Last night's episode of Saturday Night Live was one of the worst episodes I've seen in quite a long time. My guess is that most of the blame will go to host January Jones, but I'm not sure that's fair.
It was obvious early on that Jones was going to be a shaky host; in her monologue, she came across as terrified and stiff, stumbling over her lines, and the Mad Men jokes provided by the cast (including Fred Armisen, who gives a rather sweet little shout out to his wife, Elisabeth Moss, who plays Peggy Olson on the show) didn't help her out much. My boyfriend, who watches Mad Men every week, said, "Who's January Jones?" when I told him who was hosting. "Betty Draper," I said. He knew Betty, but he didn't know January, which, I suspect, is a position many viewers were in last night. This episode could have been a chance for Jones to step outside of the Draper character; she didn't.
Of course, it doesn't help that the writers put her in period sketches several times, including this atrocious Rear Window sketch, where she stars as Grace Kelly and is subjected to about 8 million fart jokes. I'm only putting this sketch up to demonstrate that while Jones wasn't a great host, the real issue last night was the writing. Fart jokes, poop jokes, and gay jokes galore. I'm not sure if this was because the writers didn't know what to do with Jones or not, or if Jones just wasn't able to keep up with stronger skits, but the writing was rough last night, and it didn't help her at all. This is seriously one of the worst skits I've ever seen on SNL:
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This retro party planning video was the best sketch of the evening, starring Jones as a slightly demented housewife offering tips on how to throw a great party. Still, it relied on poop jokes and gay jokes and putting Jones in familiar Betty Draper-esque territory.
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I have to admit that I laughed at this Kim Kardashian impression, if only because the voice, as annoying as it is, is pretty perfect.
And Darrell Hammond does do a pretty spot-on Lou Dobbs impression:
But the majority of the show was quite a bit like the 4th hour of the Today show that it loves to skewer so much: nearly unwatchable.
It's fair to say that Jones a pretty terrible host; the format didn't suit her, and comedy doesn't appear to be her strength (it was also hard to see her as anything but Betty Draper, which I'm sure is not what she was going for). But the biggest failure of the evening was the writing. It seems that the writers had no idea what to do with her; as with the Megan Fox episode, Jones was relegated to the background while the cast fumbled around her. Last week's Taylor Swift episode was quite strong by comparison, but it seemed that the writers were having fun going after Swift's connection to the world of tweens and teens, which made for some great skits. Last night, however, Jones seemed to wander across the stage terrified, clinging to fart and poop jokes as best she could, and overall, it was just painful. Of course, this could also be tied to the hosting skills of Jones and Fox, and what the writers had to work with, but it seems that when the show can't rally around its host, it opts to go for the easy joke instead: last season it was gay jokes and violence, and this season it's gay jokes and poop. It's enough to make you feel like this: