The 37th season premiere of “Saturday Night Live” was notable for two reasons: 1) a trim and energetic Alec Baldwin made his 16th hosting appearance, setting a record he previously shared with Steve Martin, and 2) Radiohead sang a couple of new tunes.
Other than that? Things haven’t really changed much. The cast is pretty much the same — Nasim Pedrad has been promoted from featured player to full cast member, but that’s the only change. Jay Pharoah is shown in the credits but rarely surfaces, just like last season. And, for the most part, the sketches veered away from current events, continuing last year’s trend of leaning more towards pop culture and general wackiness.
Some of the highlights from last night include:
GOP Presidential Debate
With eight or nine candidates (we’ve lost count) to address, the opening sketch of the 37th season was bound to be a long one, and it was, coming in at a whopping 11 minutes. Highlights include Baldwin’s straightforward Rick Perry impression and Paul Brittain playing Ron Paul with just the right amount of old-man stoop and alarm in his voice.
Baldwin talks about his hosting record, and, to no one’s surprise since we’ve tread this ground before, Steve Martin comes on stage to challenge Baldwin’s record, bringing in a “lab” to test him for steroids or performance-enhancing drugs. He also brings in an expert in using drugs, none other than Seth Rogen. When Baldwin goes to donate a sample, Martin asks Rogen if this counts as a hosting appearance. “No,” Rogen says after checking the internet on his smartphone.
This is a commercial parody for a Chanel fragrance that tells men that the woman wearing it has got some “issues.” Kristen Wiig — who, fresh off the success of “Bridesmaids” surprisingly played more of a supporting role this week — plays the flibbertigibbet who sets off everyone’s red flags. “She’s lived in Vegas for 11 years!”
“All My Children” Wrap Party
After 41 years, “All My Children” finally ends. But the wrap party shows that things behind the scenes were even more dramatic than the show ever was. Funniest line: “I’m the guy who holds the fans. Or was I pushed?”
“Top Gun” 25th Anniversary DVD
Screen test sketches have become an “SNL” staple over the last couple of years, mainly so the cast can roll out their best impressions. In this one, Baldwin plays a loopy Al Pacino, Bill Hader’s version of Alan Alda praises the writing even though “I don’t know s–t about planes,” and Fred Armisen‘s version of Tony Danza mispronounces things. Even more cast members pop up in a web-exclusive extension of the sketch, including the elusive Pharoah.
It’s a surprise that until now no one has made fun of the comical satellite delays we see when news correspondents report live from far-flung locales, but “SNL” finally decided to take up the challenge. Here, Wiig plays a reporter in the jungles of Costa Rica; she’s being attacked by all sorts of creatures, including a snake biting her boobs, but doesn’t hear the warnings from the anchors at home until 20 seconds after they’re delivered. Baldwin plays an anchor who decides to mutter about the reporter’s overuse of Botox.
Weekend Update: Tony Bennett
Baldwin brings out his reliable impression of the octogenarian crooner to talk to Seth Meyers about some recent movies, though Bennett’s mind seems to be elsewhere. Not sure why they didn’t play off of the controversial remarks Bennett made about 9/11 or George W. Bush that he made on the “Howard Stern Show” this week, especially in the midst of Weekend Update. Maybe it was just too touchy a subject for Baldwin or the writers.
Who’s On Top?
In the funniest sketch of the night, Baldwin, Vanessa Bayer and the (also surprisingly underutilized) Jason Sudeikis play a game where the contestants are given two men and they try to figure out…. Well, watch the sketch and you’ll see what the game is all about. As usual, Hader plays the smarmy game show host, who’s even smarmier this time around. Best line is when Baldwin tries to figure out the relative positions of characters in “The Lion King.”