Since I'm filled with the spirit of Christmas, and since I'm also tired of complaining about the same issue I have with SNL week after week, for the most part I'm just going to skip talking about the repeated sketches I didn't like and get to the parts that made me laugh. I had an inkling that James Franco would be a fun host: unlike many of the guests the show has had this season, he has background in comedy, seems quite comfortable making fun of himself, can do characters and just seems to be kind of a weirdo (plus, he has Gilbert Gottfried eyes.) In the monologue he acknowledged that he has no movie to promote and that it might be odd that he's doing General Hospital, but he also seems excited about it as well, which is endearing. (If you were wondering why he is on a soap, see a piece about it here).
I was ready to be crabby about the show running "What Up With That?" again: I've enjoyed how ridiculous it is, but was leery of the fact that this is the second time in two or three weeks that they've shown it. But what can I say? I started laughing when Andy Samberg came out as John Stockton. It's the randomness of the guests that amuses me despite myself. And I would like a .gif of Mike Tyson dancing to look at when I'm feeling blue.
I thought the Digital Short was one of the best pieces the show has done this season, the Jammy Party that turns into a glow-in-the-dark drug-fueled battle royale with knives. It was weird and funny and snappy and original and it reminded me that this is why I get so annoyed when the show is lazy, because it can turn out fresh stuff.
I liked Muse fine: they're one of those bands I always hear talked about but haven’t heard much. I heard them discussed on Sound Opinions and based on tonight's performances they sounded like a harder-rocking '80's-influenced Coldplay. However, the commercial I saw advertising their concert in Chicago labeled them the best live band ever and I didn't get much out of them onstage in terms of that, but they were quite fine.
My second-favorite favorite part of Weekend Update was Bobby Moynihan as Snooki from Jersey Shore. When he first appeared on SNL I thought he was going to be another big loud guy taking over for Horatio Sanz or Chris Farley but I've found that he doesn't seem to use his size very much at all (which is not to say that he's very large: just compared to the majority of the cast he's on the bigger side). In fact, when he's the lead in a bit he seems to add a bit of delicateness or surrealism that I find very appealing. In "Update" I realized that he hasn't been around much all season. There wasn't that much to his Snooki impression but he made it likable instead of obnoxious. And I liked The Situation's "back abs." My favorite part was Garth & Kat, although when Seth Meyers started introducing a musical group I thought it was going to be Jon Bovi again. Instead, it was Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig as a duo apparently making up songs as they went along. It was silly. I enjoyed it. Apparently Wiig did too, which was cute.
I've been watching a lot of Mr. Show lately and the sketch that followed reminded me of that, with the illiterate frat boys hazing the new guy into reading stuff for them, explaining how babies are made and what an "Obama" is. It was one of those sketches where I didn't laugh out loud but I appreciated the concept and that was it was fresh.
James Franco totally sold the Christmas tree sketch, where he played a guy in a lot who was emotionally attached to every tree he sold. He was so unabashedly corny in it that it was adorable. My favorite parts were the pictures of him and the tree in the photo booth, the line "Maybe it's your religion?" to the tree he broke up with, and the cute ending (I am still unsure how I feel about us actually hearing the tree talking but the person I was watching with found it funny so that sways me a bit). Between this and Garth & Kat the show should have a few more to add to next year's Gilly Christmas special.
Like "What Up With That?" I was ready to write off "Mark Wahlberg talks to Christmas Animals" until we got to the line "Where's your pear tree? Oh there it is. I was in The Happening. Did you see that movie?" Also, that partridge and Rudolph were cute.
I think that despite a few predictable lazy recycled bits, it was a fairly strong show to end the first half of this particular season. I have no idea why Charles Barkley will be hosting the first show of 2010, but I guess that should temporarily shut me up when it comes to complaining about people who are too young hosting the show.
--OK, I do have to say that if I were Dominican (all they do is dance and yell!) or a gay man (men kissing? ZOMGROFLMAO!!!!) I might have had a few more choice words to say about a few choice sketches. But again, Christmas.
--It must be me getting old and decrepit but I was mildly shocked that there was a joke about finger-banging within the first minute of the show.
--I'm not sure what percentage anymore of SNL viewers knows who Katharine Hepburn is, but I do like Wiig's impersonation of her, both pre- and post- rabies.