SNL returns with 39th season

“Saturday Night Live’s” 39th season started last tonight with a focus on introducing its six new cast members.

Host Tina Fey returned to the stage, inducting her protégés to the art of embarrassing backup dancing.

“Is your father watching?” Fey asked. “Put more crotch in it.”

That’s not the only advice she gave. Fey preached female empowerment to new Weekend Update co-anchor Cecily Strong, who will succeed Seth Meyers once he replaces Jimmy Fallon on the “Late Night Show.”

Filling in for Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis, fresh faces Beck Bennett, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, Michael Patrick O’Brien, Noel Wells and Brooks Wheelan joined the cast, inspiring a game show segment called, “New Cast Member Or Arcade Fire?” As guest contestant, Fey would pick out the new cast member from each pairing.

She had some help, of course. Game show host Kenan Thompson welcomed SNL producer and creator Lorne Michaels for some input.

But after some careful consideration, Michaels incorrectly guessed “the black one,” referring to Thompson, who’s been a regular on SNL for the past decade.

When not parading the new talent, the season premiere referenced “Breaking Bad,” whose season finale airs on AMC tonight.

President Obama (Jay Pharoah) introduced Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in the show’s cold open, trying to use him to sell the Affordable Care Act. You know, ‘cuz selling meth for money is what people do when they don’t have health insurance.

The “Breaking Bad” actor was also featured as Drunk Uncle’s (Bobby Moynihan) Meth Nephew, his “Breaking Bad”-watching buddy.

Lastly, Paul approved a short e-meth commercial (because they’re gonna be the next big thing after the e-cig craze). As Jesse Pinkman says, “They’re blue, bitch!”

Without a doubt, the new cast will need more exposure and getting used to. While this isn’t the largest cast turnover in SNL history, it’d be hard to replace Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader — and of course, their recurring alter-egos Nicholas Fehn, the Devil and Stefon. But like Fey, who joked about her own collection of non-existent recurring roles in last night’s opening monologue, they’ll be back, right?

“Saturday Night Live” will return to NBC at 11:30 p.m. EST on Oct. 5 with host and musical guest Miley Cyrus.  


‘Noah’: TIFF short film captures life of modern Millennial

First, it was the grunts and cave paintings. Then, it was the letters and newspapers. Somewhere along the way came the telegrams and phone calls; the radio adverts and T.V. commercials; the 140-character tweets, Facebook likes and iMessages.

It takes a short film like “Noah” to remind us how far communication has come, but our Faustian thirst for knowledge has never wavered. Written and directed by Ryerson University’s Patrick Cederberg and Walter Woodman and aired at Toronto International Film Festival’s Student Film Showcase, “Noah” is the modern story — visually told through a MacBook Pro laptop screen and an iPhone.

While the format of this 17.5-minute film seems progressive, it’s the one we live in.

Like many of us millennials, high school senior Noah Lennox (Sam Kantor) grew up in a world where Facebook stalking was the norm. When a random guy comments on all of his girlfriend Amy’s (Caitlin McConkey-Pirie) Facebook photos, he suspects she might be cheating on him. So what does Noah do? He logs into Amy’s Facebook account to snoop.

This mundane scenario’s not so different from what certain members of the NSA are doing, showing us how easy it is to creep. Think about all the information you readily share on your social media profiles everyday.

But spying — like sampling poisoned fruit from the tree of knowledge — rips you from paradise.

Surveying 82 people over a fortnight, University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross’ new study found that increased viewing of Facebook makes you unhappier. For Noah, insecurity and paranoia manifested from his Facebook use, ruining his relationship with his girlfriend.

Noah and Amy’s relationship is neither the first nor last casualty in the Internet age. Cyberbullying played a role in the tragic deaths of Rebecca Ann Sedwick, Tyler Clementi and Megan Meier.

Sadly, their stories are our stories. And even if we don’t crave the taste of poisoned fruit, we’re already addicted to the Internet.

WARNING: The following video contains brief NSFW nudity.

“Noah” won Best Canadian Short Film at the 2013 TIFF. 

‘The Mindy Project’ Season 2 Episode 1: “All My Problems Solved Forever”

Remember those drunken nights when a bunch of thirty-something-year-old doctors hijack a college kegger? Or when our favorite OB-GYN, Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling), got drunk and arrested for swimming in a private pool? Well, that’s not the vibe in “The Mindy Project” 2.0.

The FOX sitcom following the episodic dating and work life of Dr. Lahiri continues, but at first glance, it looks like “The Mindy Project” got a makeover.

In the season two premiere, “All My Problems Solved Forever,” Mindy’s finally settling down with steady pastor boyfriend/fiancé, Casey (Anders Holms), whose proposal replaces those hopeless crushes, flings and one-night stands. Her charity work in Haiti takes over for her New York City job. And Dr. McDreamy — a.k.a. Paul Leotard (James Franco) — fills in her NYC office as a new OB-GYN/sex therapist.

After 24 episodes of failed flings and a parade of suitors (including cameo appearances from Bill Hader, Tommy Dewey, Josh Meyers, Seth Rogan and B.J. Novak), “The Mindy Project” 2.0 looks mature and dull.

Mindy’s wardrobe of hospital scrubs and colorful, sparkly and fun form-fitting dresses are replaced by drab sweaters. Her long, luscious hair’s chopped off into a short, but flattering Rhianna-esque boy cut.

Meanwhile, Mindy’s getting married (as opposed to ruining ex’s weddings). But happily ever afters don’t make for good T.V. (or in Taylor Swift’s case, good love songs).

The old Mindy Kaling had attitude and style. She knew who she wanted and selfishly sought after it — even when she played “The Office’s” Kelly Kapoor and chased after “male prima donna” Ryan (B.J. Novak).

In comparison, this new “improved” introduction, in which she converts to Casey’s simplistic do-gooder lifestyle, is bland.

At least James Franco knows what’s up. He’s hilariously smug and ridiculously arrogant as Dr. Leotard, consulting co-worker Dr. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) on his sperm.

“You notice they’re behavior,” Franco says. “They’re listless. They’re unhappy. They’re apathetic.”

While Franco’s talking about Danny’s sperm, he could have easily been describing the show’s audience — tired of watching season one’s re-packaged leftovers, served stale and uninviting.

Mindy Lahiri still imagines that she lives in a rom-com. And her co-worker crew of nurse Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) and doctors Reed (Ed Weeks) and Castellano still cheer her through the disappointments. But the routine is starting to get old.

In fact, the only tasty appetizer left is Kaling and Messina’s easy chemistry. Dr. Lahiri and Dr. Castellano are adorable and endearing (exchanging letters between continents like two characters out of “The Notebook”), but enough of the unrequited pining, platonic friendship and foreplay! Did it take Jim and Pam this long to get together in “The Office”? When will this relationship become the main course?

This half-hour rom-com sitcom lacks fire and heat and after a one season of failed flings, season two is starting off cold and unsatisfying.

“The Mindy Project” season two premieres at 9:30 p.m. EST/8:30 p.m. Central on Sept. 17 on FOX. Or you can catch a sneak peek on Hulu right now.