Ready to take on North Korea and its dictatorial, menacing, movie-spiking ways, “Saturday Night Live” this week relied on another all-controlling madman: Lorne Michaels.
No, actually it was his sound-alike, Dr. Evil (Mike Myers), opening the show with expert commentary on the megalomaniacal moves of Kim Jong-un, his former Viking River Cruise travelmate.
Interrupting “A Very Somber Christmas With Sam Smith” (Taran Killam), the archenemy of Austin Powers mocked the Sony hackers who call themselves Guardians of Peace, sneering, “There’s already a GOP, and they’re already an evil organization.”
But it wasn’t just easy targets for Mr. Bigglesworth’s master. He also got in digs at Sony, “The Interview” star James Franco (geez — just two weeks after he hosted) and Myers himself. “If you really want to put a bomb in the theater,” Dr. Evil said, “do what I did: Put in ‘The Love Guru.’ ”
Yes, it’s the Saturday before Christmas, and all through the studio, “SNL” alumni are stirring as they do every year at this time. Besides Myers (last seen reviving Wayne Campbell in 2011), we had more common drop-ins Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen, making up Hanukkah songs as Garth and Kat, and doing some other stuff like it’s, well, 2011.
Once Myers disappeared (hastily, it seems — he wasn’t around for the goodnights), the Christmas episode settled into more routine patterns. There was even a music video very much in the Lonely Island vein, with cast youngsters Jay Pharaoh and Pete Davidson being all Samberg-like booming narration about an out-of-control office Christmas party.
The Sony situation also got picked over on Weekend Update as Michael Che directly addressed Kim Jong-un (or “Kimberly”), suggesting that his death scene in “The Interview” would make him as big as “Forrest Gump’s” Bubba. After sufficient goofing on the topic, “SNL” further laughed off any fear of reprisal by pretending to have some: Bobby Moynihan dressed up as Kim but noticed he was targeted by laser sights and aborted the bit, alerting the assassins out there that he’s actually Seth Rogen.
The show struggled, though, with the week’s other big story, the opening up of U.S.-Cuban relations. The Update jokes were weak, and the “Very Cuban Christmas” sketch was mostly about “SNL’s” inadequacy to tackle this subject, starting with well-worn gags about ’50s cars and Jose Canseco, and degenerating into random shtick with swimmer Diana Nyad (Kate McKinnon) and (wha?) Cuba Gooding Jr. (Kenan Thompson).
“Girlfriends Talk Show” returned after almost a year’s hiatus, as a forum for musical guest One Direction to clown around as high school dance squad members who drew squeals from audience and Twitter alike but didn’t get much chance for moves, at least not in that scene. Host Amy Adams was the snooty squad captain putting down poor Kyra (Aidy Bryant).
Another centerpiece of the night parodied the “Serial” podcast, turning its investigative eye on whether this Santa guy (defending himself on a crackly phone call from the North Pole) really hauls gifts around the world in one night. Strong had a good handle on host Sarah Koenig’s loose, uncertain delivery, but here we had “SNL” zeroing in on a highly nichey subject, a point acknowledged in Weekend Update when Che noted that for more on the “Serial” finale, you should “talk to white people.”
• Horatio Sanz and the boys didn’t show up for a “Wish It Was Christmas” reprise this year, and we had to settle for the Julian Casablancas cover on an Acura commercial.
• Though it resembled last month’s ad parody of a sitcom mucked up by angry activists and spineless programmers, a new fake commercial worked on its own level, presenting an Asian-American doll given no name, personality or accessories by her controversy-fearing makers (except a puppy and a chef’s hat, which quickly backfire).
• Wee-hours viewers were rewarded with a successful end-of-show eccentricity, a 1947 nightclub scene with a female singing trio (Strong, Adams and McKinnon) acting weird, and a solid punchline explaining why.
• Now “SNL” takes a long holiday break until Kevin Hart returns to host on Jan. 17.