‘Saturday Night Live’ review: Will Ferrell, Justin Bieber, and Marty Culp shine

How did Will do?

We wrote earlier in the day that we had some rather high expectations for “Saturday Night Live” with host Will Ferrell, mostly because there really is no one better suited for live television. He’s quick-witted, game for everything, and he also had such a rich history on the show to work with.

Thankfully, neither Will nor the writers disappointed on a show that was mostly full of laughs — and the plethora of celebrity cameos and past favorites certainly didn’t hurt. (Of course, things did go downhill fast after “Weekend Update” — as is the tradition.)

What worked – The cold-open at least did get things off to a great start. Who doesn’t love to watch Vice-President Biden take a temper-tantrum? The entirety of this sketch was themed all around Fred Armisen’s President Obama trying to console him over the issue of gay marriage — and as terrible as Armisen’s impersonation is, the return of Ferrell’s George W. Bush made up for it.

What really made this show successful at times was, as evidenced early on with the Bush impression, seeing Ferrell revive some of his old characters. Ana Gasteyer returned to help out with Bobbi and Mary Culp, and the two brilliantly spoofed Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj’s music while performing at an GLBT dance. There were also plenty of references to Mother’s Day in some of the most-successful sketches on the night. Ferrell brought out his (real?) mother onstage to read to her a moving tribute in honor of Mother’s Day — and in between talking about the controversial Time Magazine cover and wanting to superglue flowers to her, it was pretty funny. The Time cover came up again later during Weekend Update, even though it was largely forgotten courtesy of the return of “Get in the Cage” — which this time featured Andy Samberg’s brilliant Nic Cage talking with Liam Neeson while quoting “Taken” in the process.

as bizarre as all of this was, the highlight of the entire show had to be the milestone Digital Short — which featured some rather incredible cameos including Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, Michael Bolton (as “Captain Jack Sparrow”), and rapping Natalie Portman. It was really such a lovely homage to everything that the show has done over the years, and also the genius of Lorne Michaels for helping to make this idea even possible.

The lowlights – There are some things that just don’t seem to work out well on “SNL” — primarily spoofs of ESPN and disco music — that never work out. There are also some ideas (such as Ferrell singing “Broadway hits” that are really for women and the anniversary party at the end) that really went on and on for about four times longer than they needed to.

The only other issue with this show was merely the product of our own expectations. Even though Ron Burgandy was not an “SNL” creation, Ferrell has busted it out on occasion elsewhere — and it would have been great to see them here. Meanwhile, we were ready for Amy Poehler to jump out during the “Really?” portion of “Weekend Update,” but then Seth Meyers ended up doing the whole bit himself (even if it was still funny).

While part of us wants to forget that the last half-hour of the show really existed, the first hour of Ferrell’s show was one of the best of the season — there were consistent laughs, some surprises, and more than anything evidence that the actor still cares about this series so many years after he left. It’s the sort of of “SNL” show we love, and we hope that Mick Jagger can somehow keep it up for the finale next week.

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Photo: NBC

 

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