In hindsight, fans were bound to be disappointed. With Kristen Wiig’s eagerly anticipated return to SNL– after just a year away – many viewers were torn between wanting to see the best of her old characters and wanting to watch her expand. Unfortunately, last night we got neither. An eager Wiig brought the energy, and, especially alongside her friend Maya Rudolph, seemed to be having a great time visiting her old stomping ground, but for much of the show that enthusiasm — even during the return of characters like Dooneese — didn’t transfer to viewers at home.
The episode started with a cold opener featuring CSPAN coverage of the Benghazi hearings, with the central premise that many felt these were a shameless ratings grab as opposed to an actual search for truth. The decision to have ratings-gold Jodi Arias (a spot-on Nasim Pedrad) and Ariel Castro (Bobby Moynihan) “testify” was a great way to bring the three newsworthy stories of the week together. The best part was that unlike many a decent SNL sketch, it didn’t go on too long, allowing viewers quick access to Wiig. Her monologue could have been many things: A retread of old characters, a joke-y round up of what she’s been up to this year. Instead, we got an “I’m So Excited” parody with lyrics like, “Even though I’ve been away awhile now/ I still know camera one from camera two,” as Wiig paraded around the studio and realized that maybe she didn’t remember things quite as well as she’d hoped. The highlight was special guest Maya Rudolph, who stole both moments she was in: First, Wiig busted her making out with Jonah Hill (also cameoing), and then at the end of the number, the visibly pregnant star got her dance moves on alongside Wiig. Someone Gif that, stat. (Unfortunately, the monologue –which also featured a Gilly sighting — isn’t yet available online.)
After the monologue, fans were treated to an ad parody of 1-800-FLOWERS — a definite high point of the episode. Wiig played a woman who loved her mom (Kate McKinnon), but maybe just not every annoying thing about her. For everyone who’s had to deal with alleged lost debit cards, nuts in salad, or even some porno talk, the ad was sure to resonate. It also served to remind viewers that today is Mother’s Day, so it may be time to rush order some flowers. To my own mom: Thanks for never waking me up in the middle of the night to talk about your lost debit card or LeAnn Rimes. Happy Mother’s Day!
The first real sketch of the evening was yet another episode of The Californians, the soap-y love-it-or-loathe-it ode to SoCal driving. I took a right on Totally Over It and then a left on This One Never Really Worked For Me, so I wasn’t psyched to see another installment of the too-long skit. The most amusing part of the sketch is how obviously hilarious the cast members find it — both Bill Hader and Wiig broke character at one point or another. Wiig mixed it up with a fake mustache disguise before coming back as thought-to-be-dead Karina, but the real treat was getting to see Rudolph again, who, with just a few seconds of screen time, was the best part of the skit.
The next sketch, Aww Nuts! Mom’s a Ghost!, was a high point. A high-color, high-energy, spot-on Disney Channel parody, the bit featured Cecily Strong and Moynihan as two kids whose mom was drowned by a jealous boyfriend. The zany, Disney-approved spin? She’s now a water ghost! And she lives with them! Channeling the creepy little girl from The Ring (she even climbed out of a TV!), Wiig played the ghost, and it was a great crazy character for her. The sketch was pretty random, but I found myself laughing at the absurdity of it. Note to Disney Channel execs: If you’re looking to capture the twenty-something demo — while simultaneously terrifying kids — maybe put this on the air? It can’t be any scarier than Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Next up was The Lawrence Welk Show, which brought the loudest audience cheers of the night. The plot was exactly as you remember it: Fred Armisen makes a creepy-ish intro (In this case, “You know what they say about the Finger Lakes – if a girl has a favorite finger, then she doesn’t need a man”) and then the ladies are brought on to sing a few verses before Wiig and her creepy, tiny doll hands show up to make everyone uncomfortable. Wiig clearly goes all-in and if the jokes weren’t quite as funny as they were the first few times this sketch was performed, it was still enough to make fans happy.
Vampire Weekend provided an excellent performance of “Diane Young” before we moved on to a so-so Weekend Update, featuring drop-bys by both Secondhand News Guy (Moynihan) and a return appearance for Garth and Kat. Maybe I had too-high expectations, but Armisen and Wiig didn’t seem to be as in sync as they have in the past, and I think the bit suffered for it. Elsewhere on Update, Meyers took on Chris Christie, the NRA, and American Idol.
After an additional Kat appearance, viewers got another Best of Kristen Wiig moment: The return of Target Lady. This, of all the recurring characters last night, probably held up the best, with Wiig doing her odd lady shtick against weirded-out customers. Kudos to the writers for giving Wiig a few new lines (I particularly loved, “Take your cash jar and get the eff out of here. It’s 9 o’clock and I’m ready to rock!”). This — in what turned out to be a nice theme of the night — let featured players like Aidy Bryant shine. It was nice to see both her and Tim Robinson get some serious airplay in this episode. Perhaps they figured that next to Wiig, they’d be in good — albeit sometimes way-too-small — hands.
Hands were certainly on display in the next sketch, where Jason Sudeikis visits an acupuncturist (Wiig) and her assistant (Bryant). The two begin the relaxing procedure, but cut to a misplaced needle later, and Sudeikis — unbeknownst to him — is hemorrhaging blood while Bryant and Wiig are getting covered in the stuff. I’m sure this sketch had mixed reactions from viewers, but I guess it’s nice to see SNL go gross every now and again. The best part actually might have been immediately following the skit, when both Wiig and Bryant — still drenched in the red goo — introduced Vampire Weekend for the second performance. Potential True Blood audition?
The end of the show — as is typical — was a real mixed bag. First Wiig and Strong starred as two grown-up gals-about-town drinking cocktails and having a fun and flirty double date…with two sixth grade boys (Robinson and Moynihan). The one-joke premise – “It’s funny because they’re kids!” — fell flat, much as I love a boozy Strong. And not to get too serious about what is clearly supposed to be a joke-y late-in-the-program sketch, but we wouldn’t find this nearly as funny if the gender roles were switched. More successful was the last skit of the evening, featuring Housewives You’ve Never Heard Of releasing vanity singles that definitely aren’t just lists. “If you’re a gay man looking to bring something you can make fun of to a party, order it today.”
Were you happy to see Wiig again? What did you think of her return? Anyone else bummed we couldn’t get at least a little tease of Penelope? Remember: An apple a day keeps the haters away.
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