Christmas Eve in Washington, D.C.
Well, there you go. Sticking with the political angle for the opening, but actually doing something out of the ordinary with it. It is clear that the writers have plenty of material on Obama, Hilary, Rahm, Pelosi, and Biden, but the focus has lately been getting fuzzy when they try to make a sketch around it. The solution, apparently: keep it simple. B+

Jeff Bridges’ Monologue
It was a treat to see Cookie Monster appear, though I imagine folks who weren’t familiar with his campaign to host found it only about half as amusing as those who were familiar found it to be. It was beautiful that Jeff introduced him as his buddy who’s always wanted to be on the show. The two of them singing “Silver Bells” wasn’t particularly funny, but it was surreal (as with much of what is actually on Sesame Street). Who else was thinking of the time Isaac Asimov and Crystal Gayle sang the same? By the way, I think Jeff broke the record for longest time between two successive hosting appearances, a title previously held by, I believe, Drew Barrymore.  (Update: It turns out that Sigourney Weaver broke the record for longest gap when she hosted this past January, and the previous record-holder had been Madeline Kahn.  So, as far as I can surmise, the order for longest gaps goes: 1. Jeff Bridges [27 years], 2. Sigourney Weaver [24 years], 3. Madeline Kahn [18 years], 4. Drew Barrymore [17 years].) B+

A Message from Mark Zuckerberg Interrupted by Julian Assange
Again?! Oh. My. God. Is Assange going to be the MVP character of the season? It is quite the feat to appear on three episodes in a row and not be one bit stale. Unlike a lot of folks, I found this one funny despite disagreeing with Assange’s position. B

The Miley Cyrus Show
I was wondering where this sketch was last week, what with the bong hit and all. I thought that Jeff was going to take over as Billy Ray, but apparently they needed him to play Nick Nolte. It was a rather lazy Nick Nolte, which worked. Actually, it was probably the only style that would work with Jeff Bridges playing him. At least Jason’s Billy Ray this time was dumb instead of annoying. No need to go into specifics about Vanessa this time; y’all know the deal by now. The confused reaction from the fellow in the video clip was a good call. B+

Digital Short: I Just Had Sex
I loved when Akon shouted out his own name. Seriously, I love when musicians do that. The Lonely Island team could make a whole digital short around that. Also, it was nice to see Jorma, as the absence of his name lately in the writers list during the credits had me concerned. I guess he was just taking a break. I often find Akon’s work positively unsatisfactory, but when he is appropriately utilized, he is on. The tempo changes were among the delights, and they showed off the Lonely Island’s handle of music as well as comedy. In conclusion, Blake Lively and Jessica Alba would totally love to have sex with Andy and Jorma. I mean, come on – they’re comedians. A-

Larry King Live
There was a lot going on here; some of it stuck, a lot of it – not so much. Larry’s description of Dog the Bounty Hunter as looking like someone who doesn’t understand a dead bird was right on, but the highlights came from Larry’s discussion with Jermaine Jackson about Anna Nicole Smith (“Where were you when you got the call that Anna Nicole Smith was dead?” “Well, I was at home, and you called me.”) Was that based in reality? B

Underunderground Records: Crunkmas Karnival
This played like it could have been a series of outtakes from the spot for the Kickspit Underground Rock Festival from last year, but it must have been a shoot with a lot of footage, because they were able to assemble a second full package out of the outtakes. And it’s always nice to see Pizza the Hut getting some love. A-

Eminem and Lil Wayne perform “No Love”
That “night stands … full of open bibles” line always gets me. How many bibles does he have? Why does he need more than one? Anyway, Em and Weezy were suitably energetic. B+

Weekend Update
-The Jokes: About the best we can possibly expect from Seth Meyers. B
-The Segments: -Michael Steele: Can I get a what-what from my mama grizzlies for Kenan’s Michael Steele?! B+
-Weatherman Brad Pitt: Um, I’m pretty sure Brad Pitt sounds nothing like that. Actually, Taran’s impression was vaguely accurate. But I am positive that he doesn’t usually, if ever, make noises at the ends of his sentences. I usually appreciate visits from Angelina. B-
-Snooki, Stefon, and David Patterson sing “O, Christmas Tree”: I was won over by the sheer spectacle of three of the best current Update correspondents appearing together, but there is no way this particular segment can stand on its own. “Merry Christmas to everyone but New Jersey” was a solid punchline. B

This, You Call a Wonderful Life?!
SNL seems to be doing a lot of Jewish-based sketches lately. I’m starting to wonder if there is a finite limit to that source of humor. Once I realized that Ben Mankiewicz was one of the critics from the worst era of At the Movies, it became clear that his presence lended some extra, positive comedic heft. B

Well, what do you know? Kenan can actually do another funny and accurate impression, along with his Cosby and Barkley. Forest Whitaker has quite the unusual public speaking voice. Anyway, I completely bought that Jeff Bridges would be the host of such a good-natured “prank” show. The segment with Billy Bob almost took it too far to the dark side. B+

Eminem performs “Won’t Back Down”/Lil’ Wayne performs “6 Foot 7 Foot”
Em looked plenty comfortable on the stage, but I think he would have served himself better by choosing something more hard-hitting, like “Not Afraid,” for his solo piece. Quickly jumping off the stage provided a smooth transition, but it didn’t lend any favors to Em’s performance. As for Weezy, Lil’ Wayne songs work best when you can hear what he is saying, which is why “No Love” worked so well, while “6 Foot 7 Foot” only worked sporadically. Both: B

Tunstall General Store
When you boil it down, the jokes in this sketch came from Jeff and K-Wiig making faces. And it actually worked, because there was a scene built around that face-making, and thus it wasn’t bludgeoningly obvious that we, the audience, were supposed to be laughing at these telegraphed funny faces. B-

A Holiday Message from the Kardashians
The Kwanzaa line was the best, partly because it followed the predictable Hannukah line. Why were they squirming/bouncing up and down? Do the real Kardashians actually do that? Abby sounded better than last time. As for Vanessa, as talented as she has been on SNL so far, Kourtney Kardashian is just not her thing. B

After watching many of this episode’s sketches for a second time, it became clear that there was a lot of replay value, and that is the most important quality for an episode to become a classic. That replay value is mostly thanks to the one-of-a-kind, laid-back nature of Jeff Bridges. This episode is also notable for reminding us that Abby Elliott is still a cast member on SNL and that she has a repertoire of impressions (Wynonna Judd, Angelina Jolie, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Khloe Kardashian) that are generally accurate and at times funny.

The first show of 2011 will feature Jim Carrey as host for the first time in nearly fifteen years (while the Black Keys will add to the evidence that 2010-2011 is the best season of all time for musical guests). There are several times when a host is announced, and I think that there is no way the show can be bad with that host, yet I am often proven wrong. But with Jim Carrey, there can be no doubt. As long as the writers just let him do his thing, Jim Carrey will get the results SNL needs. The first time he hosted he completely took over the show. It was as if he were a returning cast member revisiting his former stomping grounds. Jim did get his start on a sketch show – In Living Color. That SNL episode from May 1996 was like an episode of In Living Color imprinted on SNL. Let’s hope we get another imprinting in a few weeks.