SNL Power Rankings: Dana Carvey’s Episode Is Party Time, Excellent

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When I first heard that Dana Carvey was going to be hosting an episode of Saturday Night Live — in the year 2011 (!!!), no less! — I immediately began concocting a list of excuses that could get me out of watching the episode. After all, in the 17 years or so since Carvey left the hallowed halls of Studio 8H, he had seemingly morphed from one of the greatest sketch performers of all-time to battling Robin Williams for the title of World’s Most Annoying Talk Show Guest™. Sadly for me, the best excuse I could come up with was “The dog ate my iPad,” an excuse I realized wouldn’t really hold water due to the fact that I don’t actually own an iPad. So somewhat begrudgingly, I flipped on the telly on Sunday morning and fired up my DVR.

As I sat down on my couch, fired up the coffee machine and popped a couple of Advil, who did I see on my screen? Why, that’s Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, quite possibly the most iconic duo in Saturday Night Live history! Even better, the two were instantly in sync and appeared as if they hadn’t missed a beat since the last time they appeared on the show way back on November 20, 1993. Much to his credit, Carvey was able to keep that momentum and spirit cruising through the entire 90 minute show, revisiting both old characters (Regis, The Church Lady, Mickey Rooney) AND launching some highly likable new ones (specifically, one half of the eighties-tastic musical duo, The Fingerlings). Call me a sucker for nostalgia if you must, but this episode was one of my favorites in a long, long time.

That is, except for the sonic abortion that was Linkin Park. As high as Kanye West set the bar earlier this year with his performances of “Power” and “Runaway,” Linkin Park’s god awful second song — I didn’t even bother looking up its name for fear that I might accidentally hear one second of it again — was among the most pretentious and terrible performances in the history of the show (and might be a close second on the Worst Musical Performances Ever list to Trashlee Simpsucks’s lip-sync fiasco). But for now, let’s not spend even ONE MILLISECOND MORE on The Band Who Shall Not Be Named and instead turn our attention to this week’s SNL Power Rankings.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE POWER RANKINGS: 2/5/11 (Host: Dana Carvey; Musical Guest: Linkin Park)

1. Kristen Wiig (35 points): After a real rocky start to the year, Wiig has been the beneficiary of some good coaching by Lorne Michaels and Seth Meyers. It’s been weeks since we’ve seen any appearances from the overworn characters that threatened to ruin her legacy (Target Lady, Gilly, Penelope), which has given Wiig room to experiment and try different things. However, her best moment this week was the return of her Kathie Lee Gifford character, where she bonded with Dana Carvey’s Regis and hilariously shunned Nasim Pedrad’s Kelly Ripa.

2. Nasim Pedrad (30 points): As this season has progressed, Pedrad has been getting more and more opportunities to shine. It’s clear that Lorne sees big things in her future (which, one would speculate, is why he retained her over Jenny Slate this summer), but he doesn’t want to rush her into the spotlight when she’s not quite ready for it. This week was the biggest workload of her short career and she definitely made the most of it. Her Kim Kardashian impression is quickly becoming one of the show’s signature characters.

3. Abby Elliott (24 points): Ugh! For the second time this season, Lorne gave Elliott the freedom to perform in a short film as a way to show off her talents. A few weeks back, it was “Meryl Streep On Ice.” This week, it was “Diedra Wurtz: Downsizing Expert.” Neither worked.

4. Bill Hader (19 points): There wasn’t much for Hader to do this week, but what he did, he did well. Dude’s a total pro.

5. Kenan Thompson (17 points): I don’t know who pitched or who wrote the Pageant Preview sketch. Yes, it had some moments, but I couldn’t help unfavorably comparing it to last season’s Pageant Talk sketch starring Zach Galifianakis and the dearly departed Jenny Slate. There were too many similarities — even Carvey’s accent recalled Galifianakis’s — between these two sketches and not enough differences. Some say “Too soon.”

6 (tie). Taran Killam, Andy Samberg (16 points): After racking up a goose egg last week, it was good to see Killam get back on the horse again this week. There was a moment during one of the commercial breaks where the camera cut to Killam preparing for the “Live With Regis & Kelly” sketch and he was just standing on stage, dancing on his own, Robyn style, while Lorne stood attentively nearby. It made me like him even more. I’m working on getting an animated GIF of that for you guys; should be in this space tomorrow HERE IT IS!!!

8. Fred Armisen, Vanessa Bayer (13 points): “All I can say is ‘EMBRACE ME’!” Well, that and WATCH PORTLANDIA. So yeah. Embrace Me and Watch Portlandia. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be sending a bottle of sparkling apple juice to your house; Will you get it? (PS: Put a bird on it!)

10. Paul Brittain (12 points): Much like Taran Killam’s Brad Pitt impresh earlier this year, there was just something slightly off about Paul Brittain’s James Franco impression on Weekend Update this weekend. I loved the effort and enthusiasm he put into developing the bit, but there was just something a little bit off about how it played in front of the live studio audience. Now, I’m not saying he should abandon the character entirely, but it could definitely use some work before we see him again.

11. Bobby Moynihan (11 points): Bring back Mark Payne! (Echo?)

12 (tie). Jay Pharoah, Jason Sudeikis (5 points): Jay Pharoah is a rookie performer who is still learning the ropes, which explains why he’s usually at or near the bottom of this list each week. What’s your excuse, Jason Sudeikis?

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE POWER RANKINGS: SEASON 36 TOTALS
1. Bill Hader (443 points; Last Week: #1)
2. Kristin Wiig (428 points; Last Week: #2)
3. Fred Armisen (379 points; Last Week: #3)
4. Andy Samberg (365 points; Last Week: #4)
5. ⇑ Kenan Thompson (334 points; Last Week: #6)
6. ⇓ Jason Sudeikis (315 points; Last Week: #5)
7. Bobby Moynihan (269 points; Last Week: #7)
8. Nasim Pedrad (268 points; Last Week: #8)
9. Vanessa Bayer (221 points; Last Week: #9)
10. ⇑ Abby Elliott (221 points; Last Week: #11)
11. ⇓ Taran Killam (191 points; Last Week: #10)
12. Paul Brittain (171 points; Last Week: #12)
13. Jay Pharoah (141 points; Last Week: #13)

Reference Materials:
Need a refresher on the Scoring System?

Here’s this week’s sketch-by-sketch breakdown:

Also, did you know that we’re showing classic episodes of SNL every night on VH1? It’s true!