NEW YORK — It’s not easy to squeeze 40 years of show into one anniversary special, but “Saturday Night Live” gave it a go on Sunday night. From the Jimmy Fallon/Justin Timberlake opening to the return of Eddie Murphy and musical performances by the likes of lightning rod artists Kanye West and Miley Cyrus (who offered a surprisingly charming version of “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”), it was an evening of mockery and fond remembrances for the “SNL” 40th anniversary special.
Here are some highlights:
Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake get musical
Could NBC please just give these two their own show already? We already knew that Fallon and Timberlake are magical, thanks to their “History of Rap” skits on Fallon’s “Tonight Show.” On Sunday night, they opened the special episode with a musical number celebrating some of the show’s most famous catchphrases. Three cheers for Timberlake’s Schweddy balls!
Betty White makes out with Bradley Cooper
“The Californians” skit was already pretty awesome, with Taylor Swift and Kerry Washington joining cast members past and present (Laraine Newman even showed up!), but then 93-year-old White locked lips with 40-year-old Cooper. Wow.
The return of Eddie Murphy
We won’t say much about this one even though it was eagerly anticipated. After a 30-year absence from “SNL,” Murphy returned for all of 73 seconds. Introduced by Chris Rock, the actor received a standing ovation and offered a few words including “I will always love this show,” and that was that. It was brief and awkward.
Welcome back, “Wayne’s World”
Mike Myers and Dana Carvey returned as the beloved characters Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar for an “SNL” Top 10. In announcing No. 6 — musical guests — Carvey as Garth said, “I think Beck was one of the best, even better than Beyonce.” That was the perfect segue into No. 5: “Kanye, sit down,” a reference to the artist’s recent lament that Beck should not have beat out Beyonce for best album at the 2015 Grammys. West was in the audience, and at one point we got to see him play along as security “restrained” him. Way to have a sense of humor about it, Ye. Party on! Excellent!
Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek is always at his best when paired with Darrell Hammond’s borderline-NSFW Sean Connery, but this episode also gave us the delight that is Kate McKinnon as Justin Bieber and Alec Baldwin as Tony Bennett. When the other “celebs” showed up, it was hard to keep it together. Jim Carrey’s Matthew McConaughey was pretty spot-on.