'Saturday Night Live' recap: Jeff Bridges, Eminem, Lil Wayne, and Cookie Monster bring good cheer

At the top of this week’s Saturday Night Live, host Jeff Bridges brought out Cookie Monster to sing a duet on “Silver Bells.” It was refreshingly sweet — how nice to see some unironic amusement.

Most of the time, however, Saturday Night Live seemed to start its holiday vacation early, with a show that consisted of fitful charm, familiar characters and targets, and a series of sketches whose punchlines were telegraphed by their titles.

SNL embraced the holiday season with a Hanukkah version of It’s a Wonderful Life titled This You Call a Wonderful Life?! Jason Sudeikis’ Jimmy Stewart was greeted with riotous arguments by the small town’s Jewish population, including Bridges as a rabbi. The sketch needed something — like a point, or Myron Cohen, perhaps.

The “Digital Short” — a music video for a song called “I Just Had Sex” — was entertaining to the exact extent to which you found Andy Samberg, his Lonely Island pals, and Akon repeating that title phrase repeatedly, as guest stars such as Blake Lively and Jessica Alba popped up as the guys’ dubious sex partners.

“Weekend Update” tried to go for maximum laughs by getting a trio of the season’s favorite characters — Bill Hader’s Stefon, Fred Armisen’s Gov. David Patterson, and Bobby Moynihan’s Snookie — sing “O Christmas Tree.” The idea was clever; the execution just so-so. More amusing was Taran Killam as Brad Pitt doing the weather. Near the end of the show, SNL revived its successful recent imitation of the Kardashian sisters (played by Abby Elliott, Nasim Pedrad, and Vanessa Bayer) and had them offer holiday greetings that didn’t bring much new to the parody.

Among the new variations on familiar targets, there was Vanessa Bayer’s Miley Cyrus, brought in again to mention the pop star’s recent adventures with salvia. Her guest was Bridges doing a Nick Nolte impersonation that never quite achieved the energy level of an actual impersonation.

By far my favorite moment of the night was one of SNL‘s rock-concert-commercial parodies, this one for a “Crunkmas” concert featuring bands such as Scrotum Fire and Jay Pharoah’s hilarious turn as DJ George Costanza.

I wanted to laugh at the return of Bill Hader as Julian Assange, but the writers didn’t give me much to chuckle over. Hader was better served playing a simple storekeeper (Hader can wring laughs just from his intonations) in a silly few moments with frontier gift-wrappers played by Bridges and Kristen Wiig.

Speaking of rappers, Eminem and Lil Wayne performed with vigorous energy, especially in their second appearance, as Eminem did “Won’t Back Down” and then ceded the stage to Lil Wayne and his “6’7.”

Bridges remained charming throughout, but the concepts SNL brought him were strained, to say the least. Given the opportunity to parody TRON or True Grit or any number of Bridges’ performances (The Big Lebowski was invoked in name only), the best SNL could offer him was a Punk’d spin-off that was supposed to have aired on the Sundance Channel, called Jeff’d? I compliment the people who filmed this for their meticulous reproduction of the in-house style of a Sundance Channel production. But: Who needs a parody of Sundance Channel programming?

Hey, it’s not Scrooging if it’s the truth. Happy holidays to everyone at SNL, with best wishes for a restful few weeks of reruns before returning in 2011 with host Jim Carrey.

Twitter: @kentucker

Oh, and check out the latest TV Insiders podcast featuring Dalton Ross, Annie Barrett, Michael Slezak, Jeff Probst, and me, running down my 10 Best and 5 Worst 2010 TV shows.

Comments (157 total) Add your comment
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  • David D

    That’s an EXTREMELY generous review.

    • Seddie Forever

      The Brad Pitt impersonation was hilarious, it seems that new cast members are where the talent is, I would suggest getting rid of the rest of the old cast except for Andy Samberg, Bill Hader, and Nasim.

      • Brad

        Wow. Couldn’t disagree more. Thought the Brad Pitt impersonation was beyond lame and definitely not funny.

      • Allison

        Lookswise, I could see Brad Pitt, and when he was speaking words, it wasn’t bad… but what was up with the “Bleah” noise?

      • Somethingissqueezingmyskull

        Best line of the night: “You’re like a sasquatch who found a dead bird and doesn’t understand.”

      • lefty

        I hated the brad pitt impersonation.

      • l

        thought the brad pitt bit was incredibly lame…

      • JD

        Didn’t get the Brad Pitt imitation.
        Does Brad talk like that?

    • Larry David

      The Brad Pitt impersonation is one of the worst I have ever seen. Brad doesn’t even sound like that.
      There is something wrong with Ken and other people who say that it was funny. It was bad.
      And why is Abby Elliot STILL on the show? I guess she’ll stay on because of her uncle who works for NBC. She is NOT funny. The new female cast members are a HUNDRED times funnier than her.
      Overall, all SNL did was recycle old sketches. Please, someone put this stupid and useless show out of its misery.

      • agree

        Elliot has not made me laugh once. She does not know how to pull comedy out of impressions unlike Hader or Pharoah. Her true calling is not in comedy but working the sidewalk outside Grauman’s Chinese as a celebrity double. Unfortunately she has no family working at lookalikes.net so we are stuck with her instead of Michaela Watkins on SNL.

      • women

        They brought back Parnell, is it impossible to bring back Michaela? Her videos on Funny or Die make me dream what could have been. Maria Bamford and Natasha Leggero also seem built for SNL.

      • B

        You obviously never saw his cool movies (Se7en, Fight Club, 12 Monkeys)and only know him from his wussy chick flick Joe Black-Benjamin Button-Mr. Jolie crap roles. So the imitation is lost on you.

      • George Costanza

        So, how many “Larry David”‘s are there around here? LOL. Pathetic.

      • Big Walt

        Yeah but Elliot’s hot so she’s got that going for her.

      • Ms. Dipesto

        How did Abby Elliot become a regular cast member over Nasim Pedrad? Nasim is 100 times funnier, even Vanessa Bayer is funnier….

  • Ellie

    I think Cookie Monster was the highlight of the show for me.

    • Sue1

      Sorry I missed that. I’ve only watched SNL a handful of times recently, usually for the host or musical guest. Bridges almost made the cut *CM would have), but I got caught up in a Psych marathon.

    • gah

      them singing put me in such a christmas state. i can’t say i didn’t tear up a little.

      • LOL

        Bridges + Cookie Monster = TV Gold!

    • turnedaftercookiemonster

      i turned it mid way through cookie monster. when i came back it was Em & Wayne, so turned it off. I love JB but his opening was not enough to keep me interested. Maybe c monster should have been a mid way skit. oh well.

  • Johnnie

    I gave up watching it. SNL has some good skits and then some awful ones. Usually the biggest mistake they make is they take a skit too far and it goes from being good to wishin it would end and move on to the next. Last night was no exception. At one time I used to love to watch it. Now, it bores me about a third of the way through it.

  • Jane

    Eminem’s song is called “Won’t Back Down.”

    • Ken Tucker

      Gahh. Yes, of course. Thank you! Best, Ken


        Time for your nap, grandpa.

    • dana

      Anyone else think Eminem was lipsyncing in his performances. Especially in the first one, I saw various points where his vocals were heard when his lips weren’t moving. Seems fishy.

      • Jake

        I wondered this too

      • Randy

        Eminem was definitely lipsyncing.

      • menime

        I think it was on the chorus and singing parts he lipsynched, but he did do the rap.

  • ricky

    I think Jeff Bridges is a great dramatic actor and a dud host. It’s often the mediocre actors who are better (alec baldwin, ben affleck). Still, I liked the Samberg digital short and I always enjoy seth meyers on update, especially with stefon and Patterspn.

    • Powers Boothe

      Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck are “mediocre” actors?

      • tahoelad

        No they are people that survive on their names. They have very little talent. If they had a pay-per-view show they would go out of business in a day.

    • Jon

      Alec Baldwin: the Emmy winning, Academy Award nominated mediocre actor.

      • stella

        clearly none of them have ever seen alec baldwin’s a-b-c speech in “glengarry glen ross”

  • Sven

    Too generous a review, but love the Myron Cohen reference…

  • curly951

    I think SNL should give up on featuring special hosts. With rare exceptions (Justin Timberlake, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, etc.) they rarely add anything to the show and the writers struggle to include them in sketches. A good 90% of the show now consists of the regular cast, so why not improve the quality and stop straining to accommodate one-time guests

    • Denim

      Yes, that would be the nail in the coffin that this show so feverishly deserves

    • Erin

      Because, I don’t know, it’s the whole concept of the show?

  • Paulieb

    The cast member’s name is Jay Pharoah. Not Jay Phoenix. Eminem’s song is “Won’t Back Down” not “Never Back Down”.

  • jspra

    I was very disappointed. There wasn’t even a small laugh the entire time. Lately SNL has been pretty funny. I had my boys watch with me and we almost turned it off, but kept hoping. And there wasn’t a single skit on Jeff’s new movie, TRON. Very dissapointed.

  • avlisk

    Will always love The Dude! And what’s with the Contour problem in Arlington Road? That was soooo Dude-ish.

  • Juan Carlos

    The Kardashian skit was great. Especially the “I did the same thing with Reggie Bush. I got a rolex.”

    • SaraD

      I disagree. The Kardashians could be imitated so well, but the girls suck at it. They’re not THAT nasally and whiny — Kim talks softer and higher and Khloe lower. Kourtney has the most annoying low voice in the world. It always sounds bored. Then, they could get at the fact she’s a baby mama with the biggest d-bag in the world… so many missed opportunities.

  • PingPong

    I thought Jeff Bridges was the worst part of the episode. All the funniest moments (kardashian sisters, weekend update, digital short, cold opening) unsurprisingly didn’t include Jeff…

  • David D

    When Stefon, Paterson and Snooki were singing, was anyone else fondly remembering Tarzan, Tonto and Frankenstein?

    • Kim


    • Brian

      I was remembering it for how desperate the writers must be to be ripping off such a basic idea and still managing to fail so miserably. Any one of those 3 characters is so stale that they can get me to turn off the show on entrance. Put them together in a rip-off situation (not even a sketch) and it was downright painful to see. I said “Oh F This” out loud when I saw it.

    • Mike

      It just makes me happy that they have a guy playing that annoying troll Snookface or whatever the f her name is…..

  • Amanda

    I thought Weekend Update had some good jokes this week, but I always enjoy Seth Meyers and his snarkiness. I know he is a writer, but I wish he was in more skits. LOVE Stefon, but the song could have been funnier. The digital short was ok, although my husband found it hilarious.

    • Denim

      No your husband was elated by the sight of Jessica Alba in bed. He just TOLD you that he was smiling because of the jokes.


        Ugh, Jessica Alba is overrated. She’s not nearly as attractive as people believe she is.

      • B

        Yeah, she’s not up to your standards…she probably needs a penis to measure up.

  • Holly

    I thought the opening was funny as well as the Miley Cyrus show (I have the dang theme song stuck in my head) and the Kardashian skit. The ideas of a Hannukah “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Stefon and Co singing was clever but the skits were only so-so.

    • Drew

      I agree about the opening, I thought it was really funny. The Miley Cyrus Show was pretty good but it seems like the same thing every time.

      • kikidee

        …you mean pretty cool?

    • AK

      The Hannukah jokes were stale. I know “SNL” was trying to be inclusive, but Hannukah ended a week-and-a-half ago.

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