October 1, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Saturday Night Live”



Opinions may differ–sharply–on whether Donald Trump is good for the US, but there’s no question that he’s been great for SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, which returned tonight for its 43rd season, hot off its most popular and acclaimed session in years, and with a bunch of Emmys to show for it.  There’s some irony here, because SNL was instrumental in the Trump phenomenon itself by making him a host during his candidacy, and because Trump himself has only helped the show by tweeting his displeasure over and over.  Also, SNL‘s political satire has often been assailed over the decades as pillow soft, certainly as compared to recent commentators like Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers.

There was little in tonight’s cold open to make one question that premise.  Clearly written on the fly, since it referred to events from earlier today, there wasn’t much imagination in the sketch.  As is often the case, it simply had Alec Baldwin repeat the craziest recent Presidential quotes and actions (here his attacks on San Juan’s mayor and NFL players), and assumed, rightly enough, that the sheer zaniness of the truth would be funny, with added appearances by Aidy Bryant as Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kate McKinnon as a Jeff Sessions who sat on Trump’s lap for increased silliness.  It was political satire as comfort food.  (The opening minutes of Weekend Update, however, were considerably more fueled by righteous indignation.)

Apart from those bits, it was a Saturday Night Live premiere that could have aired any time in the past decade.  Host Ryan Gosling was cheerfully enthusiastic, and by the second half he barely even tried to hold himself back from breaking during sketches.  He was given an awful opening monologue that was entirely about his character in La La Land “saving” jazz, a joke that’s now about 9 months old (it did, however, justify a cameo by his La La Land co-star Emma Stone).  In Gosling’s first hosting stint, the breakout sketch was a brilliant bit where Kate McKinnon recounted a much less inspiring abduction by aliens than Gosling and Cecily Strong; the show unwisely revisited the sketch to provide a demonstration of diminishing returns.  There was a bright pre-taped commercial for “Levi’s Woke Jeans,” and a dumber pre-tape about a man (Gosling) obsessed with the typeface for the movie Avatar.  Gosling played the dysfunctional triplet in an HGTV home refurnishing parody, and a gangster being shielded by a hen (Bryant) in a black-and-white movie parody.  That sketch went on too long, and so did one about participants in a Pizza Hut commercial who were furious to discover that their fancy Italian restaurant meal was actually fast food.  (The latter did have its moments, as when the Pizza Hut rep noted that the “restaurant” was just a warehouse with 3 tables.)  The 12:55AM sketch was something about football, jazz and jeans, apparently in an attempt to sum up the episode as a whole.

SNL will continue to rely heavily on McKinnon, Bryant, Beck Bennett and Kenan Thompson, while Mikey Day, who became a featured player last season, is getting a lot of play.  Newcomers Heidi Gardner, Chris Redd, Luke Null and Melissa Villasenor were more in the background.

Lorne Michaels didn’t get where he is by tampering with success, and Season 43 of SNL will evidently look quite a bit like Season 42.  We’ll see through the course of the season whether the astonishment and outrage that fueled last year’s hunger for laughter at the new president will continue to be strong enough to keep the series on top.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."