We can finally come out of hibernation, SNL fans—SNL returned for its season premiere with new writers, new cast members, and even a shiny new opening credit sequence. Season 38, I have waited for you with open arms, and you did not let me down.
Cold Open: The cold open was a typical political campaign sketch; but in a surprising but welcome change, Jay Pharaoh took over the President Obama impression. I loved that they used Fred Armisen to literally introduce Jay as the new Obama; it made for a very sweet transition. Jason Sudeikis reprised his Mitt Romney, and Taran Killam introduced his Paul Ryan impression (A+ on the accent, as was expected).
Title Sequence: Vanessa Bayer, Taran Killam, and Jay Pharaoh were all officially promoted to regular cast members!
Monologue: Seth MacFarlane, of course, is best known for his voiceover work, so I was very curious to see how he would perform in the flesh. He played on his vocal talents nicely by lamenting (and showcasing) all the character voices and impressions floating around in his head. I know I’ve mentioned before my love for musical monologues, so lending his Grammy-nominated singing voice (not joking) to a song about impressions definitely won me over.
Mitt Romney Ad: This was a great Romney attack ad run by Obama (he even admits, he’s not proud of it) that looked into the fictitious lives of two men whose lives have been drastically (and hilariously) damaged by Mitt Romney (I mean, he probably gave one of their wives herpes).
Rodger Brush: Fred Armisen’s hard-of-hearing Rodger character is back offering terrible advice as he fills in for a daytime talk show host. The sketch was basically the uszh (is that how you spell the abbreviation of usual?), but it did feature the first appearance of new featured player, Tim Robinson.
Eastwood and Chair: Thank goodness for Clint Eastwood’s bizarre showing at the Republican National Convention, because it gave us the treat of Bill Hader once again showing off his Clint Eastwood impression (and the scene-stealing reviews from people on the street). I would definitely buy tickets for two full hours of high-waisted hijinx.
Lids: I didn’t know that my wildest dream was to see Bobby Moynihan and Taran reenact Gangnam Style (by Korean sensation, Psy) until it happened, and it was glorious. To make it even better, the real Psy shows up halfway through the sketch to join the fun. It was everything I ever wanted.
Puppet Class: Ever since Will Forte left, Bill Hader has taken over all creepy male roles with a vengeance. Bill plays an old army vet who definitely has some issues to work out, but unfortunately (well, fortunately for the audience) chooses to work them out in a light-hearted puppet class. Bill’s puppet Tony says TTYL to his innocence as I totally LOLed (nailed it).
Frank Ocean: Congrats to SNL for booking arguably the biggest breakout artist of the summer, Frank Ocean. His soaring falsetto in “Thinking About You” was absolutely beautiful, and the low-key “Pyramids” perfectly shows how talented he is. I know I’ve mentioned before that softer performers tend to lose spark in a broadcast performance, but Frank was a master at really drawing in the audience without needing the help of some big dance number (but he did have a little help from surprise guest John Mayer).
Weekend Update: This week’s Weekend Update, from top to bottom, was phenomenal. My favorite joke of the night was: “JC Penney on Monday announced a new promotion offering kids free haircuts every Sunday, finally answering the age-old question, ‘Mom, are we poor?’” Seth Meyers had three different guest segments, and I absolutely died laughing at all three. First up was Bobby and Vanessa Bayer as Mama and Alana from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. I’ll be honest, I love that show and they absolutely nailed it—Honey Boo Boo telling off no one in particular? Perfect. Then Seth MacFarlane came on as an overly dim-witted Ryan Lochte (one of my favorite things about the Olympics) to review upcoming fall TV, even if he feels weird to be dry. Last came new featured player Cecily Strong, playing a Latina teenager (with Jay as her Dominican boyfriend) to talk about the Latino vote in the election. She was adorable and very funny, it was a great first appearance for her.
Drill Sergeant: I loved the premise of this sketch—what do you do when your drill sergeant really does have a stutter? The boys’ mental anguish about how to deal with the situation was priceless (and offered even more screen time for Tim).
Steve Harvey Show: Well, what man doesn’t want a Steve Harvey makeover so he can look like an Iranian DJ?
First Date: This may actually have been my favorite sketch of the night. Adding Nasim Pedrad and Seth’s constant jokey running commentary with funny bit parts from the rest of the cast had me laughing so hard. Nasim joking about her dead sister sealed the deal for me. New featured player Aidy Bryant also gets her first appearance in this sketch.
Wooden Spoons: Tim makes his fourth appearance of the episode, making him the most visible new cast member by far. Basically, he and Seth are Amish and have a loose concept of the internet. And the alphabet.
Overall: Across the board this was a great episode. I liked all of the sketches, Seth was a natural, and the new cast did great, as well. I give it three swims.
MVP: I have to give it to the three new featured players. All of them did great, all of them showed their strengths, and I think they’re going to help make this season an awesome one.
One to Watch: Even though First Date was my favorite, if you only watch one sketch from this episode, make it Lids.
If you’re craving some SNL dessert, if you will, check out Kenan introducing Cecily, Taran introducing Tim, and Vanessa introducing Aidy over at SNL Backstage.
And don’t forget about Weekend Update Thursday starting this Thursday Sept. 20 at 8/7c on NBC!
Watch new episodes of Saturday Night Live on Saturdays on NBC at 11:30/10:30c. Next week’s episode on Sept. 22 is a new episode with host Joseph Gordon-Levitt and musical guest Mumford & Sons.
All images property of NBC.