Saturday Night Live returned from a mid-winter break minus one writer (interesting?!) and also without featured player Paul Brittain (what now?), who left the cast to pursue other opportunities. Someone please make sure the editing booth knew to adjust the opening credits, and someone else hold Don Pardo’s hand to squeeze it before he mistakenly keeps him in the cast listing. I know as much about host Channing Tatum’s comedic potential as you do, so let’s all find out together what that may be, shall we?

To the recap!

The cold open is set in 2014, in space, with Newt Gingrich as Moon President! He (Bobby Moynihan) leads the Moon Colony resistance during President Barack Obama’s second term. Kristen Wiig as Gingrich’s Third Lady (that’s my joke!). Bill Hader as a robot ReaganTron3000 assistant. This is all a reaction to one of the umpteenth GOP presidential debates. Timely! Nice and simple play off of the sci-fi classic with Newt’s catchphrase, “May divorce be with you.” Kenan Thompson plays Vice Admiral Herman Cain. Mitt Romney (Jason Sudeikis) is there, too, for unknown reasons. Otherwise, what is this?

Yep. No Brittain in the credits.

Channing Tatum’s monologue. Straight out of the Newsies reboot! Broadway joke. Apparently his job before going Hollywood was going thong th-th-thong-th0ng-thong as a male stripper. Same rules apply here as with stripping? OK. Cue the cast members in the audience as former customers of his. Then cue the gay joke. Then cue the dance moves. Down and dirty, nice and easy. That’s how this live audience likes it.

Cue the Channing Tatum movie trailer! I guess that’s why he didn’t need to mention it in his monologue? Movie-ing on.

Fuse (no longer seen in many parts of NYC due to a dispute with Time Warner Cable) presents a fake talk show, “It’s Getting Freaky with Cee Lo Green.” Jay Pharoah provides the introductions, so that leaves Thompson to play Cee Lo. Oh. What’s that? You were 12 steps ahead of me on that one? Tatum plays his guest, Matthew McConaughey and has no problems with the vocal impersonation. And since he’s a former stripper, he has no problem with the shirtless part of the impersonation, either. Guest? Or is he supposed to be the sidekick? Nope. Wait. Who is Hader supposed to be. Col. Nasty? Um. They’re supposed to help a lesbian couple (played by Nasim Pedrad and Vanessa Bayer) in “getting freaky” more often, but it’s just an excuse to reintroduce McConaughey with bongos attached to his waist. Just what lesbians need to get freaky?

Spike TV promo ad video for their new shows, including their version of new PBS critical/cult hit Downton Abbey? Making fun of the actual series, characters and plot. Andy Samberg’s voiceover attitude and the hip-hop beat make you want to tune in on Sundays, now, doesn’t it?

Quick cut back to the live studio, where the NBC football analyst crew is preparing for the Super Bowl. Sudeikis, Hader, Tatum, Pharoah and Thompson. They need to smile for the promo! Everything in the beginning happened so fast, I’m not sure who was supposed to be whom, nor whether to use whom or who in this scenario. Nor do I really care a minute into this. Except I know that if I trick myself into watching pregame coverage of the Super Bowl on Sunday, the real NBC Sports team will be playing this and laughing way too much at it. And Brian Williams is roped into this, too, so expect another hit on this sketch whenever BriWi’s show is. Mondays? Now Wednesdays? I cannot keep track with their programming changes.

Oh. Secret Word is back. Again? Wiig’s would-be Broadway star Mindy Grayson cannot play this game, and yet they keep bringing her back to mess it all up again. Tatum plays the other “celebrity,” an astronaut recently returned from space. Oh. I think I finally get it now. The intentional game-show mishaps aren’t even supposed to be funny. It’s all of the chatter between mishaps that matters. Does any of this matter, though? They’re so horrible at playing the game, that it’s difficult to root for them when they act out on the in-betweens.

Bon Iver is good. In case you already weren’t aware of this. They played a song on SNL. This is “Holocene.”

And we’re back with Weekend Update.

Guy Fieri (Moynihan) dropped by to talk Super Bowl food recipes. It’s no more ridiculous than the real thing. And that’s coming from a longtime viewer of Triple D. But does that mean it’s funnier?

Lana Del Ray (Wiig) interrupts the Update segment to address criticism of her musical performance on SNL three weeks prior. Hmmm. NO mention of Ashlee Simpson, though, in pushing back against the backlash?!? Odd. But what about the tree frogs?

Happy Bat Mitzvah for Rebecca! But where is Rebecca? Before I could guess, it’s Pedrad. But she will open with a dance with her best friend, played by Tatum. This dance is like watching Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri as the cheerleaders, only it’s not the 1990s anymore. Much like a Bat Mitzvah! So. Accurate? Pedrad is owning Tatum in this dance sequence, which is weird, since Tatum is supposed to be the former stripper, right? Comedy is hard.

And we’re back.

In a Ruby Tuesday’s in Indianapolis? Must be Super Bowl related? Right? Right?!? Tatum is supposed to be Patriots QB Tom Brady at a Ruby Tuesday’s? Already not buying the premise. Not just because I’m a Pats fan. I wouldn’t buy it if it were Eli Manning, either. Moynihan in drag as a middle-aged woman throws “herself” at him at the bar. Ugh. This sketch has no legs, but pretends it has four. Must be a Jets fan who wrote this.

Somebody save this episode.

Here comes another video. It’s for a thumb-based exercise video. We’re all thumbs?!?

Once again, Bon Iver. Their second song, “Beth/Rest,” reminds me to remind you to look into this band more. Coldplay minus the British pretension and adding in the 1980s nostalgic rhythms. Maybe it’s me. Me like.

Bongo’s Clown Room, which didn’t exactly raise the morales of comedy fans when it appeared last season, is back again with Sudeikis as a strip-club DJ. Some guy appears onstage briefly before the DJ announces it is ladies night at the club. Again, it’s his “final” shift working at the club. Moynihan (Dumb Dick), Pharoah (Keith Wide), Killam (Chief Pumps with Gusto), and Tatum as a male stripper. Such a stretch!

Time for goodnights. Don’t blame Tatum. Remember, we set our expectations to low and/or none. He did fine. The show, however, did not do fine. The taped bit mocking Downton Abbey felt right, even though I’ve yet to catch up on it. And musical guest Bon Iver proved why they received multiple Grammy nominations. Everything else wasn’t up to snuff. Yikes. Just think about the Super Bowl. That’s what SNL people must have been doing to be distracted enough to produce this episode. So let’s hope the football game is better. Please. Let’s hope.