You ever notice how we typically like “Saturday Night Live” cast members much more, after they’ve left the show, than when they were on it. I liked Tina Fey and Amy Poehler on “SNL,” but I love them post-“SNL.” I didn’t even like Jimmy Fallon on the show, and now I adore him. There’s almost no one I liked more on the show than after they left (maybe Sandler?). They get the benefit of that nostalgia glow: Five, six, or eight years of investment. Kristen Wiig is one of those “SNL” cast members that I never really cared for on the show, but who I’ve developed a lot of fondness for since Bridesmaids (and I was able to overlook her last year on “SNL,” because I knew she’d be leaving soon). The problem with Wiig on the show was that she had a lot of recurring characters, and none of them were any damn good. I literally did not like a single one them, and last night’s “SNL” featured damn near ALL of them.
Worse still, there was nothing new about the characters; they were the same characters doing the same bad sketches, as though Wiig had never left (and there was a period late in her run, where Wiig dominated the sketch count, so last night felt very much like one of those episodes without a host to dilute the Wiig-ness of the episode).
What I’m saying is, as much as I like Wiig as a film actress (or at least, what I’ve seen — Paul, Bridesmaids), I don’t like her on “SNL,” and unlike Fey, Poehler, and Fallon — who brought the energy of a returning cast member and new material — Wiig brought only the energy to last night’s episode, plus the same old material. Maybe she just needed to stay away a little longer — another year or two — for us to develop a nostalgic fondness for those characters, if that’s even possible for someone like Gilly or the Target Lady, who wore out their welcomes long before Wiig left the show.
Whatever it was, last night’s episode was weak, unfunny, and a little embarrassing because we wanted so much more for Wiig, and had such high expectations. But man, it was bad. Dreadfully, dreadfully bad.
The Cold Open is not even worth mentioning, while the monologue — an off-key musical number, whose only highlight was Jonah Hill making out with Maya Rudolph in a janitor’s closet — isn’t available for embed (you’re really not missing anything). “Californians” was the first sketch after the monologue, and like the last couple of times “Californians” held that spot in the show, it was a bad omen for the rest of the episode. I kept waiting for the to subvert the sketch in some way, to give it new life, but it was the same old “Californians.”
One of the two sketches I liked all night was the Disney commercial, which featured Wiig as a Japanese horror movie ghost in an otherwise kid-friendly sitcom.
The other sketch I liked, despite myself, was “Acupuncture,” which was gleefully, hilariously morbid, at least when you’re half delirious at 12:30 a.m., after suffering through what amounted to a rerun of “SNL” during the first hour.
I would not recommend watching any of the other sketches (or “The Californians”), but if you’re curious, Wiig also returned with “The Lawrence Welk Show” (which only worked once for me, when Jon Hamm played the suave straight man), Target Lady (it was like she never left, and that’s not a compliment), and Garth and Kat, which I disliked from the very beginning.
Even the usually reliable “Weekend Update” was bad last night, although it sounded Seth Meyers was sick, and I think maybe everything in the show suffered because co-head writer, John Mulaney, was likely preoccupied with news on his pilot (which was not picked up).