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Lindsay Lohan on 'SNL,' an appraisal

A screen shot of a promotional video of

A screen shot of a promotional video of Lindsay Lohan on "Saturday Night Live." Photo Credit: SNL

What's that the doctors say? First do no harm? Congrats, Lindsay -- no great harm done Saturday night, to your still-battered image, court-mandated parole conditions or the career you say you want back so badly.

But not much good either: An accessory player/host, as opposed to one deeply or at least memorably involved in show, she was just THERE for the most part. Was in about five or so skits, some pretty good, more mediocre. (About the right ratio for the average "SNL," by the way.)

What I mostly saw was someone who looked a bit nervous, tenuous, rusty and in no mood to usurp the pros, like Kenan Thompson, or Andy Samberg there to hold her hand.

How many lines she actually learned, too, may be a matter of debate -- you could see her eyes wandering, or fixated on cue cards, in skits like "Scared Straight," which tended to make her wooden and flat.

After the amusing "Real Housewives of Disney," her best skit -- mind you, not her best performance because they were all pretty much the same -- came at the end of the show: "Butt Call," with Kristen Wiig, who is always brilliant and nails everything she's in. But Linds? She was there just to hand Wiig the lines, like soft fat pitches across the plate that she could send over the fence. That's fine, by the way. You don't want to screw up your straight man job, either, and she did not.

The worst sketch and the one clearly aimed at Lohan's own life struggles was the second -- aforementioned "Scared Straight," about a pair of ex-cons intent on beating the crap out of a trio of punks, by telling them life behind bars would get them . . . well, best not go there even though the "SNL" writers did.

Lohan had to say a long line that referred to a few of her movies viewers still remember, closing with this: "First you're accused of hanging out with mean girls then accused of stealing a diamond necklace. . ." Groan: Can't blame Lindsay for that line, or the sketch, which was just awful.

Oddly, and really odd for "SNL," she was nowhere to be seen on "Weekend Update." Maybe there are instances when hosts don't get some sort of facetime on "Update" but I can't remember the last. I was wondering whether producers had originally concocted that Snooki-is-pregnant skit -- played last night by Bobby Moynihan, who is usually Snooks -- for Lohan. It coulda/woulda been a tour de force for her -- just the idea of watching Lohan channel Polizzi is amusing.

But not to be. (Jon Hamm by the way got face time on "Update" instead -- and he wasn't even host.)

Her best moment was the very beginning: She looked great, happy, comfortable, and strode out on stage in a pair of heels so high they coulda given her a nose bleed. "I feel lucky and grateful to be here tonight and I want to thank all of my friends who trusted me to have me back," she said.

Then, stepping off the stage, alarms go off. Of course: The ankle monitoring bracelet. Obvious gag. But not bad. Jimmy Fallon turned up as well (she had asked him): "Everyone makes mistakes," he said. "That doesn't mean you should shake them off." And just in case she didn't last night, Jon Hamm was in the audience to take her place.

Clearly this booking had a couple of goals -- different ones depending on who you asked. Lorne Michaels wanted the notoriety of having Hollywood's most famous ex-con on the show -- this is what "SNL" after all is supposed to do. Make news. Get people to pay attention as much as laugh.

But you also had to wonder (again, I did) whether he knew what he was getting himself into. Lohan clearly couldn't do certain sketches or jokes, and she had said as much in interviews last week; there's the matter of her ongoing legal troubles, which meant that any jokes which cut too sharply probably had to be dropped. This wasn't a host after all like Melissa McCarthy or Zooey Deschanel -- recent successes both who have hit shows on the air and aren't fulfilling the conditions of their recent sentence by working in a morgue.

Lohan, meanwhile, wanted to prove that she could do this -- "this" meaning be responsible, show up to rehearsals, and be a functioning adult. In a sense it was her own personal casting call for her own life. Did she pass?

Did she, um, get the part? Because the bar was set so set so low, yes. If this is the beginning of her comeback, it's good to remember that it is only the beginning. She should still be thrilled, even if "SNL" fans likely weren't.

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