Thoughts on last night's "Saturday Night Live" coming up just as soon as I ask my doctor about my tolerance for cartoonish sound effects...
I know everyone's going to want to talk about Justin Timberlake's surprise appearance on Weekend Update and then his work in the sketch depicted above(*), but I want to start off by singing the praises of this week's Digital Short. Perhaps to an even more extreme degree than "SNL" itself, the Shorts can be very hit-or-miss, and "Everyone's a Critic" started off seeming like it would be one of the misses, relying on a pixellated male nudity gag that wasn't enough to justify the length. But then they unveiled the painting at the art auction, and... well, like Adam at Throwing Things, I can't remember the last time I laughed so uncontrollably at something(**). Just the perfect amount of over-the-top (if such a thing is possible), and the random "Raiders of the Lost Ark" homage in the middle gave the entire thing a great Zucker Brothers (circa "Airplane!") feel.
(*)I'm still trying to figure out NBC's strategy for which sketches to post online. You would think the Beyonce/Timberlake sketch would be a natural to go viral, but it's not up there, while lamer sketches like the kissing family are. Is it a music rights clearance issue? Or will it just randomly turn up online days and days later, like Giraffes! and Night School Musical from the Ben Affleck show?
(**) Actually, that's not true. I'd put the second half of "Everyone's a Critic" slightly behind the safe-sex riff from last night's Ricky Gervais HBO concert special, but in fairness, I first heard that one way back in July.
But, anyway, JT. I think we've already established that Timberlake's in the elite hosting pantheon with Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, Christopher Walken and, if they ever do it again, Tom Hanks and John Goodman. So while it's a disappointment that he won't be pulling double duty for the Thanksgiving show, the idea of having him condense his entire appearance into a stream-of-consciousness monologue -- which sounded almost exactly like how you would expect the hypothetical episode to go, and allowed Timberlake to introduce a Michael McDonald impression -- was hilarious, and one of several extremely meta moments of the episode.
We also got Paul Rudd(***) doing a monologue about how disappointing it is to be hosting the show after the election, and even the cold opening with Joe Biden promising that he can be as gaffe-prone as Sarah Palin felt like the show's way of promising that they could be funny even without Tina Fey's Palin impression(****).
(***) Rudd was a disappointment as host, I thought, considering how funny and versatile he is in his movies. They primarily used him as the straight man in other people's sketches (like the scared straight bit with Kenan), and didn't even let him be one of the dancers in the Beyonce sketch, even though he showed in the otherwise forgettable (and straight-to-video) "I Could Never Be Your Woman" that he's a wonderful funny dancer.
(****) It also felt like an excuse to once again duck the show's problem with making Obama funny. How long can they hold off on bringing Fred Armisen out as Obama again?
I'm sure everyone who works on the show is bracing him or herself for the inevitable post-election round of "Saturday Night Dead" stories. Devoting so much airtime to various sketches commenting about the predictable nature of the show could have been their attempt to pre-empt those criticisms -- or, at least, to soften the blow by joking about it in advance. But a better -- albeit harder -- approach would have been to come back with a kick-butt episode that made it clear it wasn't just Fey carrying the show this season. Instead, we got a few highlights and a lot of dead air. Even the franchise's best seasons offer up episodes like that now and again; this one was just very poorly-timed.
What did everybody else think?