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Saturday Night Live recap: Amy Adams and One Direction

 
This year's Christmas show had some factors working against it. First of all, last year's holiday episode was a Jimmy Fallon-Justin Timberlake blowout that brought us one of the best sketches in recent memory: "(Do It On My) Twin Bed." This week, the cast had to try to draw laughs out of a news cycle that's impossible to ignore, but very hard to make funny. Even host Amy Adams' monologue acknowledged the fact that this Christmas season hasn't given us much to be merry about.
Even with tempered expectations and the addition of some special guests—one of whom was truly a surprise—the outing was a low energy one. Adams was eager to show off her Enchanted pipes, but wasn't given material that would yield a standout performance, and she mostly blended into the ensemble. Here's looking forward to a better 2015.

Best Sketch
Now hear me out. "Singing Sisters" is a bizarre, late-in-the-show sketch that had me puzzled at first. I wondered whether these garbage-loving gals were just a pale imitation of the Lawrence Welk sisters, and if so, why couldn't Kristen Wiig (who was on hand) be involved. (Miss you, Dooneese.) I warmed up to the sketch once Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, and Adams started in on their oddly impressive singing and fell in love with it by the time they turned into raccoons.

Honorable Mention
Here's where I admit something embarrassing: I haven't listen to Serial yet. (I know, I know.) This humiliating fact is the reason I have to give the Serial sketch, in which Strong's Sarah Koenig takes on the mystery of Santa Claus, an honorable mention rather than the top prize. If you know the conceit of Serial (I do), you get the joke (I did), and the sketch is clever. And yet, it didn't do much to stand on its own. It was a good, cohesive sketch, but I knew, as a non-Serial listener, I was missing something.

Worst Sketch
Gloria Estefan! Pitbull! Tony Montana! Socialism! "A Very Cuban Christmas" ended up being a jumble of half-hearted impressions. (Well, half-hearted except for Taran Killam's Pitbull. He does a good Pitbull.) This sketch felt like the result of a brainstorm session in which the SNL writers turned to each other and said, "So what do we actually know about Cuba?" The answer: not very much.

Best Cameo from 1997
I knew something was off when the show started with Taran Killam's (pretty spot on) Sam Smith. After all, cold opens are typically political, and this was a huge week for politics. And then everything changed. I expected North Korea. I got Dr. Evil. Full disclosure: I actually screamed "oh my God" when Mike Myers appeared on the screen to reprise his Austin Powers character. Strangely enough, seeing Dr. Evil wasn't as much of a blast from the past as it could have been. Early Saturday morning I encountered Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery on TV and watched it for a bit, so, even though this is indeed 2014, there was a lot of Dr. Evil in my life yesterday.
Much of the pleasure from the Dr. Evil cameo was in the shock value. How delightfully random! How wonderful to see Myers back in his old stomping grounds! Not to mention, Evil had some good lines. For instance: "It's easy to kill a movie, just move it to January," "There's already a GOP and they're already an evil organization," and the wonderfully self-deprecating, "I saw The Interview. It was charming, but if you really want to put a bomb in a theater do what I did, put in The Love Guru."
Satirizing the North Korean government's involvement in the Sony hack was always going to be a challenge for SNL and the show addressed the situation mostly in an indirect fashion. There were no sketches taking place in Pyongyang. Dr. Evil's cameo was less about North Korea than it was about Dr. Evil. Later, the Weekend Update segment in which Bobby Moynihan played himself playing Kim Jong-un addressed the entertainment industry's newfound fear. Perhaps the boldest bit of North Korea-related material was Michael Che's Update monologue directed at Kim Jong-un in which he called the North Korean leader "Kimberly."

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