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Commentary: 2012 held memorable moments for ‘Saturday Night Live’

Courtesy of MCT

Few shows have been able to find the perfect formula for staying on the air while entertaining the masses. “Saturday Night Live” has been a staple in television history since 1975. In 2012, the show completed its 37th season and began its 38th. The Lantern recaps the most memorable moments of 2012.

1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s monologue
Joseph Gordon-Levitt had one of the best years in his career with his role as police officer John Blake in “The Dark Knight Rises,” Joe in “Looper,” as well as his roles in “Lincoln” and “Premium Rush.” Gordon-Levitt hosted “SNL” during its 38th season and decided he wasn’t going to do a traditional monolouge, a decision ladies across the country are thankful for every day. Stripping down from his tuxedo center stage in front of an audience of millions, Gordon-Levitt, clad only in leather, performed what he thought to be the most memorable part of “Magic Mike.” Gordon-Levitt’s dance moves got so intense at one point, he knocked an audience member, who was a cast member planted in the audience, out of her seat with his pelvic thrusts.

Thank you, sir.

2. “SNL” exits
When I flipped on “SNL” at the beginning of the 2005 season, there was a surge of young talent entering center stage, all bidding for my attention. Andy Samberg was a stand-out from the start, introducing the public to his quirky comedy style that included rapping about “The Chronicles of Narnia” and fighting his co-workers with laser cats. Since I was a dork in ’05, this type of comedy pleased me. Kristen Wiig also joined the cast in 2005 during what could arguably be called the strongest female cast period in “SNL’s” history. With the likes of Tiny Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch already on the show, Wiig was in excellent company. To make a name for yourself and to stand out from these women would sound like a difficult task, but Wiig did it flawlessly, and she soon joined the ranks of iconic female cast members. Rumors were swirling during season 37 about who was leaving, as they do every year. Samberg and Wiig made their exits during the final episode of Season 37, as well as the first child of a former cast member to be on the show, Abby Elliot (daughter of Chris Elliot).

3. Stefon
Every time Bill Hader comes onscreen, I know I will not be disappointed. Ever since Hader’s eccentric city correspondent made his “Weekend Update” debut in 2011, Stefon has become a popular character with the show’s fans. This season, Stefon suggested visiting clubs founded by Menorah the Explorer that have a special showing of the African-American holiday classic “A Fish Called Kwanzaa.” It is places like these where you can enjoy his quirky entertainments, such as fraisians, raisins that looks like Frasier, or playing in the tournament “Shaun White or Bonnie Raitt.” I’m not sure what any of that means and I’m not willing to find out, but I had a hearty laugh every time Hader broke character and starting laughing on live TV.

4. Samuel L. Jackson drops the bomb
Live television is a difficult thing to do perfectly without getting into trouble with the censors. In the final episode of 2012, acclaimed potty mouth Samuel L. Jackson made a few guest appearances throughout the show, including in Kenan Thompson’s recurring musical sketch “What Up With That?” During the sketch, Jackson dropped a partial F-bomb, which he later stated was supposed to be interrupted by Thompson.

“I’m used to working with professionals that know their lines,” he told late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. I think it’s safe to say we won’t see Jackson hosting an episode anytime soon.

5. Lazy Sunday part 2
In 2005, “SNL” aired its second digital short ever, “Lazy Sunday.” Fans of the show loved it and woke up Sunday morning to the video becoming a YouTube sensation. The Lonely Island, a comedic rap trio made up of Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, penned the tune along with cast member Chris Parnell. The track has since gone on to be included on the group’s debut album “Incredibad.” There are times when I believe sequels aren’t necessary and have the potential to destroy the memory of the original piece, but this is an exception. “Lazy Sunday 2” aired during the 37th season finale and received positive feedback from viewers. With Parnell and Samberg rapping about “Sister Act,” this video was an excellent potential end to the legacy that Samberg created on the show, as he did not return for the 38th season.

6. Sandy Hook tribute
In the final episode of 2012 and just one day after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., “SNL” began the show with a moving and haunting rendition of “Silent Night,” performed by the New York City Children’s Chorus. This was the only reference to the tragedy all night, yet it was enough for the show to express its support to the victims and their families.

7. Will Ferrell returns
Looking back on the history of the “SNL” cast, there are few people on that list who transcend the show. Returning to his roots as possibly the most popular person to come from the show, Will Ferrell hosted an episode at the end of the 37th season, leaving no audience member quiet in his or her seat. Ferrell began the show with his George W. Bush impression, a parody that he took to Broadway. Though there was no celebrity-edition of “Jeopardy,” another recurring sketch from Ferrell’s past made its glorious return. Alongside former cast member Ana Gasteyer, The Culps returned to sing their holier-than-thou operatic renditions of today’s popular songs.

8. Jack White performs
With Lindsey Lohan
hosting, this episode in the 37th season had to do a lot of work not to fall flat on its face. Lohan’s career is struggling at the moment, given her run-ins with the law, so a fresh start with some new acting gigs are sure to help her get back to the “Herbie Fully Loaded” days, right? Not quite. Not much about this episode was memorable, aside from Lohan struggling to remain relevant. The musical guest, however, was a walking paradox to the show that evening. Celebrating the recent release of his first solo album, “Blunderbuss,” Jack White performed his debut tune “Love Interruption” as well as “Sixteen Saltines.”

9. Election coverage
There isn’t much election coverage that can top “SNL’s” reaction to the 2008 election. Fey’s Sarah Palin impression is arguably one of the greatest impressions of the new millennium. Needless to say, anticipation for “SNL’s” take on the 2012 election was great, and the show did not fail to deliver. Throughout the season, each episode’s most politically-driven sketches kicked off the show, with another dose of politics during the “Weekend Update” segment midway through the show. In particular, the attack ads that ran at the beginning of the 38th season were overzealous yet hilarious. Fred Armisen’s/Jay Pharoah’s President Barack Obama impression and Jason Sudeikis’ Mitt Romney impression were on no level as memorable as Fey’s Palin, but they sure were entertaining to watch.

10. New Obama
Ever since Obama became a politician to be picked on, “SNL” has been there leading the pack. Armisen has been portraying Obama since Season 33 in 2008, during the last presidential election. Armisen’s impression was decent and well-received by fans. But it was third-year cast member Pharoah’s impression of the commander-in-chief that was spot on, right down to the squinting eyes. Pharoah replaced Armisen at the beginning of Season 38, two months before the election. Though this shake-up seemed jarring at the time, it ended up benefiting the show and making the political sketches at the end of the season even more spot on.

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