'Saturday Night Live' Weekly Watch: Tracy Morgan needed more than big love

I love Tracy Morgan on 30 Rock, used to laugh at his "Brian Fellows" sketches when he was an SNL regular, but, boy, that was one pretty-lame edition of Saturday Night Live last night. From the opening segment in which he punched out a quick-cameo Tina Fey to the final family-movie sketch in which he was a filmmaker who killed most of his cast, this edition was either one lousy idea or one-good-idea-gone-bad after another. Maybe the truth is simply that Morgan is a terrific supporting player, but his range isn’t wide enough to carry a whole show.

The disappointments arrived early on, when Morgan, as the sweetly simple-minded, hallucinatory animal-lover Brian Fellows, failed to elicit more than a few chuckles from this edition of "Safari Planet."

The parody of The View was the funniest, but by no means a great sketch. In the past, the problem has always been that, while the SNL cast has Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, and Joy Behar down cold (Fred Armisen has me laughing every time just by plucking his shoulders pads and snorting out Behar’s "Who cares?" refrain), they never had a convincing Sherri Shepherd (read: not enough black cast members to play her well), and Morgan captured perfectly Shepherd’s rattle-brained why-doesn’t-everyone-do-positive-things inanity. But the writers had few good punchlines to match the performances.   

The sketch that had the most promise was the Big Love parody, timed perfectly just as that series moves toward its season-end. Kristen Wiig as Jeanne Tripplehorn, Abby Elliott as Chloe Svigny, and Casey Wilson as Margene were all excellent, but bringing Morgan on as the new fourth wife just fell flat.

I’ll wrap it up quickly: "Weekend Update" seemed endless (a Barbie-turns-50 segment with a joke about the Ken doll’s lack of equipment? really? that’s all they could come up with? really?).

On a positive note: while I doubt you liked it as much as I did, Morgan’s "Astronaut Jones" sketch — one of those out-of-nowhere salutes to 1950s TV in the same vein as Bill Hader’s wonderful Vincent Price parodies — was a very pleasurable sight, if not exactly roll-on-the-floor funny. (And BTW, nice Malkovich impression last night, Mr. Hader.)

Oh, and here, I’ll give you another opportunity to quibble with my musical taste: As resolutely anti-American Idol as I am, I thought Kelly Clarkson sounded great on both of her songs.

So what did you think? Did you like the "Digital Short" that took literally all the cliches guys spout at bad parties? Did you enjoy the elaborately-produced "High IQ" game show sketch (all that work, so little humor…)? Agree? Disagree?

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  • Ed

    The show was horrible. I didn’t laugh once.
    The only saving grace: Kelly Clarkson. She sounded great and I actually liked both of her songs. (I may actually buy her album now.)
    Have Clarkson host the show and do away with Tracy Morgan.

  • Rich

    Show was very unfunny, but Kelly Clarkson brought the goods. I kinda liked the extra rasp in her vocals, intentional or not. Also, it’s good Kelly’s providing employment for all those out-of-work “alt-rock” musicians from the 90s!

  • Kaitlin

    I respectfully disagree with your synopsis of the episode. I thought this was one of the best episodes since back when we were graced by Tina’s Palin. I thought the Digital Short was incredibly clever yet simple, and I was dying laughing when Hader and Samberg couldn’t keep straight faces in the Scared Straight sketch. I do agree with you that Kelly Clarkson nailed both of her songs! Overall I was highly entertained.

  • tkqkdldys
  • Ian Phillips

    Were you watching a different show than me? I thought this was a great episode. Ok, the last few sketches after weekend update were kind of lame (except big love) but everything before that was great. And seriously, how could you not laugh at the cold open? Tracy punching Tina with such perfect comic timing? Genius
    And couldn’t you at least give a little credit to Bill Hader’s perfect John Malkovich impression?

  • Emily

    yea kelly clarkson was the best part of the night and her new cd is awsomeness!

  • Ian Phillips

    and don’t let a few clunkers judge the whole show. just remember, snl really is a hit-or-miss show. last night, was mostly hit

  • Ken Tucker

    Mr. Phillips–you’re right: Hader’s Malkovich was very good & I shd have mentioned it. Done. Thanks.

  • Dwight K Schrute

    FIRE ALL THE LOUSY WRITERS!!!!

  • Zizzy

    As usual, one of my favorite sketches doesn’t make it onto either Hulu or NBC.com. While there were a lot of clunkers, the Big Love parody was spot on, esp Nicki — but try finding it online anywhere.

  • LP

    Loved Kelly Clarkson. She looked better and sang much better than her appearance on American Idol. Rock on Kelly!! I must admit that I TIVO all programs I am remotely interested in watching including SNL, so there are some skits I just don’t waste my time watching but did find the View segment funny and felt that Kristen as Barbie showed how truly talented she can be when given even minutely entertaining material.

  • easybeef

    I have always laughed at the Astronaut Jones sketches. Yeah, there’s only about 60 seconds of real sketch, but the opening and closing credits to it never get old.
    Big Love and The View parodies were funny. Kristin Wiig as Barbie was a pleasant surprise, as I usually want to punch her in the face in skits where she’s prominent.
    The rest of the show was meh. Brian Fellows fell flat, but I’ve always liked how they’ve brought real animals for those segments.

  • mick

    It wasn’t a great sow. Kelly Clarkson sounded good. They could have used Justin Timberlake again.

  • sara

    How come Tracy Morgan is so funny on red carpets and Howard Stern but falls flat on SNL? It has to be the writers.

  • Jen

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned that when NBC came back from commercial Kelly was already singing her second song! I’m sure her handlers were not too happy about that. Unless that was a local break that ran long and it was only here in Atlanta that happened. Did anyone else notice that?

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