Last night’s “Vintage” was Drake’s first time at Double Duty from 2014. At this point in the show, they were having one of their (in)famous “Transitional” years after the Departures of Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis and (when this episode aired) the yet to depart Seth Meyers. So how do they staunch the bleeding? By Hiring not one, not two, but EIGHT NEW CAST MEMBERS over the course of the year—6 of them when the season started (2 of that group—Bennett & Mooney–remained by the next year), One in March when Colin Jost made his debut as “Update Anchor”, and one whose debut we see in this episode—Sasheer Zamata. I’m not going to go into the details as to WHY she made it into the cast; but I will say this…she made it safe for Leslie Jones to (unofficially) join at the end of this year.
Since this is a fairly recent episode, don’t expect too many “Editors Notes” this time around—unless there’s something new to add…Though watching this again last night, a number of things actually hold up pretty well. Anyway, it’s time for one of the few “Nice Guys” of rap (unless Meek Mill is complaining about him). Here’s Drake…
Drake (Original Airdate: 1/18/2014)
PIERS MORGAN: Ugh, so sick of the voice Taran makes when playing Piers, it sounds like a cross between a Jack Russell Terrier & Pip from “South Park”. As for everybody else, Bobby’s Chris Christie has greatly improved since 2012. At first, I barely recognized Drake as A-Rod, but he did a decent job with it. And speaking of barely recognizing, I honestly thought it was Brooks Wheelan playing Bieber, but then he/she spoke, and it turned out to be Kate instead—who managed to pull it off awkwardly. Also, I know we’ve had our hang-ups over the years with finding ways for cast members to smoothly transition to saying LFNY (I.e. cut down on saying “And one more Thing…” before they do), but Kate’s LFNY looked like there could’ve been more to the sketch instead of just (seemingly) abruptly ending it. Perhaps this was a last second Dress rehearsal switch? Anyway, this wasn’t too memorable, but it was serviceable.
SCORE: 5 out of 10 cartons of “Eggland’s Best” Bieber needs to finish the job.
MONOLOGUE: While I’m glad this is not a song-and-dance-ologue, this sketch-ologue was somewhat hoakey—if not a little on-the-nose considering my past experience on the Bar-mitzvah circuit. Yes, I became a man around the same time Drake did (Give or take a few years…I never said “WHAZZAP!” at my Bar-Mitzvah). The highlight of this one, of course, is his rap at the end…but I gotta be nitpicky and ask…if this is taking place in 1999, how does anybody know who Kim and Kanye are yet? Semi-related, in 10 years, when somebody says “Hey, I’ve got a trivia question for you…what were Sasheer Zamata’s first words ever spoken on SNL?” We can all step on a glass with pride and yell “Mazel Tov!” Vanessa was simply playing a condensed version of her Bar-Mitzvah Boy character, only more motherly and less rehearsed. Jay & Kenan (respectively) were just OK.
SCORE: 7 out of 10 chairs being lifted with me in it.
HIP HOP CLASSICS – BEFORE THEY WERE STARS: Aww, you’re not playing fair, SNL…You know how I feel about Nostalgia & parodies of Nostalgia. Since I don’t want to repeat myself too much, here’s a Worst to First list of what I thought of each of the micro-parodies…
- Rick Ross Teletubbies
6. Wonder Years w/Flava Flav (You’re lucky I rediscovered the show on Netflix or it WOULD be dead last)
5. Blossom w/Rhianna
4. Mr. Wizard w/Jay Z
3. That’s So 2-Chainz
2. Felicity w/Eminem (But did they have to reference the infamous “Short Hair” season?)
1. Family Matters w/Lil Wayne
Bonus points to whoever put the kitchen set together on the “Family Matters” spoof, it’s almost uncanny to the real one. Kenan as “Sway” proved to be useful filler.
SCORE: 8 out of 10 Digital Sub-channels that air Classic Television.
NANCY GRACE: Nice to see Ms. Wells have a Starring role in a sketch after 4 months…what a shame it has to be wasted on someone like Nancy Grace (who—let’s face it—we ALL despise by now). It’s hard to tell if her impression is too exaggerated or not exaggerated enough—in other words, it’s just fine by me if not a little overbearing. Onto the subject at hand, the best part of the whole sketch—hands down–was Drake as Katt Williams (As Cleveland Brown once said “Those are SO his mannerisms”). Kate was good for a few chuckles, but she largely played it straight (No pun intended). Even though I don’t really want to, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing this sketch again & again…as long as Ms. Wells keeps her impression under control a little, I won’t complain.
SCORE: 6 out of 10 days Jane Velez-Mitchell fills in for Nancy Grace while on vacation.
EDITOR’S NOTE: It seems as though every year—or at least, lately—there’s always going to be that one rookie cast member who you KNOW is trying their best to get noticed, but fails to make it to next year. In the case of Noel Wells, she was really more of a victim of overpopulation instead of lack of talent—though to be fair, her Nancy Grace sounded more like South Park’s Mr. Mackey if he OD’d on Estrogen Shots. She’s still pretty much “just a kid” at this point, but at least she did a year of “Master of None” among other things in her bibliography. She’s got time to make it, no rush.
RESOLUTION REVOLUTION: Sasheer’s presence continues to emerge, but once again (like her previous 2 appearances tonight), she hasn’t done anything “Funny” yet; she’s just there to help guide the story along. Having said that, I would place this Music Video a step ahead of “What does my Girl Say”, but maybe two steps behind “(Do It) On my Twin Bed”. This was still pretty catchy, colorful & amusing, especially once we saw some LARP-ing…Could’ve done without Jay & the Sex toys, though. Despite that, however, the gentlemen did each of their parts pretty well.
SCORE: 7 out of 10 days in a row I go to the gym before THAT resolution is broken.
EDITORS NOTE: Most of us in the SNL fandom are Pulling for Sasheer to break out of her shell…even if we’ve been waiting 3 ½ years and counting for her to do so. Unfortunately; between largely straight roles, largely silent roles, and brief 6 second impressions, it’s been a little hard to admit if she actually “Contributed” anything more worthy than what I just said (Abby Elliott had a similar fate). Just like Ms. Wells, She HAS talent, I just don’t get why (with RARE exceptions) they just let her sit on the bench the way they do.
CRUSH ON DAD: Now Sasheer has an ensemble role with more lines to say, but once again it’s a relatively straight part—as is the parts of the rest of the ladies. Aidy owns the sketch, which she’s been doing a lot of so far this year. Even if the premise is borderline creepy, she still manages to give it all she’s got…I say “Borderline” because at least the punchline at the end about her being 25 instead of 13 kinda keeps it from going over the line. Drake kinda reminded me of any given generic father from a 80s/90s sitcom/TV movie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the lameness of his character might cause him to lose points in street cred.
SCORE: 5 out of 10 Electra Complexes.
EDITORS NOTE: Let me fix that a little, Drake is not a “Generic” character, he’s “Black Ned Flanders” (and I’m glad the internet came to that conclusion long before I did)! And this wasn’t “Borderline” creepy; of anything, I’d say it’s a 30/70 split between Creepy & Goofy. Maybe I was a little prudish back then, but looking at it again last night, it’s perfectly harmless…still cheesy as hell, but nothing I’d call Child Services over. The one complaint I have is the fact that this is yet another sketch they saw fit to repeat the following year.
UPDATED SCORE: 7 out of 10
Seth’s Best: Super Bowl Technology, Man records sex, Drunk Driving Parrot
Cecily’s Best: Landing at Wrong Airport, Walmart Attack
Commentaries: It’s nice to see a “Commentary” that’s a little out-of-the-norm, so hats off to the Jacqueline Bisset build-up for at least trying to be something vastly different—Not “Funny Ha-ha” by any means, but still different & out of left field. I have officially become weary of Nasim’s Huffington, it’s the same joke every time—political commentary + hitting on Seth = Nothing New.
CECILYWATCH: Very little change in either direction, and with only 2 Seth updates to go, that kinda worries me.
SCORE: 6 out of 10 Lara Spencer’s
EDITOR’S NOTE: A quick word about Cecily Strong’s one year as Update co-anchor; for the most part, she tried…she really did. But despite a slow & steady improvement, she Ultimately squeaked out a performance that some would call “Seth Lite”—Incidentally, the same thing could be said about Colin Jost in his first few months. Unfortunately, you can’t have two of the same thing in the same room at the same time (or at least according to the KFC spot that aired in the Super Bowl). I want to say that Cecily realized this too because—depending on which version you believe—She stepped down from the position the next year, Michael Che took over, and the rest is history. Nevertheless, you can’t fault a “Girl you wouldn’t want to start a conversation with at a party” for trying.
INDIANA RAHAT: Y’know, for someone who seems destined for the SNL chopping block, Nasim wants to make as much of an impact as possible before the hammer inevitably drops. Maybe if this character was introduced a few years ago, there might’ve been an outside chance that it would’ve been recurring. But in this case, it seems very “Too Little, Too Late” to me. Be that as it may, it was really Drake who carried this one—and boy are his arms tired! Nasim—despite one or two funny moments–seemed more like a background character than a main one. The sketch might have worked better if there actually WAS somebody who knew how to communicate with Rahat…not saying it would’ve been funnier, but at least it wouldn’t make the sketch a chore to watch.
SCORE: 5 out of 10 Snakes (why did it have to be snakes?)
EDITORS NOTE: Nasim Pedrad left by the end of this year as well; and depending on your POV, this sketch was either the beginning of her last hurrah, or a sign she was running out of gas—YOU MAKE THE CALL! It’s too bad “Mulaney” turned out the way it did, I think she had at least one more year left in her.
POETRY TEACHER IN DETENTION: OK, I know SNL has been starving for decent, non-update recurring characters in recent years, but there is probably a good reason why certain sketches work one time only. So we have Vanessa’s guttural-sounding poetry teacher once again, only this time it’s a guy hitting on her instead of a girl. Once again, nothing new here. Not only that, but Mike O’Brien tries very hard to prove himself worthy of being in the cast, only to crack on only one out of his three lines in the sketch. The only saving grace I’ll give is for Aidy & Kenan’s “Poems”, at least they have decent energy.
SCORE: 4 out of 10 “Original” poems I’d just copy and paste from the internet for a school assignment.
MORNIN’ MIAMI: The first time this sketch aired, I scored it with a little bias considering my internship with a local TV station and the fact that it’s a pretty accurate depiction of how promos are filmed. Now that this is being shown a 2nd time, I have to judge it strictly on its own merits alone. Unfortunately, on its own merits, it’s yet another sketch that really only worked well that ONE time, and did not deserve to be re-made. Once again, I do give it a slight amount of credit for a few decent one-liners (I.e. Wet Potato contests, The Various Celebrity guests appearing for the most non-sequitur of reasons), but c’mon, did this REALLY need to be re-made?
SCORE: 4 out of 10 cups of coffee it will take to get me interested in Morning Television again.
GOOD NEIGHBOR – I KNOW: (and also, I Know, this isn’t a shot from the sketch. Couldn’t find one w/o an NBC watermark on it) At long last, an Actual saving grace for the show! Even if it’s not quite up to par with the other Good Neighbor shorts so far this year, it’s still better than a good chunk of the show this evening. The more I think about it, the more I realize that these particular shorts remind me of the “Digital Short” era when it was first starting out; funny, subtle, not self-referential and certainly doesn’t hit you over the head with the premise. This particular short reminds me of that era—the pre “Dick in a Box” but Post “Lazy Sunday” era. Not out-and-out “Hilarious”, but kinda makes you think…also, for someone who lost a lot of blood slipping & falling like that, Kyle’s character seems to have maintained a lot of his cognitive ability…again, makes you think.
SCORE: 7 out of 10 Wet Floor signs.
FINAL SCORE: 64 out of 110 (58.2% WATCHABLE)
UPDATED SCORE: 66 out of 110 (60% WATCHABLE)
FINAL THOUGHTS: I could say something like “Oh, it’s the first show since Christmas, of course they’re a little Rusty”, Or “January shows are always hit or miss”, but who the hell are we foolin’? This was a pretty sub-par show despite Drake doing the best that he can—and he really did the best that he can, certainly not as bad as a lot of us thought he would be…though not quite “Bruno Mars” good. As always, blame for this episode falls squarely on the Writers; which considering there will be less of come March, hopefully there will be a change for the better. As for Ms. Zamata’s debut, it was just about as auspicious as any new cast member’s debut. Despite the fact that she didn’t really do anything groundbreaking in terms of humor, she still managed to make here presence known in a few small roles. Given enough time, she will fit in seamlessly with everybody else.
NEXT WEEK: A look at Original Music
TOMORROW: A Very Special (Belated) Birthday…