TV | Ken Tucker's TV

'Saturday Night Live' recap: Jeff Bridges, Eminem, Lil Wayne, and Cookie Monster bring good cheer

At the top of this week’s Saturday Night Live, host Jeff Bridges brought out Cookie Monster to sing a duet on “Silver Bells.” It was refreshingly sweet – how nice to see some unironic amusement.

Most of the time, however, Saturday Night Live seemed to start its holiday vacation early, with a show that consisted of fitful charm, familiar characters and targets, and a series of sketches whose punchlines were telegraphed by their titles.

SNL embraced the holiday season with a Hanukkah version of It’s a Wonderful Life titled This You Call a Wonderful Life?! Jason Sudeikis’ Jimmy Stewart was greeted with riotous arguments by the small town’s Jewish population, including Bridges as a rabbi. The sketch needed something – like a point, or Myron Cohen, perhaps.

The "Digital Short" -- a music video for a song called "I Just Had Sex" -- was entertaining to the exact extent to which you found Andy Samberg, his Lonely Island pals, and Akon repeating that title phrase repeatedly, as guest stars such as

Blake Lively and Jessica Alba popped up as the guys' dubious sex partners.

“Weekend Update” tried to go for maximum laughs by getting a trio of the season’s favorite characters – Bill Hader’s Stefon, Fred Armisen’s Gov. David Patterson, and Bobby Moynihan’s Snookie – sing “O Christmas Tree.” The idea was clever; the execution just so-so. More amusing was Taran Killam as Brad Pitt doing the weather. Near the end of the show, SNL revived its successful recent imitation of

the Kardashian sisters (played by Abby Elliott, Nasim Pedrad, and Vanessa Bayer) and had them offer holiday greetings that didn’t bring much new to the parody.

Among the new variations on familiar targets, there was Vanessa Bayer's Miley Cyrus, brought in again to mention the pop star's recent adventures with salvia. Her guest was Bridges doing a Nick Nolte impersonation that never

quite achieved the energy level of an actual impersonation.

By far my favorite moment of the night was one of SNL’s rock-concert-commercial parodies, this one for

a “Crunkmas” concert featuring bands such as Scrotum Fire and Jay Pharoah’s hilarious turn as DJ George Costanza.

I wanted to laugh at the return of Bill Hader as Julian Assange, but the writers didn't give me much to chuckle over. Hader was better served playing

a simple storekeeper (Hader can wring laughs just from his intonations) in a silly few moments with frontier gift-wrappers played by Bridges and Kristen Wiig.

Speaking of rappers, Eminem and Lil Wayne performed with vigorous energy, especially in their second appearance, as Eminem did “Won’t Back Down” and then ceded the stage to Lil Wayne and his “6’7.”

Bridges remained charming throughout, but the concepts SNL brought him were strained, to say the least. Given the opportunity to

parody TRON or True Grit or any number of Bridges’ performances (The Big Lebowski was invoked in name only), the best SNL could offer him was a Punk’d spin-off that was supposed to have aired on the Sundance Channel, called Jeff’d? I compliment the people who filmed this for their meticulous reproduction of the in-house style of a Sundance Channel production. But: Who needs a parody of Sundance Channel programming?

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Hey, it’s not Scrooging if it’s the truth. Happy holidays to everyone at SNL, with best wishes for a restful few weeks of reruns before returning in 2011 with host Jim Carrey.

Twitter: @kentucker

Oh, and check out the latest TV Insiders podcast featuring Dalton Ross, Annie Barrett, Michael Slezak, Jeff Probst, and me, running down my 10 Best and 5 Worst 2010 TV shows.

Originally posted December 19 2010 — 8:19 AM EST

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