'Saturday Night Live' review: Tina Fey celebrated Mother's Day early

With Tina Fey hosting what she called “the Mother’s Day episode of Saturday Night Live,” there was a feminine-friendly vibe you don’t get most weeks on this show.  The six-months-pregnant humorist (“I have the number one book in the country and the 86th TV show”) brought out also-great-with-child Maya Rudolph to sing a duet to their so-called “feti.” The unborn children (played by Kristen Wiig and Kenan Thompson, naturally) harmonized along with their mothers.

An hour later, Rudolph co-starred in a pretty amazing birth-class sketch that parodied 25 year-old home-birthing films. It worked on every level, from the appalled reactions of Fey and other cast members watching it, to  the movie itself, a document full of pseudo-mystical gush, and make-up and acting performances intentionally reduced to the level of a high-minded porn film.

Late in the show, there was a perfect parody of Bravo’s hideous Pregnant In Heels, with Abby Elliott capturing the pretentious diction of host Rosie Pope (“every morning a thousand bees sting my tongue”); her vacuous, too-rich-for-their-own-good clients (Fey ran “a p.r. firm that represents other p.r. firms”); and the show’s slavish  pandering to the pampered women’s whims (Fey, in the delivery room, to doctor: “Don’t cut the cord! I might want to return it!”).

And right under the wire, Paul Brittain did a solo, taped turn in “The Hallmark Mother Collection for Weirdos,” an  Anthony Perkins/Psycho-ish salute to

motherhood that was delightfully creepy.

All of the above contained pure jolts of Fey’s sharp sensibility, and gave SNL an extra, distinctive crackle. Also showing her sisterhood was Nasim Pedrad, who offered a fine new edition of her Bedelia character. That’s the brainy girl who loves, admires, and respects her mom (played this week by Fey), much to her friends’ dismay. I love that clever, independent girl.

Set aside the almost-obligatory sketch in which Fey could morph into  Sarah Palin (a debate between undeclared Presidential candidates that included the return of Darrell Hammond as Donald Trump)

and a typically riotous “Weekend Update” appearance by the giggly, skeevy Stephon   (Bill Hader at his most impish)

and much of the rest of the show was devoted to a single subject: Osama bin Laden.

From the cold-open to “Weekend Update” jokes (Seth Meyers’ line about conspiracy theorists doubting President Obama’s bagging of the terrorist — “the first black person ever to have to prove he killed someone” — lit up Twitter), it was Osama-a-go-go; too much so.  Having bin Laden’s shrouded corpse drop in on The Little Mermaid was a visual gag that became soggy fast; so did Jason Sudeikis’ usually-reliable Devil on “Weekend Update.” Even the Devil seemed a bit bored having to complain about receiving bin Laden in hell; only Sudeikis’ unexpected throwaway jab at Outsourced made me laugh during this bit.

Music guest Ellie Goulding sang gamely in a chalky voice; the British star (oh my gosh, she sang at Kate and Will’s wedding reception!) probably didn’t win over too many new American fans with her draggy version of Elton John’s already-maudlin classic “Your Song.” Oh well, her album went to number one in Merrie Olde England!

I almost forgot: The “Digital Short” with Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island collaborators, working with a Michael Bolton who insisted on singing about movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Scarface when they wanted him to go hiphop-in-the-club? The notion of Bolton working against Samberg and company added an extra zing to an already amusing idea. (Don’t cheer too loudly for Bolton, though — you’ll only encourage some producer to put him on, say, The Voice.Which actually I guess is where he belongs.)

In general, this week’s SNL had a schizophrenic quality. Fey disappeared for stretches of time (hey, I’m not knocking her for that; I hope she had her feet up backstage — I would if I was six months pregnant), time that was filled with the show’s standard unpredictable unevenness. But the moments that carried her sensibility were among the strongest of the night. Of course, that’s just my guess — for all we know, maybe she wrote most of the bin Laden stuff, too.

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (149 total) Add your comment
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  • sam

    Tina was amusing. Hader is the funniest cast member and I was hoping to see Stephon for Mother’s Day. Hilarious. And I was also glad to see Michael Bolton have some fun after his horrible experience on DWTS.

    • Athena

      Best SNL of the season, but that’s not saying much. Predictably, Ken Tucker overpraises.

      • SNL is over

        There is no point in watching SNL outside of election time. Other than that it has always been miss more than hit within an episode. Just watch the best bits the day after online. As for tonight’s episode, why Tina Fey again? Can’t they find other comedians/actors to host? I think they probably have trouble finding people willing to do it anymore

      • Mike

        I feel like every 5 years or so people always claim that SNL was better when so and so was on. But this is an ongoing debate that will never die.

        And I doubt they have trouble finding people.

      • joblo

        A few weeks ago Fey was complaining about how the Sarah Palin impersonation somehow hurt her career. And then here she is breaking it out again, very tiredly. So what’s the deal? If it’s so negative for you why are you still doing it again and again? Me thinks someone protests too much.

      • Tom

        a pale reflection of 4 years ago

      • Tom

        Cant even get through the first hour. Why do you need an election every episode is constantly aimed at the right wing. Since the early 70’s the show has ALWAYS made fun of every president no matter what party but after two years they are still not one good skit with our current leader.

      • Dorimifah Solatido

        True that there’s always “SNL was so much better X years ago” criticism, but this year is particularly bad. Really the only worthwhile addition to the SNL Hall of Fame from this season is Stefon; maybe the Death Jam parodies and Nadim Persuad’s Bedelia character (uneven at best).

    • Dena

      I was hoping to meet Stephon’s mom. can you imagine what she must have been like? XD

    • Michael

      The Stefon segment was hilarious! Also, the Pregnant In Heels bit was SO hysterical!!! “I am not so much a person as I am a collection of choices.” Hahaha! Love it! Tina was great, as always!

      • sln

        lol love that line

    • Color Me Impressed

      Well you sir, can call me Scarface, snorting mountains of cocaine!

    • Dee

      That mermaid sketch made me think Tina should give red hair a try in real life

  • Dean

    Ken you are too kind. This was one of the worst shows of the season, bar none. Every single sketch fell flat. The little mermaid bit was painful. The singer was dull and looked like she lip synced the first song. Most of the forced bin laden jokes were lame. Even Stefon (that’s how it’s spelled) wasn’t as hilarious as usual. D-

    • LOL

      Ken was far too kind to this turd of a show. What a disappointment. You’ve got Tina and the top news story in years and this is all they could do? The next 2 shows will probably sink like a stone if this is what they come up with after 3 weeks off. Ed Helms, run for your life!

      • ALOL

        You hit the nail on the head – this was the worst of all the times Tina has hosted. But I wonder what the dynamic is between her and Seth when she comes back to host – kind of like if you became the boss of your department or whatever and then the old boss returned for a week but promised not to boss everyone around.

      • Amy

        I really wish they had given Tina the chance to sit in during Weekend Update. That’s when she’s at her best.

      • Tom

        Oh no, then it would make this show funny again. Can’t have that!

      • Grammar Police

        EW HAS to praise anything and everything that Tina Fey does. I think she has pictures of some of these guys with animals or something.

      • Kristen

        I think Grammar Police is on to something.

    • Kris

      You are too correct. They had Tina Fey AND a huge news story AND three weeks to write other decent sketches, this should have been a sure thing. Instead, it was a mess that was easily one of the worst episodes I’ve ever seen. The OBL jokes were pathetically unfunny and the only sketch I was even mildly amused by was the Pregnant in Heels one. I’ve got to defend Ellie though. What she performed isn’t an accurate reflection of her music. Starry Eyed and Under the Sheets are great songs and she should have performed atleast one of them.

  • TV Gord

    I adore everything Tina Fey does, even this uneven, largely not very funny edition of SNL. In a way, it was just like when she was a member of the cast. Kinda ‘meh’, but it’s always great to see Tina.

    • carpette

      You could be an EW TV reviewer.

  • TorontoTom

    Didn’t laugh too many times during the first half hour. Then I fell asleep. A typical viewing of SNL this season.

    • Ap

      Exactly what happened to me.

      • N

        same here! I dunno what it was, my exhaustion or the unfunny-ness, but probably a combo of both.

      • Tom

        I lasted as long as pamala andersons waterbed.

    • Scarlett

      I kept watching, waiting for it to get funny. My sister fell asleep.

  • Jaeger

    This show was weak. I was disappointed and look forward to seeing Tina. Do you guys think SNL needs an overhaul? Like see u later Lorne…it’s been a long time and he has a lot of other things going on. Maybe a change at that level might spice things up. I know it’s a tough job but it seems like they show is live twice a month and they are still having trouble with the skits and jokes. They really missed a great opportunity this week…but I’ve felt this way all year.

    • Jools

      SNL does need an overhaul, seriously. I mostly blame it on Seth Meyers though, ever since he became head writer back in 2006 the quality of the show dropped… significantly. The writers have been appalling for a few years as well. I have no idea what path the show is heading at this point because it’s at a halt in any progress

  • Paul Hemmer

    I watched the first few minutes of SNL as usual then turned off the TV and went to bed. There’s seldom anything worth watching with this tedious cast and mostly humourless writing.

    • Squishmar

      Ummm… how would you know if you don’t actually WATCH the show? What you’re saying is you don’t like the cold openings, so you figure that you can have an informed opinion about the “tedious cast and humourless writing”?

      • Stuart

        Squishmar busted you up, Paul! What you got to say bout that, homey!

      • Dorimifah Solatido

        If Paul gave a crap, he might have said “What was so great that I missed?” It takes but a sip to know the taste of the sea.

        No getting around the fact that SNL stinks on ice, and has for a long time now. The cast is not as much to blame as the writers are, but there are too many blah actors as well. Bobby Moynihan? That is one unfunny fat guy. Keenan Thompson? There isn’t a thing that guy does that Jay Pharoah couldn’t do a thousand times better. Kristin Wiig has one foot out the door to do movies, and she’s overrated, too. The Miley Cyrus impersonator is lame, Chris Elliot’s kid is OK but they don’t use her well, and Seth Meyers is a one-note unfunny jerk.

  • josh

    How dare you, Ken? “I would if I was six months pregnant.” You will NEVER know what it’s like to have a life growing inside you, feeding off your nutrients, ready to burst out of your stomach and kill your friends. How dare you?

    • TV Gord

      …and what do you know about it, JOSH???

      • phil

        Commenting on meta-commentary is kind of unnecessary.

      • josh

        Commenting on commenting on meta-commentary is super necessary.

      • heynow

        That’s Joshina to you, Gord. LOL

      • Tom

        he has interns, so same thing

    • JMB in FL

      On the internet, no one can hear you scream. Or apparently discern sarcasm. TV Gord, I hope that was sarcasm… if it wasn’t, I hereby declare you first off the ship for the bug hunt.

      • Monty

        If you took the comment seriously then you stopped reading before “ready to burst out of your stomach and kill your friends”…

  • Karl

    The digital short was hilarious. Weekend Update usually has a laugh or two, but after that, it’s bedtime.

  • Al

    Who would have thought that Tina Fey and Russell Brand would host he two worst episodes of SNL this season?

    • DTO

      Well, you could predict that from Russell Brand, for sure.

  • Timbo

    It was an uneven episode. Even Fey couldn’t save some of it. There were some good sketches, but they over did Bin Laden. I think Bill Hader stole the show again this week as he does most weeks. He is the only cast member that delivers laughs and week after week. This was a better than average episode of snl, but that’s not saying much. Can’t wait for Ed helms though.

    • TMB

      Thought Hader’s Shepard Smith was dead-on.

      • Tom

        it seemed reserved, warm but not roasty

  • Randall Thorpe

    By no stretchof the imagination does tawdry, tacky, turgid Tina Fey resemble chic, charming, charismatic Sarah Palin. SNL is down the tubes.

    • Sue1

      Agreeable use of alliteration, sandwiched into a silly, sanctimonious sentiment.

    • Maggie

      Sarah Palin is chic, charming & charismatic?
      That was funnier than most of the stuff on SNL this week.

    • the dude

      Chic, charming and charismatic Sarah Palin? It’s you Sarah, isn’t it? Why are you on here if you’re running for POTUS??? And why are you pretending to be a man named Randall?

  • Juan Carlos

    New York’s hottest club is (in deep voice) SPICY! LOL Stefon was the only thing right about this show.

  • Maria

    Oooh boy. All that great material to work with – Trump getting skewered, the long form birth certificate, and the right wing pathetically refusing to give Obama any credit for getting bin Laden….and they really blew it. The Little Mermaid sketch was probaby the worst thing SNL has ever done.

    • Maggie

      The problem is that so many other shows have been doing Trump & the long form birth certificate, and especially bin Laden all week. Late Night tv has been overloaded with jokes, it’s probably hard to come up with something new.
      Go to Jimmy Fallon’s site and you’ll find a really funny bit with JF as Trump taking credit for killing bin Laden.

    • Anya

      I was surprised by just how awkwardly unfunny that Little Mermaid sketch got. It was just completely terrible. I was actually confused as to how it even made it on the air by how incomplete and awkward it came off.

    • lefty

      All of those jokes have already been done to death on Twitter and the like.

  • DTO


  • Rudy

    This was kind of a dark humor episode, though I did think this episode went to some darl places SNL doesn’t usually go to, and maybe that was Fey’s influence.
    Darrell Hammond deserves more regular work somewhere.

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