James Franco did his best to give us a solid show during the final Saturday Night Live of the decade last night, and though the show didn't really give us anything new, it was still a pretty good time overall.
Franco's monologue was one of the stronger monologues of the season, as he was allowed to (gasp!) actually perform it alone, without the help of 8 cast members or an elaborate musical number. However, as one commenter pointed out during the live thread, it was a bit obnoxious of Franco to call his stint on General Hospital a "step backwards." I'm sure the actors on GH, some of whom have been there for what, 20 years? really appreciate that kind of thing:
The show relied heavily on recurring characters/skits, bringing out Kenan's "What Up With That" skit, starring Mike Tyson and 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer:
And Andy Samberg's "Mark Wahlberg Talks To Animals" bit:
As well as the tired "Kissing Family" skit:
And the Lawrence Welk Show parody, featuring Kristen Wiig's "baby hands" character:
There were a few new characters introduced last night, however: Bobby Moynihan debuted his Snooki impression on Weekend Update, and though it was pretty good, I couldn't help but wonder what the impression would have looked like if one of the 4 female cast members had a chance to do it. Still, Bill Hader's insane "The Situation" impression was great:
And the best part of the evening was the original digital short, which was essentially a demented take on Yo Gabba Gabba:
It was a decent end to a shaky first half of the season for the SNL crew; while the show was mainly comprised of repeat skits/characters (Bill Hader's Vincent Price also made an appearance), the addition of Franco made some of the tired jokes seem a bit funnier. He was a great host, as expected, though it's strange that there wasn't a General Hospital sketch or the type of "classic" Christmas sketch one tends to expect during the holiday show (though in fairness there was a weird skit wherein Franco was in love with a Christmas tree). The show felt a bit like a "Greatest Hits 2009" compilation, with the focus mainly on the most popular recurring sketches/characters of the season, and I suppose that's somewhat understandable considering that it's the final show of the calendar year. However, it was the newer skits that really made the show last night, including this fraternity sketch, which was really stupid but pretty funny, as well:
At times it seems like the show is still trying to figure out its audience: for every reference to something like Jersey Shore, there's a reference to Lawrence Welk or Vincent Price or Lindsay Buckingham. That's not to say that a good majority of the pop-culture audience wouldn't get jokes on both ends of the spectrum, but the tendency to mock older pop-culture subjects seems a bit weird when you consider that the majority of the hosts this season seem to be aimed at bringing in the teenage/early 20s demographic. That said, last night's show was better than most: it hasn't been a great season thus far, but at least the first half ended on a bit of a high note. We return in 2010 with host Charles Barkley—let's hope the first show of the next decade kicks things off in the right direction.