Must admit, this one was really dreadful.
The opening "monologue(?)" by Dane Cook was HORRIBLE!!! And it went on FOREVER! I kept screaming "get the hook!" at my TV, and kept pushing the 30-second skip repeatedly hoping to come to some new sketch, and he still was on!!!
Same with the Clinton/Condi parody on Weekend Update. They both had nothing funny to say, the pace was dreadfully slow, and IT WENT ON FOREVER! Again, repeated use of the 30-second skip numerous times was my only solution. Unbelievable.
That's really been their problem these past few years... putting together a bit that's just not funny, and then running with it three times longer than it deserves to be on. It makes me cranky, angry, bored, turned-off, hostile, everything negative you can think of.
And that Hugo Chavez talk show? WTF? Take someone with terrific comic ability and timing, like Fred Armisen, give him nothing funny to say and make the entire gag nothing but letting him resort to such dreadful physical "comedy" that falls flat, and then let it run on and on and on and on? That's comedy writing/directing? They really need to be saying something funny and clever, not flailing arms about.
Given that they now only have 11 cast members, I think their best stuff (aside from the occasional lucky opportunity when something happens in the news that week that you just can't miss with as a weekend satire bit, no matter who you are) is their impersonations and costume/makeup using Amy Poehler, Bill Heder, Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen, Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, etc. who have proven themselves to be great impressionists. Last night's Al Pacino and Whitney Houston had potential, but no sustained comedy writing to go with.
I thought last season's opening scene, with everybody (all 16) at a party in costume and doing their best physical impressions with top-notch words, was terrific. In contrast, last night was HORRIBLE!... in every single sketch. Only amusing moment, that Amy Poehler / tiger skin gag on Weekend Update.
D- is my grade.
For the record, the HD picture quality here in LA was STUPENDOUS!!! Absolutely fabulous! Lighting, hair strands, makeup... everything was just perfect and gorgeous to look at.
Aside from the generally very-low audio that's characteristic of everything on NBC, they had some audience mikes near two particularly "hard laughers" for rear/ambient sound that I found a bit jarring.