Everyone has their own wacky holiday traditions. Saturday Night Live included.
Holiday traditions are funny in that they're typically nonsensical, usually only marginally fun, yet somehow still so pleasant that you can't wait for them to happen each year. Jimmy Fallon hosting the Christmas episode of Saturday Night Live has quickly become one of those traditions. Last night's episode was indulgent, excessive, and so self-aware that anyone who has been part of its past traditions would enjoy it. In other words: it was incredibly fun.
The episode launched with what's become SNL's marquee sketch—the “_____-ville” bit in which Justin Timberlake (the night's “musical guest” who actually guest-starred in every sketch) promotes a strip mall store by changing the words of hit songs so they make sense as a jingle for the business. The sketch wasn't that funny. Actually, that sketch is never really funny. But there's something about Timberlake singing Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” with changed lyrics about wrapping paper that, for whatever reason, tickles you even though it's not particularly smart or clever. It was the perfect way to launch the episode.
Jimmy Fallon hosting Saturday Night Live is always fun. Obviously. It's like when your favorite relative comes home for Christmas. He makes corny jokes and acts like a goofy idiot, and you couldn't be happier to see him. The genius thing about last night's episode is that Fallon brought Timberlake, himself one of SNL's most frequent and welcome hosts, with him. So, essentially, your two favorite relatives came home for Christmas.
They brought you a gift, too, which is why you're especially happy to see them. In addition to reviving the “_____-ville” sketch, they did another iteration of “The Barry Gibb Talk Show.” Fallon and Timberlake reliably show up for each other every time one of them is hosting SNL for the explicit purpose of staging another iteration of this sketch, which, like the “_____-ville” sketch isn't actually particularly funny or sharp, but somehow absolutely a joy to watch. The best part of this particular version of “The Barry Gibb Talk Show” was that, for no reason at all, they brought Madonna along.
It was a shrewd move to bring, you know, maybe the most famous female entertainer of all-time along for the Christmas episode. Who wouldn't be impressed? As an added gift, Fallon and Timberlake also brought along Paul McCartney, the real Barry Gibb, and Mayor Bloomberg. Of course, it shouldn't be surprising, as Fallon and Timberlake may be the two most jovial, joyous people in show business. It's those attributes, more than the clever writing or topical satire that made the episode such a pleasure to watch. (A bit starring Kate McKinnon lampooning Billie Jean King's status as the U.S. representative to the Sochi Olympics was particularly inspired.)
All of this, plus Justin Timberlake performed. In case you're not aware, he's sensational live. It made for the perfect SNL episode. Sure, the episode was foolproof—just the sight of Fallon and Timberlake on that stage combined with the season guaranteed a great night of television. But, from the witty Bloomberg-cameoed “Weekend Update” to the unexpectedly stellar impersonation of Jim Parsons that Fallon employed in another sketch, it was as if the entire SNL crew upped its game for the arrival of its favorite relatives. And we all just got to happily imbibe.