Next week, Saturday Night Live will return after a two-week hiatus with a new episode starring Oscar winner Jamie Foxx. As anyone who spent all of 2005 humming “Gold Digger” knows, Foxx is a talented double threat — he showed off his pipes in 2006’s Dreamgirls, not to mention on four studio albums of original tunes.
Which means that in at least one sketch — and probably several — Foxx is going to sing. He’ll likely croon for the first time in his monologue, warbling a goofy song about, I don’t know, Quentin Tarantino’s eccentricities or how it happens to be December.
Cue Liz Lemon’s epic eyeroll.
Of the eight regular episodes of SNL that have aired this season so far, five have kicked off with a musical monologue — six, if you count the striptease dance number Joseph Gordon-Levitt performed in September. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this; Seth MacFarlane’s “My Head Is Filled with Voices” still gets stuck in my head on a regular basis, and did I mention the fact that Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a striptease?
But Saturday Night Live is a show that should thrive on unpredictability — and when songs in monologues become a given rather than a sporadic pleasant surprise, the show starts to seem very stale very fast. And the issue isn’t just the overabundance of songs — it’s also the content of those songs. The show’s writers seem to think that putting any mundane thoughts to music automatically makes those thoughts funny. Christina Applegate’s “Hey, it’s mid-October!” monologue, while pretty inoffensive, proved that this isn’t really the case:
Jeremy Renner’s monologue a few weeks ago was even lazier. The lowest point: The band plays “The Final Countdown;” Renner jumps in at the end, randomly yell-singing “Mission Impossible!”
It’s easy to understand why celebrities who can sing are eager to work music into their SNL stints — especially those who aren’t widely known for their pipes, like Renner. For actors like Anne Hathaway, who’s actually starring in a musical this winter, performing a musical monologue makes even more sense. Even so, using songs to kick off the show is getting old — which is why I’m hoping Foxx resists the urge next week and surprises us all with something completely different. Until then, I guess we’ll just have to cross our fingers, pray that the hiatus gave the writers enough time to come up with a few new ideas, and re-watch Louis C.K.’s pitch-perfect monologue — a six-minute standup routine that proved SNL openers can be memorable even if there’s no key change.
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