When Jimmy Fallon hosts SNL, you’re going to get a trip down memory lane. His first attempt at the gig, the Christmas episode from two years ago, was a high-energy success. There was singing, Boston Teens, Mick Jagger in the mirror, lots of things you love about Jimmy Fallon. Best of all, there was a reprise of “I Wish It Was Christmas Today” with Horatio Sanz, Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan.
This time we had Fallon AND Justin Timberlake, ostensibly the musical guest but really kind of a co-host. That means we got the kind of episode where half the cast doesn’t even have lines in any of the sketches. The kind of episode where there isn’t a political cold open because there’s too much repeat material to cram in (instead Timberlake was a rapping piece of wrapping paper and Fallon joined in as a gift bag). I’m okay with that best-of medley if the material still feels fresh, but despite Fallon and Timberlake’s boundless enthusiasm, everything felt a little flat.
Plus, there was NO “I Wish It Was Christmas Today”! Why the hell not? I realize this is the third paragraph of my review, and I’ve barely discussed any of the sketches, but “I Wish It Was Christmas Today” is pretty much my favorite SNL thing in the world, and I need it around the holidays. I had to cue up a bunch of old performances after the episode was over just to sate my Christmas appetite.
They may have just been cut for time because there was so much else going on, so many famous guest stars ready to drop by. Fallon got an assist from Paul McCartney for his opening monologue, singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. That should be the set-up to a lovely episode. On Fallon’s last appearance, the energy and good cheer was enough to carry us through any bad sketch. Not so much this time.
Family Feud was okay—I have a soft spot for Kenan Thompson’s Steve Harvey impression. Well, really, I just have a soft spot for Steve Harvey. If you’ve never gotten sucked down a YouTube hole of watching Harvey react to outrageous guesses on Family Feud, you haven’t lived. The NBC vs. CBS idea was funny enough, but the impressions were largely unexciting. The return of John Milheiser’s Jon Cryer was very welcome, but Fallon’s Jim Parsons is just his old French Stewart impression without the squinting. Timberlake’s Fallon impression was 60% of the way there (Fallon repeatedly cracking up at it kinda saved it), Jay Pharoah’s Ice-T was great but underused, and Brooks Whelan playing himself just made me kinda sad.
Let’s Do It In My Twin Bed seems to be blowing up the internet, but I was a little underwhelmed, outside of the killer Winnie the Pooh line. Fallon’s rap verse in general was pretty good. The pictures of the cast as teenagers were adorable. And I realize it’s somewhat patronizing to ask this question, but why can’t Kate McKinnon bring a girl home to her twin bed? She’s already playing every prominent lesbian on the show.
Her work on Weekend Update was probably my favorite part of the night—the idea of Billie Jean King as a takes-no-prisoners badass was less of a straightforward impression, more of a charged piece of writing akin to Seth & Amy’s Really!?!?!, which I appreciated. Then Michael Bloomberg made his first (and almost certainly last) appearance and nailed every line (he didn’t talk enough in Spanish, unfortunately, since that’s about the funniest thing he can do). I thought this might be Seth’s last Update, but apparently he’ll be doing it all the way through January. The man is a workhorse, I’ll give him that.
Did I mention Justin Timberlake was in this episode? Yes, that’s right, we got a nice ol’ Barry Gibb talk show, which even my dead sainted ancestors could have predicted, complete with pointless Madonna cameo where she seemed to flub every one of her lines. Either that or she was just working on a whole other level from everyone else. Either way, she didn’t really gel with the sketch, which had all the usual notes and a surprise appearance from Barry Gibb himself, because at this point why not have every popular musician of the last 50 years show up?
You can probably tell I am a little weary about the whole thing. No sketch was a disaster, but everything fell a little flat, which was surprising given Fallon’s charisma (present as ever). There were baffling decisions like a Waking Up With Kimye sketch so soon after the first dud effort (yeah, we got a Bound 2 spoof, like we needed another of those). There was a medley of crappy impressions of Christmas music (Bobby Moynihan was barely in this episode, irritatingly, but his Andrea Bocelli was wonderful).
Things closed on a high note, though. Yes, we’ve all observed that Baby It’s Cold Outside is kind of a creepy song when you think about it. And Fallon and Cecily Strong’s duet was following a pretty typical formula—she stays over, he wants to get rid of her, she’s acting all clingy—but then it had a clever turn at the end, where she realizes he’s scared of intimacy and settles him down. At least, that’s how I read it. It was a very lovely, positive note to end a disappointing night on. Now everyone can take a long break, throw all their Christmas specials in the garbage, and prepare for Jan. 18’s episode with Drake. See you all then, folks, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS. Yeah, I’m Jewish. What.
- Noel Wells has not blown me away with her impressions, but her Alyson Hannigan was okay (I never need to see her Zooey Deschanel again).
- Nice Miyazaki shout-out, fellas. Everyone go see The Wind Rises in February.
- I love all of Steve Harvey’s throwaway lines. “Let’s take a break! Somebody warm up my quesadilla from yesterday.”
- “I’m gonna shove coal up your ass and kick you so hard you poop diamonds!”
- “Get in trouble? I’m from trouble.”
- Post-retirement, Bloomberg will be “fulfilling a lifelong dream of enjoying a small soda on a non-smoking beach.”
- Oh, that Christmas Carol sketch. I don’t have much time for flamboyant gay Scrooge, sorry.
- How long do you think it’ll take Bill de Blasio to get on this show? Probably not 12 years.