SBD/January 9, 2012/People and Pop Culture

Charles In Charge: Barkley Draws Mixed Reviews For His Latest "SNL" Hosting Job

For the "Inside the NBA" skit, Barkley played O'Neal, while Thompson played Barkley
TNT’s CHARLES BARKLEY “didn’t exactly bring his A-game” when he appeared in a “forgettable episode” of NBC’s “SNL" this weekend, according to Aly Semigran of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. The episode featured a spoof of TNT's "Inside the NBA," and "what should have been a slam dunk was a missed shot.” Viewers also had to “endure the painful Barkley-in-drag sketch.” Semigran: “There’s no excuse for the awkward and unfunny mess of having Barkley play a woman who has come out of the closet, much to the surprise of her friends and boyfriend.” He “redeemed himself in the Charles Barkley Post-Game Translator app sketch that followed.” Semigran wrote, “I happen to like Barkley, but to quote Sir Charles himself this episode was pretty darn turrible. His acting, as well as the writing fell flatter than a deflated basketball” (EW.com, 1/8). ZAP2IT.com’s David Eckstein wrote “outside a few good sketches, it was a series of lost opportunities.” Among the good features of Barkley hosting the show was the monologue, which “Barkley killed while making reference to his gambling problems, weight problems and all his other foibles.” Eckstein also liked the "Inside the NBA" segment where Barkley played new co-host SHAQUILLE O'NEAL while KEENAN THOMPSON played Barkley. They “hit the nail on the head for the show's propensity for never actually talking about basketball.” In addition, Eckstein also liked the Translator App sketch. Eckstein: “Perfect. Sports personalities speak gibberish and this tool makes sense of all of it.” But Eckstein wrote the segment with Barkley in drag was “bad” and asked, “Is this the best they could come up with?” (ZAP2IT.com, 1/8).

THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER: Barkley opened the show with the traditional host monologue. He said, “This is my third trip hosting ‘Saturday Night Live.’ I bet none of y’all thought I’d do it three times. But that’s okay, I did. I bet SCOTTIE PIPPEN and now he owes me $75,000. ... Some of y'all might be looking up and saying, ‘Sir Charles is less gigantic.’ Thank you very much. As you might have heard I teamed up with Weight Watchers. I’ve lost 38 pounds … or as I like to think of it, one MUGGSY BOGUES. … Some of you might be saying, “Charles, isn’t Weight Watchers for ladies?’ But I tell them, ‘Shut up, MICHAEL JORDAN!’ Oh, and congrats on your engagement. That’s gonna go great, Mike." The first skit featuring Barkley was the "Inside The NBA” spoof, which revolved around the idea the co-hosts are constantly joking and goofing around. ERNIE JOHNSON, who was played by BILL HADER, said, “Settle down, you promised me this year you’d cool it with the hijinks and pranks and focus on basketball.” At that point, "Barkley" threw a piece of bologna at O’Neal. After announcing the Grizzles score, "Barkley" said he and former NBAer KARL MALONE were in Memphis and “we dared HAKEEM OLAJUWON to fight an alligator to the death and I lost 50 grand betting on the alligator.” O’Neal added, “Memphis is a good one. One time I was there I ate ribs.” "Barkley" said, “That’s it!? Shaq, that story was terrible. The only thing worse than that story is your neck beard. ... Shaq, what is going on with your stories? You are the most boring person I’ve ever met, and I know Ernie.” JAY PHAROAH played KENNY SMITH in the skit.

Barkley introduces fictional "Post-Game
Translator App" during "SNL" skit

OTHER SHOW HIGHLIGHTS: Barkley introduced the “Charles Barkley Post-Game Translator App” and said it was necessary because “so many post-game interviews are full of nonsense and they’re just boring.” The app will “help you cut through the BS.” A clip of Patriots coach BILL BELICHICK was aired saying, “Start fast finish strong. We’ve done some of both, some of neither.” Barkley’s translation, “I got three Super Bowl rings. You guys don’t know anything about football, but I got to talk to you.” The clip of Lakers G KOBE BRYANT saying, “I wanted to come out and play hard.” Barkley translated that as, “Listen, I’m gonna shoot it. If you pass it to me, I’m gonna shoot it. I ain’t passing that ball today.” Barkley also was the host of the show “White People Problems,” appeared as a regular guy watching sports with his friends with the flamboyant British “Lord Windemere,” a porn star called “Dong Corleone” aka “The Dongfather” who passed away, a soul singer named “Marvin ‘Gay’ Jackson” and a Mayan chief talking about the Mayan calendar which says the world will end December 21, 2012 ("SNL," NBC, 1/6).

MORE REVIEWS: The N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE’s Tara Ariano wrote the episode “did have a few great moments Barkley can be proud of.” Thompson “has been doing an impression of Barkley for several years, so having the real Barkley on the show gave producers a chance to put Thompson as Barkley” opposite Barkley playing O’Neal. The result is “hilarious even to someone who’s never watched a second of TV basketball analysis” (NYMAG.com, 1/8). CBSSPORTS.com’s Will Brinson wrote “most of the skits, predictably, were hits but a couple were misses.” One of the hits was the Translator App, which was a “mock advertisement for an iPhone app that lets Barkley break down what coaches and players are saying after games” (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/8). THEATLANTIC.com’s Sage Stossel wrote Barkley was “versatile and funny, if sometimes a bit stiff” (THEATLANTIC.com, 1/8). FoxSports.com’s Nancy Gay on her Twitter account wrote, “Charles Barkley is hilarious on SNL -- the translator app rules!” ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi wrote, “Just went to the App store.. On a waiting list for the Charles Barkley App.” Deadspin’s Timothy Burke wrote, “Kenan Thompson has the rhythm of Charles Barkley's jokes down perfectly. Can we get him on Inside the NBA as Fake Charles permanently?” The Dallas Morning News’ Evan Clark wrote, “Is it a pre-requisite that every male athlete who hosts SNL must appear in drag.”

OVERNIGHT RATINGS HIGH: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Philiana Ng reported NBC earned a 7.4 overnight Nielsen rating for Saturday's episode of "SNL," which also featured musical guest KELLY CLARKSON, "the highest mark since the episode hosted by JIM CARREY with musical guest The Black Keys" on Jan. 8, 2011. The start of the show was pushed back due to the Saints-Lions playoff game, and the overrun "may have boosted 'SNL'" as the show earned its best overnight among adults 18-49 since the May 21, 2011, season finale (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 1/8).
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