Another weekend is here, and with it comes another tediously atrocious edition of Saturday Night Live. Hosted by the capable Jamie Foxx, this week was the worst yet, which makes me almost regret the F grade I gave to the Jeremy Renner episode and the D grade I gave to the Anne Hathaway episode. In comparison to last night's edition, those shows were masterclasses in sketch comedy. At least there were one or two amusing moments in the Renner abomination two weeks ago, but I can honestly say for the first time in a long time, not one thing on SNL this week caused me to even think about cracking a smile. With the sketch comedy experience Foxx had on In Living Color (a show I admittedly did not like and do not watch) and his previous SNL hosting gig in 2000, I assumed that he and the writers would be able to come up with a couple of decent sketches and a halfway enjoyable show. Trust me, my expectations are set extremely low when I watch SNL, but somehow the show still managed to limbo under that bar and find a way to actively disappoint me.
Perhaps the Jamie Foxx fans out there might have been entertained, but the rest of us were not amused. Judging from the less-than-enthusiastic studio audience, I was not the only one harboring these sentiments. The crowd response was still there, but relatively muted compared to previous weeks, regardless of the quality of the show. The cold open, a C-SPAN sketch about the fiscal cliff crisis with President Obama inferring that John Boehner was being bullied by his fellow Republicans, got the night off to a decidedly mediocre start and it was all downhill from there. Jay Pharaoh's Obama isn't bad, but it's an extremely bland character, basically a straight-up impersonation without exaggerating or adding anything to the real person, unless you count the pauses in his speech. How edgy! I don't know why they don't go all the way and caricature his celebrity status and unique charisma, like they did with Darrell Hammond's Bill Clinton, or show the difference between Obama's public and private faces, like Phil Hartman did with Ronald Reagan in the '80s. Anything would be better than this middling, wishy-washy interpretation of the President. Wait, scratch that—it's still better than the dreary impression Fred Armisen was doing up until this season.
Following the cold open, we get a rather offensive and racist monologue from Jamie Foxx, but he's a famous and wealthy black person making fun of black people so it's alright. I know, it's comedy and it's not supposed to be safe, but there was nothing of substance behind his jokes. Just a bunch of cheap laughs and promotion for his upcoming Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained, in which he plays a slave who escapes his bonds and "kills all the white people." Then he proceeded to play the piano, although my fears of YET ANOTHER musical monologue were assuaged when it was cut short. The cheap-laugh mentality was also behind the next sketch, "What's The Answer, Bitch?", with Foxx playing a game show host who calls the contestants "bitch" and says "bitch" a lot. That was the entire concept behind that sketch. Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch... if Foxx and the SNL writers are correct, everyone reading this review should be hurting themselves laughing right about now. I'll be waiting in the next paragraph when you pick yourselves up off the floor.
Not even Weekend Update could rescue the show from its abyss of ennui, with a bunch of lazy, pedestrian bits from Seth Meyers and a silly visit from Jamie Foxx dressed up as a Ding Dong snack cake, complaining about the publicity that the white Twinkie gets. Foxx's effort was appreciated, but it fell flat. The portrayal of Mrs. Claus by Aidy Bryant saved Update from being an utter failure, although now I'm really reaching for aspects of the show to praise. I also appreciated the enthusiasm of Jason Sudeikis in the Maine Court skit, featuring a collection of characters with thick Southern accents that sound rather incongruous in the New England state, much to the consternation of Bobby Moynihan as the straight-man defendant. In the end, it was revealed that they had all moved up from Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and continued to do business their way. In addition to Sudeikis' over-the-top Col. Sanders-as-a-judge performance, this one gets credit for the fact that there was an actual idea behind the sketch, something sorely lacking in a majority of the material on SNL today. Or maybe I'm just getting old. Speaking of the aged, Martin Short will be hosting Saturday Night Live next week for the first time since 1996. Hopefully with a sketch comedy veteran like Short at the helm, the final SNL of 2012 will be able to rebound from the string of uninspiring episodes and finish up the year on a solid note. It's hard to believe he could do much worse.
FINAL GRADE: F-