"Saturday Night Live" closed out 2012 with its strongest episode in weeks.
"SNL" alum Martin Short, who appeared on the 1984-85 season, livened up what's been a dull string of episodes with his kinetic, sprightly style. He brought with him a bounty of celebrity cameos (more on that later). Plus, we'll never tire of seeing Paul McCartney perform.
The episode started with, instead of a cold open, the New York City Children's Chorus singing a beautiful rendition of "Silent Night" in a nod to Friday's heartbreaking school shooting tragedy. It was classy and dignified, and incredibly moving to hear the kids sing, "Sleep in heavenly peace/Sleep in heavenly peace."
The rest of the evening didn't hold back on trying to be funny, and for the first time in weeks, actually succeeded. The monologue set the evening's zany tone, with Short singing a lascivious version of "It's a Wonderful Time of the Year," with Paul Shaffer at piano. The cameos kept on coming as Short made his way backstage -- Kristen Wiig! Jimmy Fallon! Tom Hanks! Samuel L. Jackson! Tina Fey! Merry Christmas to all!
BEST: Kate Middleton Pregnancy Exam
Short played a royal family liaison sent to teach proper protocol to the Duchess of Cambridge's OB (Bill Hader). He instructs the doctor on how to approach the royal … ahem … and what to call that area of her body. "The governess, the kingmaker, her 'Downton Abbey,'" Short ticks off, as Hader can barely keep a straight face, "The chunnel, Dame Judi Dench, Piccadilly Circus, and Thomas's English Muffin." Then Fred Armisen showed up as Queen Elizabeth, who needs her Judi Dench looked at. We haven't laughed this hard during an "SNL" sketch in … can't even remember.
YES, IT'S BACK!: What's Up With That's Christmas Spectacular
As a little gift, "SNL" brought this out of sketch retirement. The major buzz around last night's edition is that Samuel L. Jackson apparently dropped an F-bomb (he claimed on Twitter that he said "fuh"), and definitely really did say "bulls---." Aside from that, it was a pretty typical "What's Up With That." Jason Sudeikis was hilarious (as usual) as the Running Man. Watch the sketch here.
YES, IT'S BACK! 2: A Tony Bennett Christmas
Alec Baldwin reprised his dead-on impersonation of Tony Bennett, who teamed up with his brother Jerry (Short) to interview Kanye West (Jay Pharoah). The sketch's potty humor had us cracking up: "It sure is easy to get down in the dumps when you can take one." Classic!
WORST: Restoration Hardware Reunion
This one was a head-scratcher. Short and Armisen play two buddies who run into each other at the decor store. They exchange tidings about their odd careers (Short acts in EMT training videos) and activities (Armisen gets painted on). It was definitely the evening's weak link.
BEST IMPERSONATIONS: A New Twist on Charlie Brown
Everyone in this pre-taped bit was killing it, particularly Short as Larry David (playing Linus), Kate McKinnon as Edie Falco (playing Lucy), and Bill Hader as Al Pacino (Charlie Brown). It basically just centered around them dropping a lot of F-bombs during a children's play, but still amusing. Check out the sketch here.
BEST PAUL MCCARTNEY PERFORMANCE: Holiday Pageant
McCartney was on his game tonight, with a gorgeous rendition of "My Valentine" and a rocking take on "Cut Me Some Slack" with the surviving members of Nirvana. But I particularly enjoyed his final performance. He and Short teamed up to play a singing duo, except McCartney isn't allowed to sing, just play the triangle. Eventually, he does a get a chance … and the stage opens up and he busts out "Wonderful Christmas Time." Happy holidays, indeed.