By the Former "Heystu," Amateur Critic and Traveling Novelty Act:
After last week's uneven effort with Jack Black and John Mayer, we enter Week 2 of Year 29 with Justin Timberlake pulling double duty. This is his first time hosting and second time as musical guest (he performed as a member of N*Sync in 2000), which made me wonder: what if he's a better musical host than guest? Sure, he's a talented singer/dancer, but his acting background is somewhat stunted. Then again, he was a cast member on "The New Mickey Mouse Club," so we shouldn't be too worried just yet.
When this episode first aired on 11 October 2003, some of you may have noticed that it was delayed by three minutes. This was due to racing coverage that went on 180 seconds too long. (Hey, it's not the end of the world, people. It's just a bunch of southern-fried pretty boys driving around for three hours. Nothing to get excited about.)
Before I go on, I must mention this: Did anybody notice that this week's sketches were longer than usual? On more than one occasion in this episode, they showed three sketches at a time between commercials. This is strange, since most people are happy when they have TWO consecutive sketches at a time. Then again, maybe shorter sketches aren't such a bad thing...
And now, without further rambling analysis, the show:
COLD OPENING: The 11th appearance of "Hardball" has Chris Matthews battling a ditzy Ann Coulter (AP), a goofy Karl Rove (JR), and a smug Gary Coleman (KT). Not the best "Hardball," but the spying/paranoia bent was amusing.
MONOLOGUE/MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Justin's encounter with a middle-aged fan turns into a performance of "Rock Your Body." Does anybody know which writer played the fan? FYI: this is the first time there has been a non-impromptu musical performance in the monologue since Olivia Newton-John sang "Physical" back in '82.
"Punk'd Barely Legal:" Ashton Kutcher gets dissed for a second episode in a row with JT's spastic turn as Demi Moore's beau. I had no idea that new guy Finesse Mitchell looked so much like 50 Cent. Besides Chris Parnell playing Ash's lawyer, there's not much to brag here.
"CNN Special Report:" Ah-nuld the Governator (DH) resigns, then announces that "Call-he-phone-ya" is imperiled again since second-in-command Cruz Bustimante doesn't want his job. When this episode is repeated, listen for longtime writer Jim Downey as the male reporter.
"Special Message:" Whoa, THREE sketches in a row without an ad? What the fudge? Anyway, a beleaguered Nick Lachey (Jimmy) tries to stand up for his wife, but Jessica Simpson (JT) humiliates him yet again. A adequate 'dumb blond' sketch.
"Dueling Diners:" A guy in a bacon costume (CP) is outmatched by the chutzpah of a rival in a omelette costume (JT). A decent sketch ruined by a hokey ending.
"DirecTV:" This ad spoof finds Jeff Richards' great Gary Busey impression reading a customer's letter before meandering off into a story about watching porn and "having two TV's so I can watch four boobs at once." Fans of Comedy Central's "I'm With Busey" must've loved deliciously cartoonish sketch.
"Sully's Birthday:" Three straight sketches AGAIN? Geez. Anyhoo, the 11th "Boston Teens" sketch finds Sully and Zazoo (Jimmy, Rachel) and her kid brother (JT) wrecking havoc in a 3-star restaurant. This go-around was so by-the-numbers that I cringe at the thought of one more sketch with these characters.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Justin sings that somewhat soulful "Senorita," the third single from his solo album. I forced myself to listen to the entire song.
WEEKEND UPDATE: A surprisingly abbreviated "Update" with Jimmy and Tina pretending to speak Swedish. It could've been better, not to mention longer.
"The Sharon Osbourne Show:" Maybe I'm still numb from the second musical performance, but this was a sketch that wasted its potential. This spoof of the daytime talk show (which airs on WGN Chicago in my area of the country) has an unusually chipper Sharon (AP) letting her dog take a dump on Quentin Tarantino (FA), then patronizing Michael Bolton (JT). A brief appearance by Horatio's dead-on Ozzy impression was the only moment of real energy in this dead-on-arrival clunker.
MUSICAL SKETCH: Justin's duet with "Kermit the Frog" (WF) gets ugly. You can tell that it's not the real Kermit, but it pays off when the faux frog calls JT a douchebag.
"Carl Weathers for Governor:" The actor and one-time host (see Year 13) declares himself the third actor from the movie "Predator" to become a gubernatorial candidate. Very clever political satire.
"Backstage:" Amy Poehler flirts with JT while wearing a flamboyant leprechaun costume. Funny in a "Larry Sanders" kind of way.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: JT sang his first solo hit, "Cry Me a River." Good song, but unfortunatly, it's not a cover of the rabble-rouser Joe Cocker made famous in "Mad Dogs and Englishmen."
"The Barry Gibb Talk Show:" A surreal talk show spoof with the two surviving Bee Gee's interviewing political wonks Al Franken (as played by JR), Arianna Huffington (AP), and Cruz Bustimante (HS). For a ten-to-one sketch, it was pretty good, even if Justin couldn't stop giggling.
Overall, this episode was only slightly better then the season premiere. JT proved to be a decent host and musician, and it looks like a return for Year 30 isn't out of the question just yet. This particular broadcast was bogged down, however, by so-so writing and an aura of repetition.
Sketches That Will Probably Be Edited or Removed for E!: "Boston Teens," "Dueling Diners," "Sharon Osbourne," and "Senorita."
Contact "heystu" at email@example.com