When Golden Globe–winning actor James Franco announced that his next gig was going to be a recurring role on General Hospital, many feared that Franco might've gone off the deep end. However, the reaction to his debut (universally positive!) and Franco's revelation that the whole shebang is supposedly part of some wacky performance-art stunt (do we smell a thesis?) has, miraculously, only served to increase his reputation in the entertainment community. So, was he able to continue his streak of wacky excellence when he hosted Saturday Night Live last night?
Well, the answer to that question has to be a resounding "yes." Not only did Franco prove to be an energetic host, he presided over what any astute SNL watcher would describe as the best and most consistent episode of the show's 35th season. A few weeks ago, we begged Lorne Michaels to avoid scheduling episodes for three consecutive weekends as a way to give a breather to the fatigued cast and writing staff; however, this weekend went a long way toward proving our longstanding belief that having a capable and committed host meaning, one who can carry a skit all by his or her lonesome at the helm goes a long way toward helping the show reach its potential. Case in point, Franco's outstanding work as a Christmas–tree salesman who knows his product on a disturbingly intimate level:
See what we mean? Knowing that you have a host who can sell a sketch with minimal assistance from other cast members totally frees up everyone to work on other weird and eclectic bits, like Fred Armisen and Kristin Wiig's hysterically goofy appearance as Garth & Kat, the unprepared Christmas singers. And it also gave recent New York profilee Kenan Thompson enough time to work on another of his quickly becoming legendary "What Up With That" sketches:
Aside from Kenan's inspired performance, anytime you can get Jason Sudeikis to bust some B-boy moves during the course of a sketch, you've got the chance to have something classic happen (see also: The First Person In The History of the World To Dance).
While we're speaking of signature characters, it was good to see Franco reprise his Golden Globe winning role as James Dean in hilarious fashion on the Vincent Prices Christmas Special. Additionally, this should really go without saying, but Bill Hader's work has always been consistently outstanding in these sketches:
And, of course, we couldn't ignore Bobby Moynihan's take on our beloved
Shnickers Snooki! Back abs!
Oh, and before we forget, Mark Wahlberg talks to Christmas animals! There's a part of us that feels like this iteration of the sketch that almost got Samberg beat up last season was disappointing in its inability to advance the joke any further beyond what he had already established, but it's the holiday season and we don't have it in us to be cynical at the moment.