Last night, Saturday Night Live put on a costume and a wig, and tried very hard to do an impression of itself. The episode, hosted by Jamie Foxx with musical guest Ne-Yo, seemed to follow a tried-and-true blueprint, and colored it in entirely with a gray crayon. So of course it featured a political sketch, a monologue with an aside at the piano, several wacky game shows, a digital short, and a number of attempts at toeing the decency line, but for an hour and a half, SNL was really just playing a mostly flat version of itself.
It was like seeing Journey tour with its replacement singer – sure, he may sound like Steve Perry, move around the stage like Steve Perry, and even look alarmingly like Steve Perry, but in the end, it's second-rate Journey. And much like Journey, last night felt old and tired, with only a few high notes.
One sketch that’s sure to be hailed across the internets today is a movie trailer for "Tyler Perry’s Alex Cross 2 – Madea: Special Ops," a buddy-cop drama, where Tyler Perry (Foxx) plays both the young male Alex and older female Madea, in one human body. Foxx deftly moves between the two faces, with each side of him fighting for control of their sole gun, and over how to take down the skinhead criminal, played by Taran Killam.
Another moment that caught the social media networks’ attention was an appearance by 2012’s breakout rap star, 2 Chainz. The artist formerly known as Tity Boi, who’s endlessly been called a Dave Chappelle character in the flesh, who is so full of energy and personality, showed up for mere seconds at the end of Foxx’s monologue, to recite just a few lines from his hit "Birthday Song." He wasn’t allowed any dialog, nor was he afforded the opportunity to shout out any of his ubiquitous ad-libs. It could have been a huge moment; a smarter choice would have been to have Foxx play 2 Chainz, even act opposite him: two 2 Chainz.
Jamie Foxx is a veteran of TV sketch comedy, from his days on In Living Color, as well as his fantastic turn hosting SNL in 2000, when he famously caricatured the then-Puff Daddy’s legal trouble swag, so it's a mystery why any challenging roles were few and far-between this time. The normally hilarious and charismatic Foxx was left without a single topical character to play, save for a human version of a Ding Dong snack at the Weekend Update desk.
It’s past time for executive producer Lorne Michaels to move the ten-to-one sketch – usually the most racy bit of the evening, and always the last – to earlier in the night, because it was extremely difficult to wade through an hour and twenty minutes of show to get to the best skit: a bizarre Swarovski Crystals spec commercial. Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong are two super-airhead ex-porn stars, attempting to hawk crystals, which are "perfect for Christmas, bracelets, necklace, business, wearing, crystals." Along with Foxx, as another former porn star who can’t perfect his entrance or the proper pronunciation of Swarovski, this sketch was laugh-out-loud funny, especially toward the end.
Instead of the "Bitch, What’s the Answer" game show, or another rehash of the amazing-only-in-how-they-get-away-with-this "J-Pop America Fun Time Now" program, why not push the boundaries with the Academy Award-winning actor? Why not move away from attempting the same formula? Why settle for average? Perhaps because to figure out that no two Steve Perrys are alike is all a part of the journey. Or Journey.
Last Week's Recap: 'SNL' Makes Hay With the Petraeus Affair