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'Saturday Night Live' opens season with Tina Fey, Aaron Paul

By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol

RedEye

10:48 PM CDT, September 28, 2013

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"Saturday Night Live" opened its season with former cast member and head writer Tina Fey hosting, but Aaron Paul of "Breaking Bad" surprised everyone when he appeared as Jesse Pinkman in an Obamacare cold open.

"I have this friend and he got sick, like cancer sick. But because there wasn't Obamacare, he couldn't afford the treatments so he was, like, backed into a corner, you know what I mean?" Jesse said, speaking, of course, of Walter White.

"So he did what any of us would have done: He started cooking meth," he went on. "And soon it wasn't just meth, it was murder, you know? And not regular murder. Like he blew half a guy's face off."

A horrified Obama (Jay Pharaoh) said, "I think we can wrap this up."

Jesse protested, asking, "You don't want to know what happened to my friend?" The crowd shouted "No!"

Apparently they want to wait until the "Breaking Bad" series finale Sunday to find that out.

Update 11:05 p.m.: Paul appeared in a mock commercial for EMeth, the e-cigarette to smoke meth. "EMeth, you know it's good cuz it's blue, bitch," he said, using Jesse's "Breaking Bad" catchphrase.

Update 11:40 p.m.: And it's a 3-peat for Paul: He showed up as Drunk Uncle's Meth Nephew.

"Seth, Meth; Meth, Seth," Uncle said.

"Hey Seth, I got a knock-knock joke for you," Meth said.

"No, I am the one who knock-knocks," Uncle shouted, as Moynihan and Paul both broke character. "It's from the show," Moynihan said, then they both started singing, "I Want to Dance with Somebody."

I'll post video as soon as they are made available onlne--and I'll be back with more comments on the season premiere.

OK, so I was planning on recapping the skits for tonight's Season 39 premiere before the Aaron Paul surprises started happening. I'll just start that right here.

We knew it was going to be an interesting opener as "SNL" is working through a transition in which it lost Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen. Later this season, Seth Meyers will say good-bye. Six new cast members were introduced tonight--um, five white guys and one white woman. (Just pointing it out.)

"SNL" brought back nine-season veteran Tina Fey to host, but it didn't use her all that well. Let's get to critiquing the skits individually. Again, i'll add video when it becomes available. And feel free to comment if you agree, disagree or just don't care. But be civil, you idiots!



Obamacare cold open
Grade: B-
This skit about the Affordable Care Act turned out to be one of the few topical skits of the night. Obama (Jay Pharaoh) introduces citizens who are excited for or pissed about Obamacare. New cast members show up in the skit, but Kate McKinnon is the most memorable "SNL" player as a stressed out ER doctor with advice on how to cut costs. "Obamacare or no Obamacare, people need to stop putting stuff up their butts," she says, "Don't you dare tell me you fell on a toy fire truck." Aaron Paul steals the sketch, however. See above. A long sketch with only a few winning moments.



Tina Fey's monologue
Grade: C
Tina Fey wants to do all her most famous recurring characters, like "Johnny Jean Jacket," "Salvadore Dolly Parton" and "Queef Latina." Fey takes the opportunity to introduce the six new cast members. (Did I mention they are all white?) Fey makes them do what she claims all new cast members must—dance awkwardly behind the host. In bedazzled tails, black shirts and gold lame shorts, they dance and sing and it's … just … not … funny. So, I thought we were going to get to know the new cast members? Maybe later.



Girls
Grade: A-
New cast member Noel Wells plays Hannah Horvath in this "Girls" spoof that introduces her new Albanian roommate, Blertha (Fey). Hannah is happy to hear the Blertha also suffers from OCD, until she learns that for Blertha it is "Old Cow Disease"—which is why Blertha has a rubber hand. When Blertha learns that Hannah is 24 and not 15, she says, "24, what the [bleep] is wrong with you." Fey got the funny lines, but the regular cast did spot on impressions of the real "Girls" cast—especially Vanessa Bayer as Shoshanna.



Airport
Grade: C-
A sketch that calls out every possible airline passenger should be funnier than this. I did laugh at Kenan Thompson's oversized carry-on, but only because that kind of passenger bugs the shit outta me when I fly.


 
New Cast Member or Arcade Fire?
Grade: B-
This was a fun way to meet the new players and give the musical guests something else to do. Kenan Thompson hosts the game-show setup in which Fey has to guess which is which. Every time a cast member tries to talk, Thompson shouts them down: "No lines! You have to earn those lines!" Meanwhile Fey makes wry observations about the folks paraded in front of her. "He looks like a hipster Paul Bunyan, a Civil War reinactor or a Serbian basketball player," she says of one Arcade Fire member. When Lorne Michaels comes out as Fey's "call to a friend," he can't tell either, choosing "the black one" over the two white options. Kind of off that Michaels is calling himself out, isn't it?


 
E-Meth
Grade: A
This ad for electronic meth pipes was perfectly paced and well-written. Kate McKinnon shines again talking about the "sweet shaboo-shaboo." Short and sweet with Aaron Paul closing it out. "E-Meth, you know it's good cuz it's blue, bitch."




 
Weekend Update
Grade: B
New co-anchor Cecily Strong seems a bit nervous, but the show must go on. She thanks the women who paved the way for her to sit at the anchor desk, including Fey, who gives her blessing and some advice. I didn't really laugh at much Strong brought, but Seth Meyers has some zingers, including "Barnes & Noble unveiled a new Nook that automatically throws itself in the garbage." I'm sure Strong will get, um, stronger in the coming weeks. Newcomer Kyle Mooney shows up as Bruce Chandling, a mildly amusing former standup comic. The next guest is Drunk Uncle (Bobby Moynihan), a character I would enjoy on a weekly basis I think. Probably just me, but I laughed out loud at "Sofia Viagra" and "twerking 9 to 5." See above for Paul's turn as Meth Nephew.



Cinema Classics
Grade: F
I like weird, but it should still be funny, right? As the host, Thompson introduces "Unwanted Woman," a film that features taxidermied animals. I might have laughed if Toonces The Cat was driving the car instead of the raccoon—even though I never thought Toonces was all that funny back in the day.


 
Rick's Model Ts
Grade: D-
Mike O'Brien plays a man trying to invent the used car market and a used car commerical ("Lotsa firsts here today"). Fey plays his Debbie Downer wife. (Wait, isn't Debbie Downer an old "SNL" character?) Fey interrupts the commercial with angry, bitter and inappropriate pronouncements. The first time she spoke it was kinda funny, but this got old fast. I'm not sure Fey would have given the thumbs up to this material back when she was running the writers; why is she accepting it as host?



Manolo Blahnik
Grade: A-
I've never seen these two characters because I didn't watch the show last season. But damn, the former porn stars (Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong) selling shoes are new favorites. They mispronounce names (Manuel Blondicks) and make porn references ("What's that thing you put your stuff in?" "Your mouth."). I hope NBC shares the video for this one, there are too many bizarre lines to remember. Fey's part of this skit didn't work as well, but she made a solid "House Hunters" joke so all is forgiven.



Final thoughts
Overall, this was not a strong season opener, which was perplexing. Maybe I just expected more with Fey hosting, but the show didn't use her all that well. It was nice to see her passing the batom to Strong, who I feel will grow into that "Weekend Update" anchor spot quickly. They are smart getting her started long before Meyers leaves. As for the new cast members, they were fine in what little we saw of them. No one broke out a star-making character just yet, but it's early days.

Share your thoughts in the comments. Maybe I'll be back next week for Miley Cyrus--if I can stand to watch her.

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