After taking two weeks off following the disastrous January Jones and disappointing Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosted shows in mid-November, it was a relief that the "SNL" crew came back with a much better effort.  "Gossip Girl's" Blake Lively made her debut as a host and in what might be a surprise to some, showed some great comedic skills.  For many, the show was just a pit stop before "New Moon's" Taylor Lautner hosts next week, but there was a bunch that really worked tonight. And, as always, a good chuck that didn't.

The Salahis Just Can't Stay Away

Obama (Fred Armisen) appears at a Pennsylvania event while the infamous Salahis (Bobby Moynihan, Kristen Wiig) show up behind him, crashing the event.  Taking photos, posing, while Obama has no idea.  Best moment is when the secret service agent asks them what they are doing and they shoo him away like "It's all good" and he believes them.  Then, a second agent appears behind him and they all start taking photos of each other.  Meanwhile, of course, Obama has no idea what's going on. Finally, an agent comes on board to take them all off.  One beat later, they return with fake mustaches.  The agents come back AGAIN ready to carry them away, only to have Joe Biden (Jason Sudeikis) come on and just OK the whole thing.  And yes, they start taking photos again.  

The punch line?  The Salahis, Biden and the agents ask Obama to stop during his speech and take a group photo.  He complies as though it's no big deal and then returns to his speech.  Oh, wait, he got it wrong.  Can they try that again? And, the nice guy Obama is, he takes it one more time.  Cue "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night..."

Grade: B -.  Great idea, but went on way too long.  Love that "SNL" is non-partisan (remember that Fox News) but do we seriously need to see them mock Obama every single show?  Really?

Monologue - Blake Lively

The California-raised Blake Lively appears in a very pretty dress championing the joys of Christmas in New York CIty.  She discusses the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting party she'd gone to earlier in the week where she met of all guests the Muppets! Lively admits, "Fozzie and Gonzo sent me a lot of inappropriate texts last night."

All of a sudden, Andy Samberg shows up as the Muppets' Swedish Chef.  "Yes, I got your text," Lively tells the incomprehensible puppet.  "I got the photo too. Took me a moment to figure out what it was."  

After she lets him tell a joke, a whole bunch of the Muppets show up including Gonzo (Moynihan), Fozzi Bear (Sudeikis) and Beaker (Wiig). After some back an forth banter, the Muppets convince Lively to let them sing a Christmas song as the fake snow falls on them.  Awwwww...

Grade: B.  Having the "fake" Muppets be a part of her monologue was a bit random, but sort of fun too.


Swine Fever Commercial

The whole cast stars in an awkward 2002 commercial for Carter N'Sons pork restaurant that uses the tagline: "I got Swine Fever!"  Scattered through out are legal disclaimers saying the old ad has nothing to do with the Swine Flu or H1N1, they just didn't have any money to make a new ad.  

Grade: C -. Funny for half a second, this must have sounded much better on paper.

ESPN Classic: Vagisil Superstars of Bowling Tournament 1989


This hilarious bit found Pete Twinkle (Sudeikis) and Greg Stink (Will Forte) as two 80s era sports announcers having to broadcast a woman's bowling mach between Donna Saint Louis (Wiig), and Michelle "The Jackhammer" Raybourne-Greene (Lively).  The bit really has little two do with the ladies, but the banter between the sportscasters.

Some highlights:

Pete: "When you get a surprise between your thighs. Vagisil!"
Pete: "Tell me Greg, how does a lady bowler get to this point?"
Greg: "If they don't bathe enough, if they wear the same bowling pants over and over again. Genetics."  
Pete: "No, no, Greg, that's my fault. I'm not asking about why someone uses Vagisil, but how does someone become a professional bowler?"
Greg: "No idea. Probably a long process."

Greg: "Vagisil. When dryness lingers, get some cream on those fingers!"

Pete: "It's a strike for Donna!  How about that Greg?"
Greg: "She's got to be careful here. Two more strikes and she's out of there."
Pete: "Hold on there Greg, I think you're thinking of baseball."
Greg: "'You're absolutely right. I do not know this game. It's an absolute mystery."

Pete: "Vagisil. I scream, you scream, we all scream for Vagina cream! Vagisil."

Greg: "What was that?"
Pete: "That was a  ball Greg."
Pete: "How does she get out of this mess?"
Greg: "I thought it was a bird."
Pete: "What are you watching buddy?"
Greg: "I dunno."
Pete: "Well buddy, how does she get out of this mess?"
Greg: "Well, I think the instructions are on the back of the tube."

Grade: B+.  Didn't have much to do with the ladies, but some great moments between Sudeikis and Forte.

The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer
- Tiger Woods

Wolf Blitzer (Sudeikis) appears to announce that big developments are going on in the Tiger Woods drama!  

Blitzer: "Now, finally, Woods addresses the media outside his home.

Keenan Thompson appears as Tiger Woods and Lively as his wife Elin.
Woods: "I will try to be the father and husband you all expect me to be."
Elin: "Ya, you will."
Woods: "For all of you who have followed me over the years, I give my apologies for these multiple transgressions."
Elin:  "Multiple? So it happened more than once?"
Woods: "Did I say multiple? Because..."

Breaking News
Blitzer: "This just in, Tiger Woods is back in the hospital. Apparatenly hours after a press conference. He had an accident where he threw himself down the stairs and throw himself through a plate glass window."
Woods: "I've been very clumsy this week."
Woods: "I am so glad to have her, there is no other woman for me."
[Cellphone rings]
Elin: "Who's that?"
Woods: "Uh, what?"

And so on, and so on...

Grade: B-.  Mostly funny for Sudeikis' Blitzer. Would love to see him bring that impression back.

An SNL Digital Short

We might have a topper to last month's amazing "Reba" short.  Rihanna appears with Andy Samberg's character Shy Ronnie to sing a song in front of his class.


Rihanna sings: "Eh, yeah, yeah. Rihanna. Shy Ronnie. We are like Fire and ice taking over the whole world. From the mountain tops down to the boys and girls. And the tree of knowledge it grows because we plant the seeds.  We the teachers of this and we got just what you need. Shy Ronnie..."
[Shy Ronnie mumbles]
Rihanna: "Speak up.  Shy Ronnie, speak up."
[Still mumbles]
Rihanna: "OK, I'll take it from here. WWe are like Fire and ice taking over the whole world. From the mountain tops down to the boys and girls. Hit 'em Shy Ronnie!"
[Still mumbles, makes a mic feedback noise.]
Rihanna: "No. Move the mic away from your face. C'mon, this beat cost a lot of money. Oh, no. Oh, no. He pissed himself. He pissed himself. Oh, boy. Should just payed Kanye. Bye Shy Ronnie. Bye Bye."
[She leaves and then Shy Ronnie sings out.]
Rihanna: I'm back, forgot my purse. Bye, bye again."

Grade: A. Wow, that's even better than anything on her current album ("Russian Roulette" aside) and Rihanna's got some comedic chops too!


Gossip Girl Staten Island

Yes, it's your bridge and tunnel version of "Gossip Girl."
Lively is pretty good in this getting in a cat fight with either Abby Elliott or Jenny Slate (can anyone even tell?), but the best moment is Hader and either Elliott/Slate having a romantic moment where he promises to take her to the Rainforest Cafe (well, I found it funny at least).

Grade: B. Pretty funny, sort of runs out of steam though.

The 10th Annual Kinkspit Underground Rock Festival.

Sudeikis and Slate/Elliott (again, who knows?) appear to hype up the nastiest underground rock festival in the world.  What to know what's there?  Here are some highlights of their massive hype!

"Your Ears Will Bleed."
This is the best underground festival ever.  No water bottles, no protection from the sun and absolutely no porta-johns."
"We didn't sell out and get you a bunch of porta-johns."
"You want bathrooms? We got bathrooms. They are called your pants."
"So many fun events and you know you have to get in the worst He-Man impression contest!"
"If that's not enough for you Nina's we got a mad list of special guests like Mark Fuhrman from the OJ trial, the Mac guy Justin Long, Turtle from 'Entourage,' Miss Screw Magazine 1997 and NBA All Star Dirk Nowitzki shoots a BB gun at you in field."
"And there's more! Like a full screening of 'The Facts of Life Season 3.'"
"And you know we got Mimes running all around this bitch!"
"And here's the best part, everybody gets pitchforks!"

Grade: B+.  It's actually funnier watching it the second time.

Rihanna - "Russian Roulette"
Sitting in a white chair with a red chain metal headdress, the pop superstar sings arguably her best track on her brand new album.

Grade: B+.  Rihanna still isn't great at singing ballads live, but this is 10 times better than her performance on "The Late Show with David Letterman" which was close to an embarrassment.

Weekend Update with Seth Meyers

Some joke highlights:
- The Salahis say the ensuing media firestorm has destroyed everything they have worked for. Then they remembered, they have never worked for anything.
- First national Tea Party convention in February. Expected to be the nations largest gathering of misspelled signs.
- Last Friday Tiger hit a tree and women fell out.
- The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was lit this week. The occasion was marred when Aretha Franklin was caught in a Bear's mouth (Have to see the picture, but a pretty good one).

Bill Cosby (Thompson) then appears to talk about his new hip-hop album.  Thompson has done a killer Cosby, but this bit doesn't seem that thought out and pretty quickly thrown together.  Back to Seth...

- In celebration of World Aids Day, it's time for the annual airing of "Your Test Came Back Positive Charlie Brown."
(An AIDS joke Seth? Seriously?)

The night's second guest shows up, either Elliott/Slate as Brittany Murphy. The always loopy Murphy tells Meyers she's there to host "SNL."  He reminds her she isn't and in fact just got fired from shooting a movie in NY.  Murphy then gives a rambling and bizarre plan to scuttle the film by going into a theater and yelling "Boo!"  It's a bit odd and it's not that good an impression either.

Grade: C+.  It's a rare segment when Myers is funnier than the "guests," but this was one of them.  Unfortunately, the AIDS joke sort of soured the proceedings as well.

Back It Up Momma is Back

Thompson's "I can back it up" ghetto Momma is back and instead of Scarlett Johansson, this time she's got Lively as her new step-daughter.  Doesn't matter as Lively's version is just as white trash as Johansson's. This skit finds Momma trying to seduce a salesperson (Forte) to nab a crystal lined skirt for her daughter.

Grade: C+. Keenan's ghetto trash Momma is a very funny character, but this was one of her weaker appearances. Lively showed definite comedic range here though.  Who knew?

UPS Commercial #1

Bill Hader appears as the now iconic (?) UPS guy who stands in front of a white board explaining the appeal of the shipping company.

Hader: "Let's talk about facts. Do you know with UPS you can ship your presents anywhere around the world? It's true.
Do you know that UPS ads feature  a man in a lady wig?
And They can air up in 8 times in a football game?
So much so that you almost get used to it and start to enjoy it? We'll that's true.  Because this year, UPS' gift to the world is me.  A man in a lady wig. You're welcome."

Grade: C+.  Felt like a big in joke for the "SNL" writers.  Sort of funny to everyone else.


MSNBC Late Night with Chris Hansen

Hader returns as the MSNBC investigative reporter Chris Hansen who always seems to have his interview subjects arrested.  What happens when he interviews celebrities on a talk show?  

The Guests: Philip Seymour Hoffman (an impressive Sudeikis), Keanu Reeves (a spot on Samberg) and Cher (who knows).

Long story short Hansen bizarrely interrogates the celebs and when they try to run off the set they get tackled (and supposedly arrested).  

Grade: B-.  Great idea, felt a tad half baked as though they are looking to make Hader's Hansen a regular, but just can't figure out the proper regular vehicle.

UPS Commercial #2

Hader is back as the man in the lady wig an he's got a new rule: everyone wears a lady wig.

Grade: C.  Uh, this bit really didn't need to be repeated.

Rihanna, "Hard"
Costume change, no chair and she seems more comfortable with the uptempo track. Gotta love the cutoff jeans and feathered shouldered jacket.  Young Jeezy shows up just in time for his portion of the song.

Grade: B-.  Still not a fan of the song, but she makes it more engaging live that's for sure.  Great to see her smile too. One aspect that's been missing from her return so far.

Potato Chip Thief

The scenario: Sudeikis is an old southern gentleman who wants to join NASA. He's told not to eat any of the administrator's potato chips, but does so anyway when the official (Forte) steps out of the office.
The bit: Forte and Lively screaming at Sudeikis about how you do not steal potato chips.
The payoff:  Sudeikis spits the chip in Forte's hand

Grade: C+.  This is probably a really great bit to watch when you're high or wasted in an Improv club.  It also felt like a skit "The Kids in the Hall" would have nailed almost 20 years ago.


So, perhaps it was low expectations after January Jones' stint, but this show seemed pleasant enough considering.  In one live comedy show, Lively displays more range than any of her male "Gossip Girl" co-stars and should be invited back when she's got even more credits under her belt.  More impressive were the Rihanna/Shy Ronnie digital short and the bowling sportscasters sketch. Those are two bits that could wind up in the best of the season show.

Next Week: The one and only Taylor Lautner (oh, and with Samberg around you can expect a massive "New Moon" parody) and musical guest Bon Jovi (who could all theoretically be Lautner's dad.)

What did you think of this week's "SNL"? Share your thoughts below.