SNL Scorecard: Justin Timberlake Saves the Best for Last
I used to think Steve Martin was the greatest Saturday Night Live host of all time. But after Justin Timberlake showed us on last night's season finale what he can do to spice up a sub-par year, I'm ready to rethink that opinion.
It's almost not fair. Timberlake is such a natural, like some form of sentient artificial intelligence that was put on this Earth to do one thing perfectly: host SNL. The results this time around -- his fourth turn as host -- were, top to bottom, the best show of the season. It still spotlighted a glaring problem that was a microcosm of this entire season: Other than the cold open, the entire show was made up out of recurring sketches. Everything! The Digital Short was a recurring, both "Weekend Update" segments were recurring. To borrow a phrase from Seth Meyers: Really!?! You have the best host of the season -- maybe ever -- and you can't think of one new thing for him to do? It was almost like Timberlake announced, "I'm never hosting again, so let's do my greatest hits."
That said, at least those greatest hits are great. On to the final Scorecard!
Sketch of the Night
"Justin Timberlake Monologue" (Timberlake) Perhaps it's the stark contrast when compared to the jittery Ed Helms monologue from last week, but, daaaaaaamn, this is how it's done. Timberlake owned the very, ahem, spirited crowd the second he pounced on stage -- crooning and joking his way through the best monologue of the season. You see, he wasn't gong to sing. But he did sing! He tricked us all! And we love him for tricking us! Because he's Justin Timberlake, SNL host extraordinaire.
"Liquorville" (Timberlake, Wiig, Lady Gaga): We all knew this was coming. And before the show aired, I was quietly hoping that Timberlake's "Bring it on down to..." guy would be given a rest this time around. Eh, I was wrong. SNL has been flying on fumes for the last few weeks and it's nice to see a sketch like this come along and screams at the top of its lungs "I'm full of life!" - and not losing one bit of momentum from Timberlake's stellar monologue. (Note: the clip is not on Hulu, hopefully this YouTube video stays up for awhile.)
"Herb Welsh" (Hader, Timberlake, Armisen, Sudeikis, Pedrad) This is the third time we've seen Herb Welch in action and this is the first time that it really worked -- but, alas, it will probably get overshadowed with all the other Timberlake goings-on from last night. The first time this sketch aired, just the idea itself of the way-past-his-prime (if he ever had one) local television reporter was enough to keep the sketch interesting. But this time, when Welch's deep-seated, World War II-embedded hatred of the Japanese community was revealed -- even accompanied with a battle cry of "Bonzai" -- Hader's Herb Welsh transformed from a tired, cranky coot to something a little more dangerous.
"Digital Short: 3-Way (the Golden Rule)" (Samberg, Timberlake, Lady Gaga) My favorite part of this now "Dick in a Box" trilogy has always been the early '90s dance moves performed overlooking the East River -- and we still get plenty of that in this third installment. This time around we have a song about the plight of two straight men in bed with another, which is OK as long as one girl is also involved. I've grown to like these characters, but, really, this probably needs to be it for them. On a night where every single sketch, save for one, was a recurring sketch, maybe this would have been a good time to try something new.
"What's That Name?" (Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Hader, Elliott, Armisen): First, I do appreciate that Lady Gaga was up for so many sketches last night. She's a good sport! But someone should have given her some advice to tone it down, just a bit, in this sketch. What works for "Liquorville" isn't going to work for a game show parody. The best joke of this sketch was when Timberlake couldn't remember the name of his former N'Sync band mate, Chris Kirkpatrick. Gaga's overacting (at 5:00) when she knew the answer kind of took me out of the joke. Timberlake was funny; Gaga was trying to be funny.
"Weekend Update" (Meyers, Cooper, Samberg, Hader): Seth Meyers' take down of Arnold Schwarzenegger's affair with his housekeeper on "Really!?! with Seth" was, alone, enough to propel this into the "good." Meyers knew it, too. His first few jokes seemed rushed, probably knowing that he had a hot goblet of comedy gold just waiting to be served. Best line, "'That's so risky. I'm not even married and I erase my Internet history every four hours just in case I die and my mom comes over." I always look forward to Samberg's Nicolas Cage impression, and I always come away disappointed. It's fine, I suppose -- and Bradley Cooper seemed game -- but it just seems like an impression that needs more bite than "Why wasn't I in The Hangover Part II?" Also, there was an obligatory -- and I do mean obligatory -- appearance by Bill Hader's Stefon. I promise, it almost took you longer to read that sentence than Stefon had airtime. Also, I love that Hulu has a separate clip just for Stefon -- all 40 seconds of him standing there.
"Secret Word" (Wiig, Timberlake, Hader, Moynihan, Elliott): I'll give Timberlake the credit, but, until this installment, I've never enjoyed "Secret Word." Actually, I probably didn't enjoy "Secret Word" inasmuch as I enjoyed Timberlake's terrible magician, The Mysterious Krandel. Again, on a show filled with recurring sketches, why not try a new one with this character?
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