Sunday, March 10, 2013

TV Needs Justin Timberlake

I watched Justine Timberlake host Saturday Night Live.  I dig seeing him do comedy.  He's a versatile entertainer whose talents are a perfect fit for that kind of TV show.

Think back to the 1970s (if you can).  The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour was a summer replacement show that graduated to the prime time line-up.  It was a hit.  When the pop/rock star couple divorced, she stayed at CBS and continued the musical/comedy work in The Cher Show.  It marked one of her many reinventions.  Her solo show, too, was a hit.  She gave us music, she gave us comedy sketches, she gave us fabulousness in Bob Mackie fashions every weekend in prime time.

It probably won't happen, but a network should give Justin Timberlake a summer replacement variety series to host, like the one Cher had in 1975.  He was consistently good last night on SNL.  He opened with an funny, accurate spoof of Elton John singing a tribute to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

I thought about Cher's old TV series as I laughed at that sketch.  Remember how Cher booked A-List guests for musical comedy fun?  Guests like Bette Midler and Elton John....

....and guests like The Jackson 5 with young Michael Jackson.

Cher played comedy characters and her guest stars joined in.  I loved Cher as "Laverne."
That was terrific network entertainment that we don't see anymore.  Big stars got a chance to appear and let their hair down -- or put some new hair on.  We do see network entertainment, but it's mostly amateurs auditioning for the chance to become stars.  We see hours of unknowns who want to be an "American Idol" or prove that they've got "The Voice."  But, as for the professionals, we don't see them in the variety show format that was once a highly-rated staple of network television.  We don't have "The Ed Sullivan Show," "The Hollywood Palace," "The Flip Wilson Show" or "The Carol Burnett Show."  Or "The Cher Show."  And Cher did that before making her Broadway acting debut followed by film work that brought her two Oscar nominations with one Best Actress victory.  Just like Justin, she started as a top pop music star with a huge teen following.

I could do without mate-seeking Bachelors and Bachelorettes.  Give me more Bob Mackie fashions.  For me, one of the high points of last month's Oscars was seeing the graceful dance number Charlize Theron did with Channing Tatum.  She was wonderful!  Who knew the Best Actress Oscar winner for Monster was such a sublime dancer?  On a network variety show, she could be a special guest and give us more of that.

Let music and movie stars shine on a variety show.  Try reviving the format with a Justin Timberlake summer replacement show.  He made me laugh out loud last night in the singing vegetarian character sketch --

He was slick singing with special guest Jay Z who dropped in for a musical number.

Justin, who has been host of SNL before, held his own last night opposite veteran SNL stars in cameo appearances.  The opening "Five-Timers Club" sketch was a big treat.

I won't tell you more about last night's show.  If you haven't seen it, I'm sure it'll be repeated.  It's one of the best of this season.  If you did see it or when you do see it, let me know if you agree that JT has the skills to host a network variety show reviving that classic "old school" flavor.

I became a bigger fan of his work after I saw his dramatic acting in the 2006 drama, Alpha Dog.  Based on a true life story, he's in with Southern Californian middle-class suburban youths beguiled by the "gangsta" life image.  They deal drugs.  One becomes one of the youngest males ever to wind up on the FBI's "Most Wanted" list.  Timberlake wasn't the star of the crime film...but, to me, he stole the picture.

He confirmed his serious film acting talent in The Social Network, the 2010 film based on the male egos desires that drove the creation of Facebook.  I won't be surprised if Timberlake receives a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination one day.
I had the same feeling about "Marky Mark" when I reviewed his performance in The Perfect Storm on national TV in 2000.  Mark Wahlberg went on from that movie drama to earn a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for Martin Scorcese's The Departed, Oscar winner for Best Picture of 2006.  I have a feeling the same thing will happen to Justin Timberlake.

He was relaxed, warm, charming, hilarious and he has a sense of show biz history that showed in his respect and affection for senior performers who came before him.  He should've been last month's Oscars host.  In the meantime, it would be so cool to see Justin Timberlake give us some summertime laughs with guest stars in a prime time weekend hour of entertainment.  And have Cher on as a very special guest.  Dig it.

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