CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

This post was originally published on News Cult in December 2018.

Love It

Michael and Colin Swap Jokes – Anchorpersons Che and Jost started out this Update at their standard level, maybe a little better than usual, but they make their way to the top spot thanks to their wondrous finale, in which they recite jokes written by the other that they have not seen until this very moment. They brilliantly play off the personas that they have constructed to rag on each other: Che the Total Freak and Jost the Bland White Bread Racist. If “Uppity Bus Passenger Day” did not already exist to be reclaimed, then Michael Che needed to create it to force Colin Jost to say it.

You know something? The world could use more people who care as much as Matt Damon and Leslie Jones’ characters in the neighbor Christmas dinner sketch care about Weezer.

Keep It

It’s a Wonderful Trump – I thought today was finally going to be the day that I put my foot down and said “Enough’s enough” to a Trump-y cold open. But then there comes an inversion of It’s a Wonderful Life, and I have to admit that it is actually a good premise. The show’s insight into Trump is still not particularly insightful, but there is some amusement to be had here, and Robert De Niro’s cameo isn’t his normal complete disaster. While political SNL is in many ways a lost cause in this era, a few decent ideas do peek through here and there occasionally.

Matt Damon’s Monologue is a sweet paean to letting your kids stay up late enough to watch SNL live for the first time…The Westminster Daddy Show looks like it is a fan of daddies, but then it oddly mostly throws shade at them. Luckily it ends with the triumphant Broadcast Daddy joyously taking Best in Show…The Christmas Ornaments sketch presents a memorable microcosmic dystopia of personal and cultural detritus…The Jingle Bells performance at the Carnegie Lounge is a fair enough offbeat showcase for Cecily Strong…The Where’s Wes? gag would probably hit harder if it had a more interminable setup…Matt Damon’s appearance as Angel‘s boxer boyfriend is all well and good, but I’m mostly here for her Madea impression…The Cop Christmas at Frankie’s Ale House has plenty of welcome bonhomie amidst the ribbing and dark backstories…Happy Christmas, Britain! is a delightfully spot-on seasonal treat about how the current prime minister is being gifted with feces, but then due to bad time management, it gets cut off halfway through.

Leave It

Oscar Host AuditionsSNL has an addiction to behind-the-scenes impression showcase sketches, and understandably so, because the granddaddy of them all, the Star Wars 20th Anniversary auditions, are a stone cold classic. But since then, they have fallen into a trap of diminishing returns. This edition mixes things up a bit by transferring the setup from BTS of a movie to the search for a new awards show emcee. Alas, it does not breathe much fresh air the proceedings. The impressions are all decent, but none are transcendent, and the whole affair does not offer much insight into the Oscars. Although Aidy’s take on Hannah Gadsby does demonstrate that the actual Gadsby would be an ingenious actual choice.

Best Christmas Ever is both too tame and too over-the-top with its peaceful/hectic juxtaposition.

Matt Damon

On a scale of Christmastime hosts, Matt Damon sure is willing and able to jump right into the holiday spirit. And he absolutely had to be, as it appeared like a greater number of sketches than usual for the Christmas episode were seasonally themed. It’s a little hard to believe that it’s taken 16 years for Damon to have his second hosting stint. He really feels like he’s part of the extended SNL family.

Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus

On a scale of SNL musical team-ups, I’m afraid that Mark and Miley are somewhere in the middle. “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” is perfectly agreeable, and their version of “(Happy Xmas) War Is Over” hits the spot about as well as it can, but I don’t feel any of it sticking with me. On the other hand, Miley’s unzipped jacket is certainly striking and I do appreciate the lyrics flashing on the back screen. Anyway, I guess that is to say, this combo is only disappointing if you’re holding them to a very high standard.

Letter Grades:

It’s a Wonderful Trump – B-

Matt Damon’s Monologue – B

Westminster Daddy Show – B

Best Christmas Ever – C-

Christmas Ornaments – B

Oscar Host Auditions – C

Jingle Bells – B-

Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus perform “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+
Where’s Wes? – C+
Angel – B

Weezer Argument – B+

Cop Christmas – B

Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus and Sean Lennon perform “(Happy XMas) War Is Over)” – B-

Happy Christmas, Britain – B