After Paul Rudd danced his way through last week's episode with One Direction, John Goodman took the reigns last night for his 13th time hosting Saturday Night Live. Like Rudd last week, Goodman has that special something that makes him one of the ideal SNL hosts—he can sing, he can dance, and he's willing to try on skinny pants. Goodman had bounds of energy, whether he was singing odes to booty, dressed up as a snowflake, making corny camel jokes, or grinding in drag. But as excellent as Goodman was, the episode around him was just...okay.
And that has turned into one of the biggest problems of this transitionary 39th season: despite some excellent work by the hosts (well, all the hosts not named Miley Cyrus and Bruce Willis), there have been few high points. The writing hasn't been all bad (with the exception of the toothless political cold opens and the occasional 12:35 a.m. bomb), but there's been very few exceptional sketches this season, and almost no new recurring sketches worth talking about.
As a result, the biggest highlights of this episode (besides Goodman's all around great presence) were a few returning sketches from past seasons, including a great Drunk Uncle on Weekend Update. Goodman played Drunk Uncle's Drunker Uncle, lamenting, "All I want for Christmas...is for my two neighbors not to be Chinese anymore." Then there was Bobby Moynihan's pitch perfect Guy Fieri, and the triumphant return of "Last Call" to end the show—you're not gonna find a better SNL moment this season so far than Kate McKinnon and Goodman licking whipped cream off each other's faces.
The rest of the episode was the usual mix of fun moments (the H&M music video) with celebrity cameos (Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone turn up as Wise Guys) and dead-on-arrival sketches (The Christmas Whistle, Hallmark Channel Countdown To Christmas, the Obama cold open). The Snowflake sketch took a thin premise and definitely turned into something funny by the end, but sketches like The Three Wise Men just never quite took off despite some decent punchlines (which may be due to the weird, awkward timing of De Niro and Stallone).
It's also disappointing that the featured players were all but absent from this episode (for the second week in a row)—Beck Bennett got to show off some sweet dance moves in Civil Suit (the one with Goodman in drag, a pale reminder of his days as Linda Tripp), but otherwise, they were all relegated to the background. It feels like SNL has completely forgotten about Noel Wells after she started off so promisingly to start the season.
Click through for all those sketches, plus a visit from Black Santa, the return of Shallon, and musical guest Kings of Leon. Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake will be on the show next week for the final episode of 2013 (and possibly the final Weekend Update with Seth Meyers), so expect lots of Christmas sketches, lots of mid-00s recurring sketches, and LOTS of musical parodies.