Jimmy Fallon returned to Saturday Night Live this weekend to host the Christmas show; joining him as musical guest was a man who has hosted SNL himself a number of times, Justin Timberlake. The combination was calculated to please, and the math worked: It was the most-watched SNL since January 2012, according to Nielsen, and the highest-rated Christmas episode since 2004. It was also, at times, pretty funny. And Fallon and Timberlake had help from some pretty big names.
It's no surprise that Fallon and Timberlake reprised their old "Barry Gibb Show" sketch, a favorite from back in the days when Fallon was an SNL cast member and Timberlake a frequent guest. (Watch above) But having Madonna on as herself was unexpected. So was having the real Barry Gibb pops in at the end. Taran Killam played Paul Ryan and Cecily Strong was Megyn Kelly, but they are mostly afterthoughts.
The premise of this recurring sketch is "so nonsensical and random that you have to just accept it on its own terms," says Joe Berkowitz at New York's Vulture:
Why would Barry Gibb ever have a political talk show? Don't care. Was Gibb even known for having an explosive temper? Doesn't matter. Even though the actual Robin Gibb died in 2012, Timberlake is back to play him, and with as little commentary on the issues at hand as ever. Despite a fun bit with Madonna, and a walk-on by the actual Barry Gibb, the "skeleton selfie" moment here was not only the best of the sketch, but perhaps the whole night. [Vulture]
Fallon and Timberlake reprise another recurring segment in the cold open. They dance and rap together impressively well by this point. Funny? That's debatable. The talent on display is pretty obvious, though:
Fallon's monologue also featured music, the idea being that he'd invited David Bowie, Bob Dylan, and Paul McCartney to sing with him but they were all stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel — because, evidently, three of the world's most iconic living musicians were all in New Jersey? Fallon fills in for them, mimicking their respective voices pretty admirably until, as he's channeling McCartney, the former Beatle himself comes onstage. Jimmy Fallon and Paul McCartney — of course it is charming:
The final celebrity appearance is at the end of "Weekend Update," when outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg stops by to joke about his future plans. He does deadpan pretty well. The real cameo, though, is dwarfed by Kate McKinnon playing Billie Jean King, President Obama's gay emissary to the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia:
All the surprise guest appearances, including those by Timberlake, were "overshadowed by a silly video by the SNL ladies about making love in a twin bed," says Claire Zulkey at the Los Angeles Times:
In what could be called the female answer to "... in A Box," Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Aidy Bryant, Nasim Pedrad, and Noël Wells got naughty as they extolled the joys of sleeping over in their childhood bedrooms with their boyfriends.... A funny, simple concept met clever writing and glossy production, and was tied together by bringing in all the ladies, which should happen more on SNL because the results tend to be pretty awesome. [Los Angeles Times]
For a bonus laugh, watch this greatest-Christmas-songs-sung-by-today's-artists set piece through at least until Fallon does Alan Rickman in his Professor Snape character:
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