SNL: Scarlett Johansson – Season Highlight (Review)

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

It is a clear sign of near perfection when one watches SNL in a crowded Starbucks, full of university students working their collective butts off, and tries unsuccessfully to keep the laughter down as tears of mirth stream helplessly out of both eyes. Scarlett Johansson, in her fifth stint as guest host of the show, killed it with a little help from some SNL friends.

Episode 16, which also featured Kiwi singer/songwriter Lorde, was a season highlight without one real misstep in any of the sketches on offer. (Although the Ivanka Trump advert was a tad…eclectic till the end…) Each skit was spot on and while the previous episode allowed Weekend Update to take a rest from its usual topical hilarity, it picked right up with McKinnon’s Sessions stint and Pete Davidson’s little rant.

The cold open, which opted for a “War of the Worlds” type scenario featuring Baldwin’s Trump, set the tone for the rest of the show. It was pithy, funny and perhaps a tie with the brilliant Jeff Session’s “Forrest Gump” cold open of episode 15.

The entire show was rib-tickling funny. “Zoo Pornographer'” and “Olive Garden” were flatly funny. The latter sketch relying upon broad comedy along with the brilliant reactions from the characters in the skit.

“Translator” was the perfect vehicle to make fun of the POTUS as Scarlett Johansson’s character’s dog revealed that he loved President Trump. He also tells the assorted members of the skit that his owner “masturbates out of boredom.”

The other political skit was the pre-recorded Trump perfume advert which shifts gears midway through to point an accusing finger at Ivanka as a “new” feminist who is anything but. The highlight of this skit is that Ivanka sees her husband in the mirror instead of her own reflection. A superb and somewhat spot on indication of how the world sees the woman who is definitely behind the man in the white house.

“Shud the Mermaid,” with McKinnon’s blob fish mermaid with her pal Conk, the angler fish mermaid, was funny and, like the other sketches with Johansson, proved that the four-time Golden Globe nominated actress is damned funny when given the chance. It is easy to see why Scarlett was been invited back to host SNL for a fifth time.

Musical guest Lorde, who managed to knock it out of the park with both her numbers, especially the second song “Liability” also got to make a cameo appearance in the “Woman’s Day” sketch later in the episode.

SNL has managed to make this episode stand almost head and shoulders above the rest of this season’s offerings. Clearly, the writers stepped up their game with Johansson’s talents setting the boundaries of what could be done with this incredibly talented woman.

This episode of SNL was a “win/win” as every single sketch elicited barely pent-up howls of laughter in a public place. The writers and the performances of all were spot on.

Kenan Thompson was allowed a huge nod, in the monologue, towards his being the senior cast member of the show. Leslie Jones managed to, once again, shine on brilliantly with Scarlett in the “Ninja” skit and perhaps the only downside in the entire episode were those dodgy English accents on offer (a recurring theme in SNL this year).

If you missed this latest SNL offering head over to Hulu and check it out or watch the YouTube highlights of the episode. This was a good one.

Shades of Blue: Unforgiven – Game Changer (Review)

 Shades of Blue - Season 2

Season two of Shades of Blue starts off with a refresher on the events at the tail end of last season. Miguel, with that dramatic neck break courtesy of his ex, is now out of the picture and buried in the cemetery. Woz has settled into the role of Stahl’s dirty cop and Harlee is definitely unforgiven by her former boss and friend.

With Wozniak on the FBI agent’s side, he makes Harlee understand that there will be no forgiveness from his side ever. Woz explains that there will never be any level of trust between them again. Meanwhile he begins doing Stahl’s bidding in order to find out who the target really is.

Harlee burns the money she paid Miguel and tries to play both sides against the middle when learning that Stahl has no intention of letting her go. The FBI agent with the unhealthy fixation on Detective Santos goes after Gina the escort when he learns, from Woz, that his secret is out.

One theme that continues in this game changer season, where Woz is now the puppet on a string, is Harlee’s lying to Cristina about Miguel. Granted, the lie is a necessity since Santos snapped the ex-con’s neck like a brittle twig.

(It has to be said that this was one of the most satisfying moments in the first season and the recap, where they showed Miguel getting his just desserts once again was still a highpoint.)

Woz blames Harlee for his murder of Saperstein and turns everything around as he tries to make himself into the victim in this scenario.

Shades of Blue starts out of the gate without any of the errors apparent in season one. There are no continuity gaffes and the storyline manages to keep up the tension started in the series’ first outing.

Liotta continues to be spellbinding as the head of the dirty cop gang and Lopez may still be the best dressed detective on the NYPD’s rolls but the shift from stealing millions to setting up Julia Ayres as a target for Stahl loses nothing.

Warren Cole still manages to make Stahl disturbing, annoying and creepy as hell. This actor has tapped into something that makes his fixated FBI agent just this side of scary.  When the character handcuffs Gina to the radiator pipe in the room and tells the woman she will disappear, we feel her fear is justified.

When the local mobster is framed and arrested, he kills an underling right in front of Anna Gunn’s character. This seems to be a clear signal that death and murder will be just as prominent in the second season of the series.

It remains to be seen whether the show can maintain the tension and dance the same fine line as season one. Liotta’s character is, apparently, on a mission to punish Harlee while simultaneously going after Stahl. He may well wrest the show from Lopez this time around.

Shades of Blue airs Sundays on NBC.

Cast:

Guest starring Anna Gunn as Julia Ayres

SNL: Octavia Spencer, Forrest “Jeff Sessions” Gump – On Fire (Review)

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

SNL has been rather “up and down” of late, with more shows missing than hitting, but last night’s 15th episode of the 42nd season was on fire. Guest host Octavia Spencer rocked it in her monologue and also appeared in what may be the best topical cold open in SNL history.

Kate McKinnon as Jeff Sessions a’la Forrest Gump had the MVP SNL player knocking it out of the ballpark as “he” slowly confessed to a number of naughty acts. Michael Beck appeared in a “Putin cameo” and the two fist bumped before Spencer showed up as her character from The Help.

As “Minny” from the 2011 film, Spencer offers Forrest Sessions her special pie, the one she serves Hilly Holbrook in that film. (In a splendid bit of fourth wall breakage, “Minny” admits that she is from “another film.” Sessions/Gump asks, “Is this what I think it is?”

Minny replies in the affirmative and with a huge grin, Sessions declares this to be his favorite pie before taking a huge bite. Teeth streaked with “chocolate” McKinnon then makes the “live from New York” announcement. This was classic SNL served up fresh and hot and while Alec Baldwin was absent from the proceedings, Lorne Michaels and his crew of merry men and women socked it to the current cabinet with gusto.

Later in the episode the “Weekend Update” roasted the Trump brothers thoroughly. Eric and “Donnie Junior” were both mocked brilliantly during a “Colin” segment and once again, SNL was on top form.

To be honest, the “Update” segment was also on fire this week with several on point gags and Vanessa Bayer came back  as Laura Parsons. The precocious “youngster” covered the Oscar ceremony and, as usual, Bayer killed it as the outspoken and slightly naughty kid newscaster.

Father John Misty (aka Joshua Michael Tillman) provided some eclectic musical moments where he sang about Taylor Swift and Oculus Rift in the same song, and lyric, and broached things ecclesiastical in his second song.

Eclectic also describes the “Chuckie the Chocolate Man”  skit where Bayer and Bobby Moynihan had difficulty keeping straight faces while Michael Beck played a sort of post meltdown postal worker type banned from the office.

His character brought in a gun, before the sketch began, and threatened all his co-workers. It was an odd bit of business where “Chuckie” appears to be overly influenced by Pee Wee Herman and Willy Wonka.

The episode ended on a somewhat lame note with Octavia sporting glasses with “lizard eyes” as the president of “Spencer Gifts” who fires all her employees bar one and then goes on vacation.

Despite the one rather humdrum sketch, this particular episode burned with an old intensity seldom seen on SNL these days. Michaels crew managed to hit new heights with the collective scorn bestowed on the new cabinet.

New player Melissa Villaseñor proved once again that she is a dab hand at impressions, although guest host Octavia did a superb job with her Oprah Winfrey and Alex Moffat did an impressive job with his “Hugh Grant.” The segment, which was about a rip off of Zoo-topia, really showcased Melissa rather than Spencer but it was a funny sketch regardless.

The pre-recorded “TBD” republican trailer was amusing but the joke wore off about mid-way through the segment.

Despite the high quality of the Trump skewering that went on in this episode, it was neophyte Octavia Spencer who impressed mightily with her first guest hosting gig.  She was allowed to do her monologue alone; without the requisite add-ons of SNL players who usually accompany the “noobie” host.

Spencer was funny, on point and did so well that she will surely be invited back. We leave you with her monologue:

Superstore: Wellness Fair – Cat Out of the Bag (Recap/Review)

SUPERSTORE -- "Wellness Fair" 216 -- Pictured: (l-r) Nichole Bloom as Cheyenne, Ben Feldman as Jonah, Mark McKinney as Glenn, America Ferrera as Amy -- (Photo by: Evans Vestal Ward/NBC)

Superstore “Wellness Fair” lets the cat out of the bag on more than one secret being kept by Cloud 9 employees. At long last the truth of whom Jeff is really seeing comes out, as does Jeff, and Glenn goes cold turkey when he learns just how unhealthy fruit juice really is.

This episode saw Amy playing hooky from work to take her daughter to see the The LEGO Batman Movie. She calls in sick and Dina decides immediately that Amy is faking her illness.  The assistant manager makes it her mission to catch Amy out.

Throughout the entire episode she asks her coworkers whether Amy told them where she was the day before or what type of illness she had.  Meanwhile, the store is exploding with the news that Amy saw Jeff and Mateo outside the movie theatre kissing.

She believes that Jeff is cheating on Sandra and as Amy learns the truth, the rest of the store believe that Jeff got Sandra pregnant and then dumped her for Mateo. Later, they learn that she made the whole thing up for attention. (Although initially it was a misunderstanding.)

Cloud 9 are having a wellness fair where customers can have certain things like blood pressure and their vision tested. However, as Garrett tells  the store, they are not offering breast exams. “If we were it would not be done by a teenage  boy,” Garrett says.

Glenn decides that Jonah is being a real “know-it-all” and gets angry when it appears that the Cloud 9 employee is smarter than he is.  Between stressing out at Jonah’s knowledge base and trying to convince Sandra to not abort her, made-up, baby, Glenn’s blood sugar crashes and he gets dizzy.

After the entire store, including customers, watch Glenn and Jonah argue about abortion and feminism, Jeff has to turn up from corporate and talk to the staff about what not to discuss in front of paying customers.

Glenn, who is still suffering from that low blood sugar, confronts Jeff about getting Sandra pregnant and then dumping her. Jeff then reveals that he is gay, Mateo tells everyone that they have been dating for months and Sandra explains that she made the whole thing up.

Garrett and Dina also lift the veil on their sexual relationship. Amy is wildly amused at this turn of events and starts picking on Garrett. He responds by telling Dina that Amy faked being sick to see The LEGO Batman Movie.

Dina confronts Amy, demanding to know what that is…

This episode of Superstore was a brilliant breakdown of just how quickly gossip can spread through the workplace. In seconds the entire store and its staff learned of Sandra’s “pregnancy” and then that she had made the relationship up.

It also pointed out, yet again, just how inept Glenn feels when he is around Jonah.  The cutest part of the entire episode was when the two boyfriends “came out” and Mateo tells the first customer they encounter that they are a couple.

Glenn, as usual, could be the poster child for how not to behave when he accuses Jeff of being too bland to be gay. It was the highlight of the episode. Superstore airs Thursdays on NBC.

Cast:

Timeless: The Red Scare – Broken (Review)

 Timeless - Season 1

Timeless “The Red Scare” manages to deliver a triple whammy where Lucy diagnoses Flynn as being broken and it looks like he is not the only one is issues. By the end of the episode, Jiya has some sort of time travel glitch and Preston discovers that her mum was a Rittenhouse agent all along.

Flynn is also arrested by Agent Christopher. “But he is a terrorist,” she tells Lucy as the furious man so desperate to save his wife and child is led away by soldiers. Lucy is also upset as Flynn was on his way to the last ever mission in the mothership.

For the more political viewers, this episode, which featured the infamous “better dead than red” Senator Joe McCarthy, seemed to draw a perfectly clear parallel to the new POTUS. The line about the press seemed spot on, another power mad individual claiming that the press lie…

There was also the reminder that McCarthy was, underneath it all, a bully.

The main plot line had Lucy meeting her “in the closet” grandfather and recruiting him to the cause of defeating Rittenhouse. She asks him to become a double agent. His efforts, along with those of Connor Mason who reveals to Christopher that he has been playing the long game, allow the Rittenhouse organization to be gutted.

However…

As we learn in the closing moments of the episode, Rittenhouse may have been down but they are not out. They have gained control of the mothership, now being piloted by Emma who was hiding out in the old west earlier, and are on their way to change history.

It also becomes clear just what Rittenhouse and its members suffer from, as compared to Lucy, Wyatt, Rufus and Flynn, they have no empathy, passion or even the most basic of emotions. When Lucy tells her mother that she will be going back after Amy, her missing sister, the reaction she gets is telling.

“Mom” reveals that she is part of the Rittenhouse machine and that no one cares about a missing girl that only Lucy knows about. The shock on Preston’s face is clear, not just at the news that her mother is part of the problem but that she is so cold and unmoved about Amy’s plight.

While Flynn’s arrest is upsetting, as is Lucy’s learning that her mother was in on the whole thing all along, the interesting thing about this episode has to do with Jiya’s “vision.”

Was Jiya being the fourth in the machine result in her being able to time travel without a device? Or since the issues have to do with her eyes, can she see the past? (Her glance at the Golden Gate Bridge showed the thing under construction. While this could mean a sort of time travel glitch, one that Rufus was there for, it could also be a premonition of sorts. A glimpse into where the team will be heading next, if the network continues with the show…)

One possible plot hole was the scene where Emma heads into the mothership to fly that “final” Rittenhouse mission. Whitmore had hidden back in the old west because she learned what the organization was up to. At least this was what she told Flynn when he encountered her in episode 12.

However, Timeless has proven time and again that its history and the storyline of the series are fluid. The time line began fluctuating from that very first episode where the team’s actions doomed Lucy’s sister Amy to being blinked right out of existence.

The first story, that dealt with the Hindenburg, also revealed that some things cannot be changed and some people die regardless what our heroes do in their missions. (Later Wyatt finds out that his wife died despite his actions, a lesson that Flynn refuses to acknowledge as he tries again and again to save his wife and child.)

Timeless has been a good ride so far and hopefully NBC will bring the series back for a second outing. The show finished out its season with an average of 4.622 million viewers per episode and 1.10 of its target demographic.

What do you think should Timeless get another season?

Cast: