Sunday, February 24, 2008

SNL Redux

I haven't been a big fan of Saturday Night Live for a long time. The show isn't bad - well, some of it is - but the good parts aren't compelling enough to get me to the TV.

That said, as a political junkie if nothing else I had to watch last night's return from the writer's strike. First portrayal of Barack Obama, Mike Huckabee doing a walk-on, geek's dream Tina Fey hosting... I couldn't ask for much more.

The promise seemed to dissipate from the get-go. SNL chose to parody Thursday's Democratic debate on CNN, the dominant theme being the media being "in the tank" for Obama.

It says something about Obama that, after waiting for months, the thing SNL chose to make fun of him about is not actually about him (directly, anyway). They made fun of the media. Even Obama's mannerisms were not much parodied for comic effect, just exaggerated.

They hit the Hillary Clinton angle right on the head, going after her campaign's increasingly ludicrous spinning of her blowout losses in recent states. Is Obama too hard a target? Isn't there anything else to make fun of him about?

Then again, maybe his mannerisms were being made fun of, and the impression was just incompetent. There are no maybes about that last; the portrayal was godawful. It was barely recognizable as Obama, and as unfunny as I can recall one of SNL's famous presidential candidate impressions being.

The other problem was the choice to parody the debate. The idea that the media loves Obama has some truth to it, but as far as I could tell, none of it was on display at the CNN debate. Why not do a "Hardball" sketch with Darrell Hammond's Chris Matthews, who often is accused of disliking Clinton and loving Obama, leading the charge? It's the pundits who are generally accused of being in the tank, not news people like Campbell Brown and John King.

Huckabee also appeared on Weekend Update and reminded us once again why he's gotten so much mileage out of this campaign. He not only made fun of himself, but did it with excellent comic timing. Rock on, Mike. As long as I don't have to worry about you actually getting elected.

The episode completely redeemed itself, however, near the end of the show, with a pitch-perfect impression of "There Will Be Blood's" Daniel Plainview hosting "I Drink Your Milkshake" on the Food Network. The audience didn't seem to get it, but it's already entered the realm of classic SNL sketches for me, alongside "The McLaughlin Group," "Toonces the Driving Cat," and...well, too many others to name.

Comics generally seem to have a hard time knowing how to make fun of Obama. SNL proved last night to be no different. Overall though, a pretty good show.

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