Saturday Night Live, Season 40, Episode 12, “Blake Shelton”
January 24, 2014, 11:30 p.m. (EST), NBC
Jordan Ferguson:: One of the keys to a great episode of Saturday Night Live is the ability to properly utilize the host, whether by letting them play within a familiar context, or by cleverly subverting expectations. Blake Shelton is not a comedian or an actor so much as he is a singer and amiable personality, and the episode utilizes those qualities well throughout. It never asks much of Shelton, really, but what it does ask he manages to pull off, including that final sketch, where he actually got to do more than just be a straight man to some zany character. “Blake Shelton” is definitely one of the best episodes of this season, in part, perhaps, because of how well it fits into the growing trend of good episodes centered around hosts who are willing to sort of disappear into the ensemble. Shelton was there whenever he was needed, but it never felt like he was explicitly the center of the proceedings (except during his musical performances, which were both solid). He felt like an adept utility player, there to do whatever job needed doing in any particular sketch.
This episode was full of sketches that just worked for me. From Farm Hunk, which gave everyone a great moment or two and managed to keep escalating in absurdity, to the amazing Shawshank sketch where Kenan is an unrepentant cannibal who still thinks he should be paroled. Even “Wishing Boot” was a really weird, really funny premise executed with aplomb. What did you think of the episode, Luke? Did Shelton charm you? Were there sketches that didn’t work as well for you?
Luke Annand::I loved this episode. I was so nervous that you’d e-mail me back saying that you hated it that I’m glad to see that both of us really dug the episode. Being completely unfamiliar with Blake Shelton (the only bit of country music I actually listen to is his wife Miranda Lambert, since she has an actual edge to her), I didn’t know what to expect, but I thought this was the most consistently funny episode of the season so far with not one dud sketch in there. Last weeks blah episode was definitely a case of the show getting back up to speed after the Christmas break. I liked the opening sketch of the football controversy and that the commentator was pleasantly surprised that it actually dealt with football. What sold the sketch for me was Beck Bennett’s Bill Bellacheck’s brick wall attitude (“But I still have several minutes left, so I’d like to spend the remainder of the press conference throwing my quarterback under the bus.”) contrasting with Taran Killam’s Tom Brady’s purposefully acting dumb. And I didn’t even mind the sketch turning into an A Few Good Men parody at the end. The opening monologue/number I liked since it not only reminded people of the sketch comedy footnote that was Hee-Haw (which I actually remember watching with my Grandpa Bob when I was a kid on CMT, I think) but how after last week banishment to the last half hour, Leslie Jones was front and center in blonde pigtails and a frock completely hating every minute of it as Blake’s picking and grinning went off the rails. I also really liked “Wishin’ Boot”, which was clearly a take-down of the crass “Christmas Shoes” song (If you don’t know what that is, go YouTube Christmas Shoes and Patton Oswalt. His take-down of that song is one of his best bits.), complete with Kat McKinnon saying “We’re going to make so much *bleep*ing money off this song”. I think this was the best Weekend Update yet the way that Che was interrupted by Riblet, a new character from Bobby Moynihan that far exceeds Anthony Crispino. I’d love to see this character return (which you can’t often say about recurring SNL characters).
But the best sketch of the night was the “My Darlin’ Joan” sketch. I love songs that sound and start out saccharine and sweet but then slowly turn dark and sour. One of my favorite songs of Weird Al’s that isn’t a song parody but one of his original ones is “You Don’t Love Me Anymore”. And “My Darlin’ Joan” can actually be compared to Weird Al. I want Blake Shelton to release this song as a single, complete with the extra three verses. And it’s not just the song itself that makes it work (with lyrics such as “Does the Devil let you curse at him in front of his friends.”), but the slideshow of pictures with the younger Killam’s disdainful looks at a period perfect McKinnon, Killam in old age make-up mouthing along to the lyrics, Moynihan and Zamata’s morning show hosts increasing concern and shock as the song progresses and then Shelton’s reason as to why he went along with the song (“Look, Russell’s a good guy. Plus, he’s my landlord so I kinda had to.”)
I think this one is a hard one for me to talk about not because it’s bad, but because it’s shocking how unbelievably good it is. My only complaint about any of the sketches was in the final one. When Shelton asks the magician “Give me the power to go down on myself.”, when he went backstage, I kept waiting to hear the very audible neck crack, since the gag reminded me of Randal’s cousin Walter dying doing the exact same thing in Clerks. Maybe the comparison would’ve been too obvious or maybe they couldn’t get away with that from the censors, but I would’ve gone with that joke. But really, it’s a minor complaint. Otherwise, this is the first truly stellar episode of SNL.
Any thought’s on “My Darlin’ Joan” or the Hee-Haw inspired opening monologue/sketch? Also, are you as pumped as I am about J.K. Simmons hosting next week?
Jordan: My biggest take away from the “M Darlin’ Joan” sketch, which I liked, was how amazing Taran Killam’s make-up looked. That was good old age make-up by any standard, but by the standards of a live broadcast, which Killam had appeared in less than an hour earlier, it was pretty much incredible. I have given the show a lot of guff this season for the shocking amount of technical flubs (criticism I stand by, as a camera move killed a weekend update bit, and there were still a few blown line readings more than usual tonight), but that make-up is evidence of just how much this show can accomplish at its best.
As for the Hee-Haw opening monologue, I liked it a lot, and it was the best use of Leslie Jones I’ve seen in a while. The way she was disturbed by all of the old-time country jokes, and so taken with the darker, less overtly humorous jokes of her cast-members, was a lot of fun, and Shelton’s “We made Leslie laugh!” felt so earnest, I totally bought it. Ditto his joyful “I hosted Saturday Night Live!” during the goodbyes. It’s nice to see someone earnestly excited about doing the show from time to time, and Shelton seemed to be having the time of his life.
And yes. Yes, of course I am excited for J.K. Simmons to host. The man is a comedic whirlwind and dramatic master, and he can play a huge range of emotions very well. I have high hopes for next week.
- “Hey Vanessa, you know how Blake’s grandfather is an idiot?” “The dumbest!” “Well, last night, I was having sex with Blake’s sister…” “Who hasn’t?”
- “Well, I’m from Hollywood. I’m a second grade teacher…in my pornos. And in real life, I’m a third grade teacher.”
- “I like your music. It makes me feel like I’m in a white barbershop.”
- “This Wednesday was National Hug Day…Dad…”
- “At this point, all you should be thinking about is what you want for your last meal.” “A man.”
- “Your body, your body, your body…it was just ok…”
- Next Week: J.K. Simmons and D’Angelo