TV

Phoebe Waller-Bridge Brings Her Brand of Psychopathic Raunch to "SNL"

The "Fleabag" writer shines brightest (in her usual vulgar way) in her opening monologue.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge has had a successful past few years, to say the least.

The Emmy-winning writer of Fleabag and Killing Eve brought her brand of unfiltered brashness to the SNL screen this Saturday in an episode that felt like a victory lap. Still, while worth watching for any Waller-Bridge fans, the show wasn't quite able to live up to the level of comedic brilliance we've come to expect from her.

The best part was probably Waller-Bridge's opening monologue, in which she stated that everything she writes has a "grain of truth" to it, discussed genit*lia for several minutes, and definitively explained why Fleabag's "Hot Priest" is so hot: It's because he actually listens. She discussed psychopathy, which is brought to the fore on Killing Eve, and theorized that she herself might even be a psychopath (or at least, everyone she knows is). She closed with some killer lines like, "Back then horny women were to be burned at the stake. Now they're given Emmys!"

Phoebe Waller-Bridge Monologue - SNL www.youtube.com

Unfortunately, the rest of the show took a slightly downward turn following that monologue. While it might be a bit harsh to call SNL an "aging, decrepit beast that should've been put out of its misery seasons ago," as Vice did in its review of this episode, several of this show's sketches faltered dangerously. Last week's debut episode was promising with its clever depiction of the Democratic presidential candidates, but then again, those jokes kind of write themselves.

At least this episode, despite no shortage of lackluster jokes, we got to see Phoebe Waller-Bridge use many different accents and play a couple of memorable roles, including a psychopathic war wife who gallivants around with Hitler in the sketch "Words of the War." That sketch was possibly one of the episode's best, mostly thanks to Waller-Bridge's excellent deadpan and the scene's escalating absurdity. Weekend Update was also a highlight, featuring Kate McKinnon's lovably aggressive Elizabeth Warren, a well-placed Pete Davidson joke, and a flamboyant Chen Biao, played by freshman cast member Bowen Yang. "Mid-Day News" was also excellent, bringing racial politics and stereotypes to the fore as South Floridian news anchors try to determine whether the criminals they're reporting on are black or white.

Weekend Update: Chen Biao on US-China Trade War - SNL www.youtube.com


Mid-Day News - SNL www.youtube.com

On the other hand, the odd sketch "Royal Romance" made fun of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry but never quite hit its stride, and its jokes pushed the boundaries between satire and racism. Then there was the painful "Kaylee, Crystal, and Janetta," a sketch which featured four women at a bar. Perhaps meant to be a subversion of the super-feminine, stereotypical Sex and the City type of girl gang, characters portrayed are loud, tattooed, mullet-wearing, totally unfeminine, and frequently violent women. But that sketch doesn't seem to do many favors for any of them, instead asking the audience to laugh off a sequence where they each attack an ex-lover, refusing the kind of self-aware nuance that makes Fleabag such a standout example of how to write a "difficult woman" character.

Kaylee, Crystal & Janetta - SNL www.youtube.com

It's hard to say exactly why SNL has struggled so much over the past few years. Comedy writing is incredibly hard, but with all the absurdity in the modern era, we need excellent satire now more than ever to put it all into perspective. Still, the show could benefit from more diverse perspectives, more boundary-pushing and nuanced comedy, and stronger characters—the latter of which, specifically, Waller-Bridge is so good at creating. One has to wonder what would've happened had Waller-Bridge been able to write a few sketches herself.

Music Lists

Happy Birthday, Elliott Smith: The Indie Rock Legend's 10 Best Songs

The singer-songwriter would have been 51 today.

JJ Gonson

Today, August 6, 2020, Elliott Smith would have turned 51 years old.

Smith was born in Omaha, Nebraska, raised in north Texas, and spent a good portion of his life in Portland, Oregon before settling in Los Angeles. Before his sudden and mysterious death in 2003, the prolific singer-songwriter released five studio albums of poignant, rootsy indie rock, with his sixth studio album and a compilation of rarities being released posthumously. He became known for his dismal lyrics—often referencing his mental health and substance abuse habits—and his distinctively whispery vocals, which he often double-tracked to create an eerie, textured ambiance.

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TV

"Game of Thrones" Win Proves an Emmy Is Worthless in 2019

Industry awards are all about industry politics.

Emmy Awards

I didn't watch the 2019 Emmy Awards.

It's not because I had more important things to do. I was home Sunday evening eating a cold pork bun and playing a mobile game while half-watching Great British Bake Off. If anything, watching the Emmys probably should have been my priority as an entertainment writer. But here's the thing: I just don't care anymore.

Hollywood award shows are meaningless. When you see a TV show tout their "Emmy Award-winning" status, all that really says is that they pulled off the best promotional campaign. The real secret is that industry awards are all about industry politics, and if the winner also happens to be great, well that's incidental. Case in point: Game of Thrones won the coveted "Best Drama" Emmy for what might have been the most bungled final season of any major television show in history.

Game of Thrones Emmys Emmy Awards

If the worst season of Game of Thrones can win the Emmy for "Best Drama," that means one of two things.

The first would be that Game of Thrones season 8 was genuinely the best season of any drama series, in which case, what a sad day for television. But I don't think that's true. The most recent seasons of both Better Call Saul and Killing Eve received far better critical and fan reception than Game of Thrones.

The second possibility is that HBO spent a massive amount of money on promoting their Emmy campaign because, oh, I don't know, maybe they have a financial interest in counteracting the overwhelmingly negative reception to the show's final season. The funniest Emmy-related article I read this morning was this one, about how people who hadn't finished Game of Thrones yet were mad that the Emmys spoiled the Night King's death. These poor people don't realize that the real spoiler is David Benioff and D.B. Weiss's writing abilities. But don't worry, they still got awarded for their terrible job.

Game Of Thrones Wins Best Drama Series | EMMYS LIVE! 2019 www.youtube.com

To be clear, plenty of Emmy Award winners are overwhelmingly talented and deserving. Fleabag swept the comedy categories this year and absolute earned every trophy it won. But for an industry award show to matter to me, at least in my capacity as a viewer, I want to feel like a show's quality isn't incidental to its victory, and for that to be the case, winners would need to display a certain level of quality across the board. Unfortunately, Hollywood, like any other industry, is all about money, which means art often takes a backseat to profit. So next time you plan to watch an "Emmy Award-winning" show, please understand that the bar is practically on the floor.