Cold Opening – Fox News: Embracing Civility
Kristen, Bobby, Nasim, and Jason basically just sat there (and to varying degrees attempted an impression) while Bill took over the entire sketch as Carville. Which is perfectly acceptable, because it is a strong enough impression for that. I am surprised that Carville hasn’t been used in sketches before to antagonize Republicans like this. It seems like it would have been an obvious call. B

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Monologue
Pretending your way through something is ripe for laughs, but you can’t be lazy about it. When it quickly became clear that Gwyneth was obviously not immersed in country music, I laughed. But then she just mumbled through the song, and that was kinda funny. Jason’s Kenny Rogers was ultimately pointless. And Kristen’s Dolly Parton was not properly incorporated. C+

The Cape Spinoffs
This started out agreeably goofy, but since none of the premises were given time to develop, this was the ultimate in hit-or-miss comedy. There were a few hits, “The Water Bottle Holder” being the best of the bunch. I appreciated the line, “Viewers have spoken, and some of them say, ‘We like The Cape.'” B

Secret Word
Here is a rarity on SNL these days: a recurring sketch in which there is a real, concerted effort to do something different than the last times. I really wasn’t sure if Mindy was going to just say the secret words as she usually does. But when she did say the words, she said them so wonderfully. And Gwyneth’s Titsy, and Kenan’s urology professor, were nicely fleshed out. The best Secret Word sketch so far. B+

Digital Short: Andy and Pee-Wee’s Night Out
Like a lot of digital shorts, I was worried that this was just going to be a bunch of random shenanigans with whatever guest stars they felt like having. But, as with most shorts like that, it was tied together nicely by the end, with the intervention angle doing the tying. Norm MacDonald’s Larry King would surely appreciate John Larroquette appearing as the police officer. B

Bar Mitzvah
When you have a big cast, you need to have sketches like these in which everyone gets a chance to showcase an impression for about a minute. But not everyone was featured – this certainly could have been longer. Why it was decided to set such a sketch at a bar mitzvah is beyond me, but thanks to Fred and Vanessa, it worked. Gwyneth’s Taylor Swift was wildly daffy, Jay’s Jay-Z makes funny noises, and Abby’s Katy Perry was pretty accurate. B+

Record Meeting
This was a mostly throwaway sketch and an excuse to feature Cee-Lo yet again. But some of the replacement words were undeniably funny (“Forget me in the Sasquatch!” “my Ninentdo”). “Country Strong,” however? That’s just shameless. B

Cee-Lo Green performs “Forget You”
I could give this performance an utterly failing grade because this version has none of the power of “Fuck You.” To be fair, if “Forget You” weren’t burdened by the fact that it is not “Fuck You,” then we would think of it as a halfway decent song. B

Weekend Update
-The Jokes: Seth actually seems to know what he’s talking about. Baboons aren’t very good at science, for example. B
-The Segments: -Constitution Corner: That’s fair. B
-Jimmy McMillan: Jimy McMillan didn’t have as much to talk about as he did in his first appearance, but the way Kenan plays him, he doesn’t need to have much of anything to talk about to be able to talk. B+
-Vanessa Bayer at the Golden Globes: So, was it the Golden Globes suspect nominating that was being made fun of? Or just Christina Aguilera and Cher? That part was a bit funny. Is Chaz Bono a tranny? What up with that? C+
-Garth and Kat: Garth and Kat appearances are successful only if at least half of what they are singing can be understood. And this time, Fred and Kristen held it together. And how often can a host joining in on a recurring bit be described as just adding more to love? B+

Previews at the Globe Theatre
There have been plenty of SNL sketches that ask the question, what if the past were crossed with the present? Rarely are those sketches as palatable as this one was. Kenan’s quick bit as the audience member illegally recording the show was one of the funniest moments of the year. B+

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air 20th Anniversary DVD
You gotta love it when Kenan plays the straight man, because you know there is a ton of energy just bubbling underneath the surface. It’s nice to see that SNL has found a use for Jay’s Will Smith impression in sketches. B+

ESPN Deportes Sportscenter
I wish the real Sportscenter, Deportes or English, were always like this. B+

Cee-Lo Green performs “Bright Lights Bigger City”
Those girls are pretty, and they’re skilled at playing musical instruments. B

Parker/Spitzer Auditions
This should not have been the ten-to-one sketch. Like the Bar Mitzvah BIT, it should have been longer and featured several more impressions. Gwyneth’s Heidi Klum was way off. Heidi does have a German accent, but other than that, Gwyneth sounded nothing like her. You know, she can actually speak English. But Bill’s Spitzer is the ultimate creepy public figure, so that made up for most of the shortcomings. And when you need a punchline, where do you head? New Jersey! B

By the time Update was through, I was impressed that everyone in the cast had been prominently featured at some point in this episode, except Paul. And then Paul got the spotlight in the ESPN Deportes sketch. So, by the end of it, everyone had a moment to shine. The cast is too big right now, but as the early nineties showed, a big cast can work, at least for a time. This episode was a blueprint for how to make it work with a big cast.