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Jimmy Fallon was back in Studio 8H Saturday night for a fun-filled Christmas special of Saturday Night Live. The appearance turned out to be a 30 Rock reunion of sorts, with Fallon, who was an SNL castmate from 1998 to 2004, bringing out some of his best acts, and bringing along some old friends for the ride.
Fallon’s 5.3 ratings narrowly beat out the Melissa McCarthy–hosted telecast in October, the highest since the season finale in May with Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga.
Fallon set the mood of the show from the beginning, with a throwback to the Boston lovebirds he and old pal Rachel Dratch perfected years ago. In this cold open, Fallon and Dratch’s Sully and Denise were attempting to sneak into their old Beantown high school. Not only did Dratch make the surprise appearance, but former classmate (and SNL castmate) Amy Poehler showed up. Wicked awesome!
Fallon’s homecoming was fun to watch in his monologue. While he was never good at holding back his emotions (see: every SNL skit riddled with Fallon breaking character to giggle), he was positively giddy to be back at his old stomping grounds, hosting the NBC comedy holy grail for the first time.
Jimmy’s fans didn’t get to see some of his best acts (Barry Gibb, company computer guy Nick Burns, Jarret the stoner, the leather man) but he did get the change to show off some impersonations he has perfected recently.
In arguably the best sketch of the night, the night’s musical guest, Michael Buble, was promoting his newest holiday album: Christmas duets. Fallon did a spot-on Justin Bieber, Sting, and Russell Brand, while Kristen Wiig‘s Taylor Swift was a brilliant impersonation even the always-happy country cutie couldn’t hate. Freshman castmate Taran Killam brushed off his imitation skills with a pitch-perfect Scotty McCreery.
It was exciting to watch Fallon as he hyped himself up for the show in his dressing room, talking to “himself” (Andy Samburg) in the mirror. The audience learned during this skit that Fallon’s buddy Justin Timberlake would not be showing up later in the night due to scheduling conflicts. That sad revelation might have ruined the skit if it weren’t for Fallon’s spit take all over his “mirror image” (Andy’s sacrifice demonstrated his dedication to the craft.)
The always holly jolly Fallon continued putting Christmas spirit in the air with an original line-up of “I Wish It Was Christmas Today.” If the song didn’t warm your heart, hopefully you found solace in the band: SNL favorites Horatio Sanz, Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan.
Fallon loyalists may have initially been disappointed when Seth Meyers instead of the Late Night host opened up Weekend Update. Even with the surprise appearance of Jude Law and “Nicolas Cage” (who else, Andy Samberg), Meyers’ delivery of the news wasn’t as funny as usual with the audience knowing that his Weekend Update predecessor was sitting pretty backstage. But the genius show writers (Meyers, likely) pulled out some SNL history with a reunion of America’s best fake news anchors. Meyers was joined by his former co-anchor, Poehler, while Fallon was joined onstage with his former co-anchor Tina Fey for a good old-fashioned Weekend Update Joke-Off. The only thing that could have made this top-knotch skit better would have been the full Weekend Update anchor line-up: Colin Quinn, Norm MacDonald, Dennis Miller, Kevin Nealon, Chevy Chase, and Jane Curtin.
The night continued to pull out laughs with a theatrical showing of War Horse. Theater-goers, excited to see the genius puppetry behind the show’s equus, were surprised to learn that–for this night’s show–the puppeteers and their horse would be replaced by a human. Fallon brilliantly neighed and galloped his way on stage, and it only got sillier by the time the second act rolled around–when the boy character was inexplicably replaced with a puppet.
No Christmas special would be complete without a little religion. So anyone who enjoys Jason Sudeikis‘ Devil character on SNL would be impressed with his acting range, as Sudeikis went to the other end of the spectrum this week playing the son of god. Yes, Jesus made an appearance in the Denver Broncos’ locker room to have a talk with his biggest fan, none other than deeply religious quarterback Tim Tebow (Killam). In case you haven’t heard, the bible is sorta Tebow’s thing.
Overall, Fallon was an enjoyable host, and you could tell the current cast–and all former castmates who came back to join in on the fun–were having a blast at their televised reunion. In a final nod to fans of the original cast (hint: remember John Belushi and The Killer Bees?), Fallon signed off the show in a bee costume outside 30 Rock on the ice rink at Rockefeller Center. (If you pay even closer attention, you’ll notice Poehler’s hubby, Will Arnett, skating in the background.)
With the highest ratings of the season and loads of laughs throughout, the last SNL show of 2011 ended on a high note. 2012 hosts have some big shoes to fill. First up: Charles Barkley and musical guest Kelly Clarkson January 7.
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