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"SNL" Fires One Final Election-Year Bullseye
November 3, 2008  | By David Bianculli
snl-mccain-and-tina.jpgTomorrow, the election. Tonight, one last chance to revel in the inspired political parodies from NBC's Saturday Night Live. Don't miss it, because it's not only TV reacting instantly to history -- it's TV history, as well...

Without question, this is the best SNL political humor season since 1992, when Dana Carvey nailed both George H.W. Bush and H. Ross Perot, and Phil Harman played a humorously affable Bill Clinton and a goofily clueless James Stockdale. Fred Armisen as Barack Obama hasn't truly triumphed, but Darrell Hammond's John McCain is just right, and Tina Fey as Sarah Palin is the most white-hot, and arguably most influential, TV performance of 2008.

Tonight at 9 ET, NBC presents Saturday Night Live Presidential Bash 2008, collecting the best of this year's campaign parodies -- and including those from previous years, starting with Chevy Chase as a bumbling Gerald Ford in the show's inaugural 1975-76 season.

That's when I started as a TV critic -- the premiere of Saturday Night Live, in fact, was my first official review. So when I say Fey's Sarah Palin is among the best and biggest SNL political lampoons of all time, I'm speaking from 33 years of watching that show religiously.


Last Saturday, Fey did it again -- appearing as Palin opposite the real John McCain. Spoofing Obama's big-ticket buy of prime time to deliver his message in a half-hour TV special, SNL had McCain and Palin going on QVC to raise awareness, and money, by selling campaign goodies.

One inspired item -- inspired, in part, by the McCain-Feingold Act -- was a line of jewelry called "McCain Fine Gold." The necklaces were pointed out by a typical QVC point-and-smile model, who was played, in a well-received cameo, by the actual Cindy McCain.

Meanwhile, Fey's Palin took the opportunity to go "rogue," as she put it, by whispering to a side camera and hawking her own line of merchandise, available after Tuesday. It was a tee shirt with a very pointed message: "Palin in 2012."

"I'm not going anywhere," Fey's Palin promised, "and I'm certainly not going back to Alaska."

The McCains, both John and Cindy, were quite good in that sketch, clearly having fun. And on "Weekend Update" (hosted solo, for the second straight week, by Seth Meyers), John McCain was even better. he seemed to feed on the supportive applause, and the waves of laughter, and displayed a side of himself that was more animated than most of his recent campaign appearances.


Offering a list of rejected ideas for last-second campaign strategies, McCain described, and dismissed, such ideas as the "Double Maverick" and the "Reverse Maverick." My favorite was "Sad Grandpa," which McCain described thusly:

"That's where I get on TV," he said, "and go, 'Come on, Obama's going to have plenty of chances to be President. It's my turn! Vote for me!'"

Brilliant comedy, superbly delivered. Tonight's show, no doubt, will include that moment, and others, so enjoy the jokes.

Tomorrow, it's no laughing matter. Go vote.




Bernie said:

I respectfully disagree with your assessment of SNL's sketches. I feel that this has had one spectacular impersonation that stole the show, but that the actual writing has not been very sharp. Look back at 2000. This year hasn't had moments as memorable as Darrell Hammond's Gore droning on about "the lockbox," or Will Ferrell's Bush and "stategery." To be fair, that election had a lot more potential humor value than this one. The reason Sarah Palin has been the highlight of SNL is because she's the funniest character in either campaign. (We'll agree to disagree, very respectfully. For me, as soon as Fey proudly said, "And I can see Russia from my HOUSE," she had me. But "strategery," like "Not prudent at this juncture," those were great, too. - David B.)

Comment posted on November 3, 2008 9:27 AM

Greg Kibitz said:

I saw the very first SNL too, but I was only ~10 years old, and I even got to watch it with my Older Brother and my Parents, and possibly even my Maternal GrandParents too. I had really cool parents in that way, and they even took me to see Animal House (that I so desperately wanted to see) at 13 for my B'Day (but sadly, they were not so cool in so many other ways and maybe it was not worth the trade-off).

Of course, I was a little young to be a professional critic like you then, but I know I loved SNL instantly and I have barely missed an episode of SNL ever since (except maybe a few years while I was in Late HS & College when you'd think I would have seen it more, but we we're usually doing anything but (hint- hint) watching TV at 11:30 - 1:00 on a Saturday Night).

As always, you, above all others, get what TV Worth Watching really is all about, and I, yet again, endlessly thank you for providing us, the real hardcore viewers, all this great material that you do!

Comment posted on November 8, 2008 9:54 AM
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