By Josiah Martin | Staff Writer
Very few people would disagree that “Saturday Night Live” is going through a rough patch in its 41-year history, but this past Saturday’s 42nd season premiere finally showed some promise for the future of the show. Hosted by Margot Robbie, of “Suicide Squad” fame, with musical guest The Weeknd, this episode accomplished something that has seemed impossible for “SNL” in recent years: it wasn’t boring. It was able to keep my attention, and keep me laughing, from beginning to end.
“Saturday Night Live” is plagued by the same key issue almost every week, and that is the fact that no matter how hilarious your host is, or how funny the episode is all together, one bad sketch can still ruin the momentum of the whole show. For the first time in what feels like forever, this past Saturday, no one individual sketch was bad enough to spoil the whole night. Even the sketches that fell flat comedically on Saturday remained interesting through concept and acting.
Take, for example, the Margot Robbie-driven “Scooby-Doo” parody, “Hunch Bunch”. Cast member Kyle Mooney’s over-the-top Shaggy impersonation at the beginning of the sketch along with the shockingly dark ending to the sketch were enough to distract from what was an altogether disappointing skit. This kept the momentum going throughout the whole show and hopefully is a pattern that will continue for at least the rest of this season.
Colin Jost and Michael Che’s “Weekend Update” segment started strong, with some predictable but well-delivered presidential debate humor. Banter between Jost and Che bounced between moments of hilarity and awkward pauses, as was the case last season as well. It must be said, however, that these two anchors together are one of the best teams to host “Weekend Update” in a very long time. The humor is dry enough to compete with Seth Meyers and just ridiculous enough to surpass Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon. As Jost and Che continue to find their footing, this season is bound to be one of the best for “Weekend Update”.
“SNL” shocked fans earlier this year by firing two long-time cast members, fan favorites Taran Killam and Jay Pharaoh. Killam was the show’s Trump impersonator until the role was passed to Darrell Hammond, and as of this week, Alec Baldwin. Jay Pharaoh was the show’s Obama impersonator, replacing Fred Armisen in 2012. It seemed that both Killam and Pharaoh and proven themselves worthy of their places in the cast, and many were outraged at their departure. Nevertheless, they and recent addition Jon Rudinski were all replaced this season, with new cast members Mikey Day, Alex Moffat, and Melissa Villaseñor.
The “SNL” writers did a fantastic job of giving the new cast members bit parts that gave them a chance to show off their comedic abilities without feeling too forced. Day and Moffat shined as Donald Trump’s sons in a “Family Feud” sketch, as did Villaseñor as an overzealous Hillary Clinton supporter in the same sketch. The past few years has seen new cast members arrive and depart with surprising speed, such as Mike O’Brien and the aforementioned Jon Rudinski. These three new players, however, seem to show enough promise to hopefully hang on to season 43, but only time will tell.
Overall, this new season has the potential to be one of the best, if the writers and cast maintain the level of quality we saw in this first episode. It wasn’t roll-on-the-floor hilarious, but it was the closest they’ve come in a long time. It will be interesting to see if they can keep it up.