You gotta pay the bills.

Cold Opening – The O’Reilly Factor: The Super Bowl Sunday Obama Interview
Initially, this was all about O’Reilly stubbornly sticking to obviously wrong statements, as when Darrell Hammond did his O’Reilly. That was basically enjoyable. Then a new element was added with the pop culture quiz, which led to Obama’s mild exasperation, which is generally amusing. Ultimately lightweight, but in the best way possible. B

Russell Brand’s Monologue
Russell performed standup on a variety of topics, some of which were funny, some of which went on too long.  The centerpiece joke – that wearing tight trousers indicates fame in England – illustrated both elements, with the bit about having to say that you’re famous being like having to say that you’re sexually attractive eliciting a few laughs.  But Russell did take a while to get his entire point across.  His impression of his wife Ms. Perry was pretty spot-on.  Despite the inconsistency, it is always a huge relief when the host actually performs standup in the monologue.  (Did anyone else hear, “Ejaculate box” when Russell said “Jack-in-the-box”?) B

Gublin & Green
Considering the problems that have plagued this production, this sort of comedic sendup was only inevitable.  The fact that all the settlements were tickets for future performances was quite the zing at first, then got old quickly, and was ultimately so delightfully bizarre.  (For those who didn’t notice, the law firm’s name is a pun.) B+

Ultimate Vacation Giveaway
Really?  This sketch again?  Maybe this rendition was funny to the folks who hadn’t seen the versions with Brian Williams and Emma Stone, but for the rest of us, it was painful having to sit through it knowing exactly what was going to happen.  Russell (who I thought was supposed to be playing a lesbian at first, due to what appeared to be a prominent chest) saved it a bit at the end, with his shout of “4 More Years!” coming off as a parody of everything that had preceded. C+

Don’ You Go Rounin’ Roun to Re Ro
This perfectly captured the feel of recent British gangster movies.  I initially could have sworn I was watching Sexy Beast.  In fact, it captured the feel so perfectly that I found myself as I frustrated as I am when watching the real thing in attempting to understand the dialogue.  In response to Time, you can turn on English subtitles on most English-language DVD’s.  Unfortunately, you could not turn on the subtitles to this sketch.  I understand that we weren’t supposed to understand the dialogue, but mumbled speech works best when you know what is supposed to be said or when what is said sounds like something.  So, it was great.  But it could have been fantastic. B+

Royal Taster
Awfully broad, but as the presence of the poison became more and more obvious, Taran’s reactions became better and better.  And when Russell and Bill’s antagonism was mixed with good-natured ribbing, other laughs were had as well. B-

Chris Brown performs “Yeah 3X”
Now here’s a novel idea: not even bothering to lip-sync.  I’ve heard that it’s difficult to sing well while going through a dance routine, and Chris Brown has certainly got some moves.  His dancing is really what made us fall in love with him in the first place.  So, anathema as it may sound to some, the lack of lip-syncing and live singing was the right choice. B+

Weekend Update
-The Jokes: The good jokes included: the presence of phones in dirty photos, Diego, and Lady Gaga.  So, there were a few laughs. B
-The Segments: -Hosni Mubarak: No hook this time to make it memorable. B-
-Eminem and Lil’ Wayne: Another solid impression from Jay, though not his best.  And Taran totally rocked us with his Eminem.  The silence that resulted from taking out the objectionable parts didn’t do this bit any favors. B
-Stefon: The highlight?  Jewpids, of course.  It engendered a chuckle at first and then turned into a full-borne guffaw once it really hit you.  Not only is Bill’s cracking up not a problem, it is at the point now where it is actually impressive that he can still spontaneously lose it after performing this bit half a dozen times. A-

Livin’ Single
Vanessa’s positive energy was all over the place, and then Russell came on and started groping her, and uninhibited playful groping on television is generally funny, and then the rest of the sketch was just more groping.  So, more could have been done. B-

A Spot of Tea
I was willing to give this sketch a chance because I like Russell, I like Andy, and I like Bill.  And it was kind of funny when Russell’s underwear appeared.  But other than that, really?! C-

Chris Brown performs “No Bullshit”
Chris Brown has a great voice, but there is no excuse for lyrics like these. C

George Washington Summoned from a Time Machine
I was hoping to hear Pelosi, Boehner, and McConnell make their cases.  This would have worked better as the beginning of a longer sketch that revealed the myriad ways in which the killing of George Washington affected the space-time continuum. B-

Hosts with singular entertainment styles, like Brand, often imprint their styles on the regular SNL proceedings.  Russell brought with him a good deal of Britishness – about the worst sort of Britishness possible (with the exception of Don’ You Go Rounin’ Roun to Re Ro).  It was bawdy, broad, and over-the-top, and it included yelling, kicking and cross-dressing, which is all well and good as long as there is something else significant to go along with it. Too many missed opportunities.
A mini-trend of formerly least valuable players emerging is now happening.  After Abby’s strong show last week, Taran made his presence felt with several performances last night.