by Christina Applegate

Related: TV Review of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE – Season 38 Hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Related: TV Review of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE – Season 38 premiere – Hosted by Seth MacFarlane


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Article: TV Review of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE – Season 38 Hosted by Daniel Craig


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