Sometimes a TV show becomes too tapped into the popular culture zeitgeist and gets caught up in it, and loses the sense of wonder that got everyone talking about it in the first place. Remember that sitcom about the woman who shared a NYC apartment with a gay guy, and first everyone was all, ooh, look a show with gay people in it, and then they went, ah, this show is kinda funnies, and then they went, oh, are they going to have a superstar celebrity cameo in every episode? Yeah, Saturday Night Live kinda became a clusterfark just like that this weekend. If you paid any attention whatsoever to the news, and even if you never left your apartment, you knew that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would appear on the program, and you also saw and heard Mark Wahlberg vow on TV to show up at NBC to face Andy Samberg’s impersonation head-on. So. You’re that show. You have all of this anticipation building up for the live episode, and what do you do with all of this anticipation? You put them all in the cold open?! As Seth and Amy would say, Really?!? You don’t want any element of surprise whatsoever. Really?!? Oh, I see. You throw in Alec Baldwin getting confused by calling Palin "Tina" and insulting her to her face, only to turn around and tell her "you are way hotter in person." Really?!? Although I will acknowledge that having two showgirls and a llama’s ass facing the camera behind Palin was a really nice touch. Really. At least I think it was a llama. Really. You know you’ve blown your proverbial wad, so to speak, when after that initial cold open with Tina Fey playing Palin’s first press conference, then deferring to Palin herself for the "live from New York" line, that you’ve got to keep viewers from immediately changing the channel, so Lorne Michaels and company made the rare decision to keep the show going for 18 minutes before the first ad break. We even got two MacGrubers in before the break! Really. Which also makes me thank Will Forte for this weekend’s performance. He really held this ship together. OK. Now we’re ready for the rest of the SNL recap!

The rest of the show and videos after the jump…

Host Josh Brolin delivered the first decent monologue since I cannot
remember when, talking about his new movie role playing President Bush
in W., and how much they actually have in common, including the
fact that "neither one of us should be president." He got to show off
how he put together his impersonation, and director Oliver Stone made a
cameo from the audience to ask Brolin to plug their movie. Nicely done.

This week’s MacGruber trilogy centered on the global economic
crisis, and how it has impacted MacGruber’s stock portfolio. Forte is
just great in these shorts, and Kristen Wiig plays it straight for a
change as his sidekick, with Brolin playing third wheel in a wig that
looks like it was influenced by No Country for Old Men. NBC has put all three MacGrubers together in one handy video…MacGruber!

Brolin appears next in a gathering at a Japanese restaurant where
he’s prepping his girlfriend’s friends for his marriage proposal. Casey
Wilson plays the fiancee-to-be. The friends are played by Forte, Amy
Poehler, Bill Hader and Wiig as "Sue," who is easily excited. And that
means it’s time for Wiig to play crazytime again. So that’s that sketch.

In the second MacGruber, Forte robs his sidekicks, which only makes him lose track of time. MacGruber!

After the first ad break, Wiig does her timely impersonation of Suze
Orman in The Suze Orman Show, trying to offer financial advice to folks
hurt by the stock market. Except Brolin, as Dick Dunkenkirk, has no
money and even had to sell his nipples, so Orman doesn’t know what to
tell him. She also makes jokes about her sexuality. Moving on.

Wahlberg confronts Samberg about last week’s sketch, Mark Wahlberg
Talks to Animals. If anyone couldn’t see through the facade before,
note how Wahlberg repeats most of the lines from last week’s
sketch. He talks to a
donkey. He asks Poehler and Brolin to say hi to their mothers for him.
He says he produces Entourage. And finally, he asks Samberg to
"hug it out, bitch." We get it already. This is a stunt sketch.
Wahlberg was right, after all. This show isn’t that funny. Where is Piscopo? Ha. Get it?

We’re in a cowboy bar and all the fellas have silly hair and fawn
all over the very pregnant Poehler as the song "I’m No Angel" plays in
the background. It’s all a big setup for Poehler to hawk a perfume
called "I’m No Angel." Ta-da!

In the third and final MacGruber of the night, Forte shoots a ping-pong ball out of his butt. Ka-boom!

Adele is our musical guest, and she’s part of the new retro music trend of brassy balladeers.

Highlights of Weekend Update: Forte, again, proves his worth by
playing fringe presidential candidate Tim Calhoun. Kenan Thompson jokes
about the economy as French Def Jam comic Jean K. Jean, but it’s only
sorta funny, not really. And Sarah Palin is back! Only she doesn’t
think she should do the scripted rap because it’ll hurt the campaign,
so Poehler raps instead. And it’s a doozy. My notes on this have
nothing to do with the rap itself (it’s funny) but on how Palin reacts
to it. She’s dancing in her chair like a hot mom. Kind of hot, kind of
spooky. She knows the joke’s on her, right? Could she really be that
close to being our next president?!?



After another break, Forte, Hader and Brolin are in an office
meeting, and they’re having fun calling Forte’s character "FartFace."
Until they begin calling Brolin "FartFace." The sketch reaches a fever
pitch of immaturity. It’s OK if you laughed.

NARC School is a sketch that’s all about the premise. The school is
full of narcs. No actual students. Just narcotics agents pretending to
be students. Brolin, Wiig and Forte are the narcs. Wilson is the
teacher. And Darrell Hammond gets his only two seconds of camera time
as an additional narc.

In a short video ad spoof, Jason Sudeikis tells us about the merits
of ReadiTrade.com, where you can sell everything. Your stocks. Your
drugs. Everything.

Fred Armisen had worked on a pianist character called Joshua
Rainhorn for several weeks, testing him out on comedy audiences in dive
bars and basements around New York City. And now we finally see him on
the show, in a British TV segment called "New York Underground" hosted
by Trevor Dix (Hader), which sounds as if Spinal Tap got mixed
up with that new creepy British narrator character from the Geico ads.
On video instead of live, we only get glimpses of Rainhorn and his
singing talents. "Wine and cigarettes…wine and cigarettes." Seems a
shame we don’t get to see the whole thing and find out if it’s funny
enough for a recurring character.

Adele is back to sing, and while she does, I wonder, how do you find a sexy string octet to back you? Craigslist?

The final sketch of the night has Brolin infiltrating an office
meeting and asking if anyone wants to see the fall foliage. Who’s
laughing? Go: "No. No. No. No. No. No. No."

That’s a wrap. See you Thursday! And next Saturday, it’s Mad Men‘s Don Draper as the host with the most!