‘Saturday Night Live’ Recap: Will Ferrell Returns, Digital Shorts Get Star-Studded Celebration

ALTTwo of this season’s best episodes of Saturday Night Live came when some of its most distinguished alums returned to Studio 8H. Jimmy Fallon and Maya Rudolph brought back their same comic energy that made them breakout stars on the show and gave the 37th season of SNL a jolt it so desperately needed. The same couldn’t necessarily be said for this season’s third hosting alum Will Ferrell. While the (typically) funny man revived some old favorites, the whole affair felt surprisingly unceremonious.  

Kicking off with a crowd-pleasing cold open which featured the actor doing his famed George W. Bush impression (“[Mission accomplished] is something I like to say when a problem isn’t solved and I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” he heh-heh-heh’ed to Jason Sudeikis‘ childlike Joe Biden) the night seemed poised to have some more classic Ferrell moments. Mission not exactly accomplished. 
After a sweet and silly opening monologue in which Ferrell brought his own mom on stage to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day from the heart (or, from the “brain place to my mouth hole”) and a hilarious faux allergy medicine commercial in which he played a man with a horrendously loud sneeze with a wife at the breaking point (a sketch-stealing Kristen Wiig) it was time to bring back another old favorite. 

Yes, with a little help from friend Ana Gasteyer, SNL fans were treated to another musical journey from the Culps. This time around our favorite middle school music teachers (still wearing their same fashionable getups, naturally) brought their unique musical stylings to an LGBT-friendly prom. It gets better: They performed the likes of Adele‘s “Rumor Has It,” Nicki Minaj‘s “Super Bass,” LMFAO‘s “Sexy and I Know It,” and Deee-Lite‘s “Groove is in the Heart.” I was sort of hoping they would sing one of the runes from musical guest Usher (whose performances of “Scream” and “Climax” were solid, if not a little unmemorable) but it was still the best kind of high school reunion. 
But, that’s all folks. At least, when it came to classic Ferrell characters. There was no Alex Trebec or James Lipton or even Robert Goulet. The rest of the episode was marked by originals and while they weren’t all bad, we probably shouldn’t be expecting a fourth Best of Will Ferrell DVD anytime soon. Especially not thanks to overlong sketches like the ESPN Classic Ladies’ Golf Long Drive 1994 (though the return of fellow alum Will Forte is never a bad thing), the ho-hum 2012 Funkytown C-Span debate (relying on funny costumes and names does not a successful sketch make), the dreadful “Broadway Sizzle” (not even Ferrell’s cry of “Fudge me to dern!” could save this one) or the dead-in-the-water awkward anniversary dinner speeches made by weird cousins (including Forte again.) Where’s Bill Brasky to save the day when you need him? That son of b***h. 
In fact, the episode’s highlights were from (mostly) Ferrell-less moments. While the funny man appeared in the epic 100th Digital Short bonanza, so did Usher and his mentee Justin Bieber, a rapping Natalie Portman, Michael Bolton /Captain Jack Sparrow, Justin Timberlake, and Jon Hamm (Sergio!) In honor of all things Digital Short, from Shy Ronnie to Laser Cats, Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island cohorts Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone celebrated the best way they knew how by, well…you know what, just listen to the song yourself to find out: 

In case that wasn’t enough star power for you, Liam Neeson dropped in for a visit during the always-funny Weekend Update “Get in the Cage with Nicolas Cage” segment. The stoic Taken star squared off against Samberg’s wonderfully deranged take on the eccentric actor for the most hilarious moment of the night. (Even Seth Meyers couldn’t stop giggling at the madness.) Neeson, or Tall Bono, if you will, could do nothing more than listen on as “Cage” wondered why he wasn’t in Battleship (“It has all the elements of a Nic Cage movie. One, it’s based on a children’s board game. And two, you don’t need to speak English to enjoy it”) and describe himself as having “the skin of a sundried Gremlin and the hairline of a Puerto Rican Beetlejuice.” For the record I would see both Cage’s Hungry Hungry Hippos movie and one in which he and Neeson kidnap God. Check out the hilarious visit here: 

It’s hard to call this a lackluster episode of SNL what with the star-studded 100th Digital Short and the Neeson appearance (turns out he has a knack for comedy after all) but it definitely needed something else for its host that was desperately lacking. Ah, yes, I think I know what it was: More cowbell. 

Am I crazy in thinking this was a disappointing episode of Saturday Night Live? Or would you agree that, in comparison to Jimmy Fallon and Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell didn’t rise to the challenge quite the same? Which sketch was your favorite? Least? What did you think of Usher’s performances? Did you think his funky appearance in the Funkytown sketch actually brought the most funk? Sound off in the comments section below.