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.