Saturday Night Live is back, and their premiere episode certainly did not disappoint. SNL has always thrived during the political season, and this episode was just a glimmer of what we can expect to see as we get closer to the November election. While first-time host Seth MacFarlane was truly fantastic, the real question that was posed in this season premiere was whether the cast could sustain the show in the wake of the resigning of cast members Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, and Abby Elliot. After just this first episode, I would say that just in the addition of the four new featured players, Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson, Cecily Strong, and Kate McKinnon (who was featured in the last episode of S. 37) definitely puts this cast in a good place, and I don’t see any issues surrounding the ability of this cast putting forth a great season.
The cold open was a political skit, as expected, in which Jay Pharoah played President Obama in place of Fred Armisen. While I think that Pharoah has demonstrated his incredible ability for vocal impersonations (he’s done Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Eddie Murphy to name a few), his facial inflections could use some work. Alternately, Jason Sudekis plays a spot-on Mitt Romney in this skit. Be prepared to see these two a lot for the first two months of this season.
The opening monologue was smooth for MacFarlane, who displayed his ability to procure voice after voice on command. He used his musical talent to sing a live ditty about the voices in his head, which included Stewie Griffin, Brian Griffin, Peter Griffin, Glenn Quagmire, George Takei, Droopy Dog, Marty McFly, and Kermit the Frog. To be honest, it quite freaks me out to see Stewie’s voice coming out of MacFarlane’s mouth, but I digress. MacFarlane’s comfortable appearance on this monologue made me feel like the rest of the skits were probably going to go just as well, if not better.
I think that my prediction was fairly spot on. Between the various political commercial skits and the remainder of the evening’s lineup, I thought that this was one of the stronger hosts that have been on, in recent memory. Some of the skits were average, but I laughed out loud in quite a few, which is always the clincher.
The “Sex After 50” skit was (unfortunately) revived again, in which Armisen plays the producer of a doctor who is unable to be at the taping of her show (yet again?). If you haven’t seen it, Armisen’s character is socially insensitive, partially deaf, and pretty much an ass. The audience members ask fairly personal sex questions, and he usually responds with something horrible. Bill Heder plays the somewhat creepy production guy (and here I sidebar to ask, when isn’t he playing the somewhat creepy [insert character here] guy?). MacFarlane plays a 50 year old gay man who can’t get it up. All in all, kind of a sucky first skit. SNL writers, let’s put this one to rest.
A political commercial skit featuring Heder as Clint Eastwood titled “Eastwood and Chair” was really amusing, especially when the empty chair changed places from Obama to other political figures like Jimmy Carter, Chris Christie, and Mayor Bloomberg.
The next skit was only funny because of the randomness, and may have been funnier if I were a YouTube addict. MacFarlane and Kenan Thompson are employees at a Lids store in which they are able to push a button and Korean rapper Psy (played by Bobby Moynihan, who showed off a sleeker physique and pretty good dance skills) pops out of the wall. The skit gets more elaborate, and all of a sudden Psy himself actually shows up.
The next skit piggybacks on MacFarlane’s talent for voices, in which he plays a puppet master, holding a class for students interested in making puppets. Again, what makes this skit great is the creepy guy Heder plays. You really have to see it to make it funny, otherwise it just sounds awkward and dirty (click here).
The musical guest slot seemed to have moved up (unless I’m crazy), to be before Weekend Update. I’m thinking that it might be to give the musical guest a fair shake. I know I’m one who usually shuffles off to bed after Weekend Update, meaning that I don’t see the musical performance, which I would assume is probably a similar story amongst other viewers. Musical Guest Frank Ocean‘s performance was truly breathtaking. In the first set, he performed “Thinkin Bout You”, which highlighted what an amazing live voice he has, and showed off his insane falsetto vocal range. I for one will be adding him to my Spotify playlist. I’m honestly not disappointed that I was nodding in and out of his second performance, which featured John Mayer vocally (he played guitar on both songs).
The last portion I was fully awake for was Weekend Update, which was a riot this week. Sticking to culturally/socially relevant themes, Seth Meyers was joined by June Shannon and Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson (played by Moynihan and Vanessa Bayer, respectively). While Moynihan seemed to be channeling his “Drunk Uncle” character, and both he and Bayer were far too easy to understand (Here Comes Honey Boo Boo has subtitles, I’ve been told), it was really just funny and terribly depressing to know that people like this are socially relevant. Keeping on that theme, MacFarlane had (in my opinion) his best performance of the night as Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. His vocal impression was spot-on, and it’s one segment of the show that deserves to be seen (to view segment, click here). Cecily Strong‘s first appearance as an ambassador for the Latino/a vote was also a great first showing of her talent, and got a few laughs out of me as well.
What I love about NBC is the fact that their episodes are up almost right after they air. So, if you didn’t get a chance to watch the episode and want to catch up, click here. While I really did like this episode, I can’t wait for next week with host Joseph Gordon-Levitt and musical guest Mumford and Sons (!!!). Gordon-Levitt is a no-brainer, with how successful of a summer he’s had (The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, and the upcoming film Looper – in theaters Friday, September 28), and Mumford and Sons’ new album Babel releases on Tuesday, September 24 (of which I have marked on my calendar to purchase!). Definitely looking forward to Saturday’s new episode!