A few weeks of reruns of “Saturday Night Live” really make it welcome when it returns.
And with Sophia Vergara hosting, it was one of the best episodes top-to-bottom in a long time. If there was limitations to a woman with a heavy Colombian accent hosting, it wasn’t apparent. She had a sharp opening monologue, good impersonations of Fran Drescher, a TV anchorwoman and a character on the revived Manuel Ortiz.
The only clinker might have come when she stepped in as teacher for another warhorse skit revived for a less clear reason: Gilly. Here, Vergara didn’t have the gradation of frustration that Will Forte had when he had the role and Gilly for the first time seemed a little off.
There was plenty else to recommend the evening: A funny Bobby Monyhan character Drunk Uncle, who spoke in non sequitirs (“eBay of Pigs!”), an array of funny ads and for the first time in memory, a political cold open that was actually funny, featuring Mitt Romney being disingenuous at a number of appearances.
All this and a new featured player as well: Kate McKinnon, who made a splashy debut portraying Tabitha Coffey on a wicked sendup of Bravo’s “Watch What Happens with Andy Cohen” and as Penelope Cruz in a duo shampoo commercial with Vergara, playing herself, in which they try to pronounce words.
The episode was so packed with sketch ideas, one for “The Hunger Games” didn’t come until nearly the end.
The musical act of the evening, One Direction almost looked like a sketch as well: a take-off of boy bands of yore — five young men with odd hairstyles, harmonizing. At least they were used in one of the sketches as well, hamming it up out of time in the Manuel Ortiz bit.