It's true that whichever cast of SNL was on during your teenage years is bound to be your favorite, no matter how much you try to like other eras. My teenage years fell exactly in line with Tina Fey's tenure as headwriter from 2000 to her departure from the show in 2006.
So you can imagine my excitement about her return to host the show for the second time. It'll be grand, I thought! Lady power back at SNL! Last year's Sarah Palin sketches were such a hit, I figured that having Tina Fey back on the show would be like a breath of fresh air, a reminder of all those good times we had.
And, in part, it was. With her patented blend of snark and intelligent self-deprecation at the wheel, we got a solid evening of entertainment out of it. But mostly, watching Tina interact with a cast that has evolved greatly under a new regime was a sad reminder that sometimes, you can't go home.
Sketches I did like: a commercial for "Brownie Husband," in which Tina went all the way with a life-size, humanoid, caramel-filled brownie and thereby cemented her status as the poster child for Slightly Pathetic Yet Endearing Single Woman. I also enjoyed her monologue, a spoken word ode to the supporting roles in her life, set to "I'm Every Woman" and complete with an appearance by Steve Martin as her tax lawyer and Kenan Thompson in (obligatory?) drag as Chaka Khan. Her take on a Random Loud Woman Who Slept With Tiger Woods, Sarah Palin, and Dina Lohan were all satisfactory, and her portrayal of a 9-inch-tall hooker with a heart of gold was oddly amusing.
The shining moment in the entire episode was Tina's latest installment of "Women's News" in a return to the Update Desk, in which she exercised her greatest strength: the sharp-tongued rant. She's never better than as a monologist, whether improvised or otherwise, and I cheered for (and chuckled through) her tirade against the "whores of the world" like Bombshell McGee.
The common theme in Tina's participation, bad or good, is the presence of women's interests. Inherently, Tina Fey is relatable as a woman in a man's world, and her time as head writer on SNL marked a very "pro-lady" time in the show's history. Between Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, and Tina herself, the men were (arguably) overshadowed by the female talent. Yet at the same time, the word "bitch" was used in the show more frequently during Tina Fey's regime than any other time in SNL history. We saw an embodiment of this dichotomy in last night's episode - Tina played either a buttoned-up female role model type - a physics teacher, a homely mother - or a trashy woman with arguable morals - Dina Lohan, a Tiger Woods' conquest, and a hooker. (I'm going to leave Sarah Palin out of this one - you can decide which category you'd like to put her in. In truth, she doesn't fit the mold because she's a Tina character derived only from physical similarities.)
In short, Tina's comedy presence on SNL provides a commentary on the modern woman in all her forms, and often satirizes the ones giving the rest of us ladies a bad name. However, I am reluctant to say that last night felt like an SNL of yore and yesteryear. Even though Tina's sensibilities haven't changed, the climate in the cast has. There is only one female repertory player, Kristen Wiig, and her comedy is a much more gender-neutral kind of zany. The three female featured players haven't really put together an identity for themselves on the show, and a man, Seth Meyers, is head writer, and the only seat on the Update Desk. Watching Tina Fey sit amongst this cast just made me miss Poehler, Rudolph, and Dratch, and the opportunity to have a female-driven sketch with more than one female in it.
But, I have the Mother's Day Special to look forward to for that, with a reunion of those four ladies as well as Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer and, of course, the indomitable and hilarious Betty White. The men may as well not show up.