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SUNDAY MORNING LIVE: Miley Cyrus Faces Her Past; 'SNL' Brings Twerking to the Government Shutdown

Welcome to Edition No. 23 of Sunday Morning Live, Popculturology's look at the latest episode of Saturday Night Live. All of your questions about the Miley Cyrus-hosted episode will be answered after the jump.

How'd Miley Cyrus do?

When Cyrus first hosted SNL in 2011, she was a very different pop culture personality. Back then, she was just the cute daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus who became famous thanks to Hannah Montana. Sure, she started causing some minor controversy with her alleged salvia smoking, but it looked like smooth sailing for the pop star.

The Cyrus that the world knows in October 2013 is quite a changed Miley. Thanks to her infamous MTV VMAs performance, Cyrus, twerking and foam fingers have been intertwined in ways that most people never imagined. SNL jumped right into Cyrus' VMA performance with this week's cold open, giving us a post-apocalypic 2045 world with Kenan Thompson explaining to Noel Wells that society fell apart not because of the government shutdown or Obamacare, but because of that very VMA performance.

I had wondered how SNL would deal with the fact that Vanessa Bayer's dead-on Cyrus impression no longer meshed with her current persona, guessing that the show might do some kind of "Ghost of Miley Past" bit. I was close, as SNL had Bayer play a version of Cyrus who had traveled forward in time to chat with her future self just before the VMAs began. While it was great watching Bayer and Cyrus play off each other, my favorite part of the cold open had to be Bobby Moynihan in a teddy bear costume, yelling, "We shouldn't be doing this!"

I was worried about Cyrus hosting SNL, fearful that the entire show would become a joke about twerking. When Justin Bieber hosted last season, he was clearly unprepared, relying heavily on the cue cards. That wasn't an issue for Cyrus. We should remember that she did start out acting on Hannah Montana, unlike Bieber, who just had his mom post videos on YouTube.

What were the best sketches of the night?

SNL wisely posted We Did Stop right after SNL aired, so we had a chance to briefly discuss this last night, but the John Boehner/Michele Bachmann spoof of Cyrus' We Can't Stop was brilliant and is rightfully what everyone is talking about. Taran Killam and Cyrus kill as Boehner and Bachmann. The entire short is all at once ridiculous and pitch perfect. Whichever SNL writer pulled this one together deserves a ton of praise.

Also, with Jason Sudeikis gone, Killam has finally risen to SNL leading man status. He was in everything this week.

Ah, the "we need an excuse to do a ton of impressions" sketch. SNL used the guise of Fifty Shades of Grey screentests to trot out its cast's latest batch of impressions. Wells appears to be the standout of the SNL freshmen, appearing in the cold open and getting in several impressions, including Emma Stone and Kristen Stewart, into this sketch.

The "holy crap" moment of the Fifty Shades of Grey screentests sketch was Nasim Pedrad breaking out her Aziz Ansari impression. Where has this one been? Last week, Lindsay Campbell pointed at that Pedrad was pretty much absent the entire episode. Sketches like this one show that Pedrad should have a much bigger SNL presence.

My crush on Cecily Strong aside, Aidy Bryant is the highlight every time SNL does Girlfirends Talk Show. While Strong's character is all about being besties with whoever their guest is, Bryant's character stubbornly stays true to herself, no matter how uncool that may be. Can I start using "Your family runs a Honda dealership" as a way to put people in their place?

How about any Pseudo Digital Shorts or commericals?

No commercials this week, and we already covered We Did Stop. The episode closed with what I think was a short (it seemed too clean to be live).

New castmember Kyle Mooney found himself ready to hook up with Cyrus, only to get interrupted by Moynihan and Beck Bennett. While all Cyrus wanted to was crazy sex stuff, have a wet T-shirt contest and give Mooney tickets to every concert, Mooney needed a ton of convincing to go have sex with her ... and even then, things didn't go right ...

How was Cecily Strong's second Weekend Update?

I thought Strong had a great launch last weekend, but I'm worried that SNL is going to have her adopt her Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party character as her Weekend Update persona. I love that character, but Strong can't be an effective Update host if she's playing the role of the dummy week to week.

I was watching some old Tina Fey/Jimmy Fallon Weekend Updates earlier Saturday, and I was struck by how rapid-fire those guys were. Seth Meyers has slowed things down a bit, but he's never lost the level of confidence that Fey and Fallon had. Strong showed more of that confidence this weekend. Does it suck that we're losing Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party during Update? Yeah, it does, but that doesn't mean Strong needs to get dumbed down.

No one on SNL does sports personalities better than Jay Pharoah. I spent this entire segment wondering if his Shannon Sharpe would eventually like Meyers.

"I am Lester Crest, and I eat cocaine for breakfast." Kate McKinnon continues to be one of SNL's best Weekend Update players.

Anything else worth nothing?

This sketch is important for two reasons. The first is that it gave SNL the chance to air a live try-out for the role of Hillary Clinton. In 2008, Amy Poehler played the first lady/senator/secretary of state. With Poehler long gone, SNL is going to need someone to fill the key role as we approach 2016. Bayer and McKinnon both got a shot at Clinton with this sketch.

The second reason? Pedrad's impression of Arianna Huffington. I love that impression.

The cheerleaders/alien abduction sketch wouldn't be noteworthy if it weren't for the random SNL crewmember sneaking through the background after Bryant's Ashley got abducted. Were those smoking sneakers a hazard?

What's next?

SNL is back on Oct. 12 with Bruce Willis hosting and Katy Perry as the musical guest.

Previous editions of Sunday Morning Live

Sept. 29, 2013: Tina Fey
SUNDAY MORNING LIVE: Miley Cyrus Faces Her Past; 'SNL' Brings Twerking to the Government Shutdown Reviewed by Bill Kuchman on 10/06/2013 Rating: 5

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