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. Noelle says:

    After reading the first few sentences of this review, I expected to see something like “Just kidding!” I have learned that taste varies widely from person to person but I seriously question this reviewer’s sense of what is funny and what “bombs.”

  2. Mike says:

    Last night was easily one of the funniest SNL episodes I’ve seen in a long time!!! Not sure what the writer of this article was watching. Maybe he let his puzzling hatred for Timberlake cloud his judgement. The only “bomb” is this recap by Louis Virtel.

  3. Ryan says:

    Wow, this review is just wrong. I don’t laugh out loud often but I did a few times during this episode. It was funny. Louis Virtel, if you keep writing with a bias towards what you are reviewing, work for Fox News. Until then, let someone who is unbised write the reviews.

  4. Debra says:

    Are you kidding me? I was sooooo looking forward to the SNL finale after a week of mostly disappointing TV finales, and JT lived up to everything I wanted. Judging by the other comments, I’m not the only one. And I really look forward to the tried and true – Liquorville, Barry and Robin Gibbs, The Golden Rule. LOVED the monologue singing and the What’s the Name skit. I’ve watched the whole show twice now and may watch it again. Find another reviewer for SNL please cuz this person sucks.

  5. Heather says:

    Maybe someone hacked in and put up a ridiculously off base review of last night’s episode…

  6. Annieoakley says:

    Totally disagree with this review. I thought this was one of the better episodes of this season. Ausiello, don’t know where you found this guy, but send him back!

  7. alex says:

    Wow. I never thought I could consider a reviewer a troll on their site.

    • alex says:

      or rather a site they have written for before. Can you even be properly objective if you actually dislike Justin Timberlake as a performer?

  8. Wolfman says:

    WoW! There is no way that this many people think this show is still good. I am surprised by the amount of you sticking up for this vile. Justin Timberlake give me a break and Lady GaGa. What the hell happened to the show that would let all different kinds od artist show up and perform. But no the Rock music has been replaced by lame rappers and pop stars. I could say the same about the hosing of the show it just seems like less and less of the duties have anything to do with hosting. Please put this show out of it’s misery by firing the writers especialy Seth meyers who is never going to be funny.

  9. Truthiness says:

    A BOMB? SERIOUSLY? Get over yourself! Articles like this really make me hate articles like this, what ever in the world made your opinion mean anything ever anyway?

  10. daniel says:

    Bomb? What the? You don’t watch SNL…

  11. Jessica says:

    I really enjoyed last night’s episode. I might even be in the minority in my love for Seth Meyers. I loved the end of Weekend Update when he and Stefon were going away together. I wish we had gotten a full Stefon skit, I think it would have been better than the random Bradley Cooper siting. He should have been on last week with Ed Helms hosting. I wish they would have brought back the Target lady so JT could be Peg. The only time I can tolerate Kristen Wiig as the Target lady is when JT is on in some capacity. Be it Peg or the employee he played the first time around. I used to really enjoy the Barry Gibb Talk Show, but the only thing that was funny about it this week was the fact that he used 2 crazy cool medallions to revive him. All in all, I don’t see how this could possibly be a bomb. There were only a couple of weak sketches, and the rest of the episode was strong.

    • tripoli says:

      I too have love for Seth Meyers. He’s hilarious, and not just on SNL. He’s one of the only reasons I still tune in. And I think Stefon is hilarious so the 2 of them on Weekend Update is always great.

  12. Tara Misu says:

    I’ll have to disagree…. I thought JT and Gaga were fantastic! Best I’ve ever seen? No, but I think the reviewer and I were watching 2 different shows….

  13. Captain Oveur says:

    I didn’t really think this episode was that funny, personally. I think the people who made the other comments have come to expect utter trash from SNL, and were (justifiably) relieved when they got this mediocre episode that had some funny moments. Everything either drags on too long or is just standard. SNL used to be the funniest thing on TV. Now people are just happy to make it through an episode without wanting to bludgeon themselves.

  14. Daniel says:

    I don’t usually comment here, but I was intrigued with the amount of hatred the article engendered and I found this article to be poorly written, which annoyed me. So, I decided to read a few more “articles” from Virtel. They are all pretty bad. Poor writing + poor insight = see you on the breadlines soon. Please get rid of this guy or move him to covering something even more inconsequential than a once a week variety show.

  15. whatthewhat?? says:

    “As a game show connoisseur, I was personally offended by this Password sendup… I didn’t understand any of it.”

    This reviewer *does* realize that this is a recurring sketch, right? What’s not to get??

    Here’s what I don’t understand: Who decided this writer’s opinion matters to TVLine readers? I’ll not be reading any of his future posts if they’re all this poorly written and lacking insight. This guy writes as though he’s never seen an episode of SNL outside of a few Hulu clips.

    Here’s an idea, Ausiello – get someone who actually watches a show loyally to write a review of it.

    • Captain Oveur says:

      I think the “I didn’t understand any of it” was referring to JT’s stupid character in that skit. To clarify for the writer: “It’s funny ’cause he’s NOT a good magician!!!”

      Also, what kind of insight are writers supposed to offer? Should they explain every joke? Or try to whimsically describe the way two prisoners offered some “surprisingly sound” opinions and suggestions to the director of the IMF? I feel like this article was meant to serve as a forum to discuss the show. So the writer has a different opinion than you and perhaps the majority of people judging from the amount of comments. I think a response detailing why you feel differently might have been more appropriate than saying “This article stinks! Fire this guy!” especially since that’s what the article asks you to do.

  16. Tricia says:

    The reviewers personal preferences or dislikes should not enter into their review.

    I personally do not care for Lady Gaga and was not excited at the thought of her being the musical guest when my favorite host was on (Justin Timberlake). However, I will admit that she did a good job in the skits she was in and the video…. and that HURTS but I have to be honest that she did a good job.

    The rest of the show I loved about 80% of it. I found myself laughing out loud at several parts and rewinding to go back and catch a joke I may have missed while laughing at the last one. For me that equals a success.

    This reviewer is reminding me a little of Lisa Schwartzbaum (sp?) from Entertainment Weekly. She has a specific taste in movies and any movie that does not meet those tastes gets skewered because of it. I automatically just ignore her reviews now and hope she is not assigned a movie I really want to see. I will take note of this writer to see if I need to put him into the same category.

  17. Monie says:

    Like another reviewer said, I usually tape SNL to fast forward to avoid the boring parts, and last night, I did not. One of the best episodes in a long time. Love JT!! The password game show one was the worst, but the opening monologue, the robot skit, liquorville, & the digital short were spot on!!! SNL ended on a good note!!

  18. Cathy says:

    What’s this guy talking about??? Bomb?? It was one of the only funny shows this entire season. Get a real writer who knows how to critique a show instead of deciding whether they liked it or not before they even saw it.

  19. JohnDoe says:

    How dare someone have an opinion other than yours! Jesus Christ people…

  20. JohnDoe says:

    SNL hasn’t been funny in about 15 years.

  21. Raven_Moon says:

    Louis, are you crazy? Last night’s episode was hilarious. The only sketch I found painfully unfunny, was the “Secret Word,” but then that sketch is never funny. I think your opinion doesn’t count for much due to your obvious disdain for Timberlake. For me, at least, this episode was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dull season.

  22. uselss says:

    I am not a JT fan, yet I thought this was one of the best episodes. JT is actually funny and I was happy to see GaGa have fun.

  23. Nerdista says:

    OMG. You are crazy, that was one of the best episodes! Who is this guy?????? My husband HATES Justin and he even liked him on this. Dude, you’re bonkers.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I LOATHE the Barry Gibbs sketch. Its not funny, it never has been. Its just annoying. I love seeing Fallon back but I wish it were for something else.

  25. Jamie says:

    I loved it. I haven’t watch a full SNL since Betty White was on and this one, I watched all of. I love when JT is on there. I know I can tune in and despite one or two little things the rest is going to be good.

  26. LSchra says:

    Wow, seriously recapper? To echo 99% of the other comments on this website, what the heck were you watching last night??? This was by far the best episode of SNL this season. Terrible idea to have this idiot recap SNL when his “obvious disdain” of JT (read: jealousy?) colored his entire opinion of the episode. I’ll stick to EW and Vulture for recaps in the future. Sorry, Ausiello, Louis Virtel singe-handedly lost at least one TVLine fan here!

  27. Spot on about the Password Sketch. Isn’t Wiig’s blurting character kinda old hat by now? Plus, isn’t there sketch about the game show Password pretty worn territory? How many times does the best satire show on TV have to send up Password? Pretty lazy.

  28. Echa Pelante says:

    In the words of Melissa from the Real World New Orleans, “Time out–time the F*$k out!!!!!!” I think that Lewis is spot on with this review. One successful SNL digital short does not make a comedic actor! Timberlake is no Alec Baldwin. He just needs to sit the hell down and make another album cause this acting career is headed nowhere. Who are you people? Oh, I know. SNL writers.

  29. michele says:

    This is definitely the worst review I’ve ever read, and it’s not because he slams an episode of SNL I enjoyed. No, it’s because he slams it for personal reasons. This whole review reeks of sour grapes, because a poor little hipster is having to “sell his soul” in Hollywood to make a living as a writer. And we all know that hipsters, can’t like anything that the masses enjoy. Ugghhh, at least now I know to avoid anything with Louis Virtel’s byline.

  30. S says:

    I liked the finale but I agree with the writer…Justin Timberlake cannot act and Im tired of seeing him on SNL.
    Lady Gaga was great btw.

  31. Cate says:

    This was the most I have laughed at SNL in a very long time. JT is great, Gaga is great, I enjoyed almost every minute.

  32. Nick says:

    Yeah this writer needs a new job, that was a pretty good SNL. Enjoy flipping burgers soon louis.

  33. Bob says:

    Have you only recently started watching SNL? This was one of the best shows this season. Sure, every show has a miss or two (or the entire show), but this one wasn’t it. Michael A., find someone else to review SNL, please.

  34. mk says:

    I wish jt had done classic peg with kristen as the targetlady.

  35. FernLaPlante says:

    “Obvious bomb”? In what way? It was the highest rated ep in 7 seasons. Was it great? No but it wasn’t a bomb.

  36. lii says:

    wow,have this Louis Virtel dude even watch the show before??? “secret word is an recurring sketch and this dude doesn’t seems to know it! .come on tvline, i expect much more from you. I prefer no review rather than a sucky one, if no one is a fans of the show, just don’t do it

  37. Drew H says:

    Not to be rude and I’m sure he’s trying his best but seriously, who is this guy? If you don’t like JT, don’t watch and certainly don’t do a review.

  38. susela says:

    Did the reviewer watch a different show? It was great! Especially loved his opening monologue song, “Three-Way,” and What’s that Name?. I’m not especially a Timberlake fan, but when he’s on SNL I actually believe he’s talented.

  39. Sharon B says:

    Wow this review is way off course. This was the best show of the season. Since I have to get up Sun morning at 7am, I always watch the monologue and maybe the first skit, then tape the rest. Welll I stayed up and watched the whole show! Not only the best of the season, but the best in a looong looong time. Hilarious this week. No dud IMO.

  40. Kris says:

    Well everyone is entitled to an opinion but calling the show a bomb is just not accurate. It had the highest ratings of a finale in 7 years! That is the opposite of a bomb. I have been a faithfull watcher of SNL for years (even when most people think it hasn’t been funny, but I can always fins something to make me laugh…this has been a bit of a dry spell, but Stephon is simply one of the best characters they have done in years! I digress…) JT is one of the best hosts they have had in a long time(up there with Jon Hamm in my opinion), he has excellent timing, a talent that they can include in manny of the spots, & seems to really really ejoy being there. Dick in a Box & Mother Lover are 2 of the top Digital Shorts, if he didn’t do another one there would have been HELL to pay (like if Walken didn’t do The Continental when he hosts)…I enjoyed it to no end (even if it isn’t as good as some of the others, they can’t all be Dick in the Box or I’m on a Boat). I have a totally irrational love for the Barry Gibb Talk Show, I know that not everyone will like it, but it made the night for me. The Liquorville guy, yes another reoccuring character…b/c it is funny everytime! I thought LG did great & for those of you that are not a fan of her I get it, but she is definatley going to host next season, just FYI. The Tunnel of Love was another great reoccring skit. I am ok with rehashing characters, as long as it is funny. They all were to me. the only one I didn’t like is the Secret Word skit, which I have never liked. In other words, I completley disagree with you.

  41. Sfields says:

    Last night was the best episode of the season, this review is ridiculous. Too biased?

  42. Kristi says:

    Wow. I’m shocked. Were we watching the same show. I thought that the finale had by FAR the most even writing and all the best skits of the entire season – save for not much Stefon. That was the biggest misstep – I wanted more of him. Anyways, I thought this episode was their strongest of the 36th. Bar none.

  43. Alienate says:

    Please replace this “writer” with someone who has a soul, or at least a funny bone.

    SNL has been mostly boring crap for the last few seasons, but last nite’s show was a delite!

    JT and LGG were both GREAT.

  44. Sarabi says:

    The finale was great! Although I agree with some other posters about the fact that it was full of recycled sketches, but oh well… You can’t always get what you want. :)

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