Justin Timberlake Leads Saturday Night Live to 14-Month High: Watch the Best/Worst Sketches

justin timberlake steve martin chevy chase martin shortThere’s no denying that Saturday Night Live is in the midst of a lackluster season, so the question surrounding the return of All-Star host Justin Timberlake this week (his fifth time in the role) raised the question: Would the former N’Sync-er inspire the show’s writing staff to whip up some decent punch lines or would JT get dragged into the “Californians”-style muck?

UPDATE: At minimum, Timberlake put big numbers on the tote board — a 5.9 rating among metered-market households and a 15 share, the show’s best scores since Charles Barkley circa January 2012.

Timberlake also worked his multihyphentate butt off: Single-handedly taking charge of a pretty amusing Elton John-at-Hugo-Chavez’s-funeral cold open (whereas most hosts don’t appear till the opening monologue); riffing during said monologue with A-listers including Steve Martin, Martin Short, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd and Candice Bergen; and even pulling double duty as musical guest.

RELATED | Saturday Night Live: Your 25 Dream Host Picks!

And the good news is, the hard work paid off: Sure, the episode had a few serious clunkers, but the laughter-to-groans ratio was more than acceptable (and even brought us the return of Martin and Aykroyd’s Festrunk Brothers, and Timberlake and Andy Samberg’s “Dick in a Box” singers, all in one skit). Below are my picks for the night’s best and worst.

BEST: Moet & Chandon Ad
Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong brought back what could be a one-joke concept — former porn stars doing ad testimonials to score free product — and once again elevated it to pure hilarity with their slurry line readings and increasingly absurdist details. From the botched pronunciation of “effervescence” to Strong’s character’s tale of getting “banged into a sinkhole,” I roared with laughter from start to finish. (Bonus points via JT’s feminist pornographer dropping Friends references, too.)

BEST: Vegan Ville
Timberlake in a giant tofu costume, extolling the virtues of meatless burgers and brown rice in song parodys so deeply stupid you just had to laugh. My favorite line: Starting “We Found Love in a Meatless Place” with the phrase “yellow quinoa.” Amazing. [Video unavailable, likely due to song-clearance issues.]

HONORABLE MENTION: Stefon
From that opening zinger about the Weekend Update nightlife correspondent writing for Smash to an impression of Donald Duck having a Vietnam nightmare, it was a relief to have Bill Hader’s wackiest character back in the mix.

WORST: Tales of Sober Caligula
Bad enough that Timberlake was forced to deliver exceedingly lame jokes about his emperor’s 12-step recovery, but that ending about lopping off and ingesting Bobby Moynihan’s testicles? Totally repugnant.

WORST: Maine Justice
Maybe you have to be from Maine — or New Orleans — to get this extended joke about Cajun crazies like Jason Sudeikis’ judge (and JT’s badly wigged bailiff) ruling the roost of a courtroom in the furthest state east, but gags like a crocodile puppet eating andouille sausage leave me slack-jawed with befuddlement.

What did you think of Timberlake’s fifth time as host? What were your picks for best and worst moments? And are you digging JT’s new music? (I gotta admit, I’d rather listen to “Sexyback.”) Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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