Monday, December 23, 2013

An Overdue Review of the Jimmy Fallon/Justin Timberlake SNL Episode

"Why don't they just get their own show?"

That's what I found myself saying after watching the highly anticipated Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake appearance on Saturday Night Live. These two performers certainly know how to put on a show, and perhaps they did it better than any duo in recent SNL history.

Fallon and Timberlake brought in huge numbers for NBC on Saturday; it was the highest rated SNL episode since January of 2012, and frankly it isn't all that surprising.

The odd thing I find out Jimmy Fallon hosting SNL is he wasn't particularly revered while he was on the show, and yet now after his stint on Late Night, Fallon is one of the most beloved returnee hosts in recent memory. 

Although the Fallon/Timberlake pairing resulted in one of the strongest SNL episodes in a very long time, it wasn't without its faults.

But first, the highlights; overall, Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake provided a solid episode start to finish. There weren't really any particularly weak sketches, and even the musical performances were quite entertaining.

The standout to me was the pseudo digital short "(Do It In My) Twin Bed". This was the female cast members answer to "Boy Dance Party", and it was just as good if not better.

My favourite part of Twin Bed that had me legit laughing out loud was when the ladies danced behind grade school pictures of themselves. That was absolutely brilliant, and overall it was a really well written and performed bit.

It may have been buried later in the show, but the "Baby It's Cold Outside" was also quite good and harnessed Fallon's abilities perfectly. He and Cecily Strong managed to pull off a convincing couple who isn't quite on the same page when it came to holiday sleepovers.

Even with those really strong sketches, the episode wasn't quite a perfect ten, so I'll share a few qualms I had. These might be more so to do with the way Saturday Night Live is trending overall, but they were prominently on display this past episode.

Again, SNL is relying extremely heavily on celebrity impressions. Case in point, the Celebrity Family Feud sketch which had nine, yes nine celebrity impressions (including Steve Harvey of course).

The issue I have here is the same thing that's been happening the past few seasons; the celebrity impressions may be extremely accurate, but they're not particularly all that funny.

"Hey, that guy sounds like Ashton Kutcher!" ... aaaand that's where it ends.

The audience and viewers chuckle initially because they recognize the impression, and then they just move onto the next character without any sort of set up or payoff.

These are the particular kinds of sketches that seem like ones that constructed solely for cheap laughs.

I fear that Celebrity Family Feud will eventually evolve into this cycle's version of Celebrity Jeopardy. What I mean by that is Family Feud is heading down the path as becoming a recurring sketch with a rotating cast of celebrities every 3-4 episodes.

Celebrity Jeopardy developed funny caricatures of its celebrities, while Celebrity Family Feud is just trying to mimic their celebrities as closely as possible. And if those impressions are funny in the process ... that's secondary.

It's the very same issue with the "Now That's What I Call Christmas" short. I think I liked it better last year when it was "Michael Buble's Christmas Duets".
Again, nothing really funny here, just cast members that looked, acted and sung like the musicians they were portraying.

While it was great to see Justin Timberlake reprise his role as the (blank)-Ville performer, it seemed kind of odd to have it as the cold open sketch.

Wrappinville probably would have been better suited to run directly after the monologue or the second sketch, but obviously there was a lot of content to squeeze into 90 minutes.

This is a growing problem SNL has suffered from in the last few weeks; not exactly putting the correct sketch in the cold open slot. It's usually reserved for political or current event sketches, but lately it's been a free-for-all.

The Barry Gibb Talk Show was okay; it took me a few minutes to register that it actually was Madonna in there, and not just one of SNL's often-forgotten cast members. The actual Barry Gibb cameo was great to see, although I'm sure there were lots of people who thought "who's the guy with white hair?"

Overall, Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake and the supporting cast provided a very strong SNL episode going into the holidays. It was by far the best of the season, perhaps the best in the past few seasons, and it certainly set the bar high for any other subsequent hosts in 2014.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thoughts on The Walking Dead Midseason Finale

Well, that was quite the gut punch, wasn't it? I swear, The Walking Dead always has a way of stringing together a couple of mundane episodes and then following it up with a right hook right into the stomach.

Spoiler alert if you haven't already watched the midseason finale of The Walking Dead, but here are a few assorted thoughts.


Poor, Mr. Hershel. Considering his increase in screen time the past few episodes, it seems like he was earmarked to be axed in the midseason finale. And if it wasn't him, it almost certainly was going to be somebody in his family.

As Chris Hardwick said on Talking Dead, Hershel really has been the moral compass of the group since Dale's passing in Season 2. Now without Hershell, this could be somewhat of a rudderless ship when it comes to determining what's wrong and what's right.

As a character, Hershel has kind of grown on me since Season 2. At first, he seemed like a very strong-willed man, but as he watched the ones he love turn into walkers, Hershell came to grips with reality and yet still maintained a sense of clarity that not many people in the zombie apocalypse possessed.

Hershell also had a way of not coming off too preachy or sanctimonious when giving advice (which Dale was often guilty of towards Andrea), and also his medical expertise will be sorely missed by the group.

The Governor

Out of all the deaths in the midseason finale, this is definitely one I did not see coming. The Governor was the go-to villain on the show in Seasons 3 and 4, so it seems odd to picture Rick and the group not fighting an enemy.

Unlike Hershel, The Governor had a very odd arc this season. He was all but absent in the first five episodes of Season 4, and then there were two back-to-back Governor centric episodes.

Just when you thought he was turning the corner, he slipped back into his old ways. And then the next episode, he was gone.

There was really no indication or hint that The Governor may be a casualty in the midseason finale, which is why it was so surprising.

In the first five episodes of Season 4, the "villain" so to speak was the airborne virus and and characters were focused on that. Then The Governor came back and there was suddenly somebody to hate again.

I really believe that a show like The Walking Dead is only as good as its best villain; and although the walkers may seem like the real enemy, the true villains in the show are the people themselves.

The Walking Dead was arguably at its best when the villains were at their pinnacle; Shane in Season 2 and The Governor in Season 3.

So at this point, I'm having a real tough time picturing the show without a villain like The Governor for the protagonists to feed off of. Although I'm sure the writers will come up with some new tasty bad guy for everybody to hate.

What About Bob?

There's still something very unsettling about Bob. I'm starting to think that he may in fact be the mole inside the prison that was feeding rats to the walkers. He's also extremely suspicious and it feels like he's not telling everybody everything.

In the comics, new characters develop to become the new "bad guy", but I think the seeds have been planted here for Bob to do something very diabolical to his new group. We've only scratched the surface with this character, and there has to be many more demons in Bob's past than he's letting on.

But one of the remaining unanswered questions of the first half of Season 4 was who was the culprit that fed those rats to the walkers. It could very well be a red herring (not unlike what Lost did many times), but it could be something ... right?

Don't Wake the Sleeping Mud Zombie

This may just be a bit of nitpicking, but how did Meghan pulling up a sign out of the mud suddenly re-animate a sleeping walker? That was a bit of a stretch to suddenly thrust her into danger without any sort of set up.

Although the walker was dormant in the mud, wouldn't it still be moving somewhat? It looked like it was sleeping and then suddenly woke up after Meghan unearthed that sign. Weird.