Surprise, surprise. The show was actually funny.
Taking potshots at "Saturday Night Live" isn't fun anymore. It's just too easy. The cast is too thin on talent, the writers fall back too often on characters who were never that funny to begin with, and "Weekend Update" is often a slog waiting for the few good jokes.
So, it was more than a pleasant surprise to see "SNL" open up season 31 with some laugh-out-loud funny sketches, including one focusing on celebrities lending a hand in New Orleans with Seth Myers showing more than a few flecks of talent with a dead-on impression of Anderson Cooper at his too-fast, staccato worst, while new featured player Bill Hader nailed Al Pacino big-time.
Later, a sketch on a passenger on that troubled Jet Blue flight where the passengers could watch their planes emergency maneuvers on their in-flight TVs was highlighted by Darrell Hammond adding Aaron Brown in all his laconic glory to his arsenal of impressions. Didn't appear that everyone in the audience realized who he was doing, but if you did, you knew it was brilliant.
And Kanye West killed with his numbers, but not before a hysterical reunion with Mike Myers, who just happened to be hanging out backstage. It's moments like that when "SNL" is at its best, taking broad swipes at our highest and lowest moments in pop culture.
The rest of the show, save for a fun "TV Funhouse," was on the humdrum side. And Horatio Sanz, as expected, laid a big-time goose egg subbing for Tina Fey on "Weekend Update."
"SNL" manages to resurrect itself every few years, and it's long overdue. This show offered some glimmers of hope. Still, with Fey -- and soon Maya Rudolph -- out on maternity leave, the show will have to do more with a lot less. And that's nothing to laugh about.