• Saturday Night Live delivers a few gifts before Christmas

    ‘Twas the week before Christmas… and the folks at Saturday Night Live delivered some decent presents for this week’s holiday show. They also delivered a few socks ‘n’ underwear- caliber duds. The funny thing is, they seemed to wrap most of them the same. That is to say, impressions were the core of this week’s show, which largely consisted of trotting out as many 2010 impersonations as possible.

    The show started strong, giving the typically political Cold Open sketch a wonderful winter wonderland makeover. Kenan Thompson, as Frosty, narrated an otherwise unvoiced season special in which D.C.’s biggest democrats – Obama (Fred Armisen), Hillary Clinton (Vanessa Bayer), Rahm Emmanuel (Andy Samberg), Nancy Pelosi (Kristen Wiig) and Joe Biden (Jason Sudeikis) –dreamt of better headlines in the coming year.

    Host Jeff Bridges, now in theaters with two huge and vastly different movies (“Tron” and “True Grit”) rejected the opportunity to sell tickets. Instead, he indulged fans in a cult-favorite blast from the past by morphing himself into “The Dude” from “The Big Lebowski.” Then things just got kinda weird as Bridges picked up a guitar and sang a duet with… Cookie Monster? (No clip is available from NBC, so check NBC for the full episode.)

    Next, Samberg returned as the form of a perfectly geeky Mark Zuckerberg, and he enjoyed a few seconds of air-time before being excellently pre-empted by Bill Hader’s suavely maniacal Julian Assange.

    Weekend Update featured several guest spots, including delusional RNC chair Michael Steele (Thompson) and a weather report by Brad Pitt, played oddly by Taran Killam with, a face-enhanced Abby Elliott popping by as Angelina Jolie. But the most entertaining was a Christmas carol by the unlikely walk-on power trio: Bobby Moynahan’s aggressively orange Jersey girl Snooki, Armisen’s one-hit blind wonder Gov. Paterson and Hader’s fidgety club specialist Stefon.

    Bridges made a so-so Nick Nolte as the guest on Bayer’s now officially recurring Miley Cyrus Show, complete with Sudeikis as band-leading proud papa, Billy Ray. Then he turned the tables as the host of his own poorly-executed prank show, Jeff’d. While it did give him a chance to name-drop some of his oeuvre, the premise was weak and impressions of his old co-stars – Sudeikis as Sam Elliott, Elliott as Maggie Gyllenhal, Thompson as Forest Whitaker and Samberg as Billy Bob Thornton — were absolutely awful. On the other hand, Elliott, Bayer and Pedrad as the Kardashian sisters were spot-on, but their caricatures offered nothing new as they wished viewers Happy Holidays.

    Meanwhile, Bridges played a great Dog the Bounty Hunter as Armisen’s retiring Larry King, brought back some of his personal favorites for his farewell. Premised by another set of pointless interviews the bit was sprinkled with comedic gems, like an analogy for Dog when he cries. Thompson joined as Jermaine Jackson and Wiig and Elliot returned as the Judds.

    Surprisingly, especially after one of the promos mentioned it, by the end of the episode there had been no nod whatsoever to “Tron.” There was also no outright mention of “True Grit.” One of the later sketches was set in the Old West, but Bridge’s character was a quite a far cry from his “Grit”-ty U.S. Marshall on the hunt.

    SNL is on hiatus through the holidays and returns Jan. 8 with host Jim Carrey and musical guest The Black Keys.

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