James Franco Hosts SNL: The Least Bad Bits From an Abysmal Night — Watch

Despite being overstuffed with Christmas sketches, there were few gifts to be found during this weekend’s Saturday Night Live.

James Franco returned to Studio 8H to promote The Disaster Artist, a movie based on The Room, one of the dumbest films ever made. Ironic, since so much of his latest hosting stint consisted of aggressively dumb material.

The evening got off to a rough start with the cold open, which featured a parade of kids struggling with cue cards and asking Kenan Thompson’s Mall Santa about Sen. Al Franken, Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore and ousted Today show host Matt Lauer. What followed was an equally dire monologue, despite Hail Mary cameos from Seth Rogen, a semi-unrecognizable Jonah Hill and even the great Steve Martin (as seen above).

It wasn’t until the tail end of Weekend Update that the episode built any sort momentum at all, and even that was short-lived. As such, the usual Best & Worst breakdown has been scrapped in favor of getting to few sketches of any interest at all.

WEEKEND UPDATE: GRETCHEN
This bit would be notable just for the fact that it’s the rare, pre-taped Update segment. (The last one I seem to recall was Seth Meyers’ wedding to Stefan.) But it’s also a first for Che, who in his three-and-a-half seasons has mostly stuck to Update and only appeared in live sketches in a supporting capacity. The result steers clear of doing anything that would draw comparisons to Eddie Murphy’s “White Like Me.” It’s far more specific, as Che goes “undercover” as a liberal white woman. Most amusing is the prep work that goes into his “transformation,” which includes reading a Lena Dunham book and listening to the most “ignorant rap music” imaginable.

ZA
We hadn’t seen lawyer comedy this absurd since Fox cancelled The Grinder (#TeenLife). Franco’s exaggerated delivery as he differentiated between the different-sounding syllables in “pizza” and “lasagna,” coupled with the fact that he had a visual aid, earned the one true belly laugh of the night.

GIFT WRAP
On Dec. 9, 1978, original Not Ready for Primetime Player Dan Akroyd parodied chef Julia Child in the classic “French Chef” sketch. It’s probably not a coincidence that this bloody segment aired exactly 39 years later, but that didn’t make it any less terrible.

CHRISTMAS CHARITY
Here, Cecily Strong played a high-strung business professional who found it in her heart to help someone less fortunate. At least that’s what she thought she was doing.

REUNION
Hey, remember when Dave Franco was on Scrubs? Did you enjoy Dave Franco on Scrubs? Then perhaps you’ll enjoy the Dave Franco cameo here. Otherwise, the only reason to press play is if you’d like to see Heidi Gardner make the most of some pretty wretched material.

What were your favorite sketches of the night? And what missed the mark? Grade the episode via the following poll, then hit the comments to flesh out your thoughts. (Next week: Kevin Hart hosts the actual Christmas show.)