SNL 34.18 - Tracy Morgan / Kelly Clarkson

One thing I'm going to try out on this site is to write commentary on the night's new SNL as I watch it.  I don't know how it will pan out but it's worth a shot.  Tonight's new show is hosted by former castmember Tracy Morgan, who in seven seasons went from "the other black guy" to someone who deserved (and got) his own "Best of Video".  Will the writing let him down tonight?  We'll see.

Opening: Tracy Punches People at Rockefeller Center Of course they get Tina to show up.  A bit repetitive but Tracy at least played it in his usual insane style.  I would have like to see him take it a bit further.

Monologue Nice dig at his underuse.  Pretty good monologue; Tracy has a way with his delivery that makes whatever comes out of his mouth funny.  I was expecting "Get Me A Soda, BITCH!" as soon as he mentioned Lorne but I didn't see the ID mixup coming.

Commercial: Chewable Pampers This again?

Brian Fellow's Safari Planet Not a surprise they brought this back, but it would be pretty hard to top "That goat has Devil Eyes!"  The cow as stuck-up and uppity is a bit underwhelming just because they've already gone further and stranger with Brian's psychotic hallucinations.

The View Tracy in drag is always funny but it's a little weird seeing a View sketch with Tracy not playing Star "Yes I Am A Lawyer" Jones.  Tracy playing the "cheery moron" angle for Shepherd gives Kristen something new to do beside her usual defensive ignorance, but they soon regressed to that.  Fred continues to steal the sketches as Joy but what I like about this sketch is that plays to Kenan's clearest strength, which is playing it straight and reacting incredulously.

Scared Straight This guy again?  I'll admit the last one had a few good references, particularly the Teen Wolf story, but so far it's same old same old with Kenan and the pressure is for Tracy to bring this back from a typical formula sketch, which he doesn't.  His role seemed unnecessary aside from a generic second inmate but he had a few lines ("Bob Dylan") that made me laugh and it was an actually funny character break (which had gotten irritating during the Horatio Sanz years).

Dateline NBC Another repeat sketch and we know what to expect (Keith "I was on CTV" Morrison taking perverse pleasure in others' suffering) but it had a few good fakeout lines and the ending with Tracy and him have a mutual schaudenfreunde-fest was strong.

Astronaut Jones This is a formula sketch, true, but what makes it is the theme song and Tracy's responses to the space-babe were good.  Decent punchline and while at first I was a little irritated that they used Andy instead of one of the girls (come on, give Casey some air time, damn it), the twist at least made his casting seem a little more logical.

Kelly Clarkson Decent, somewhat spirited performance, the song is nothing special though. 

Weekend Update What I like about Seth Meyers is that some of his jokes go toward somewhat offensive Norm MacDonald territory but he doesn't have the same bite to him that Norm does, as if it's tempered by his being a bit more physically attractive than Norm is.  First commentary is Bill Hader doing a decent Malkovich impression.  I don't like that they pretty much telegraphed the joke but it had a decent payoff.   Bad camera switch after one joke (a Don Roy King trademark).  I did like Tracy imposing a "Really" onto the proceedings as only he can.  They already did the Barbie stiff plastic limbs with Amy a few times.  I'm glad they didn't go for another Ken is gay joke this time; even though a crack at his genitalia is obvious, the line "it's disturbing" was funny as was her business with the liquor bottle.  Kind of petered out at the end. 

Big Love Good to see them do another straight scripted show parody again, and the girls were good in this one.  Another Tracy in drag sketch; he's funny when he doesn't even try to be feminine like here, but unfortunately the kind of died at the end, as if they had nothing much more to go on besides the premise of the actual show, a few brief character quirks and the main joke. 

Digital Short: Party Guests Decent, but predictable premise.  What makes it work is the editing and the somewhat surreal visuals.  Will Forte continues to prove he is the most daring SNL castmember of all time.

Suppressex Another sketch that is helped by Tracy's unique line readings.  One of the stronger bits tonight.

High IQ First appearance of SNL token old guy Darrell Hammond, who seems even more out of place in this cast than ever these days (OK, he does good impressions, but he essentially gets castmember billing for cameos).  Another sketch that seemed to drift off without a real resolution or a point but the randomness did work here, especially as soon as Tracy started doing his dance.

Kelly Clarkson Better song than the first one.  This is really petty but what I notice more in these segments is Kelly's weight gain rather than the music, which is tolerable but not something that invites multiple listens.  I'd rather see someone that's a little bigger than the skeletal remains we've been exposed to for a few years but it had been a little while since I've seen her (which I admit I don't go out of my way to do), and it was a little jarring.

Family Flix I loved this one; it was actually something that actually used Tracy in a way where it wouldn't work half as well with another castmember in his place.  Another "escalating surrealism" bit with him in it that ended the show on a strong note; what made it work was his insane exuberance and the ridiculousness of the whole thing.

Gas Right Another rerun.

Miscellanea The additional sketches section lists former writers Fey, T. Sean Shannon and Andrew Steele.  I wonder if it's for the Brian Fellow piece or if they had another sketch that had been long buried but resurrected tonight.   Tracy's Thank Yous seemed to be a spontaneous move since they started rolling the credits during them.

Impressions Tonight's show was actually quite good despite a slow start, an over-reliance on recurring characters in the first half, and several weakly-written sketches (ie Big Love).  After WU the show seemed to come together when they went for undiluted silliness with Tracy.  The post-Weekend Update sketches have actually been the stronger material in a number of the shows (tonight, last week's with Dwayne Johnson and the Baldwin/Jonas Brothers show) and while it wasn't quite an instant classic, overall my impression of this week's episode is a positive one.