Is there pomegranate in this soy milk?

Cold Opening – A Message from Rick Santorum
SNL seems to have decided that there is no need for a real impression of Rick Santorum, probably because – well, how many people know about Santorum?  Apparently, though, he might make some noise in the primary, so Andy might have to do a bit of work eventually.  For now, though, this opening proves that there is enough material to overcome that lack of an impression, namely, Santorum’s relentless campaigning and how that may go up against his personality, particularly with that money line about San Francisco. B-

Charles Barkley’s Monologue
Not so much a monologue as much as it was Sir Charles saying a few funny things and hoping to be done with it relatively quickly.  The (admittedly dated) Muggsy Bogues line got a chuckle out of me and reminded me of his cameo during Barkley’s first hosting appearance in ’93. B-

The descriptions of the homicidal side effects were an ill-fitting mix of too unrealistic and too tame. C+

Inside the NBA
Despite how well-known Charles and Shaq are, this sketch struck me as a little esoteric.  I watch the NBA on TNT often enough to know that this was an only slightly wackier version of the studio interactions, but I’m not sure that the majority of SNL‘s audience would realize that.  Luckily, this sketch was ridiculous enough on its own to work for those not familiar with the target.  Bill’s Ernie Johnson didn’t do much, but it was a wise choice to have one character who was trying to maintain some sanity. B+

White People Problems
This sketch felt like it was built to last longer, and I wondered how that was going to work, seeing as there are only two black cast members.  (Couldn’t Tim Meadows or Tracy Morgan have stopped by?)  And thus it was a bit shorter than it could have been.  That is a compliment of sorts, as it seemed like Sir Charles had plenty to say about white people problems. B+

Bowl Madness
The absurd number of college football bowl games is a ripe, though easy, target for parody.  Initially, I wasn’t set to call this sketch a success, since some actual bowl names are funnier than the ones SNL came up with.  However, when they started to run out of random Division 3 schools, it was an inspired, and unexpected, choice to include a marching band, dogs, and bats among the competitors. B+

Joann’s Announcement
This was a thankfully short sketch.  It was a rather thin joke that was worth about as many funny lines as they included in the sketch.  Everyone was fascinatingly committed to their performances, which also helped. B

Charles Barkley Postgame Translator App
This basically boiled down to Charles saying bullshit in a variety of ways, which is amusing enough, but when the sketch began, I was hoping for something a little more clever. B

Kelly Clarkson performs “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)”
Bangs?  Bangs?!  BANGS?!  This is a solid emotional pop stomper in the style of several of Kelly’s hits, but this particular performance lacked the necessary zest a bit too much. B-

Weekend Update
-The Jokes: If Santorum had won Iowa meaning nothing and the Girl Scout cookie that sounds like a porn star stood out, while Wal-Mart employees not recognizing anything higher than a 10 also held its own. B-
-The Segments: -Michele Bachmann: Bachmann blinking for the first time since the campaign started was an observation and a joke.  I’m not sure what Kristen’s singing had to do with anything. C+
-Nicholas Fehn: Nicholas Fehn hasn’t been by for more than two years, and he has actually changed his shtick a bit.  His new tics – working out the figures in his head as he moves his fingers around, showing off his newspapers to prove that he is going somewhere – were all brilliant.  And Seth – with his exasperated looks at the camera – provided some of his best interactions with an Update correspondent in a while. B+
-Drunk Uncle: As long as Bobby can keep coming up with lines like “is there pomegranate in this soy milk, “global boring,” “I wanna Kindle my boyfriend,” “girl with a dragon tattoo? not in my house,” then Drunk Uncle is going to last a long time. B+

Lord Wyndemere
When Lord Wyndemere first appeared, I appreciated SNL going for the weird, though I wasn’t thrilled with the result.  But apparently some people actually did like him enough to have him come back.  Who knew? B-

17th Annual Adult Video Awards In Memoriam
Kenan’s face as the cleanup guy was priceless.  (SNL previously did an adult film awards show sketch 8 years ago – and that one was somehow also the 17th annual show.) B-

Digital Short: Convoluted Jerry
Did this need to be a digital short?  SNL has done plenty of commercials for fake greatest hits album, and I don’t think any others have been digital shorts.  Anyway, this was rather short and sweet, which allowed the half-assed jokes to be funny because they were half-assed.  The line from a critic, as per usual, was a highlight. B

Kelly Clarkson performs “Mr. Know It All”
“Mr. Know It All” isn’t as fiery as “Stronger,” though this performance had more energy than I would have expected for this song, though not still not enough to be memorable. B-

The Mayan Calendar
Everyone involved seemed to have no idea what the point of this sketch was supposed to be.  The “set in stone” line worked. C+

In the first half of the show, SNL had its sights set on targets that truly deserved to be targeted: TNT’s NBA studio, white people problems, the overabundance of college bowl games, and meaningless postgame interviews.  The show’s satirical focus seemed to be the sharpest it had ever been in years, and Sir Charles was an appropriate choice to take on most of these targets.  Then apparently everyone was exhausted in the second half of the show, as the average length of the post-Update sketches seemed to be about two minutes.  This episode was a tale of two episodes, but luckily it will ultimately be more defined by its more energetic, better first half.