The 40th season premiere of Saturday Night Live was the opposite of the 39th season finale, a mediocre episode that was chock full of cameos and former cast members. Last night’s Chris Pratt hosted episode didn’t feature any former SNL cast members, and only one very brief cameo (Chris Pratt’s wife, Anna Faris).
Instead, Lorne Michaels let an talented and funny cast do its own thing, for better (Kyle Mooney, Michael Che) or worse (Kyle Mooney, Colin Jost), but mostly for the better. It wasn’t a perfect show by any means, but it was a solid, confident premiere, and this cast is already beginning to gel. It’s forming an identity. Plus, one episode into his stint, and rookie Pete Davidson already feels like SNL’s next big superstar.
This cast has finally gotten out of the shadow of season 38’s departures, and it’s headed toward a bright future.
Cold Open — SNL begins the season by taking on Roger Goodell and the NFL, but mostly played to the absurdity of Ray Lewis and Shannon Sharpe commenting on players’ legal problems when they, themselves, have had a history of problems. It’s dated, but not ineffective. SNL sometimes does a decent job of regurgitating other people’s jokes with Kenan Thompson’s reaction face. (Score: 5/10)
Darrell Hammond’s announcing — Weird! Hammond has a great announcer voice, but it is not quite as full as Pardo’s. It will take a few weeks to adjust.
Chris Pratt’s Monologue — Chris Pratt opens with a song about himself that includes a reference to intercourse with his wife (who is in the audience). Is it a good song? No. Is it charming as hell? Absolutely! Did he get a little nervous and flub his lines? Uh huh. So, basically, it’s Mouse Rat. (Score: 8/10)
Cialis Turnt — Boner pills with just a hint of ecstasy. Great start to the season. (Score: 7/10)
Real-Life Action Figure — A lonely kid wishes his toys would come alive, and they do, only the toys — real-life He-Man (Chris Pratt) and Lion-O (Killam) — have no idea what being alive means. The discovery process involves touching their own and each others’ cod pieces. It feels like a Kyle Mooney sketch — it’s absurd, but not as “out there” as most of his late-show sketches last year. It’s the kind of absurd that works broadly. (Score: 8.5/10)
Bad Vet Hospital — Three pet owners receive some bad news from a trio of less-than-sympathetic animal hospital employees.Not a sketch I’d expected to be recurring (or a sketch I’d expect to see this early in the show), but I am not complaining. I have a soft spot for the “bless your heart” brand of Southern accent in this skit. (Score: 6.5/10)
Marvel Can’t Fail Trailer — Accurate sketch is accurate. Can’t wait for Marvel’s Pam 2: The Winter Pam (Score: 9/10)
Weekend Update — Michael Che (and the rest of “Weekend Update”) was so goddamn good that not even Colin Jost could ruin it. Jost wasn’t great, but he wasn’t horrible, either, and that’s all “Weekend Update” needed this week. It has a completely different tenor with Che on board — it feels more relevant. (Score: 8/10)
Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party — Nice call on bringing her back for the first show, and good for Cecily for doing it. (Score: 7/10)
Leslie Jones — Jones sparked controversy last year with a line of jokes about slaves that didn’t sit that well with some. This segment on relationships felt a little too trying, although I do like Jones. (Score: 5/10)
Pete Davidson — This new kid basically found a news event connected tenuously enough that he could do what is almost surely one of his stand-up bits about how much it would take to get him to blow a guy. This guy is going to explode if the rest of his stuff is half as good as this. (Score: 9/10)
Booty Rap — A decent premise — two shy people overcome their hesitation with each other by rapping with profane, sexually-fueled lyrics — but it runs way too long. Aidy Bryant is amazing in it, though. (Score: 5/10)
Bad Boys (“Wings II”) — Another Kyle Mooney sketch, reminiscent of one late last year. It’s like a bad Nickelodeon live-action sitcom that lays on the afterschool special moralizing extra, extra thick for laughs. It was a hit with some people last season, but I didn’t like it then, and I really don’t like it now. (Score: 2/10)
NFL Intros — Instead of the football players introducing themselves by name-checking their undergraduate college, they cite their criminal offenses. That’s it. That’s the whole damn sketch. (Score: 5/10)
Video Game Focus Group — A perfect 10-1 sketch, which sees two characters in a kid’s puzzle game who passionately make out after they solve a puzzle. It’s shockingly amusing. (Score: 7/10)