Stars: Fred Armisen, Vanessa Bayer, Bill Hader, Taran Killam, Seth Meyers, Bobby Moynihan, Nasim Pedrad, Jay Pharoah, Jason Sudeikis, Kenan Thompson, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Tim Robinson, Cecily Strong
Network: NBC, airs Saturday nights
Original Telecast: December 8, 2012

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE returns after a three-week hiatus, and the time away still hasn’t made the show any sharper or any funnier.

Season 38 has turned into one of the worst seasons in some time and I still haven’t figured out why. Kristen Wiig and Andy Samburg leaving should not have killed the show’s momentum. They were good, but they weren’t the show’s glue. And there’s an abundant of talented performers on the show (and they carry even terrible sketches many times).

So why isn’t there any inspiration or more laughs?

This week, SNL wisely brought in former IN LIVING COLOR sketch performer and now Academy Award winning actor Jamie Foxx to bring some life to the show. Not surprising, it was hit and miss, despite the fact that Foxx rose above just about every sketch he was in whether it was funny or not.

Here’s a rundown of this week’s sketches.

Cold Opening – Obama and Boehner on C-Span: President Barack Obama (Jay Pharoah) and House Speaker Boehner (Bill Hader) talk about coming to an agreement. The sketch paints Boehner as hated by Republicans and is bullied. Pharoah barely survives the sketch with any dignity, while Hader steals his thunder with his awesome (and very funny delivery). Still, I expect more from my SNL political sketches, and this just doesn’t cut it. Grade: C-

Monologue: Foxx gets down to business with a solid monologue. It’s not particularly funny, but he’s so engaging as a performer that it works. Simple and sweet. Grade: B-

Bitch, That’s the Answer with Mookie Meeks: A game show parody with Foxx playing host Mookie Meeks who throws out strange questions to white contestants. Not very funny, but again, Foxx is pretty good. Grade: C

J-Pop America Funtime Now: I usually like this sketch which features Taran Killam and Vanessa Bayer as white hosts on a college TV station program who are a little too into Japanese culture. However, the writing is week this time out, and Foxx dressing up in goofy karate garb fails miserably. He looks funny, but what he’s forced to say just doesn’t cut. Fail. Grade: C-

Alex Cross 2: Madea: Special Ops: A filmed movie parody which should have been a slam-dunk. It’s a buddy cop movie where Tyler Perry (Foxx) plays Alex Cross and Madea – at the same time. It’s a one-note idea that could have been hilarious, but just didn’t push itself to the limits like it should have. Grade: D+

Weekend Update: A pretty short Weekend Update this week, which is a shame because Seth Meyers kills week after week. His guests are Aidy Bryant as Mrs. Claus (who gets some funny digs on Santa Claus) and Foxx as Ding Dong, upset that Twinkie is getting all the attention after Hostess went bankrupt. Grade: B

Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney: Another game show parody, similar to “Bitch”, and much funnier. Hader is a host which asks three black contestants (Foxx, Kenan Thompson and Pharoah) which actor is which. This is an incredibly well-written sketch with some pretty funny wordplay. It’s capped off by an appearance by Mulroney. Foxx and Thompson are great in the sketch, though it’s perplexing why Pharoah is essentially relegated to the sidelines with very little to say. Grade: B+

Marcus Banks: Tree Pimp: A filmed segment about a former pimp (Thompson) who now sells Christmas trees. Weird and sad, this is a nice, strange sketch. It’s short on big laughs, but at least SNL is trying to do different things. Grade: B-

Maine Justice: A dead on arrival sketch about a court TV show set in Maine where everyone is transplanted from New Orleans. I didn’t get it. It’s not funny at all and even a cameo appearance by IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA star Charlie Day can’t save it. Terrible! Grade: D-

Swarovski Crystals: The best sketch of the night with Bayer and Cecily Strong in a commercial for Swarovski Crystals. They’re former porn stars promoting crystal jewelry and this is very, very funny. Foxx even gets a few good lines as well, though it’s the great timing of Bayer and Strong that make this work. The funniest line of any sketch of the evening goes to Bayer when she says, “I lost part of my foot. It broke off in a butt. And I’ve regretted it ever sense, but I don’t regret crystals.” Grade: A-

Ne-Yo is the musical guest and does a solid job too.

This episode as a whole is hit and miss. Foxx, at least brigs a nice comedic energy, something that’s been lacking from other movie star hosting as of late (Jeremy Renner and Daniel Craig failed miserably in their stints).

At least Foxx has sketch comedy background, so he elevates everything he’s in. He also was cracking up in sketches throughout the show which was also fun to watch. It’s a shame he didn’t pull out any of his IN LIVING COLOR characters though – fans would have ate it up.

Next week is Martin Short and Paul McCartney for the Christmas episode. The chances for that working are quite high. Fingers crossed.


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