Justin Timberlake returns to 30 Rock and enters the prestigious Five-Timers club. Does the episode live up to that pedigree? Let’s find out.
Cold Open: When the C-SPAN logo first appeared my heart sank a little bit, because I figured we were in for another political cold-open that drug on forever. Instead, we got Justin Timberlake as Elton John singing a tribute to the late Hugo Chavez. This was a perfectly bizarre and hilarious start to the show, and probably the best cold-open of the season. More like this, please. Score: 8.5
Monologue: One of the most famous Saturday Night Live sketches of all time is Tom Hank’s entry into the Five-Timers club. Since Justin Timberlake entered that group tonight – and Steve Martin tweeted this picture – I figured we’d see another cavalcade of SNL royalty. And boy, did we. Almost every major Five-Timer (and Candance Bergen) made it out to induct Timberlake, and the sketch wasn’t just a lot of famous people – it was also really, really funny. My only negative of the sketch is that Taran Killam was killed after he was shaping up to be a great cast-member. RIP Taran. Score: 9
Four Wild & Crazy Guys: Well, that didn’t take long. It only took 19 minutes before Andy Samberg joined Timberlake back to Saturday Night Live. But he was promptly one-upped by Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin bringing back the two wild and crazy guys. Even though bringing back classic characters is normally a set-up for disaster, making them and Samberg/Timberlake’s “Digital Short” guys supporting characters made it all work somehow. Score: 8
Vegan-Ville: Justin Timberlake is one of the few hosts that has multiple recurring characters, and he brings back yet another here. This is sadly missing Will Forte for Timberlake to play off, but Bobby Moynihan is a solid substitute, and this is another solid entry into whatever this series of sketches is called. Sadly, we now have Timberlake to thank for the likely resurgence of Harlem Shake videos, so the man isn’t entirely flawless. Score: 7.5
Nuva-Bling: This was a funny idea for a commercial made great by the cast. Vanessa Bayer, Cecily Strong, and Kate McKinnon were all hilarious, adding another great commercial to the SNL canon. Score: 8
Weekend Update: Following a surprisingly solid string of jokes, Bill Hader graced Weekend Update with another appearance from Stefan. Most of the fun with Stefan is seeing what will make Hader break, which somehow wasn’t Donald Duck having a Vietnam nightmare. This was a brief Weekend Update, but with a great Stefan appearance and run of jokes, it was a pretty good one. Score: 8
Caligula: Though it’s great to see that Taran Killam is alive, the sketch he reappeared in wasn’t the best. The idea of Caligula trying to go sober is a good one, and there are solid jokes throughout, but it never fully worked. Still, this didn’t go on for too long, so the jokes that still worked made it somewhat successful. Score: 6.5
Maine Justice: I’m so happy to see this returning. Maine Justice was a completely bizarre yet wholly amazing sketch when it appeared on Jamie Foxx’s episode, and now it’s returned better than ever. Even an obnoxious audience-member that yelled at every mention of LSU couldn’t lessen the amazing-ness of things like an alligator with a gavel. Seriously, though, screw that audience member, who I’m sure was thrown off of 30 Rock by Lorne Michaels. Score: 9
Romantic Comedy: This was another slighter sketch for the evening. But while the sketch wasn’t that original, the cast is solid, and Fred Armisen debuts a Eugene Levy impression that shouldn’t have been hidden this long. Score: 6
Moet & Chandon: Yet another hilarious one-off sketch returns, and this is even better than its predecessor. Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong nail every single one of the ridiculous and profane jokes, and Justin Timberlake does great with his small role. I can’t see this being as successful if it keeps appearing, but for now, it’s fantastic. Score: 8.5
Final Thoughts: I didn’t mention Justin Timberlake’s sketch-work throughout the review, but that’s because it’s understood that he’s a fantastic host. Timberlake perfectly gels with the Saturday Night Live cast and brought the same heightened energy and suaveness to the comedy that he did to his two musical performances. From Timberlake’s hosting abilities to the numerous guest appearances, this made for one of the best Saturday Night Live episodes of the past few years. Welcome to the Five-Timers club.
Sketch of the Night: Monologue (Five Timers Club)
MVP: Can I say Steve Martin? I write this thing, so I’m going with Steve Martin.
We’ll be back in a month when Melissa McCarthy returns to host on April 6th.