Monday, December 23, 2013

An Overdue Review of the Jimmy Fallon/Justin Timberlake SNL Episode

"Why don't they just get their own show?"

That's what I found myself saying after watching the highly anticipated Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake appearance on Saturday Night Live. These two performers certainly know how to put on a show, and perhaps they did it better than any duo in recent SNL history.

Fallon and Timberlake brought in huge numbers for NBC on Saturday; it was the highest rated SNL episode since January of 2012, and frankly it isn't all that surprising.

The odd thing I find out Jimmy Fallon hosting SNL is he wasn't particularly revered while he was on the show, and yet now after his stint on Late Night, Fallon is one of the most beloved returnee hosts in recent memory. 

Although the Fallon/Timberlake pairing resulted in one of the strongest SNL episodes in a very long time, it wasn't without its faults.

But first, the highlights; overall, Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake provided a solid episode start to finish. There weren't really any particularly weak sketches, and even the musical performances were quite entertaining.

The standout to me was the pseudo digital short "(Do It In My) Twin Bed". This was the female cast members answer to "Boy Dance Party", and it was just as good if not better.

My favourite part of Twin Bed that had me legit laughing out loud was when the ladies danced behind grade school pictures of themselves. That was absolutely brilliant, and overall it was a really well written and performed bit.

It may have been buried later in the show, but the "Baby It's Cold Outside" was also quite good and harnessed Fallon's abilities perfectly. He and Cecily Strong managed to pull off a convincing couple who isn't quite on the same page when it came to holiday sleepovers.

Even with those really strong sketches, the episode wasn't quite a perfect ten, so I'll share a few qualms I had. These might be more so to do with the way Saturday Night Live is trending overall, but they were prominently on display this past episode.

Again, SNL is relying extremely heavily on celebrity impressions. Case in point, the Celebrity Family Feud sketch which had nine, yes nine celebrity impressions (including Steve Harvey of course).

The issue I have here is the same thing that's been happening the past few seasons; the celebrity impressions may be extremely accurate, but they're not particularly all that funny.

"Hey, that guy sounds like Ashton Kutcher!" ... aaaand that's where it ends.

The audience and viewers chuckle initially because they recognize the impression, and then they just move onto the next character without any sort of set up or payoff.

These are the particular kinds of sketches that seem like ones that constructed solely for cheap laughs.

I fear that Celebrity Family Feud will eventually evolve into this cycle's version of Celebrity Jeopardy. What I mean by that is Family Feud is heading down the path as becoming a recurring sketch with a rotating cast of celebrities every 3-4 episodes.

Celebrity Jeopardy developed funny caricatures of its celebrities, while Celebrity Family Feud is just trying to mimic their celebrities as closely as possible. And if those impressions are funny in the process ... that's secondary.

It's the very same issue with the "Now That's What I Call Christmas" short. I think I liked it better last year when it was "Michael Buble's Christmas Duets".
Again, nothing really funny here, just cast members that looked, acted and sung like the musicians they were portraying.

While it was great to see Justin Timberlake reprise his role as the (blank)-Ville performer, it seemed kind of odd to have it as the cold open sketch.

Wrappinville probably would have been better suited to run directly after the monologue or the second sketch, but obviously there was a lot of content to squeeze into 90 minutes.

This is a growing problem SNL has suffered from in the last few weeks; not exactly putting the correct sketch in the cold open slot. It's usually reserved for political or current event sketches, but lately it's been a free-for-all.

The Barry Gibb Talk Show was okay; it took me a few minutes to register that it actually was Madonna in there, and not just one of SNL's often-forgotten cast members. The actual Barry Gibb cameo was great to see, although I'm sure there were lots of people who thought "who's the guy with white hair?"

Overall, Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake and the supporting cast provided a very strong SNL episode going into the holidays. It was by far the best of the season, perhaps the best in the past few seasons, and it certainly set the bar high for any other subsequent hosts in 2014.

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