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'Saturday Night Live' season finale recap: Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga, a formidable team

Saturday Night Live wrapped up its season by opting for familiar characters and sketches that ranged from quite to very funny. Host Justin Timberlake acted, danced, and, yes, sang up a storm, but so did music guest Lady Gaga, who proved to be a delightfully game addition to a number of sketches.

Timberlake has become as reliable an SNL host as any the show has had, with his own set of recurring characters. Early on, he scored with a reprise of his dressed-like-a-bottle pop-locker; he indeed brought it down to Liquortown, joined mid-way through by Gaga dressed as a wine bottle, complete with cork headpiece. Together, they pretty much erased Kristen Wiig from the stage – and Wiig, as a dithering seller of tea, was good. (Later on, she did my favorite of her characters, the ostentatiously bad, Kitty Carlisle-ish actress Mindy Grayson on SNL’s 1960s Password parody.)

The Digital Short began as a reprise of the Andy Samberg/Timberlake team-up with Susan Sarandon and Patricia Clarkson, but it quickly turned into a happily lewd Gaga sandwich, as the boys crooned “The Golden Rule”: “It’s okay when it’s in a three-way.” The old-school rap details were impeccable as always, and I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say the lyric was a satire of the  fear of being thought gay.

Another oldie that was less goodie was the "Barry Gibb Talk Show," which brought back Jimmy Fallon as Barry and Timberlake as Robin. I'm afraid Fallon went over-the-top early on in this sketch and 

stayed there for too long. Oh, that Jimmy -- he's so excitable!

Seth Meyers closed out the season with a strong “Weekend Update” that went after Arnold Schwarzenegger with the proper amount of appalled disgust, set aside time for Samberg as Nic Cage, interviewing 

a Bradley Cooper who was present as mere human product-placement for The Hangover Part II, and made room for a too-brief cameo by Bill Hader’s Stefon.

Speaking of Hader, his ancient newsman Herb Welch was back, slamming Timberlake and Fred Armisen with his microphone and feigning death once again. Loved the 

quick photo of an oblivious Herb being present at the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.

Timberlake’s best moment of the night involved him making fun of himself in a “What’s That Name?” game-show, competing against Gaga. Where Gaga was shown to be thoughtful and solicitous to her fans – excuse me, her benign monsters – Timberlake was made to 

look the fool for not even being able to remember the name of a woman (played by Abby Elliott) with whom he’d recently slept. Even better, he couldn’t remember the name of his ‘N SYNC colleague Chris Kirkpatrick (Tarran Killam).

Lady Gaga crammed at least three songs into her two music segments, and took the song title "Born This Way" rather literally by appearing in 

a black latex pregnancy outfit, ready to pop.

It was impressive to see the way she managed to transfer her outlandish music costumery into her sketch performances without seeming ludicrous. Instead, she came off as the most approachable of arty music stars.

So, happy summer, Saturday Night Live cast! I hope the woefully under-used Paul Brittain makes the cast cut next season (that is, if he wants to come back). I hope you have a restful time off, and return next season not quite so eager to find the next new characters that you can run into the ground. Ah, but then you wouldn’t be the venerable SNL we can never resist watching, complaining about, and laughing at and with, would you? It’s a grand tradition…

Twitter: @kentucker

Originally posted May 22 2011 — 8:17 AM EDT

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