By Dylan Matthews
Late Saturday night, something weird happened:
I was lucky enough to come of age during Tina Fey’s stint as SNL head writer, a time of relative excellence for the show. Between Tracy Morgan’s semi-Dadaist sketches (remember Brian Fellow?), Amy Poehler’s extreme versatility, and Will Ferrell’s mere presence, a middle school boy could have done a lot worse in terms of formative comedic material. Indeed, Ferrell entering a business meeting in nothing but a half-shirt and an American flag Speedo was pretty ideal as far as cultural responses to 9/11 went.
Ever since Poehler left for the surprisingly dull Parks and Recreation, however, the show has become pretty much unwatchable. There’s a nice sketch here and there, but sitting through an entire episode seems wholly unendurable. Even supposed “returns to form” were awful. When your show’s savior is supposedly something as idiotic and single-note as “What’s Up With That?”, you have a problem.
But Blake Lively, of all people, just hosted the best episode I’ve seen in years. There’s a Gossip Girl parody that manages to make fun of a target as easy as Staten Island in a still entertaining way, a not-that-exaggerated recreation of this delightfully obscure YouTube concert promotion clip, and, yes, a skit about potato chip theft set at NASA offices and featuring people with Foghorn Leghorn accents. The weirdest part is that these all relied on existing cast members who’ve never had trouble being unfunny in the past. Will Forte and Jason Sudekeis, for instance, have helmed many a crappy skit in their day, but absolutely destroy “Potato Chip.” I don’t know if this is a sign of a revitalized writer’s room or just a stroke of good luck, but it’s definitely progress.