Saturday Night Live with Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga: Best and Worst Sketches?

This seems like a cowardly time to bring up my disdain for Justin Timberlake’s Saturday Night Live appearances because last night’s episode, the 36th season finale, was an obvious bomb — but oh well! The Emmy-winning ‘D*ck in a Box’ man plays the same hammy caricatures and embarrassing lovermen with every SNL hosting gig, and the result always feels more like an attempt at “cool” than “funny” to me. Even sketch cameos by musical guest Lady Gaga couldn’t save his tired act, and neither superstar could save the tired writing. Let’s pick two standout sketches, one dud, and leave season 36 in the dust.

Best: “3-Way (The Golden Rule)”
Rejoice: This naughty digital short, a sequel to the “Mother Lover” video, again featured cameos from Patricia Clarkson and Susan Sarandon. Wee! More importantly, it showcased the comic prowess of Lady Gaga, who played a woman determined to sleep with Timberlake and Andy Samberg simultaneously. Get it, girl. The chorus spelled out a memorable three-way truism: “It’s not gay when it’s in a three way / With a honey in the middle there’s some leeway.”

Best: Barry Gibb Talk Show
Jimmy Fallon showed up in a last-minute sketch to exhume his impersonation of the most leonine Bee Gee. The results were easily the night’s most inspired theatrics. Defibrillating disco icons is always a hilarious idea. Let’s try Thelma Houston next season!

Worst: Secret Word
As a game show connoisseur, I was personally offended by this Password sendup. Kristen Wiig played a loopy Broadway actress who kept blurting the password, and Justin Timberlake played a magician who — hmmm — stared at the camera? Held a hypnotic spiral prop? Something? I didn’t understand any of it. I scanned the credits after the show to see if “Allen Ludden rolling over in his grave” was listed as a musical guest. No dice.

What did you think of the 36th season finale? Was it funnier than last week’s bizarre Ed Helms episode? Did Lady Gaga bring the goods? Will you miss SNL over the summer? What changes should the show make? Leave it in the comments, follow me on Twitter at @louisvirtel, and read me regularly at Movieline.com!

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126 Comments
  1. Elijah says:

    Wow…I think you’re the only person I’ve seen so far who didn’t love last night’s finale.

    • lb says:

      Same here! Who is this writer anyway? I read tvline constantly but this name is unfamiliar…

    • Daniel says:

      Indeed. Give the SNL duties to Slezak.

      • Daniel says:

        “As a game show connoisseur, I was personally offended by this Password sendup. Kristen Wiig played a loopy Broadway actress who kept blurting the password.”

        Now that I reread the review, I don’t think Louis Virtel has actually really watched SNL in the past few years. Look at the way he described the password setup: Unless he mistyped 2 times, he seems to be completely unaware that this is a recurring skit: instead of talking about Wiig reprising her role, she “played a loopy …”. And Offended by “this Password sendup” makes me think he’s never seen it.

        I think he needs to rewatch (or watch for the first time) the past 5 or so seasons.

    • Jane says:

      I don’t think this person should be reviewing SNL. The review is really odd. Read the reviews on the other sites–this writer is the only one who didn’t think the finale was one of the best of the season. I often DVR the show and FF. But this one had me watching from start to finish. I’m very disappointed in tvline.com for giving the SNL reviewing to this writer.

      • Michael says:

        Come on now. I loved the finale. The JT episodes have been the only ones I’ve truly enjoyed over the past decade. That said, who are you to say he shouldn’t be reviewing the show because he doesn’t share YOUR opinion or even that of the majority of America. Some people are so narrow-minded and self-important. We don’t all find the same things funny. Can you, for a second, think about that simple fact of life?

    • Ryan says:

      Agreed. It’s pretty clear this guy just hates SNL in general, and has no business writing “reviews” of them. Go look at his Twitter profile pic. At least he looks the way his writing comes off as (pretentious and hipster-douche-like).

    • DL says:

      Totally agree with everyone else. Last night’s finale may have even been THE best of the season. Easily the most consistently funny. The only sketch that wasn’t as strong as the others was second game show one, Magic Word or whatever it’s called. Virtually everything else was great.

    • Kira J says:

      You are obviously entitled to your opinion, but you’re the only one I’ve ever encountered who doesn’t think Justin Timberlake is funnier than most guests on SNL. I pop into SNL sometimes when he’s not on and it’s almost painfully un-funny. I loved “Liquorville,” “The Cupid Ride Robots” and didn’t mind “What’s My Name?” And the opening was genius, because people might forget that the boy can saaaang.

      Like any program, there were some hits and misses. I think he needs to retire “Barry Gibb talk show” skit. That has NEVER been funny to me. I wasn’t as fond of “The Golden Rule” as I was of “D*ck” or “Motherlover.” But the show was still really, really funny. It probably would have been funnier if Gaga hadn’t been in a lot of the sketches. They have hilarious women on the show and I’d rather see more of them, thanks.

      • tripoli says:

        It was a disappointing finale, but not that bad in comparison to some from the season. I don’t have a strong opinion about Justin Timberlake, but I’ve seen much better from him on SNL. He’s usually quite good and I think he gets a bad rap more than he deserves, but I think his acting skills are better suited to something like SNL rather than movies. And putting whats’ her face in numerous skits was a terrible decision. She’s an awful “musician” and an even worse actor. Had to turn it off every time she appeared in a skit. Totally ruined the digital short for me. Agree with you an the sketches. I’ve also never found the Barry Gibb talk show funny. And I too would like to see more from the women. They were sorely missing this time around.

    • allie says:

      Seriously, I thought you were joking about thinking it was bad…. until I kept reading. I thought it was by far (FAR) the best ep of the season! Justin is always funny and it shows how good he is that he has his own signature skeches like D in a box and Barry Gibb talk show and the singing mascot of random stores. And LG was fabulous too. I don’t think I’ve seen a musical guest be THAT involved in the skits in a looooong time. I think you are crazy Louis-person-I’ve-never-read-before-who-are-you-anyway??

  2. Jayk* says:

    Obvious bomb? Are you for real?? The last, oh, say 50 episodes of SNL I’ve seen (except for Betty White) have been awful. Like, I can’t believe they are airing this sh*t awful. (Aside: Weekend Update occasionally has good moments and Stefan makes me giggle.) I LOLed on MANY occasions last night. I enjoyed the opening monologue/song, the dancing beer bottle, the first half of Herb Welch’s report, the Three-Way song, the first half of the Creepy Robots in Tunnel of Love, and JT’s reaction to the “We made love. What’s my name?” girl was hysterical. Plus Gaga did a great job with her bits.
    I think your disdain for JT (btw… WHAT? Dude is a god) is colouring your opinion. That was the best episode of SNL I’ve seen (by a mile) in a looong time.

  3. Laur says:

    Wow, harsh review!!!! I totally agree with u about the god-awful secret word sketch, but other than that I LOVED this episode!!! Best one since Betty White! The Liquorville was well done, what’s my name game show was hilarious and the brief cameo with Stefon was great! Considering what a dreadful season they’ve had, I think they all deserve some credit for a solid show. The only time I ff-ed was thru the secret word and usually I ff thru SNL as much as I do the Idol results show!

  4. Amy says:

    I wanted to love it. Liquor-ville was decent, but saved only by Gaga. Barry Gibb used to get me every time (Cruuuuuz Bustamonteeeee) but it fell super flat last night. For me, the highlight was JT’s open.
    I won’t be missing snl over the summer at all!

    • Amanda says:

      Best: What’s My Name? followed by liquorville and the amusement park ride. Worst: Opening skit and Secret Word.

      Always love when JT is on!

  5. Will says:

    Huh? Are you being for real? Do you even enjoy SNL? If you thought this episode was a dud, I can’t imagine why you would ever watch this show.

  6. Eric says:

    Wow, I think your “obvious disdain” for Justin Timberlake, kind of negates this review. I think for the most part this was a fantastic ep, probably one of the best of the season. There were some sketches where I chuckled rather than guffawed, but there were no outright bombs.

    • Kathy says:

      I agree with the “obvious disdain for Justin Timberlake.” Hmmm… could “Louis Virtel” be a pen name for Britney Spears?

  7. Tonya says:

    Wow. Really Louis Virtel? This is first episode of SNL in ages that had multiple funny skits. And who has distain for JT’s SNL appearances?? Seriously.

    • Kar G says:

      I agree 100%. Most critics are in agreement that he is one of the best hosts in SNL history, and the viewers agree as well. I don’t think we need any more opinions from this writer. Way off the mark!

      • forrest says:

        well at least if this is a pen-name, I’ll look for the name first, then avoid the column in the future – talk about a chip on the shoulder. Guy must have had issues during the show.

  8. CB says:

    I have to agree with these comments. Who is this writer and do you even watch SNL? I thought it was one of the funniest of the season.

  9. Kim says:

    You must have been on the watching the bizarro SNL … I though the show was pretty funny and you didn’t even mention the BEST skit, Mr. Game Show Connoisseur — “Do You Know My Name” — That skit was hilarious.

  10. Sara says:

    This is review is really odd – I thought this was the best SNL all season…a huge improvement over last week’s especially.

  11. K says:

    I thought the show wasn’t that funny. I laughed at a few moments but overall it wasn’t that good. Of course SNL has been bad for years besides a few good episodes. Really disappointed in the digital short, liked their first two but this one was lame.

  12. Bc says:

    I think it was a great episode and personally every episode for me is great in a way each one had me laugh so either everyone has a low sense of humor or I just laugh at everything(which I don’t). But see it as I do which is we might hate it now but so did everyone in the 90’s when Adam sandler and mike meyers were there. Remember that history tends to repeat it’s self. And my only comment for last nights episode is none of it was orginal ideas or all of them were recurring sketches secret word has been since people like Jude law hosted the show last year or what’s my name with Paul Rudd and the ride thing was with Jim carrey. Along with the news which was with Ann hataway. All the others were from all the other times Justin hosted. I think the only original idea was the cold opening and monologue.

  13. Chris says:

    Agreed, last nights episode was wack.

  14. Heather says:

    This makes me sad. TV Line is my place to for all reviews and such because I almost always agree with it…but this is just ridiculous. JT is trending on Twitter and all anyone has to say is good things and that it’s the best ep of the season. And I completely agree!

    An “obvious bomb”? Maybe this guy needs to pay attention to social media before writing his articles because clearly it was not a bomb….wow.

    And a disdain for JT on snl? Does he even watch snl?! Everytime JT is on, it’s a highlight.

    Note to self: skip over any article ever written by this Louis Virtel guy…

    • Daniel says:

      Agreed. I Came here for Ausiello (I have had mad love for him for a long time now), but I’m seriously concerned with the caliber of the reviewer here.

    • Cheri says:

      I had to re-read the opening of this article several times because I thought surely it was dripping with obvious sarcasm. Then, I realized he was serious. TOTALLY bizzare. Mike needs to dump this guy, and quick.

  15. kt says:

    To quote Seth Meyers: “REALLY?!?!” I don’t know what show you saw last night, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and will probably not read your SNL recaps next season since you pretty much just discredited yourself with this one.

  16. Joe says:

    well i will never read this site’s snl recaps again until someone new reviews it. the liqourville skit was great, whats my name was great and the digtal short was good, not as good as the first two but still good.

  17. scooterbeanbag says:

    JT is terrible. Why do they keep bringing him back? I’m OK with self-contained digital shorts, but Gaga did a better job in the few sketches she appeared in than JT did during the entire show. They really have to lay off the JT infatuation. My biggest complaint was the lack of usage of the “featured players” this season. They really only gave Nasim Pedrad and Vanessa Bayer any material.

  18. Sabrina says:

    Hmmm, I certainly am not a big SNL fan these days. But even I found last night to be crazy funny. My son and I were laughing the entire time. Ironically, I thought the Gibb skit was one of the weakest along with the password one. Maybe you have missed the last, oh 10 seasons of crap (exception is the Betty White episode and even that had duds). Obviously your sense of humor is wildly different than the 99% of the people who watched last night (based solely on my own un-scientific research from reading these comments and those of my friends on FB).

    • me says:

      Am I the only person who doesn’t get Betty White? So she’s old, that’s not hard to do anymore. You want funny older woman, the answer’s Chloris Leachman, not Betty White

  19. Justin says:

    Obvious bomb? It’s one thing to have your own opinion and dislike something. But when something is just about 90% agreed upon that it wasn’t a bomb, and had some of the highest ratings of the season, call it what you want, but a ‘bomb’ shouldn’t be one of them. I seriously wonder how someone who writes for a TV website could be so out of touch with the pulse. It would have been fine if you said you didn’t like it, I didn’t think it was perfect either. But come on. It just makes you sound cynical and completely out of touch.

    • K.B says:

      No Doubt… What was this dude watching?

    • Sarah El says:

      Yeah, I mean, I tend to read radically differing opinions on SNL sketches and can deal with differing opinions, but this episode was anything but a bomb considering how most people are hailing it as one of the best of the season and its strong ratings.

  20. Angela says:

    I was very disappointed as well. I was looking forward to this episode because I think JT is usually great on SNL. The issue for me is that I don’t like Gaga and she ruined it, especially the digital short with Andy Samberg. She’s such an attention whore and I find her to be quite pathetic. Hopefully he will host again in the next 2 years and won’t be stuck sharing scenes with someone as lame as Gaga.

    • Andrew says:

      Sounds like you have a problem with Gaga the same way the author of this review has a problem with JT. If you could have gotten over that, you might have enjoyed this episode.

    • tripoli says:

      Couldn’t agree more Angela. Glad somebody said it.

      Andrew – I tried to put my disdain for her aside, but she was just awful. She had no business being in the skits. It’s enough that she’s an overrated, unoriginal artist that is forced upon us musically. But I take comfort in the fact that her 15 minutes will be up soon enough.

  21. Jon says:

    The episode looked and felt like a rerun because most of the sketches were seen before. Having said that, it was a better episode than last week’s where Ed Helms was barely seen.
    The secret word sketch was the absolute worst. They have to retire that sketch and Kristen Wiig’s character once and for all. The Gibbs brothers were terrible too. The SNL writers seem to have writer’s fatigue as they couldn’t come up with anything new for the finale.
    JT and Gaga were great, both have great comic timing. JT’s monologue at the beginning was his best.
    Improvements for next year – hire new writers, retire tired characters and sketches, less of Wiig (or retire her) and more of the underutilized Pedrad and Elliot. Trim the cast overall. Elevate Taran Killam to series regular. “Featured” cast, Pharoh and Brittain haven’t been used enough to make an impression yet.

  22. Bill says:

    Wow…this review could not have been more wrong. As soon as he rated the Barry Gibb skit one of the best of the night, I jumped off the ship. There’s a reason it was on at 12:50 a.m….cause it sucked.
    The rest of the show was generally pretty good, though the opening skit was….eh. But Liquorville was funny, as usual, the “What’s My Name” skit was surprisingly funny…I thought the censors would have a few problems last night with Gaga, and the ending of the Tunnel of Love skit too.
    Sorry, Louis, but I respectfully think you were WAY off on your review on this one.

  23. Elaine says:

    Grade C: Secret Word, Barry Gibb, robots.
    Grade A: Monologue, liquorvillethreeway snl digital short.

    I’m NOT a fan of JT’s music and I don’t get how he’s supposed to be so hot, nor am I fan of his acting such as it is, but his comedy is hysterical. I thoroughly enjoyed last night, a good season finale. He’s got a real gift for comedy and I like that he seems to be able to do anything comedic without worrying about whether he looks stupid or not. A true comedian in that way.. Lots of fun. Great show.

  24. Jake says:

    JT was hilarious. Great monologue… digital short, liquorville.

    I thought Gaga was great. Not quite thecomedic talent that JT is, but a good sport and obviously got right into it. Good for her. It’d be so easy for a superstar like her to not want to risk looking stupid as the “wine” bottle (couldn’t imagine J-Lo doing that), but she’s a great sport. Good for her.

    Great show.

    • K says:

      Not want to risk looking stupid? Have you seen what she regularly wears? The wine bottle was more normal than Gaga’s usual outfits.

  25. Steven says:

    I’m not a big JT fan, but last night was a bomb? Seriously, what show were you watching. Lady gaga was hilarious in skits, but then I lost all respect for her again when she got pregnant during her sketch and tried to give birth. Other than that it was the best episode in months!

  26. Steve says:

    Easily the best episode of the season. Almost think the reviewer didn’t watch but a few clips, or copied the “Best” and “Worst” from EW’s review. SNL has definitely slipped recently, but this show stacks up well against some of the best episodes from when SNL was really humming.

    Surprised nobody is mentioning the amusement park ride skit. Taram, JT, and Hader were brilliant as robots. Lol’d multiple times.

  27. tim says:

    I don’t normally comment on recaps but this is hands down the dumbest recap i’ve ever read and without fail guarantees that i will never read not only this critic but this site. this shows a complete lack of brains, taste, judgement and humor and is so wildly off the mark as to negate the legitimacy of mr ausiello’s website.

  28. Steve says:

    There is a lot of harsh criticism being thrown at this reviewer and I think it is certainly warranted. This was easily the best episode of the year. JT is always great and even Lady GaGa did a great job in her sketch appearances. Incredible episode overall. I don’t know who Louis Virtel is, but I do know that he has no business reviewing this show.

  29. TB says:

    Bomb? Really? If I was Barry Gibb, I’d go all crazy on you.

  30. Gene says:

    Most of the season has been horrible, but I agree with most of the comments here in saying that Louis Virtel was completely off. Having too many recurring sketches is a fair complaint, but you just can’t deny the quality of the material last night compared to the rest of the season. I gave this one a B-, my best review of the season. Most of the shows have been D’s.

    Agree that Secret Word was the weakest of the night, along with Update. The best were Golden Rule and What’s That Name? Most of the other sketches besides the cold open and the monologue were almost as good, though.

  31. Samantha says:

    Wow!!!! This review is terrible!! That was one of the best episodes of SNL in a long time!!! This dude has no idea what he is talking about, and should not be writing this review!!!! Also, how can you hate JT!!!! Seriously!!!!!!!!

  32. Bob Frapples says:

    How long did this “recap” take to write? 8 minutes? 9?

  33. Aaron says:

    Obvious bomb?! Excuse me, sir, but last night’s SNL was AMAZING. Freaking hilarious. I think, Mr. Virtel, that you have let your own personal bias write the review of last night’s show rather than an objective look at the comedic content of the show. A word to Mr. Ausiello, the captain of the T.V. Line ship: Get rid of this guy. He sucks. As a journalist, one needs to look past their own bias and report based on the objective facts. THis is something that is even true of movie/tv reviews. Far to often reviewers say that something is bad because “I THOUGHT it was bad, I THOUGHT it sucked,” and base that on nothing more than their OWN personal tastes. But the fact is, one’s personal taste can’t be in the equation, as a journalist. Dialogue, plot, pacing, acting, writing, direction, lighting, etc are all the things that are being commented upon. In this case it’s a little different because it’s a sketch comedy show HOWEVER the rule remains the same: Personal taste has NOTHING to do with it.

    So, Michael, as a fan, I beg you: get rid of this guy. He’s lame.

  34. Erica says:

    Apparently a lot of people disagree with you, but I felt it was a bomb. The monologue was great, the Barry Gibb bit was great, but the rest was just bland. The Digital Short was an unfunny, sad rehash of those characters (put them to rest), as was the Liquorville sketch. Justin is funny and a great host, and I think he could have thrived without these “recurring” bits.

  35. Nicole says:

    Completely disagree with this review. This writer is crazy, last night’s episode was fantastic!

  36. Marsha says:

    Are you kidding? This was the first SNL I actually went back and replayed parts on. I thought it was an awesome finale! This reviewer must be a real JT Hater!

  37. Michelle says:

    Don’t know what you were watching. Of the SNLs this season, I thought it absolutely the funniest.

  38. Erika says:

    What a completely biased article. I bet he only hated it because JT hosted. This was seriously one of the funniest episodes of this season. Next time, TVLine, have someone else who won’t write a review without any personal discretions in mind.

  39. slg says:

    Last nights ep had me laughing from beginning to end! Ausiello should not let this guy write reviews. At first I thought he was sarcastic but then quickly realized he was serious. smh. Best finale in a LONG time. Loved the brief appearance by Stefan too!

  40. Steph says:

    Really?? A BOMB? I don’t know what show you were watching. I haven’t seen one other writer say the negative things you’ve said here. Last night’s show was probably the 2nd best one of the whole season. My friends and I (mid-twenties, college-educated females), were sitting here laughing our heads off for 98% of the show (the other 2% being the Secret Word sketch), which hasn’t happened the rest of the season. There’s a reason SNL fans always want Justin to come back and host, and why the writers know what sketches to put him in. The sketches he did last night were Justin’s classic SNL sketches that made the rest of his past appearances so hilarious. It was a great show last night and I’m 100% sure we’ll see him host again in the future. I thought Lady GaGa was the perfect musical guest for the finale, and as a guest alongside Justin.

  41. Wolfman says:

    This show is just a joke now. What needs to happen on this show is that Lorene Michaels needs to grow a spine fire all the stupid people on the writing staff. Get rid of half if not all the cast memeber and start from scratch. Let the actors write there own stuff again like they did with Mike Meyers, Jon Belushi, Dana Carvey, Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray and others. Stop pulling the crap out of the news and get aways from the politcal thing. Stop doing impressions and start doing skit comedy. At this point i miss Mad tv.

  42. N says:

    Why is this guy reviewing anything? Did he watch the episode? it was hilarious! Just allowing this review to be published on your site makes me discredit a lot of TVLine’s stories and opinions. I think I might switch over to a website that has reviews and stories written by people who actually know what they are talking about. Like http://www.hypable.com

  43. jen says:

    Seriously? An “obvious bomb?” I guess that means most of us who watched it are complete idiots with no taste and no clue what’s funny, since it wasn’t so “obvious” to us! This was easily one of the best episodes in a while, definitely better than the recent crappy episodes. Do us all a favor and don’t review something if you already are prejudiced against the material and the host of the show. It’s unprofessional and not even a remotely impartial review. I hate horror movies. Should I start reviewing those? Would I ever be able to give an informative, unbiased review? No, not really. Put someone else on it to review SNL!

  44. Andy says:

    Haha. Louis Virtell is a fool. Who lets him write for TV Line?

    Best episode of SNL in a very, very long time.

    Ausiello, you should be embarassed that this guy works for you. He is a joke.

  45. Jayme says:

    I was going to write a long post about how the show not an “obvious bomb” as I thought it was pretty good, I’d say about half the sketches (including both the opening sketch and the monologue) made me laugh which is more than normal. but it looks like you all got it covered LOL

  46. Mike says:

    If you thought that episode was a bomb, then I’m going to do you a favor and save you a lot of time in the future. DO NOT WATCH SNL AGAIN, EVER! That episode was as good as it gets and that’s not an indictment that SNL is so rarely good that this is better in comparison, this was just flat out good on every level. All cast members contributing and the key players firing on all cylinders, great host with a solid monologue, classic sketches done better than ever, great digital short, solid musical act and performance who also was surprisingly impressive while appearing in sketches and great weekend update. Like I said don’t bother watching next year, last night was an instant classic so if you were so far on the other side of the spectrum to where you didn’t just not enjoy it but thought it was a bomb you will just flat out never be satisfied by any SNL episode. Stick to Celebrity Apprentice and the bachelor or whatever “reality” show garbage you much be watching.

  47. Diane says:

    I totally disagree with this review. I loved the entire show. I think Justin Timberlake is a perfect fit on SNL and give props to Lady Gaga for her participation.

  48. Dk says:

    Wow. This writer is so out of touch. Best episode of season and JT IS BEST HOST OF LAST 10 Years.

  49. Cori says:

    Hmm…interesting review.

    I liked last night’s episode, but I wouldn’t say it was a masterpiece. Justin is one of my favorite hosts, but I don’t like that his episodes are always just a collection of recycled skits. With the exception of the monologue and possibly the cold open (I missed it), I think everything last night was a repeat of a skit that’s been done before. I’d like to see more original skits on the show!

  50. Snsetblaze says:

    I didn’t watch any of it but just now was laughing at the Barry Gibb sketch (I noticed Justin was actually doing Barry’s part though when they were singing).

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