By Ken Tucker
April 18, 2010 at 12:23 PM EDT
  • TV Show

Ryan Phillippe presided over a Saturday Night Live that found the actor gamely attempting to get laughs in a lot of gamey sketches.

The show signaled its intentions starting as early as the opening monologue, which featured Phillippe interacting with familiar characters such as Kristen Wiig’s Target store lady and Kenan Thompson’s “What Up With That?” host D’Andre Cole.

One of the best moments of the night occurred near the top of the show. The “ESPN Classic” sketches with Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte are currently among my favorite recurring features. Forte’s clueless Greg Stink (“I do not know what any of those words mean”) and Sudeikis’ silver-tongued Pete Twinkle are a terrific team, with Sudeikis always wringing fine vulgarity from a sponsor. This week, it was “Today’s Sponge Contraceptive Device.” Among the slogans I can print: “Put a baby blocker in your lady locker!” Congrats to Phillippe for getting the character-name Olivia Newton Cougar Mellencamp.

And an episode of “Hip Hop Kids” entitled “We Are Straight Up Trapped in a Bear Cave, Yo,” was a nice little children’s-show parody teaching valuable lessons such as, “You need to stop getting figurative and start getting literal.”

After these, however, SNL began its uneven descent into a mediocre night. A real commercial for the upcoming MacGruber movie, starring Forte as well as Phillippe, looked as though it might be funny if it can be sustained for feature length. And these days, SNL has trouble sustaining a premise for more than three or four minutes,  as the “Teen Talk,” “I Got This!” game show, and “Mort Mort Feingold, Accountant For The Stars” sketches proved. (Although in that last one, Bobby Moynihan may have finally found his dream role: playing Susan Boyle. Not that  there’s much of a future in that.)

Andy Samberg couldn’t quite make his Digital Short sustain its premise for its relatively brief length.

It was also odd that the late-in-the-show “Under-Undergound Rock Records” segment culminated in what, in other weeks, might have been its own Digital Short, with Phillippe and Bobby Moynihan as an Insane Clown Posse parody act.

The night’s oddest sketch involved Phillippe, Hader, Sudeikis, and Forte as four suburban guys sitting around drinking beers and admitting to doing terrible things that culminated in a rare thing on SNL: a surprise-twist ending, in which the men were revealed to be members of a sort of Tea Party-type organization, brandishing anti-Obama placards. Gee: suddenly-political and unfunny.

The week also featured Kristen Wiig-overload — she seemed to hover around most of the segments, few of them in major parts, leaving one to wonder once again, couldn’t Abby Elliott or Jenny Slate have handled a few of her non-trademark-character roles?

On a night when sex jokes ruled (child-abusing “Father Swim Coach Scoutmaster,” the “Shake Weight” commercial featuring women going “all porno with a gym weight”), host Phillippe came off like a nice guy stuck hosting during a week when SNL looked as though it was straining to fill out 90 minutes.

Music guest Ke$ha… well, her two performances played out like a cross between an idea-drained Lady Gaga and Andy Samberg doing music spoofs.

Did you enjoy SNL more than I did this week? If so, what struck you as funny?

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The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.
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  • Saturdays at 11:30pm
  • 10/11/75
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