'SNL' 'Silent Night' cold open

As “Saturday Night Live” has approached middle age the popular consensus is that the show has slipped in quality. Gone are the days of Belushi, Murphy, Carvey and Ferrell, replaced by a cast of no-names who are unable to wade into the comedic depths of those superstars.

That consensus seemed to fade, however, as the show took on Hurricane Sandy (hilariously, in the case of Michael Bloomberg’s interpreter) and now could disappear with the “Silent Night” opening this weekend.

The solemn Christmas classic was sung by the Manhattan Children’s Choir as a tribute to the victims of the Newton, Conn., elementary school shooting that claimed 27 lives on Friday. Adorned in red, the choir sang, “Sleep in heavenly peace” before shouting in unison “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

The “Silent Night” tribute was the only reference to the Friday shooting during the show and it fit in line with “SNL’s” recently history of properly honoring tragedies. This season, the show’s thirty-eighth, premiered with an episode heavy on Hurricane Sandy material, lampooning the reaction from news networks and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. More than a decade ago the show was heralded for the first post-9/11 episode, which provided a sense of stability in a time of fear and confusion.

Martin Short hosted Saturday’s episode with musical guest Paul McCartney. The Manhattan Children’s Choir returned to the show to join McCartney as he sang “Wonderful Christmas Time.” Earlier in the show McCartney sang with the surviving members of Nirvana, who have scarcely performed together since the 1994 suicide of Kurt Cobain.

Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Fallon, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hanks, Carrie Brownstein, Kristen Wiig and Tina Fey also stopped by for cameos on the Christmas episode Saturday night.