Adding to what feels like the longest (although not unpleasant) movie rollout in history, stars of the movie sequel "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" joined Paul Rudd on "Saturday Night Live" last night. Between the "SNL" alums and the boy-band supernova One Direction as musical guest, this created something of an old-versus-new dichotomy on the show — and by and large, it was a rollicking good time.
One Direction was mostly well-utilized in the episode. The segment of the population that is not familiar with their music (due to lack of being a young girl or living or working with them) had the opportunity to enjoy their legitimate singing talent during their performances of “Through the Dark" and “Story of My Life," where they little resembled the bopping teenage boy-band sensations from a generation or two ago. Their superstardom was also parodied in a video segment where Paul Rudd (who is clearly a vampire because he does not age) plays the world's No. 1 One Direction fan, elbowing tween girls out of the way while they waited backstage after a 1D concert. There wasn't much more to the video than that, but few actors can pull off snotty-funny like Rudd, and it was charming to see him interact with all the kids in the video.
Not every integration of the oldsters and youngsters was a success, though. The cold open began as a promising parody of the live "Sound of Music" that aired last week, with Kate McKinnon and Taran Killam displaying more chemistry than Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer did. However, the sketch was derailed when Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen showed up to reprise Wiig's character Denise. You know, the merry weirdo with the tiny hands and big forehead and strange sexual proclivities. The "SNL" writers may have overestimated the audience's affection for this character, so ultimately it felt like a missed opportunity to send up a real television phenomenon, although there were some good jokes about McKinnon's ugly dress and the Von Trapp kids' comical lack of understanding of the outside world.
Also, the monologue wasn't as much of a hit as it should have been considering the star potential. Rudd explained that in his first two hosting appearances, he was overshadowed by his musical guests (Beyoncé and Paul McCartney) but this time it wasn't going to happen. Then he was joined onstage by One Direction (there was a good joke in which an audience member yelled "I love you Liam!" and Rudd said "Thanks!" assuming the woman simply thought his name was Liam.) Then Will Ferrell, Dave Koechner and Steve Carrell joined them onstage for a rendition of "Afternoon Delight." The harmonies were pretty, but ultimately this was just a promo for "Anchorman" instead of really using all the comedy genius that was onstage.
The end of the episode was a treat for longtime viewers of "SNL," with the reprisal of "Bill Brasky," a sketch that first originated on the show in 1996, written by "Anchorman" guys Ferrell and Adam McKay. The sketch is a mix of surreal (why does everyone have big white teeth?) and basic (it's just a bunch of guys spinning hyperbolic tall tales of a legendary businessman named Bill Brasky). With the lack of a pop culture reference and with the main character (Brasky) rarely actually appearing in the sketch, it's actually a good one to bring back, unless of course you are a viewer who just finds the sketch too weird. For those who are fans, though, the Wikipedia page on the sketch is unexpectedly insightful.
There were a few sketches that just featured Rudd on his own, the showcase of which was "White Christmas," a trailer for "The first black Christmas movie for a white audience." Essentially, the trailer was a mash-up of any Madea movie and "The Best Man Holiday" but with white "SNL" actors, most especially Paul Rudd in the Madea role (so that's him doing an impression of Tyler Perry in drag.) "SNL" has had a few issues this season when it comes to sketches that involve race (some are too heavy-handed, or flippant, or just not that funny), but this trailer did a good job of starting with a premise that addresses racial differences but, happily, took it in an absurd direction. There were lots of great parts but Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson stole the sketch with their "Can you believe this?" glances at the camera.
Speaking of "SNL" old-timers, John Goodman returns as host next week (for the lucky 13th time) with Kings of Leon as musical guests.
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