Robert De Niro can elicit whoops of approval from a crowd simply by walking into a room and smiling confidently, but crinkly eyes and swagger do not a perfect Saturday Night Live appearance make.
The show opened with the best cold open in recent memory. Wikileaks: TMZ? Brilliant. Andy Samberg was pitch perfect as the hot is-he-stupid-or-not? surfer guy, and Bill Hader did a great Julian Assenage-as-Harvy Levin.
When we got to De Niro's monologue, I realized that this show would never really be able to get over the fact that OMG ROBERT DENIRO IS HERE and just get to the non-De Niro-based comedy, because his presence was distracting. The monologue missed the mark and everyone laughed politely because it is Robert DeNiro and you must laugh at Robert De Niro when he is trying to be funny or else he'll do that weird threatening squinty thing at you and you'll never hear from your loved ones again.
At this point in the show, I was momentarily distracted by the fact that Sean "Puff Diddy Daddy Bo Baddy McFaddy" Combs Dirty McGirty has changed his goddamn name again, this time to Diddy Dirty Money. No. No. Unacceptable. I will not accept you as a performer with that name. No. But I digress.
Speaking of bashing me over the head with something I don't want, last night saw another installment of What's Up With That?, which is the only skit in my entire career of Saturday Night Live watching that has actually broken down my resistance to it and gone from something that I hated so much I had to mute to something that makes me cry with laughter. Keenan Thompson, under what witchery do you have me?
Why is this suddenly funny to me? Anyone? And don't say pot, because, uh, it's totally not that.
And, of course, Andy Samberg, who you have a crush on, was hilarious as The Blizard Man. De Niro made an appearance as Blizzard Man's mother, who was irresistible to P. Dumb Diddly Bo Biddly or whatever he's changed his name to by now.
There were a few duds. For example, this bizarre Italian Stereotypes hour, that even herbal assistance couldn't help.
And then: BUTTSEX JOKES! BUTTSEX JOKES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY! NOW WITH MORE BEN STILLER.
The show wasn't Justin Timberlake great, but it wasn't January Jones bad. The writing seems better than it's been in recent years, but the show hasn't quite figured out how to clip along at a pace that doesn't feel like it drags by the end.
We've got Paul Rudd on deck for next weekend, which has the potential to be more epic than a Robert De Niro/Joe Pesci staredown.