Monday, May 11, 2009

SNL: JT joins the Three-Timers Club

Spoilers for the Justin Timberlake episode of "Saturday Night Live" coming right up...
"And then he'll appear, again, and again -- many times a year."
"Won't that lessen the excitement, though, each time?"
With his second hosting stint (which introduced the world to "Dick in a Box"), Justin Timberlake established himself as the most promising "SNL" host in years. His cameos in the two years since have only built the anticipation for his third gig as host (though he also appeared in sketches several times as a musical guest before he first hosted). But at the same time, as that self-aware line from Saturday's funniest live sketch showed, the danger in Timberlake popping up so often is that it could become less special when he does it.

Saturday's episode was actually one of this season's stronger efforts (though I'd put it behind the Jon Hamm and Anne Hathaway episodes, at a minimum), but at the same time, I wish they'd given Timberlake more new material to do, instead of largely recycling all the characters he's developed in previous appearances. When he did his Weekend Update cameo in the Paul Rudd episode to run through what his next hosting gig might look like, he at least suggested doing James Dean and Michael McDonald impressions.

With the exception of the Digital Short, which I'll get to in a minute, all of Timberlake's recurring characters felt less funny than they have previously, whether it was The Barry Gibb Talk Show or the rapping sidewalk salesman. Not bad sketches, but the law of diminishing returns has set in.

(Then again, giving him a new character to play isn't always a cure-all. While Timberlake played a Target employee in his last appearance, the latest Target lady sketch featured him in a new, cross-dressing persona, and was about as funny as the Target lady herself is at this point -- which is to say, not at all.)

"Motherlover," the sequel to "Dick in a Box," was the one recurring bit I was happy to see. Considering the brilliance and popularity of the original video, you knew they'd have to do a follow-up, and I expected it to be both good and relatively different (as opposed to the "One: Cut a hole in a turkey..." joke from the Thanksgiving Update bit). I would say "Motherlover" was probably a better video (with Susan Sarandon and Patricia Clarkson throwing themselves into their cameos), and maybe a more interesting song, than "Dick in a Box," but the original was catchier, and the novelty of the characters and the subject matter made it more shockingly funny. Still, as good a sequel as you could hope to one of the show's most memorable sketches of the last decade (if not all time), and even the guys admitted, "This will be the second best idea we ever had."

But for me, the highlight of the episode was Timberlake's ancestor predicting his entire career while on a boat to Ellis Island. The execution of it (including Timberlake's passable Irish accent) was much stronger than we often get with these self-deprecating host bits (which usually come in the monologue), and I loved the idea of Timberlake's career as seen through the eyes of turn of the (20th) century immigrants, who assumed Timberlake was a woman, didn't understand why sexy would need to come back ("It will be gone, and he'll bring it back!") and were dazzled by the references to all his conquests ("Publicly, they'll claim to be virgins, but privately... he'll hit it").

There were a number of other good sketches with no Timberlake involvement, including the ad for the mom celebrity name translator, Elliot Spitzer & David Patterson turning into a New Jersey-bashing comedy duo, and Kirk, Spock and Spock suggesting the Trekkies (as William Shatner once famously did) get a life.

Again, a very good episode, but I guess my expectations were too high after last time, and I would have liked to see more new material. But Timberlake can come back anytime.

What did everybody else think?

38 comments:

Mel said...

I thought his "Peg" character was actually pretty funny if only because of his commitment to the character. "Classic Peg!"

Adam said...

If JT had gone from the Mickey Mouse Club et al into SNL rather than pop music -- a Kenan Thompson career arc, more or less -- would Lorne have made him a star anyway? Because he's go the timing and fearlessness that the show requires. He's great at this, though diminishing returns on Robin Gibb are duly noted. I would love to see him drop the music to do a 13-week stint on the cast, though it's not going to happen.

I thought I was tired of it, but this week's David Paterson/Eliot Spitzer did kill. Again. Only way one wouldn't like it is if one lived in ... New Jersey.

amysusanne said...

I didn't like the Target sketch, but I agree with Meg that *he* was funny. Still, the Target sketches should be retired.

I did like most of the rest of the show, though. He was fantastic as always. And even though I agree that it would be nice to see more original stuff, they're clearly going more towards pleasing everybody than trying something new. I mean, it wasn't the best Gibb sketch, but if they hadn't done it then people would have been whining about it.

I just noticed, btw, that hulu/nbc have put up the dress rehearsal version of the "Star Trek" update bit. I've never noticed them doing that before, but I'm guessing that's probably because I haven't been paying attention. I only noticed because I thought Pine's delivery of the "it's scratching the glass" bit was hilarious and the one NBC has up is pretty different.

Anonymous said...

“Motherlovers” was awfully derivative of Flight of the Conchords’ “We’re Both In Love With a Sexy Lady,” in parts, especially the, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” line. However, FOTC stop short of going for the obvious laugh. As a matter of fact, after enjoying the second FOTC season, all of the Andy Samberg/Lonely Island shorts seem a bit tired. The only thing Andy has is JT or others to lend a bit more star power to his films.

Trotsky said...

How has the great monologue gone unmentioned?

Andrew said...

Have the Taret Lady sketches ever been funny? I can't remember one that I haven't fast-forwarded through after half a minute, because it wasn't unwatchably bad.

The Barry Gibb talk show sketch suffered from the law of diminishing returns--the more variations on the sketch they do, the less impact each one has. Not a bad idea originally, but I suspect JT and Fallon have more fun with it than the audience.

I like the thing on Update where they've used a run of a few jokes on a single topic (this week, the Gyllenhaal/Sarsgaard wedding). Even if none of the jokes kill, Myers' enthusiasm delivering the alternate punchlines elevates the bit.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who's never found Target lady or The Barry Gibb show funny? They do nothing for me. I thought the sing off on the sidewalk was still funny, though, and the immigrant sketch was great. Also, I thought Weekend Update was good this week and loved the bit with AirForce One and photoshop.

J.J. said...

Man, he needs to stop doing SNL because I truly hate that I'm starting to like Justin Timberlake at all.

Bryan said...

I found most of it very funny with the exceptions being Target, BeeGee's and the Geitner opening.

The Geitner opening was very clever and well written but Forte really hasn't sunk his teeth into this roll like he's capable of. (Yes Geitner's pretty boring but looking at him he reminds me of Billy Bibbit -Brad Dourif- the crazy stutterer from Cuckoo's Nest with that floppy hair and crazy eyes). As he's as playing him he's as boring as Geitner himself.

Nicole said...

I have never found the Target lady funny and it did not get any better with JT around. He was good overall, and I think that the ancestor bit was probably the best JT portion, although the monologue was good, and noticeably better than what most hosts have done. He can perform and can translate his skills on SNL successfully, although many of the skits have some kind of singing component, which is still in his wheelhouse. Jon Hamm and Anne Hathaway were better at pulling off skits that didn't appear to be in their normally perceived range. In any case. it's nice to watch an SNL episode and not have to cringe at mostly everything.

The Star Trek guys were funny too, but I can't say that it measures up to the Shatner classic skit of "get a life". I guess since Star Trek is allegedly cool now, that won't work.

The Motherlover video was quite funny, and a worthy sequel. I wonder if Color Me Badd gets any royalties out of these things?

Ben said...

I had the exact same thoughts Alan. If this was the first time JT had hosted it would have been very funny, but the recycling of the skits (especially the rapping sales one. Actuall, the Barry Gibb was worse, was a little tired. Actually the Barry Gibb skit was the lamest, but considering NBC is still trying to build up Jimmy Fallon, I get why it was on.

Still, JT is a fantastic host. His opening monologue was well excuted and gave him a chance to show off his wide ranging skill set. The "Mother Lover" song was fantastic (wow does Susan Sarandon still get it done) and yes, the immigrant sketch had laughs and the wow factor with the Britney reveal.

Overall, another strong outing from Timberlake, who continues to be a must watch host.

M. Brodeur said...

The cold open had enough easy zingers on the banks to get a pass (or pass*) in my view.

I dug the immigrant sketch and I liked how he delivered the joke on his relationship with Britney. He seemed to be saying: "I take no pleasure from this, but one of these dudes wrote it and I know y'all will get a laugh out of it."

Lonely Islands vs. FOTC. Listen there's no comparison. However, if British humor (FOTC is pseudo-British?) is about hinting at without telling or showing then the quintessential American school of humor is about telling and showing and then rubbing the collective faces of the audience in it. Austin Powers, Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, etc. Hell, I'm think it stretches all the way back to the Marx Brothers and past that.

P.S. Say what ya want about Jersey, but it is the home of The Boss. Even if his best song is about getting the hell out of there.

Ben said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who's never found Target lady or The Barry Gibb show funny? They do nothing for me.

---------------------

The first time with Timberlake was very, very funny. The problem is the Target Lady is very much of a one-trick pony, as are many of the SNL characters, and they ride it into the ground. I mean, should the Night of Roxbury guys every been on more than a couple of times, let alone get a movie?!?!

Eric said...

I found the Star Trek weekend update segment derivative of the original "Get a Life" sketch without acknowleging it, and far more mean-sprited in some way that I can't quite put my finger on.

Craig said...

I think calling the Target Lady a one-trick pony is giving her credit for one trick too many. Usually even the worst SNL bit is funny for a moment or two, then goes off the rails, or just goes on too long. The Target Lady isn't even funny in theory. I'm starting to think that it's an Andy Kaufman-esque gag on the audience.

Pirate Alice said...

I haven't watched SNL in at least 5 years if not longer. But I found myself home and awake on Saturday night and it was on. I really enjoyed it! I can't believe Justin Timberlake is funny and talented. I have a new found respect for him. So, as someone seeing some of the repeat sketches for the first time, they made me laugh. Although yeah, I agree with the others that the Target sketch was stupid.

Hatfield said...

Wow, I don't suppose there's footage anywhere of the Shatner bit? Or the democrats going to a Star Trek convention, with Al Franken's amazing Tsongas?

Michael said...

"Privately, he'd hit it" made me stop the DVR because I laughed so hard.

As for the infamous Shatner skit, just search for ["Get a life" Shatner].

Word verification: Hemplimp, which is what happens when your hemp has a bum leg.

Anonymous said...

didn't watch SNL last night but disappointed the show either sucks or has to rip off other ideas to be funny. FOTC? Redoing their OWN Star Trek bit? And wasn't the original D*ck in a Box skit material that was stolen from somebody else? Not that JT and Andy weren't funny, but people give them credit for coming up with ideas that were already written and performed.

Hyde said...

However, if British humor (FOTC is pseudo-British?) is about hinting at without telling or showing then the quintessential American school of humor is about telling and showing and then rubbing the collective faces of the audience in it. Austin Powers, Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, etc.Ferrell is the only American in that bunch.

I really liked the show, and wasn't even that bothered by the repetition, since (except for Target Lady, which I agree is played out) these are bits that we only see when Timberlake hosts. I even have a soft spot for the ridiculousness of the premise of the Barry Gibb Talk Show, though I can understand how that would be a minority opinion.

Kudos to Patricia Clarkson for being a good enough sport to agree to be lumped in with the much older Susan Sarandon in the Motherlover video.

The Mom Translator was brilliant. I could have supplied the writers with some examples from my own mother.

Alan Sepinwall said...

My other objection to the return of Barry Gibb Talk Show was that Fallon did so little of what's the funniest part of it: the random shifts in and out of Gibb's falsetto as he rants at his guests. Too much of his dialogue was delivered in something close to Fallon's normal speaking voice.

Bryan said...

Don't have HBO so haven't really seen much of FOTC so this is no knock against them but to those of you griping about ripping off FOTC I don't get it. First of all try to show me any modern comedy that's not derivative. Also did FOTC invent their brand of comedy? Sounds a lot like Spinal Tap which sounds a lot like The Ruttles.

cgeye said...

The meanness of the ST skit lies in how it was seen as necessary during the *opening weekend*. Shatner had guaranteed appearances in the ST movies, and other things going on, when they stopped. He didn't tell fans to FU during his first ST movie, did he?

Don't johns kick whores out of the room after after they're done, not during?

The disrespect for a group that at least has to show up opening weekend in order for the movie to be seen as a hit is pure arrogance. You really don't need that repeat audience, guys, years after hardcore fans proved they could tire of ENTERPRISE?

It's telling that it was done on NBC, who never got a bite of the ST apple after the network cancelled it, and not on the CBS late night shows last week, where what skits and appearances there were respectful and funny. (I'd go for a "live long and prosper, and keep on hangin' and bangin'" t-shirt, myself... Nimoy's Top 10 List on Letterman ruled.) So I ascribe the meanness to playa hating, and self-hating. I hope the new crew refuses con appearances, since if they don't need old fans now, they won't need them later....

Anonymous said...

To Bryan,
But isn't the point of SNL that it's NOT supposed to be derivative? It's the main sketch comedy show on TV (certainly the longest running) and was created in many ways to make fun of the kind of shows that it has now turned into. That's my biggest problem with the show. I don't even mind that Lorne Michaels sold out (hard to blame him) it's that the show just doesn't even try anymore and nobody seems to care.

JD said...

I guess I'm the only one that noticed that the guy that JT sat down on in his lap, patted JT on the butt when JT hopped up to continue his monologue. I thought that was kind of funny and maybe unscripted.

I went to bed after the Barry Gibb sketch, but thought the earlier part of the show worked well. I think the Gov. Patterson sketch didn't get old this time because of the addition of Spitzer to cut the Patterson schtick in half, so Patterson didn't come off as cruel as he has in the past.

How cool that Patricia Clarkson got onto SNL, albeit as kind of a sight gag. When she first appeared, I actually thought it was Francis Conroy, but was happy to see Clarkson and Sarandon in a cool sketch. I don't think either of the women have ever hosted, but maybe they should next season.

Bryan said...

I don't know if that's really true- even in the glory days a case can be made that SNL was always derivative. I think the difference was the Not Ready for Primetime Players were borrowing heavily from other media - radio, albums, live perfomance - so it wasn't as noticable. As great as it was - and it was great- much of their stuff was a lot like National Lampoon, Second City, Monty Python, even Cheech and Chong.

I do agree though SNL can get lazy, especially lately - I just don't think Saturday's show was lazy and if the digital short was derivative - I still laugh til I cried.

Anonymous said...

I didn't feel the Star Trek bit was derivative of the Shatner version, largely because they weren't making the same joke. The Shatner version, if memory serves, was him addressing a Star Trek Convention and being asked the most esoteric and anal retentive of questions. The Pine/Quinto/Nimoy bit last night was about the die hard trek fans not being happy about the re-boot and changes to their cherished franchise. Last night's bit was not telling them to "get a life" but telling them to relax and see the movie.

And to CGEYE, I think you are reading WAY to much into the sketch. SNLs humor is pretty much always mean-spirited to some extent, and i don's think NBC executives are sitting around twirling their mustaches thinking about how to get back at the Star Trek franchise forty years after they dropped it. Besides, no one is taking what they said seriously. They were on a fake news segment of satirical television institution. I can't believe that anyone watching that would take it to heart enough to be offended. I doubt that appearance cost them a single ticket.

Crystal said...

Did anyone else hear an unbleeped "f***" in the MotherLover song? I can't be the only one... It was when Samberg is singing to Patricia Clarkson on the bed.

That Ellis Island sketch was funny and solid the whole way through. Loved it. Only one I can remember that was better was the original Broadway brainstorm session during the Neil Patrick Harris show.

cgeye said...

No, its humor wasn't always mean-spirited, not in the beginning. *Now* it is, because everyone's late-night humor is, because commercials are now mean-spirited, sitcoms are now mean-spirited... just because it's that way now doesn't mean it was always that way.

Has there been a SNL character in the past 10 years that was funny and sympathetic?

Pamela Jaye said...

well, since everything you enjoyed seems to be online, I think I'll delete it. I need the space - Syfy (or whoever they are now) threw a Joan of Arcadia marathon at me today, and nearly wiped out free space on the DVR

Anonymous said...

As great as it was - and it was great- much of their stuff was a lot like National Lampoon, Second City, Monty Python, even Cheech and Chong.I was going to mention Monty Python. Not sure about Cheech and Chong, but I wouldn't include National Lampoon or Second City in that list given that a lot of the cast (Chase, Belushi, Murray to name a few) actually started out there. Same with the cast that came over later from SCTV. It's hard to decipher what they "stole" from those places and what stuff they developed themselves while working their and then brought with them. Not sure where the credit goes

amysusanne said...

@cgeye...ignoring the fact that you took that sketch way too personally and, imo, went a little ways round the bend wrt an NBC conspiracy to mock the franchise they lost, yeah...SNL's had moments with "bite" since way back in the beginning. They mocked and they teased and they took digs at folks and it was what it was. Random example off the top of my head: Claudine Longet. That bit is very funny and still holds up (assuming, I guess, that you know who Longet is, although it's probably funny either way), but she sure thought it was mean. I don't know how the Sabich family felt, but they probably thought it was mean. I'm sure plenty of people did. With all due respect, the Update bit wasn't The Claudine Longet Invitational. Funny or not, SNL's always run the gamut from goofy to something with more bite to it.

Jesse said...

Let me guess: cgeye thought Galaxy Quest was mean-spirited too. I don't know what sketch you saw, but as a Trek fan since I was in diapers, and who just threw down $150(!) for TOS:S1 and Movies 1-6 on Blu-ray, I thought the sketch was a blast.

Frankly, I think the sketch was making fun of the distinct minority of Trek fans who tend to be humorless about the franchise. Sure, I may own several Technical Manuals, but neither I nor hardly any of my fellow Trekkies--sorry, Trekkers--have minded the ribbing that the show and fans get. Considering the stuff I've seen at cons regarding the fandom, I'd bet that playing this sketch at one would be incredibly popular.

Heather said...

pI skipped around the episode, but Justin Timberlake is a pretty charming host, I have to give him that. Except the part when they did the Target sketch. Just unfunny.

As for the Star Trek thing, I don't think it was stemming from the Shatner one. This one was against all those Trekkers who already hated the movie before they went to go see it because it messed with cannon. In some ways, it was towards all the people who did see it and hated it since "It was not Star Trek" (Whatever the hell that means).

Steve said...

Justin Timberlake is one heck of an entertainer.

I loved the first Barry Gibb talk show. This was not as good, but it wasn't terrible.

I thought "Plasticville" was actually funnier than "Homelessville" and I laughed very hard at "Mediocre Face"

The immigrant sketch had some nice zingers.

The digital short was by far the pinnacle sketch of the night. The expectations were so high, yet they still delivered.

JT's monologue was also very well done and enjoyable.

cgeye said...

I thought Galaxy Quest was the best ST movie ever made, because it didn't make fun of the fans; it made fun of the *industry* surrounding the actors and the show without dismissing anyone or anything as beneath the film's regard.

It did something neither SNL nor Abrams would be capable of, now: Turning the jokes 'laughing at' the Thermians, the hack actors and fandom to empathy for everyone, without losing the funny. When I see similar skill on SNL, I'll laugh.

And I don't own any film other than the Nicholas Meyer Treks, since he knew how to direct movies without any cringing parts. Those, and Galaxy Quest, of course.

dez said...

Sure, I may own several Technical Manuals, but neither I nor hardly any of my fellow Trekkies--sorry, TrekkersI'm a Trekkie and proud of it :-) You Trekkers can keep your TNG and your DS9. Kirk FTW!

@cgeye: Lighten up, Francis. The sketch was funny. If you want mean-spirited, check out the Star Trek Geeks vs. Star Wars Nerds fight in "Fanboys." Except...it was also really effin' funny :-)

Mike F said...

This was the best show of the season...the opening was incredibly strong, weekend update was pretty funny throughout, the recurring sketches were sit-throughable...and Timberlake was strong in every single appearance in a sketch...the two shorts were great...even the musical guest was pretty good

AND even Keenan had a funny line or two...hard to believe, but true

No complaints here...at all...