Host:Being a bicentennial baby, I was too young to experience Steve Martin's stand-up super-stardom and early Saturday Night Live fame so one of the interesting aspects of writing this TV Club Blog entails experiencing the comic icon in his earliest and most influential incarnation. Yet the Steve Martin that pops up for his second hosting gig on today's show is anything but raw or unpolished. On the contrary, there's an almost disconcerting smoothness to every aspect of his performance, an uncanny perfectionism. While Bill Murray, Garret Morris and even Jane Curtin stumble over their lines Martin breezes through the show without cracking a sweat or letting his goofball persona slide for a minute. He's good–almost too good–and his shows so far have fatally lacked the air of danger or spontaneity that distinguished so much of Saturday Night Live iconic beginnings. Then again considering that this episode followed the show's notorious Mardi Gras disaster I'm sure Michaels and company were happy to put the show in the hands of a ringer. The Good:Well, folks, it appears that I'm nearly running out of new or interesting things to say about old school Saturday Night Live. Like last week's episode today's show boasted little that was transcendent or cringe inducing and much that was, to borrow one of my colleague Noel Murray's favorite lines, "Meh". Martin reprises his "Let's get small" bit in a smoothly efficient monologue, the Coneheads threaten to wear out their welcome upon their second appearance (incidentally does anyone else watch Coneheads skits now and instantly think of those obnoxious "Consume Mass Quantities!" Subway commercials that ran in connection with the Coneheads movie?) and there are clever skits lampooning Hollywood Squares (a bit called Celebrity Bingo where host Steve Martin spends so much time introducing the players that there's no time for the actual game itself) and Roots.
Then there's musical guests the Kinks, who debut with a medley of their greatest hits. I can just imagine the SNL talent booker breaking the news to the Kinks: "We love you so much we want you to play the show and do all your hits! Assuming of course that you compress them all into a four-minute mega-medley! It's time-savingtastic!" The Kinks later get to perform "Sleepwalker" in its entirety. Such are the perks of being rock and roll royalty. Oh and a doctor skit with Martin and father Bill Murray angling to pull the plug on John Belushi is deliciously rife with gallows humor.
The Bad: Lily Tomlin shows up to plug her Broadway show but after initially getting off some good lines (like earnestly telling Martin just how much she "deserves" to play Broadway) she subjects audiences to a time-killing production number ("Broadway Baby") and a short film where Tomlin plays a vast cross-section of incredibly broad caricatures: it's uncannily like the Alanis Morrissette video for "Ironic" and somehow manages to be nearly as annoying. In an otherwise funny Weekend Update (Curtin scores an icy early laugh by referencing her bra-flashing stunt and assuring audiences that it won't be repeated since she "has a headache") Curtin screws up a joke, rights herself and repeats it again in its entirety, a process that's both embarrassing and kind of exciting. Final Verdict We've hit a rough patch on SNL as of late, with Chevy Chase long gone and Bill Murray still wearing out his training wheels as a Not Ready For Prime Time Player. Today's episode was pretty funny but given the line-up I was expecting something more than that. Thankfully we have a full-on train wreck just two episodes from now in the form of the notorious Broderick Crawford episode Grade: B Stray Observations –Did anyone read the Steve Martin stand-up memoir that came out not too long ago? I hear good things and Scribner never publishes anything that's not inconceivably awesome but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Too busy with that "Confessions Of A Video Vixen" book I guess –Sorry this is going up so late. I learned I had a second film to review relatively late in the day so I was getting my Tyler Perry on like a motherfucker. Aw. Yeah. –That new Tyler Perry movie is unbelievably awesome. I tried to give it an A+++++ but apparently an A is the highest grade we're allowed to give –Hey, "30 Rock" is coming back. That show makes me happy. –The musical guests for Martin's first two shows as host were Kinky Friedman and the Kinks. That's the kind of kinky shit Morrissette would undoubtedly refer to as "an uncanny coincidence". You know, like ray-ay-ayn on your wedding day, or good advice that you just didn't take.