I’ve always known that one day President Barack Obama would hold a press conference expressing support for Seth Rogen, and that day has come. (Believe me, I’m now looking over everything else I predicted about the future during Freaks and Geeks’ initial run, and yeah, Limp Bizkit may soon wear out its welcome.) In the meantime, it seems that everyone even tangentially involved in the entertainment industry has been rattled by Sony’s hacking scandal and every juicy tidbit it has revealed — not to mention the disappearing act the company pulled on Rogen’s film, The Interview. It’s a weird time to be in show business, and the current trauma definitely loomed large over this entire episode of SNL. However, despite some clear fatigue, the team managed to pull together a Christmas episode safe enough to watch with one’s parents, but also capable of drawing Kim Jong-un’s ire.
A Message From Dr. Evil
The very first image from tonight’s SNL was that of A Very Sam Smith Christmas. It was a cute bit — a sad sack attempting holiday cheer — but it seemed like it would probably drag in the next minute. Lucky, then, that the writers thought to bring in Mike Myers to do Dr. Evil (!!!) in an emergency broadcast addressing the North Korea situation. In a few short minutes, Myers efficiently flogged the old catchphrases (laser discs and a sum of $1 million are both name-checked), and also crack some zingers (“I haven’t seen balls like that in Pyongyang since Dennis Rodman wore his shorty shorts”). There’s even a self-deprecating Love Guru gag to show that Myers does indeed have some self-awareness. Overall, it was a smart idea and an unexpected way to address the issue and start the show.
Amy Adams Monologue
Sorry to offend anyone who lives anywhere else, but Christmas in New York truly is a singular spectacle that deserves songs sung in its honor. I will suspend my disdain for monologue songs long enough to allow Amy Adams her moment of dueting with Kristen Wiig — who also interrupted Adams’s monologue during her first hosting gig in 2008. This time, Wiig is out to show Adams how to sing a Christmas song with a little more zing, bam, and kapowza — and, by all rights, she succeeds.
This sketch is a commentary on growing racial sensitivity in advertising and product development. In it, a commercial for an Asian doll tries to be as inoffensive as possible, which leads to some extreme minimalism. The empty dream house, for instance, charges eventual doll owners with being accountable for decorations that cross any lines. It’s a sketch in the same vein as the Dudleys from the Woody Harrelson episode, in which a sitcom was constantly being retooled and modified in response to Twitter reactions about diversity. It also seems a piece of an episode that focuses on creating a climate of censorship.
Tenderfield Christmas 2014
Everybody wants to go viral these days, including the Tenderfield family, who apparently made an online splash last year by dancing around in sweatpants for a digital Christmas card. In doofy white-person rap verses, the whole crew tells sad stories about what’s happened since their brief brush with fame. The premise is more notable for its accurate pulse-reading of the American people in 2014, but the sketch is saved by Kate McKinnon’s skulk-dancing.
Serial: The Christmas Surprise
Why had to wait until “Serial” actually finished its 12-episode run to make a parody, I’ll never know. At this point, the most Zeitgeist-y podcast of all time has been parodied at least as many times as there are episodes — including Funny or Die’s recent version with a perfectly cast Michaela Watkins. While Cecily Strong’s Sarah Koenig is spot-on, that’s almost all we really have after the joke of investigating Santa Claus kicks in. The court drawings of Aidy Bryant as annoying attorney Cristina Gutierrez are hysterical … if you know the show, but this sketch may have relied on in-jokey details to the point of alienating its One Direction–loving core.
Girlfriends Talk Show
Considering that this recurring sketch was used at least three times last season, it’s surprising we haven’t seen it this year until now. However, this fairly typical outing is mostly an excuse to get musical guests One Direction into a sketch, along with the requisite 2/5 of the group experimenting with facial hair and hats.
Office Christmas Party
Well, in case anyone was wondering what a Lonely Island sketch would be like without the Lonely Island, now you have your answer. Here, Jay Pharoah and Pete Davidson show up to an office Christmas shindig like genies decked out in Color Me Badd–style gear, to make the party bang. As the duo name-checks the kind of mundane happenings that grace the saddest holiday parties, one can’t help but imagine the twist Andy Samberg and Co. might put on this material.
Early on in tonight’s “Weekend Update,” Michael Che addresses Kim Jong-Un as “Kimberly” in a direct plea for the dictator to back down from his recent efforts.
This segment is immediately followed by Bobby Moynihan visiting the “Update” desk as Kim Jong-un, but with a nicely meta twist. Colin Jost addresses “Kim Jon-un” as “Bobby” and tries to talk him down from doing the impression, a further comment on how this staff perceives this whole Interview debacle.
Elsewhere during “Update,” Kenan Thompson has a bit as Che’s neighbor, Willy, a gray-’fro’d dude in a turquoise cardigan and Christmas tie who has no real joke beyond just relaying hard realities of modern life in a friendly, folksy way. Meh. The good news, however, is that if SNL is going to have Kristen Wiig on hand, apparently they can also manage to wrangle Fred Armisen to come out and do Garth and Kat in all the duo’s improv-based glory.
A Very Cuban Christmas
Now we come to the nadir of this episode. Honestly, it just seems like after the U.S. made steps toward repairing relations with Cuba this week, the writers just tried to think of everything even vaguely Cuban that exists in pop culture and throw it together in a bouillabaisse of Whatever. Poor Amy Adams is relegated to playing Michelle Pfeiffer’s role from Scarface for two seconds here, despite being a gifted comedic actress who can totally carry a sketch.
A Magical Christmas
Lucky for us viewers, the least successful sketch of the evening is followed by one of its highlights. In it, Kyle Mooney and Bobby Moynihan play a couple of guys who are clearly from a 1940s movie, out at a bar and looking for love. Tonight, however, love takes the form of a trio of ladies known as the Dundee Sisters, who want nothing more than a shot at love and … eating garbage. Yep, they are raccoons given human form — and this fully bonkers premise allows the writers to subvert 1940s movie dialogue, making it all about reasons why eating garbage is totes normal.
Whiskers R We
The night comes to a close with an unexpected revisit of a sketch that seemed like it would definitely be a one-off when it first appeared in the Charlize Theron episode this past spring. Not that it’s a bad thing; it’s fantastic. I could watch Kate McKinnon and Amy Adams play semi-clandestine lesbian lovers who have inappropriately deep and textured relationships with the cats that they are offloading through their business (?) entitled Whiskers R We. It’s pretty much a carbon copy of the Theron iteration, but as Cecily Strong and Vanesa Bayer’s former porn stars have proved, these kinds of formulas can have legs if the writing and performances are strong.
While this episode was definitely a comedown from recent highlights like the Woody Harrelson and Cameron Diaz one-two punch, it was by no means a train wreck. Any weak sketches we can attribute to a cast and crew ensconced in both end-of-the-year and third-show-in-a-row malaise. Look for all involved to come back swinging when the show returns with Kevin Hart in January.