Robert DeNiro is in the house, y’all, along with Diddy-Dirty Money. Just as God always intended. Will there be more references to the “Godfather” trilogy or the “Fockers” trilogy tonight? Will Bill Hader bust out his Al Pacino impression so we can finally witness “Heat II: Electric Boogaloo”? Will tonight’s episode be on the same level of quality as “Goodfellas” or “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle”?

So many questions, I know! Only one way to answer them: via a sketch-by-sketch recap. That’s just how we do what we do round here. Onto the show, after the break...

“Cold Open”: I guess Jay Pharaoh will be President Obama when he grabs the impression from Fred Armisen’s cold, dead hands. Luckily, this isn’t an Obama sketch but one about Julian Assange, aka Mr. Wikileaks himself. “Wikileaks: TMZ” isn’t the most original way to take this scandal to the potentially unaware public, but poll “Wikileaks” versus “TMZ” and you’ll understand why they went this way. Still, pretty good as a cold open, save Hillary Clinton in that “Fatal Attraction” shot at the end. Hello, nightmares for a month! [Grade: B]

“Monologue”: So apparently, Robert DeNiro and Tom Brady go to the same barber. Yikes. I guess someone in the writer’s room thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if native NYC citizen Robert DeNiro got facts about the city incorrect and then intimidates audience members that question his knowledge?” Someone thought wrong. Very, very wrong.  [Grade: D-]

“The Abacus Conundrum”: Fun, harmless parody of those over-the-top commercials for James Patterson and other writers that seemingly put out another book every other week. Sadly, I bet a lot of literary agents will start seeing books with these titles submitted to them before 2011 is out. (That being said? I’m curious to learn what “The Pokemon Directive” is.) [Grade: B-]

“What’s Up With That?”: HitFix’s Gregory Ellwood is somewhere dancing in his seat right now as this sketch starts. Robin Williams sits in the seat normally reserved for the person that never gets to talk. Will he be physically able to restrain himself? Who cares? You have me at DANCING BOBA FETT and DANCING MOTHRA, sketch. Throw in the unwillingness of Deniro and Williams to play along, Kristen Wiig’s neverending series of wigs, and Lindsey Buckingham’s birthday adding further insult to injury, and you had a classic version of this sketch. [Grade: A]

“Mr. Produce”: Some people are good at reading the prompter on live television. Robert DeNiro is not one of those people. That made the first half of the sketch fairly rough going, although it warmed up by the end. Not enough to pass muster, though. More time was spent filling fake vegetables with ooze than actually crafting a sketch this week at 30 Rockefeller. [Grade: C-]

“Party at Mr. Bernard’s”: What would happen if “Weekend at Bernie’s” took place in the real world? Well, this Digital Short….until the end, at which point it reverted back to la-la land. Yea, you got me. No idea why any of this happened, or why they didn’t actually call it “Weekend at Bernie’s.” (Is Andrew McCarthy particularly litigious?) I actually would have preferred a series of real-life takes on movie tropes (Lloyd Dobler gets arrested for stalking, maybe?) than a single riff on a movie that’s over twenty years old. [Grade: C]

It’s Diddy-Dirty Money time, people. They’re “Coming Home,” and it sounds like someone’s jealous of the musicality and production of recent SNL guest Kanye West. (To Diddy’s credit, at least he’s not rapping over someone else’s record and calling it a day.) Also, what’s it say about Dawn Richard and Kalenna that THEY need two back-up singers to back Diddy? Just asking. Not a bad number, but nothing about it particularly stands out, either. It’s been done before, and been done with greater skill. [Grade: B-]

“Weekend Update”: I didn’t know about the Kardashian Card before this, but I’m more than happy to see Abby Elliot eviscerate Khloe Kardashian while learning about it. I also have to give props to Andy Samberg hanging upside down for that long in order to mock the “Spider-Man” musical, in that just watching him made the blood flow from my brain as he dropped knowledge about the inherent risks of Broadway. (“Do you know how many people die every year doing ‘Jersey Boys’?) Kristen Wiig’s 1982 aerobic instructor didn’t really register, though, as flexible as her legs may have been. Seth Meyers himself was solid, with his triple take on the “man marries dog” joke his strongest part. [Grade: B-]

“Little Fockers”: Bobby" Moynihan’s overly excited 13-year old movie buff seemed one note to start, but soon turned into a fairly interesting bit with DeNiro increasingly trying to impress the film-savvy kid. Plus? A shout out to “Permanent Midnight,” which might have sent the crowd to their smartphones during the commercial break to figure out the reference. Given the quality pre-“Update,” I’m pleasantly surprised at the strength of this one. [Grade: B+]

“Blizzard Man”: Diddy steps into the sketch world to produce this returning Samberg character. (After weeks of being virtually absent in the show, Samberg’s been at the center of nearly everything tonight.) Also? I can now check off Robert DeNiro saying, “A bitch gotta stay dipped” off my bucket list, so there’s that. I guess. However, aside from the sight gag of DeNiro’s J. Lo-esque booty, not much there in the way of actual funny. [Grade: C-]

“The Vinny Vedecci Show”: One of the greatest actors of the past fifty years apparently has such a limited range that he’s played himself in nearly half the sketches tonight. I might have to start drinking heavily. On the other hand, watching DeNiro kill a guy in a deer costume with a pencil was pretty amusing, and Vedecci tricking him into saying “Are you talking to me?” had a type of joy that’s been scarce tonight. [Grade: B-]

“Bosley Hair Restoration”: Ungraded due to this commercial having already aired this season. Maybe they thought we’d forget. Nope. [Grade: Annoyed]

Back to punish us for our sins, it’s Diddy-Dirty Money! This time they feature Swizz Beatz, who may be still dead on Twitter but looks plenty alive on stage. Beatz takes over rapping duties while Diddy sits in a recliner onstage, which makes sense in that this song is called “Ass on the Floor.” Did you know their album comes out December 14th? Well, after that performance, you did. Still, I much prefer this song to “Coming Home,” with its various intersecting parts, solid beat, and far less actual involvement from Diddy, who was busy looking to see what station NFL RedZone is on in NYC. [Grade: B+]

“Mullin’s Bar”: When you’ve got Ben Stiller on-set, you can’t just deploy him in one sketch. So why not drop in the 12:55 am sketch about a bar in which you can only get a drink if you tag-team a couple of hairy, bathrobe-wearing dudes inside the sanitation closet? It made absolutely no sense, but all the actors sold the reality of it, which makes them something akin to humanitarians, in my book. Maybe it’s the late hour, and maybe it’s the overall mediocre quality of the episode, but Gandalf help me, it wasn’t that bad. [Grade: B]

 

MVP Sketch: “What’s Up with That?”

Bottom of the Barrel Sketch: The incomprehensibly bad monologue

Next week? Paul Rudd, Paul McCartney, and Paul Stookey. OK, well, maybe only two out of those three.

What did you think of DeNiro’s return to SNL? Was I too harsh, or not mean enough? What stood out for you either way tonight? Leave your thoughts below!