IF ‘YA SMELLLLLLLLLLLL……..Nah, forget it…never did understand what the deal was with that catchphrase anyway. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is not, has never been and (unless he does a cross-over with the Food Network) will never be a Chef…but I’m sure he’s a fast learner. He has to be in order to be one of the more enjoyable—yet underappreciated—hosts of the show in recent years. In addition to being “The Most Electrifying yadda, yadda, yadda”, Johnson also managed to play everything that was given to him with a heightened level of commitment…even if that commitment included acting like Mr. Peepers, playing a better Obama than any Cast Member ever could AND Dressing in Drag (twice). It’s that rare combination of Charisma, Talent & Professionalism he has that could help give SNL the rough equivalent of a Steroid injection right about now. So, before we see the Brahma Bull do his best David Hasselhoff impression on the Big screen, harken ‘ye back to the year 2015…
Dwayne Johnson/George Ezra (Original Airdate: 3/28/2015)…wait a minute, “Ezra”? That means I can FINALLY use This Joke!
ROCK OBAMA: When this aired, I think a number of us saw this coming since it has become a signature bit whenever Johnson hosts. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if there have been a few casting changes/glaring continuity errors since the last time it happened with Fred Armisen playing Obama instead of Jay Pharoah, it’s still the same routine…Though to be fair, The Michelle/She-Hulk Twist ending was actually kinda inspired & saved this from complete mediocrity. Otherwise, we KNOW what the joke is, we KNOW what the setups are, and we KNOW that there’s really nothing we can do about it, and it ultimately leaves us feeling “Meh” about it despite Johnson’s Energy and Ms. Jones’ first LFNY.
SCORE: 6 out of 10 Presidential-Strength People’s Elbows.
MONOLOGUE: Sorry, “Talk-singing” counts as singing too…and speaking as a fan of Old School R&B, this was a little hard to watch. I will grant that despite S&Ds being instant poison for a given episode, at least Johnson does his in a way that Doesn’t make me want to rip my ears out. He’s smooth, he’s suave, he’s not over the top (always a plus)…too bad his ego seems to be in overdrive and he could barely carry a tune (a minus). This might’ve been better if it wasn’t a little too self-referential for my tastes, though I liked the “Smurfs” joke. Not really much to say about this one, other than it appears to be a musical ego trip.
SCORE: 4 out of 10 pending “Furious” movies listed on Johnson’s IMDB.
PEP BOYS: Something tells me they might’ve found a little extra “Inspiration” from an “Onion” article earlier that week, but that could be a coincidence. This spot is about as subtle as a beehive in the pants, but it does try. There’s really only one “joke” in this; tough, surly mechanics attempt to talk about sensitive issues, hilarity ensues…except there wasn’t much of that here (save for Kate, and even that was a minor straight role). It kinda reminded me of those god awful sketches where Fred Armisen would play Roger Brush (AKA The Producer of those female-centric talk shows where the host won’t show up), only with Mechanics in the Fred Role. Except here, there’s only a little bit more effort.
SCORE: 4 out of 10 point inspections.
WRESTLEMANIA PROMOS: It’s time for Everybody’s Favorite sketch cliché…“Person is asked to do a simple task, Person Misses the Point entirely, No Real Resolution, Lather Rinse Repeat”. This is certainly no exception, but at least Johnson & Bobby’s combined energies make this otherwise “tried & died” formula worth watching this time. Unfortunately, Johnson’s spitballing of the jokes kinda deteriorates their quality a little; The initial jokes are fine, but the rants go on FAR too long (Remember, “Less is More”). Bobby reacts accordingly as the foil, and Taran’s slight subtlety of switching from smartphone to announcing on the turn of a dime deserves a mention. Otherwise, it’s just another in a long line of these sketches where We get the point despite the characters not doing so.
SCORE: 5 out of 10 Turnbuckles.
BAMBI: For the record I honestly can’t stand any of the “Fast and/or Furious” movies, But Damn if they didn’t capture the style of the movies to the letter—Though it helps that both “Furious” and SNL are produced by various branches of NBComcast/Universal/Sheinhart Wig Company, so this would ultimately look effortless. That being said, why is it that “Bambi” of all things is a common target for SNL to aim for (No Hunting pun intended)? Have we forgotten the Smigeltoon where they try to make Bambi all “Hip” and “With It”? Well, this is pretty much that, only live-action and on Steroids. Only Johnson can say “I’m Bambi” and Still manage to hold on to 100% of his masculinity. Taran steals the show as Vin Diesel/Thumper, Jay’s OK as Tyreese/Flower but makes up for it with his Luda, and Cecily barely registered. Otherwise, it’s Disney meets High Octane, and all is well—the visual style is perfect, the costumes/dialogue are goofy, it all meshes together very well.
SCORE: 8 out of 10 Direct to DVD sequels Disney will inevitably make from this.
DINNER DATE: I already mentioned this sketch on a completely different review. But really, no matter who is playing Cecily’s beau in these sketches, it doesn’t change the fact that James Anderson & Kent Sublette sketches make Paint-by-Number paintings scoff in disgust. Fuck You, Anderlette.
SCORE: 2 out of 10 Mozzarella Sticks (FAR Better than Onion Rings)
ESCAPE FROM JUNGLE ISLAND: Speaking of “Heightened Level of Commitment”, I can’t really complain about the otherwise gratuitous/homoerotic acts between Johnson & Pete here. We’ve seen Johnson in Drag several times before, we just saw him in a Bambi costume, there’s no doubt whatsoever that Johnson is beyond comfortable in his masculinity to do a sketch like this…almost in the same way Kate is Comfortable in her Femininity & Sexuality to want to have Johnson do stuff to her (I’m still convinced she’s more Bisexual than Lesbian, but I STRONGLY Digress). Say what you will, but the overall shock of each sucking position followed by Johnson pushing away Kate actually made me laugh a little…and I’m honestly amazed they were able to get away with a 69-er-sault on Television. But if I were to watch this on a repeat viewing, the novelty would instantly wear off.
SCORE: 6 out of 10 Temples of Doom.
BROGAINE: If ever there was a “Generic SNL Commercial”, this would be the wood-carved drawing in the encyclopedia. Don’t get me wrong, it WAS funny, but it just seemed so standard. We’ve all seen variations on the “[PRODUCT] for [PERSON WHO WOULD NORMALLY NOT USE IT]” many times that the only way it could be good is if we see a twist on it we haven’t seen before. But nope, it’s another one of those “A+B=Hilarity Ensues” formulas that makes this a little too predictable despite its best efforts. Yeah, the sight of everybody in those oxymoronic Bald Wigs was good for a chuckle, but the thing still felt a little too straightforward for it to be jokey.
SCORE: 5 out of 10 Hair Clubs for Men.
Colin’s Best: Indiana Law, American Apparel, Shooting over OJ
Michael’s Best: 440 lb. Peanut Butter cup
Commentaries: Kate’s Russian character (whose name I can never spell correctly) continues to be a quirky foreign voice, but all the nuances she has make it worth watching each time. Colin’s Mini-Commentary on “The Jinx” was F—ing Brilliant (and not just because I’m a fan of songs from the 90s), it was the way he executed the commentary that made it entertaining. Of course, things can’t be all perfect as Kenan continues to suck dry any goodwill that was building up. Meanwhile, Holy Hell, Colin was on Fire tonight! Between his “Jinx” commentary and good pacing on most of his jokes, he was a force to be reckoned with—or at least the best he’s been so far. Meanwhile, meanwhile, Che legitimately tried, but his pacing seems to remain stuck in neutral—though he did make up for it a little with Jost on the “Starbucks” back-and-forth.
SCORE: 7 out of 10 WRC’s (NBC in Washington DC)
COOKING WITH PAUL: (*DEJECTED SIGH*) OK, Where did I put my Season 20/40 Checklist, again? (*SEARCHES*) Ah, Here it is……gonna make an adjustment here……
Sketch Involving Pedophilia/Sex Offending [X]
Though, granted, this isn’t Nearly as bad as Chris Elliott & Mark McKinney’s Adventures in Envelope Pushing 20 years ago, it was almost as incredibly painful to watch. I’ll also grant that unlike 20 years ago, the crime seems more implied rather than actually shown—plus it also helps that Johnson is doing his best with bad material. But in the end, Sex Crimes—not unlike ISIS—is one of those areas that needs to be tread with extreme caution. At least when Will Forte played a Sex Offender, he was naturally goofy enough to pull it off. But when Kenan is seen mincing his way through the part in his usual brand of acting, it makes an already hazardous attempt at comedy even more doomed from the start. It also doesn’t help matters that the sketch was just flat-out unfunny to begin with.
SCORE: 2 out of 10 (Oh yes, I’m being charitable here)
ROBERT DURST IMPROV: Much to my surprise, this Clip WAS available despite heavy use of a “Beastie Boys” song…but I digress. The ONLY Good thing I’ll say about this is if Julie Kavner ever passes away/retires from playing Marge Simpson, Kate will (hopefully) take over in a heartbeat. Her performance as Durst—though questionable—continues to showcase just how fearless she can be at times. Otherwise, considering my lack of HBO at home, I haven’t really caught on to the whole “Jinx” phenomenon in order to appreciate this a little better. Also, considering he was arrested earlier this week, why would Durst be free enough to attend an Improv show in the first place? As for everybody else; Cecily briefly flaunts herself as Pirro, and the Improv troop acts about as well as any other Improv Troop there is in the Western World…Johnson was wise to sit this sketch out.
SCORE: 5 out of 10 Life Sentences to Theater Camp.
INTERROGATION: Thank God for Randomness, this was probably Johnson’s best—and strangest—performance of the night (Though I gotta dock him points on some line stumbles). The way he delivered some of his lines were almost as ridiculous as the lines themselves—my favorites include the theme from “Friends”, the various “Jeff” runs, and holding it in during a performance of “Rent”. Vanessa continues to do straight parts for a paycheck, Taran is simply there to act cocky. This was all Johnson here despite a few glaring errors.
SCORE: 6 out of 10 Episodes of “Law & Order” Johnson probably should’ve watched in order to get his performance right.
KYLE ON THE STREET – CIRCUS: This edition was actually slightly better than the one that was cut for the anniversary show, largely because kids will steal the spotlight every time AND because Kyle’s child-like performances in these pieces make it almost a perfect match. Yeah, we kinda get what the shtick is by now, but as long as there are different venues to try it out in, it somehow turns out original each time. Just about every one of the “Interviews” were awkwardly charming (especially the first one with the girl hiding), and The low-rent animations continue to be the icing on the cake. This is one of a small handful of things I wouldn’t mind seeing on the show every so often.
SCORE: 8 out of 10 Clowns emerging from a Smart Car.
+1 for Johnson as the Old-Timey Weightlifter
+1 for Johnson “Breaking” the “camera” (4th picture in…BTW, that’s what I’m gonna do from now on if I need to describe a particular bumper, I’ll just refer you to a photo gallery)
FINAL SCORE: 70 out of 130 (53.8% Watchable)
FINAL THOUGHTS: So let’s see, earlier in Season 40 we had a show hosted by a guy named “Rock”…it was weak. We had a show hosted by a Girl named Johnson…it was weak. We just sat through a show with a host named “Rock” And “Johnson” at the same time……Folks, though Not the Worst show despite a few saving graces here & there, this one still felt kinda painful to watch in some places—Especially when the most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment has to play foil to a Sex Offender (among other problems). Don’t get me wrong, Johnson—as usual—seemed pretty game for the material and he gave it all he got (Especially on “Bambi” and “Jungle Island”). But something in the back of his mind must’ve failed to tell him that some sketches were bad ideas before performing them. Moral of the story, Try to resist getting a host named “Rock” or “Johnson” for a little while…yeah, the content wasn’t really his fault, but now this is just creating a needless superstition.
UPDATED THOUGHTS: What makes this episode particularly puzzling to watch was the fact that this was the episode Lorne & the other SNL higher-ups submitted for that season’s Emmy Awards—Maybe because they knew they were going to win big for that year’s 40th Anniversary show, they probably felt nothing would be lost or gained if they submitted a sub-par program for their regular submission…unless, of course, I’m actually missing something here. Johnson certainly has Talent & Charisma to spare, but something about this episode just felt a little off. Hopefully when he helps wrap up this current season tonight, the 2 year rest will do him some good.
On that note, NOW the season is over. For those who missed my Earlier announcement, the “Summer of Starmaker” will be taking place beginning June 19th—also, in an effort to keep that separate from our Regular S.O.S.N.L page, look for a tab on our masthead that says “STARMAKER” within a few weeks. That way, if any “Breaking” news happens during the summer, I won’t run the risk of crossing a few wires. I’m also going to work on a “Best of Bobby” tribute in honor of (the soon to be leaving) Bobby Moynihan who has a new show on CBS next year, look for that tribute later in the Summer. Until then, thanks again for reading—and if SAG/AFTRA can behave themselves, we’ll be back with new, old stuff in the Fall. Take us out, Howard Shore!
What Gives? That’s the Season, we gotta wrap it up, who killed the music…
(*AOL “YOU’VE GOT MAIL” CHIME*)…Pardon me…
…SIGH…Well, it looks like I can’t take a break just yet. Apparently I have some unfinished “Rock/Johnson” related business & repressed memories to attend to…Which we’ll take care of on the Next Page…