After a disastrous show with January Jones last week, "SNL" has to turn it around right? With next week off you'd hope the writer's would save too many of their better bits. Surprise, surprise the show wasn't that bad tonight (OK, in comparison to previous years or even last year's stellar season), but that's mostly because of the energy of host Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the triumphant return of Andy Samberg and Keenan Thompson. You were missed gents. Glad to have you back.
Opening - C-Span Press Conference
We find President Obama (Fred Armisen) and the Chinese Prime Minister (Will Forte) in the middle of a press conference. After beginning to lecture his host country on human rights, the Prime Minister starts to eat away at Obama by bringing up that $800 billion they loaned us. He brings up everything from all the money we are spending in the bailout without creating any new jobs, cash for clunkers ("You're not gonna pay us back in clunkers are you?") and whether health care can really save people.
Bizarrely he asks, "Will you kiss me? I like to be kissed when someone is doing sex to me!"
He then walks close to Obama and bends over and, well, you get the idea.
Obama, "There is no need for that."
This goes on for quite a bit with the Chinese PM bending over at least three times for the same point.
Grade: C+. Great idea, but boy was it long and really not as funny as it should have been. Perhaps it hit too close to home? And anyone notice someone at "SNL" really has it out for Obama? It's becoming a continuing theme.
Monologue - Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Levitt says it's great to be back on TV since he started out on television. Shows a photo of him way back when on "3rd Rock on the Sun." He then brings up "500 Days of Summer" where one of his favorite parts was the dance number. He had so much fun that when he found out he was hosting "SNL" he thought , "Why not open with a big number?"
He then begins a solo song and dance number to "Make 'Em Laugh," from "Singing In the Rain" which finds him doing flips off walls and without. Oh, and he gets into some funny slapstick with Bobby Moynihan. It's an energetic and impressive performance all around.
Grade: B+ Who knew Levitt would be so good at Choreography or could sing? Bonus points for going all out.
An SNL Movie Trailer - Recut
Imagery from "2012" appears with title cards such as "We Were Warned This Day Would Come." The twist? Cut to: "Breaking News: President Elect - Sarah Palin." Yep, it's a joke that Sarah Palin is the equivalent to the apocalypse in 2012 and guess who her VP is? Glenn Beck (yep, that obvious).
Funniest and cheapest bit? The Buddhist monk is re-interpreted to say, "But she's unqualified."
Grade: C. First off totally dated. Recuts of "2012" were hilarious on YouTube...this past summer. Second, who is this trying to mock? Democrats? Palin? Republicans? What's up with "SNL's" political voice tonight?
"SNL's" safe card, a game show skit. This time it's a Game Show Network show re-run from the 60s, "Secret Word." In this "Password" rip off, your celebrity guests are South American singing sensation Ricardo Consoles (Levitt) and Broadway star Mindy Grayson (Kristin Wiig). The comedy bit is that Mindy actually says the secret word whenever she's trying to play the game with her partner. "It's the actress. I just say what's in front of me. Just like I did when I starred in the hit show 'Juicy Boots' in 1961." Or, "Just like when I played a deaf saloon girl who desperately wanted to sing jazz in 'D is for desperate.'" Wiig is actually pretty funny here, Levitt's character? Not so much.
Grade: B-. Ends awkwardly, but one of Wiig's least grating characters in eons.
A SNL Digital short. - "Reba"
Word's cannot describe this hilarious sketch where Andy Samberg thinks he's dating and singing a song with Reba McEntire, but it's actually just Keenan Thompson in a red wig. Let's just say the words "nuts" and "penis" somehow work its way into the video. Might be up there with "I'm On A Boat" and hands down the best of the season so far.
Grade: A. Hilarious.
The Mellow Show with Jack Johnson
Wait, can we actually have two good skits in a row? This must be a dream right? In "The Mellow Show" Andy Samberg appears as singer Jack Johnson who with his buddy Dave Matthews (Bill Hader) sings songs and utters random phrases like "ultimate frisbee" and "cargo shorts." Hader does a pretty good Matthews impression and sing a song called "Chicken Panini."
Joseph - Levitt shows up doing a great impression of Jason Mraz and even does a mean version of his singing.
The last guest? Dave Matthews appears as Ozzy Osborne. Hader -- as Matthews -- acts fearful of the rock legend. Osborne says, "What doesn't scare Dave Matthews. His stupid face and his stupid feet and his voice makes me want to throw up in my hands."
Grade: B. Not a home run, but funny and this bit could turn into something in the future.
What Up With That
Three good skits in a row? No way! It's Keenan Thompson's genius "What Up With That." If you don't know the drill, Thompson is Deandre Cole the host of a BET talk show and every time his guests try to talk he ends up repeating what they are saying and turning it back into lyrics for "What Up With That."
Tonight's highlights? Real guests Al Gore, "The Office's" Mindy Kaling and back for a seconds stint, Bill Hader as Lindsay Buckingham (who still doesn't get a word in). Plus, a gospel choir and Gordon-Levitt as a weird 80's musician. And Gore is pretty funny when Cole keeps interrupting him.
Grade: A- .Someone please give Thompson an Emmy for this. Please. I just can't get enough of What Up With That.
Dave Matthews Band
I am abstaining on these performances tonight. People love their DMB, but I've never gotten the appeal.
Let's see...who and what can Seth make fun of this week?
- Another Sarah Palin joke not worth remembering.
- President Obama will conduct the annual tradition of pardoning the white house turkey this Wednesday! "That's great," said Joe Biden, "I didn't know i did anything wrong!"
- A new report says light smokers on the rise. You may know these people as liars.
As it's Green Week on NBC, Al Gore is back and guess what? He thinks it's time for him to "start acting crazy" to get the government to pay attention to the environment. Gore says, "Seth, I think it's crazy that our politicians aren't more worried about the climate crisis. I'm going to out crazy the crazy."
Meyers convinces Gore that isn't the best idea, but the former Vice President (who says he only follows the popular vote by the way -- get it?) says if that doesn't work he's taping toy guns to trees."
A couple more jokes and that's it. Really, really short Weekend Update. Perhaps the shortest ever?
Grade: B -. Gore's bit was funny, but Meyers schtick is wearing out its welcome.
Angry Thanksgiving Dinner
Um, not really sure how to recap this one. Five of the cast members sit at Thanksgiving dinner and seem incredibly mad and frustrated by one another. Everytime it dissolves into anarchy Judith (Wiig) stands up and throws her napkin around and her family yells, "Sit down Judith! Sit down!" It ends with them finding peace singing Wilson Phillips "Hold On" together before falling into disagreement once again.
Uh, who thought this was funny?
Grade: D. More like an improvisational acting exercise than a comedy skit.
Woman to Woman
Female counselor and talk show host Dr. Reese is out sick, but her producer Roger Brush (Armisen) is gonna try and cover for her. Instead, he ends up scaring and insulting all the women who try and ask sensitive questions by continually saying, " can't hear a word you are saying" every time they bring up a distinctively female problem.
Grade: C-. A good idea, but something got lost. Again, not as funny as it should have been.
TBS Sunday Night Movie 'Say Anything'
Gordon-Levitt stands outside Ione Sky's window as John Cusack character in a classic scene from Cameron Crowe's "Say Anything. Jason Sudeikis(sigh) keeps popping into frame as an annoying neighbor and bugging Levitt as he hold a boom box to convince Sky he loves her. Need we say more?
Grade: C. Too much Sudeikis means increasingly little comedy.
Overall: It was great to see Andy Samberg and Keenan Thompson back in the fold. The show sorely missed them last week. Moreover, there was a lot more balance. Sudeikis is becoming as annoying as Wiig, but at least he didn't dominate tonight. Sadly, as energetic as Gordon-Levitt was, he's not the comedic talent the show needs in its hosts these days. And something suggests Blake Lively won't fit that bill either. Still, an improvement.
Next up: Blake Lively and none other than Rihanna.
What did you think of this weekend's "Saturday Night Live"? Share your thoughts below.