"And then he'll appear, again, and again -- many times a year."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.
"Won't that lessen the excitement, though, each time?"
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?