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I’m a fan of Jimmy Fallon’s from his SNL days to his current Late Night gig, but I’m worried that, while the last Christmas-themed episode he hosted was quite good, he’ll fall back on his old bag of tricks instead of taking the time to develop new material. Plus, Timberlake is back in the house, so we know he’s going to appear in multiple sketches plus an undoubted cadre of special guest stars.
I wanted to take a moment and say apologize for the tardiness of this recap. Santa gave me a wonderful early Christmas present on Saturday morning – a sore throat and fever – which kept me from recapping until now. I generally would have just skipped this week but since it’s the mid-season finale, I decided to publish anyway.
Like always, I’ll be writing the recaps “live,” meaning I’ll watch the sketch and immediately write a short blurb reviewing and recapping it. For each segment, I’ll rate it on a scale of 0-5 stars. At the end of the piece, I’ll share some quick overall thoughts and the best/worst sketch of the night.
Wrappinville: * * ½
Oh no, just as I feared. No more than five minutes into the episode and SNL is already trotting out familiar material, not because they have anything new to add to the proceedings, but merely to pander to an audience of Timberlake/Fallon fans. The insert-“ville”-here series of sketches started out as funny but, like many reoccurring SNL skits, wore out their welcome long before the cast wanted to retire them. Bryant was a nice foil for Timberlake here and the “sacked his deck” bit made me giggle, but on the whole I’m not sure why we needed to fall back on old material this soon in the episode.
Opening Monologue: * * *
Jimmy Fallon is back in 8H and, despite my complaining during the opening sketch, I’m happy to see him. And it looks like Fallon isn’t alone, David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney are all there to sing Christmas carols with the future Tonight Show host. But, wait, none of them could make it due to traffic so Fallon has to sing each of their parts. I love Fallon’s impressions, but this wasn’t anything I haven’t seen done (and done better) on his Late Night show. That being said, it was a fun and warm opening monologue, especially when the real Sir Paul appeared.
Celebrity Family Feud: * * ½
Steve Harvey (Thompson) who “just reached [his] goal to be on mute in every waiting room in America,” is back to host a celebrity edition of Family Feud. This time, it’s Team CBS (Jim Parsons, Ashton Kutcher, Jon Cryer and Allyson Hannigan) vs. Team NBC (Jimmy Fallon, Jane Lynch, Ice T and Brooks Wheelen). The impression ranged from pretty darn brilliant (especially Pharaoh’s Ice T, Killam’s Kutcher and McKinnon’s Lynch) to head scratching. Why, for instance, does Jim Parsons act exactly like his character Sheldon? The cast had fun, especially with having Timberlake portray Jimmy Fallon, but the whole thing was just felt terribly bland. Plus, I’m getting really sick of the “hey, I’m on SNL too!” meta-humor from the new cast members.
Twin Bed: * * * * *
Now this is what I’m talking about! This season, the best material SNLhas come up with is during pre-produced videos. I’m not sure what that says about the tenure of this show, but if they keep coming up with material this strong, I really couldn’t care less. The ladies of SNL strut their stuff in this fantastic music video – easily the best music video of the season and one of the best in recent memory. The writing is strong, the attention to detail is great (Jean!) and the production value is pretty impeccable. Besides, who doesn’t love seeing middle school photos of these talented SNL comediennes.
Barry Gibb Talk Show: * *
Why did this exist? We know the joke already. A struggling Madonna adds nothing to the skit. Sure, it was kinda cool to see a real Gibb interact with Fallon and Timberlake’s fake Gibbs, but again I’m left wondering if the writers couldn’t come up with strong new material or did Fallon/Timberlake insist on bringing out this track on their greatest hits?
Weekend Update: * * *
“Obama’s big gay middle finger” Billie Jean King is at the update desk to talk about the Sochi Olympics. McKinnon does a fine job with her, but it was surprisingly weak and relied too heavily on tired stereotypes, which is somewhat surprising for a talented comedian who once stared on Logo’s Big Gay Sketch Show. After that, Jimmy Fallon and Mayor Bloomberg come on to discuss their changing careers in 2014. Bloomberg had some fine one-liners (the bit about the Spanish tutor was quite funny) but it ultimately didn’t amount to much and seemed terribly insider baseball.
Waking Up With Kimye: * * *
I quite liked the Kimye sketch the first time it aired during the Lady Gaga episode. In fact, after watching it again after it’s initial broadcast I would have upped its rating from its original three stars. I still adore Pharaoh’s Kanye impression, but this iteration doesn’t really add anything new except a “Bound 2” spoof. And, let’s be real, after Seth Rogan’s version, what’s the point?
Now That’s What I Call Christmas: * *
The last time Fallon hosted, he starred in a superb impression-o-rama sketch about celebrities singing Christmas carols. Because it was so popular, and SNL just loves this type of skit, they tried to do it again this year to a much smaller payoff. Yeah some of the impressions were spot-on, but it was just too light on substance and actual humor.
A Christmas Carol: *
Ha Ha. Scrooge was gay! Can you believe how outrageous?! Moving on, please.
Baby Its Cold Outside: * * * * ½
Right on a string of a few dead-end sketches, we get this, an instant SNL Christmas classic. This exceedingly simple and well-executed sketch imagines a part two to the famous holiday song. It’s performed flawlessly by Fallon and Strong with loads of charm and found just the right mix of comedy and sincerity. If the show had to pick a way to end the first half of its season, this might be the perfect way and the perfect Holiday gift for its loyal viewers.
Best Sketch: Twin Bed, but Baby It’s Cold is right behind.
Worst Sketch: A Christmas Carol
Musical Guest: Justin Timberlake
JT’s first song, “Only When I Walk Away,” was filled with seizure-inducing lasers, muffled vocals and large projected Timberlake heads. Perhaps it’s my weakened flu-like state, but this was closer to a bad fever dream than a musical performance. Thankfully, his second, “Pair of Wings” was acoustic and simple and sweet.
Overall Thoughts: Most of the episode relied way too heavily on tired sketches and old favorite characters, but when it tried to come up with original material, they came out with two of the best sketches of the year. If it means sitting through a couple more lets-see-how-many-impressions-we-can-fit-in-one-sketch sketch in order to get to gems like Twin Bed, so be it.
Next Week: While SNL will take a couple weeks off for the holidays, it’ll return with Drake as host and musical guest.