As always, SNL had its ups and downs this year. For every insta-classic Maya Rudolph episode, there was a stinker hosted by Daniel Craig; for every innovative new sketch (come on, you liked “The Californians” the first time it aired), there was a bit that wore out its welcome long ago (did we really need to see Gilly one last time?).
Still, the year’s five most popular sketches exemplify why EW’s Ken Tucker thinks Saturday Night Live is “displaying a surge of renewed energy it hasn’t shown for a long time” — they’re fresh, funny, and largely original, though one marked the first appearance of a recurring character and another is a riff on one of the sketch show’s biggest hits ever. Interestingly enough, the top three are all pre-recorded videos rather than bits that were performed live — though there’s only one Digital Short in the mix, indicating that SNL should do just fine without the viral efforts of Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island, who departed the show in May.
So without further ado, here’s Hulu’s list of 2012′s most-watched SNL sketches. It’s a solid inventory that largely coincides with my personal picks for the year’s funniest bits — though I’m sorry that Louis C.K.’s Lincoln didn’t make the cut.
5. “The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party”
Is Cecily Strong’s breakout character SNL‘s new Stefon? Either way, she hasn’t worn out her welcome yet — though her first appearance, which came during one of SNL‘s Weekend Update Thursday specials, remains her funniest. [takes out phone]
4. “Puppet Class”
Seth Macfarlane started off SNL‘s 38th season with a bang — but in this sketch, his thunder was easily stolen by Bill Hader, who really deserves that Emmy he lost to Eric Stonestreet in September.
3. “Lazy Sunday 2″
Andy Samberg went back to basics for his last Digital Short, bringing in Chris Parnell for a sequel to the massive hit that became one of the first professionally made viral videos. That’s how it began, and that’s how he’s gonna finish it:
2. “Undecided Voter”
“When is the election? How soon do we have to decide? What are the names of the two people running? And be specific.” Turns out impressions aren’t necessary for a great political sketch — as long as it’s executed this well.
1. “Disney Housewives”
A pitch-perfect parody of Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise would have been good enough. A spoof that incorporated Disney’s beloved princess characters would have been even better. But a sketch that did both of those things — and found the ideal way to showcase host Lindsay Lohan? That belongs at the top of a “most popular” list. Eight-way high five!