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James Franco Was a Better Host of the Oscars Than Of Last Night's 'SNL' (Not a Compliment)

By Dustin Rowles | Saturday Night Live | December 6, 2014 |

By Dustin Rowles | Saturday Night Live | December 6, 2014 |

Cold Open — It’s a little disappointing that, instead of digging into the Eric Garner/Ferguson failed indictments with some real teeth, SNL decides to use the situation to satirize Al Sharpton’s inability to read from a teleprompter. Real cutting there, SNL. That’s some strong political satire. Has Lorne Michaels completely given up on the idea of being politically relevant? SNL has more black cast members than it’s ever had, and this is what they decide to go with? (Score: 3/10)

James Franco Monologue — Franco (with an appearance from Seth Rogen) reveals a lot of “embarrassing” photos of themselves from their phones leaked in the Sony case. It was a short, overeager and completely forgettable monologue, although Franco’s self-deprecating line about Instagram chats scored him a point. Franco is in full-blown yell mode, too. Remember when people used to put thought and creativity into these monologues? (Score: 4/10)

Peter Pan Live James Franco attempts a terrible Walken impression, which actually works its way back around to amusing; Aidy Bryant resurrects her Tonkerbell character unnecessarily; and all the jokes are way too on the nose to be funny. Yes, Cecily Strong: We know that Alison Williams was a woman playing a little boy. You don’t really need to reiterate that joke 45 times in one sketch (the nod to Girls was amusing, though). (Score: 4/10)

Star Wars Trailer Parody — Luke Skywalker, Lando, Han Solo, and Princess Leia are old! That’s the joke. The entire joke. Get it? They’re old. GET IT? Wait! Do Expendables next! (Score: 2/10)

Jingle Ballerz — The Nativity Story as told by hip-hop stars (and Justin Bieber). It isn’t a good sketch (a parade of mediocre impressions, save for Jay Pharoah’s incredible Kanye), but it was a really long sketch, so there’s that? (Score: 2/10)

Grow a Guy — Mike O’Brien, who was demoted back to the writers room over the summer, is back with one of his strangely surreal sketches about a lonely guy who grows a friend. O’Brien is kind of like the sad version of Kyle Mooney, only the poignancy grounds his absurdity. I dunno. I like him. I liked this sketch. At least it wasn’t obvious. (Score: 7/10)

Bridge TrollEgad. Don’t bother. (Score: 2/10)

Weekend Update — Che and Jost try to take a more serious approach to the Garner case, but again, it was all too on the nose, too obvious, and not particularly funny. I understand the difficulty of approaching an issue that’s already been digested and processed, but sincerity — while nice — isn’t going to salvage an approach with no angle. Things do improve after Leslie Jones shows up, however. Or maybe it was just the energy got much better. (Score: 6/10)

Anthony Crispino — The secondhand news correspondent Anthony Crispino is like the sober, annoying cousin of Drunk Uncle. Other than confusing Bing Crosby with Bill Cosby (ha!), there’s not much here besides a ferociously obnoxious Chipmunks voice. (Score: 3/10)

Leslie Jones — Jones’ “Relationship Expert” takes on the dating site for pot smokers, and the conversation turns to black people and mushrooms, where Jones ultimately delivers the best bit of the entire night. Her rapport with Jost also continues to be excellent. Next season, give “Update” back to Cecily Strong and replace Che with Leslie Jones. That’s a combination that might work. (Score: 8/10)

Kim Kardashian — Nicki Minaj comes on to poke fun at Kardashian’s Paper Magazine photos. Minaj is in the show as much as Franco tonight. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but this bit is. (Score: 3/10)

Troy’s Brain — Franco plays gatekeeper of a dude’s brain trying to rid it of old song lyrics (Savage Garden!) and movie quotes. A great premise, actually, but mostly an excuse to make references to forgotten pop-culture relics. It’s those references, unfortunately, that make the video un-embeddable for copyright reasons. (Score: 6/10)

Kid Mayor Recall — Competitor Tad Rankin (James Franco) is not pleased when 4-year-old Tommy is elected mayor over him. At some point after “Update,” I think Franco may have ingested an entire balloon of cocaine, because he’s just straight-up yelling at this point. His energy almost salvages an otherwise poor sketch. (Score: 5/10)

The Porn Stars — The Cecily Strong/Vanessa Bryant recurring porn star characters are always reliable, made even better by Seth Rogen appearing as … James Franco. If only Rogen had played Franco the entire episode. (Score: 7/10)

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.