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Saturday Night Live, Ep. 40.07, “Cameron Diaz/Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars”: Game Diaz brings home another solid outing

Saturday Night Live, Ep. 40.07, “Cameron Diaz/Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars”: Game Diaz brings home another solid outing


Saturday Night Live, Season 40, Episode 7, “Cameron Diaz/Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars”
Aired November 22, 2014 at 11:30 pm ET on NBC (East coast version watched for review)

When SNL is firing on all cylinders, there’s a sense of respect for its audience. “Sure,” it seems to say, “we know we’ve put out some real stinkers over the years, but you keep coming back for more, sometimes against your better judgement. So for your support and patience, here is an episode that simply doesn’t suck.” In the current state of a Saturday Night Live that is approaching 50, “doesn’t suck” is some of the highest praise it can get.

The Host: In six months, it may be genuinely hard to remember who the host of this episode was. This is not to say that Cameron Diaz is a shaky host. Quite the contrary: Diaz blends in so well with the cast that, at times, it’s hard to remember that she is actually a fancy movie star and not a regular player. Diaz is the perfect type of host, one that allows the writers and performers to turn out good work without having to worry about the host not being able to commit to a sketch, and whose image or style doesn’t run roughshod over the tone of the episode. Sure, the highs may not be at the levels of the Louis C.K. or Zach Galifianakis helmed affairs, but no show could maintain that much weirdness for 40 seasons. Just look at Diaz’s monologue: She assuredly goes along with the idea of an impromptu interview as she answers questions about how totally hot she is, how working on The Other Women was, like, so much fun, and whether or not Shrek is just as grumpy in real life. If you can look a quietly simmering Leslie Jones in the face and tell her that Shrek was, in fact, super grumpy, 30 Rock owes you a debt of gratitude.


Best Sketch: Not only is every sketch not bad, each one has a valid argument for earning a spot of recognition. Recurring bits like Beck Bennett’s baby boss and Vanessa Bayer’s substitute teacher still feel fresh, due to the respective players totally going in on their characters’ quirks — watching Bennett slide down a flight of stairs and then madly play with a sock earned are moments that should just be played on a loop in the background of every day live. The original sketches are equally strong, showcasing the whole spectrum of sketch: The character piece “Animal Hour” is a good excuse to let Kenan Thompson go on a crazed rant about the monkey who “ripped off his dong and balls”, while Diaz doing promotion for the new Annie allows for a gag sketch where Leslie Jones plays a 34 year-old black Annie who is an orphan, veteran, and played part time in the WNBA. The absolute winner of the evening is a high-concept sketch about an experimental high school theater showcase, called Whispers of America, that features vignettes like a funeral for main street that finds the players throwing “barbs” at consumer culture. To watch SNL so perfectly skewer faux-intellectuals is the reason we keep giving this show 90 minutes of our lives a few weeks each year.

Weakest Sketch: This superlative is going to the 10-1 sketch again, only because it lets its premise about a trio of phone sex spokeswoman, all of whom are involved in wacky situations like having to get a 20 lb. frozen turkey hurled at their back because they lost a bet, go on for about a minute too long. This leaves its premise to go stale, much like a 20 lb. turkey that’s been frozen too long and now is only good for hurling at someone’s back.

Weekend Update: Update continues to figure out what it wants to be under the team of Jost and Che. Jost will make mostly obvious jabs at politics and wacky news stories so he can sneak in a clever, dark one-liner, Che will open with a hard opinion on some current event that will last for a few minutes, and the panel guest will be the star of the segment, who will mostly interact with Jost. Che’s hard opinion this week deals with the public finally coming around on realizing how sickening the allegations of sexual assault aimed at Bill Cosby are. Che’s opening line, “Bill Cosby, pull your damn pants up”, sets the tone perfectly for the whole bit, as Che grapples with how he will ever be able to watch The Cosby Show again, knowing that Cliff Huxtable is portrayed by someone who is probably a monster. Che hopes one day that he’ll be able to watch the show again because, after all, “I forgave Kramer.” As for the panel guests, Taran Killam and Cecily Strong playing Charles Manson and his newly betrothed is worth watching for the great makeup and the perfect line “spider penis”, no context needed. But the obvious highlight is Kate McKinnon’s Angela Merkel. McKinnon playing off-kilter Europeans is always the best thing on TV each year, as this outing is no different, as we learn that Merkel wants to be the type of chancellor that can trade in her nude bras for cool beige bras and exchange a German kiss, which is really just a labored breath, with Jost, a must-see spectacle like none other.


Musical Guest: “Mark Daniel Ronson (born 4 September 1975) is an English musician, DJ, singer and music producer.”, or at least that is what wikipedia lists Mark Ronson as being. And while Mr. Ronson plays a nice guitar, Bruno Mars, showman of a generation, makes these performances worth watching. Mars seems to be the only man in the world in a competition to create the world’s best traveling nostalgic night club act, and he continually knocks it out of the park. “Uptown Funk”, the first song of the evening, has Mars staged at the center of R&B backing vocalists, a horn section, a great drummer, Ronson, and a marvelous piece of set design that turns the music stage into a flashy Miami Vice looking neon performance hall. Yet, Mars is somehow still the most magnetic thing on the stage. Throw in a second jam that Mars smartly joins in with the backing vocalists so that a surprise Mystikal can rock the show — and may have gotten a “shit” in thanks to the beauty of live TV — and you have a set that rivals the 8-minute visit into Prince’s mind for best musical guest of the season.

Other Notes: All the pre-taped bits are finally solid, in line with the rest of the show, as we have the return of both the “Dongs All Over the World” girls, who this time treat us with their Thanksgiving plans and give us the gem that is “I’m up to my ass in bowls”. We also get the Good Neighbors video team of Kyle Mooney and Bennett, always worth a watch. A Nespresso parody ad is worth it just for the shot of a baby chick percolating out of a coffee maker. The cold open uses President Obama’s executive action deferring the deportation of nearly 500 million illegal immigrants to parody “I’m Just a Bill”. And things get a little teary-eyed, with a card commemorating the death of director Mike Nichols.