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April 11, 2004


Saturday Night Live with Janet Jackson, 4-10-04
Saturday Night Live was well above average this week, though host and musical guest Janet Jackson was really the least of it.

Let's start with Ms Jackson's better part. She can dance. Not only her, but her whole troop had some outstanding choreography. It was worth watching her musical performances to see them.

The problem there being that the core part of all this, the actual SONGS, were nothing. Geez, no wonder this stuff isn't going over at radio. Forget any Superbowl backlash, the songs have no melody or hooks to speak of.

As to being a player in the sketches, though, Janet was just awful. She couldn't remember the lines, she's giggling nervously in the middle of others. The parts she actually remembered sounded like they were being read off cards by someone who doesn't get what they are supposedly saying.

This seems odd. She's had something of an acting career. What's the problem? Idiot baseball players and such have given stronger performances. Everyone thinks Jessica Simpson is a moron, but she gave a much stronger performance than this.

Wait though- I started out saying this was an especially good episode. Take it then that pretty much everything else was superior.

They did get good mileage out of Janet in the opening sketch. Jackson's execution was mediocre, but the IDEA of Janet as Condoleeza Rice flashing a titty to distract the 9/11 commission was killer. Best I could make out, apparently Janet in fact flashed The Titty to the live audience before shouting out the classic "Live from New York" tagline. In this case, however, The Titty was highly pixilated for broadcast and thus safe for public consumption.

Interestingly, the network made a point of noting that they would be broadcasting live (on the East coast), with no tape delay- despite the recent unpleasantness. The last time they put the show on tape delay was with host Andrew Dice Clay something like 14 years ago.

They did a pretty fair Good Times parody. The nominal reason would be that Janet had a part in the actual series. Her character was only minor to the show in the first place, though, and the least point of interest here.

Besides having fun parodies of the old characters, they had a good point of satire with the entire show, and how unfortunate and mistreated they were. Parnell showed up from a college to withdraw a scholarship from the gifted son, on the grounds that he had an overdue library book- about a "Malcolm the Tenth." Then he explains that "If you were white, we could overlook this." Then a huge rat ate the winning lottery ticket that JJ had spent the rent on.

Don't know if they have a name, but they had a little reunion of their group that features Horatio Sanz singing "I wish it was Christmas today." Both Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan were back as guests. Only this time, Simon Cowell himself was in the audience to review their performance- and eventually be dragged on stage with a pair of maracas to actually perform with the group. That was pretty cute.

Saving the best for last, Fred Armisen did an excellent sketch as Prince hosting a talk show. They did a surprisingly good job for starters at making Fred look like Purple Rain era Prince. Both the writing and performance of the parody were outstanding, putting Fred through paces as flake boy. By turns, he's playing fake-shy, whispering responses to the girl co-hosting, spouting non-sequiters, playing a bit of guitar, singing, and of course crawling across the floor a la "When Doves Cry." Then there were the recognizably masculine moments, seeming odd just by saying a normal sentence. "OK, I'm done with this."

This is the best work Armisen has done on the show. When someday they come up with a Best of Armisen DVD, this Prince sketch will be Exhibit A.


posted by Al at 4/11/2004 12:23:00 AM

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