Justin Timberlake didn't disappoint as host of the "Saturday Night Live" finale. All the characters we hoped to see more of made an appearance, and Timberlake's combo of musical and comedic skills helped the show chug along at a fast clip. It was a night of mostly hits and few misses, though we're hoping Timberlake breaks out some new characters on his next visit. Musical guest Lady Gaga filled the stage with dancers, costumes and her usual freakiness, and also took her fair share of the spotlight during the rest of the show.
The cold open had Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson as tough-looking cell mates of recently arrested IMF manager Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The sketch took an immediate funny turn as Pharoah and Thompson started discussing the economic situation in Europe, which included jabs about Greece's biggest export: "Hard-working Greeks!" Another highlight was, "B---h, you know I ain't got no love for Portugal!" The sketch came perfectly full circle when the inmates informed Strauss-Kahn that he would be getting the "Oz" treatment, if you know what I mean, returning jarringly to the stereotype the audience was imagining when the scene first began.
J.T. was all talent and charm in his monologue, proving once again why he has so much fame and success. Dressed in a three-piece suit, complete with tie in a full Windsor knot, Justin brought sophisticated sexy back to the "Saturday Night Live" stage. He of course busted out a song, which was about...how he wasn't going to sing. The lyrics let Justin poke fun at himself and all of his trademark crowd-pleasers, like taking his voice up an octave, the "single sexy breath," "shout out for cheap applause" and of course, "sing to a lady." The gal in the audience went legitimately crazy for Justin as he took a knee in front of her and wooed her with a verse. Great launch to Timberlake's stint on the show.
The audience got wound up the moment they saw Kristen Wiig dressed up as a tea bag in front of a store--we all knew one of our favorite Timberlake sketches was on deck. As Wiig strummed a mini-harp and sang operatically about "40 varieties of tea," Timberlake jumped in as a beer bottle and shouted, "Did someone say 40?" The pop star/dancer once again managed to tailor his best dance moves to his costume, making it awesome and hilarious at the same time, especially when he made his legs disappear inside the bottle.
Timberlake and Wiig had a good chemistry as they taunted one another. Wiig repeatedly made unintentional double entendres like "I'll teabag you all day long," prompting Timberlake's, "You should really Google that phrase." "Saturday Night Live" upped the ante by bringing out a surprise Lady Gaga, decked out in a grape dress, corkscrew head and giant wine glasses for arms--in other words, something you could realistically imagine Gaga wearing on stage. The night was off to a stellar start.
Next we got Bill Hader's crotchety old newsman, Herb Welch. Timberlake was perfect as a pony-tailed, sweater-vest-wearing art teacher, whom Herb of course mocked about his "macaroni and yarn" classes. Hader seemed to have fun teasing Timberlake with when he was going to hit him in the face with the mic, and the two had some great play as Timberlake played "follow the mic" while trying to answer questions. As usual, Herb insulted his fellow newscasters with remarks like "Tell Wanda to go back to her kitchen," and had a war flashback as he attacked an Asian interview subject. He also faked his own death to get a rise out of everyone. Not quite as funny as Jesse Eisenberg's run-in with Herb, but still a funny segment, and it's always entertaining watching the participants trying not to laugh.
It was impossible to expect lightning to strike three times in the same place, but Andy Samberg and Timberlake still managed to wring out some more laughs from the "D--- in a Box" guys. Patricia Clarkson and Susan Sarandon of the "Motherlover" video made cameos, and Gaga starred as the girl who wanted to hook up with both guys at once. "It's not gay if it's a three-way," our favorite sleazy singers decided, and we got some hilarious lyrics that took that idea down some interesting pathways. One of the highlights was the cutaways to the characters dressed up as their own version of "Three's Company." Like most trilogies, the first is always the best, but these dudes are still funny.
Lady Gaga took to the musical stage next, starting off at the piano with "The Edge of Glory." Looking like a "Metropolis" version of Cleopatra, she belted out some of her most impressive vocals yet. She then whipped off her shiny golden, half-moon headdress and busted a move to "Judas." The gal definitely knows how to put on a show, even on the tiny "Saturday Night Live" stage.
Weekend Update focused on Arnold Schwarzenegger with a "Really?" segment. Highlights included talking about the governator's cojones in keeping his lover in the same house with his wife: "I live alone and I clear my browser history every four hours; in case I die, and my mom comes over." He also wondered how he got away with bringing the maid on vacation with the family, to hotels where there are maids already: "It's like bringing weed to Amsterdam."
We also got another segment with Samberg's Nicholas Cage, this time with the real Bradley Cooper. Cooper seemed a little too pleased to be on "Saturday Night Live" to really sell the jokes, but Hader as usual had fun with Cage's insanity, with another long monologue about his eyebrows' journey up his ever lengthening forehead, and a shout-out to "Cooper Scooper." The night of "SNL" greatest hits continued with Seth Meyers ending his segment by going off on a summer vacation with our beloved Stefon (Hader). Wonder if we'll hear about that trip when the new season starts?
Rivaling the "Liquorville" sketch for laughs was game show "What's That Name?" Timberlake and Gaga were the contestants this week, each winning $10 for identifying MC Skat Kat and Wallace Shawn. Then J.T. Got blind-sided by a one-night-stand from one of his concerts, whose name he of course couldn't remember. "This show is awful," he murmured, prompting Hader's snarky host to reply, "I think you're awful." Then Gaga got the same treatment, with a guy who "hung out by the stage door." The laughs really kicked in when Gaga knew his name, and asked how his sister was doing.
The edgiest moment came when a guy came out and identified himself as a member of 'N Synch: "Not Lance Bass, you or Joey Fatone." Timberlake didn't know, and I confess, I didn't know either. But Gaga knew--it's Chris Kirkpatrick. The best Timberlake could come up with was "Chartie." Funny, but also pointed, and a little sad.
It was an amusing surprise to see the "Love Tunnel" sketch from Jim Carrey's episode crop up here, this time with Timberlake joining Hader and Taran Killam as the creepy robotic singers. This time the couple, played by Nasim Pedrad and Jason Sudeikis, ended up joining in the sadistic fun. Nasim kissed and married Timberlake, as a robot minister Paul Brittain threw rice abruptly in their direction. An irate Sudeikis finally gave up on his wife and gave in to a little, erm, attention from an amorous Hader.
As for repeats, we really didn't need to see "Secret Word" again, with Wiig's theatrical Mindy Elise Grayson--her intro of "This is all I do now" was the only funny moment of the sketch. Timberlake played a freaky mentalist who kept trying to hypnotize everyone. The only bum sketch of the night.
Lady Gaga brought out her egg again for her "Born This Way" performance, beginning with an unflattering black patent leather number that exposed most of her midriff--then was filled in with a leather covered pregnant belly with a ripcord. This was bad enough, and there was a growing sense of dread as Gaga climbed into stirrups and simulated birth--to a bunch of gold glitter. Thankfully no one pulled the ripcord and unleashed who knows what horrors.
To help scrub our minds clean from that last performance, "Saturday Night Live" thankfully gave us a return to the Bee Gees with the Barry Gibb talk show. Jimmy Fallon made an exuberant return as the very hairy Barry, belting out all sorts of nonsense about his "chest hair caked in blood, journals make no sense." Fallon and Timberlake have flawless chemistry as the brothers, harmonizing and synchronizing their dance moves perfectly. It's something they both excel at, combining music and comedy. Fallon was on fire, showing more confidence and commitment to the crazy than usual. Timberlake, Thompson, Fred Armisen and Abby Elliot all started to crack under the pressure, barely restraining their laughter under taut smiles as the sketch thundered to a close: "I'm Barry Gibb. I'll survive The Rapture!"
While it didn't really break any new ground, the return to favorite sketches made for a nice round-up of the season and a high note to go out on. Timberlake and Gaga made a good team, and I enjoyed her sketches a lot more than her pseudo birth scene. Throw out that and the "Secret Word" sketch, and you've got one of the top episodes of "Saturday Night Live" this season.
What did you think of this episode of "Saturday Night Live"? Were the retreads worthy of a finale? Did Gaga impress, or was she used too much? What was your favorite sketch of the night?
Catch up with "Saturday Night Live" every Saturday on NBC, at 11:30 pm ET.
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