'Saturday Night Live' recap: The return of the king (a.k.a. Alec Baldwin)

Well, summer is officially over, PopWatchers. There’s no way of sugarcoating it, either. It totally stinks. But hey, at least with the fall comes a new season…of television! (See what I did there?) Now, if you were wondering how the writers of Saturday Night Live, which kicked off its 37th season last night, spent their summer vacations, the answer was right in front of you: penning that 10-minute opening sketch.

So how exactly did they make a 10-minute long skit bearable? Well besides there being no Fred Armisen as President Obama in sight (yeah, I said it!), they did what they often do best: riff on the current political climate. Kicking things off with “either the seventh or eighth” GOP debate, moderator Shepard Smith (played my personal pick for SNL MVP, Bill Hader) announced that he comes from a town “full of secrets,” then introduced Mitt Romney (I’d say “Welcome back, Jason Sudeikis!”, but we know what you did this summer) and Rick Perry (host Alec Baldwin). Then he introduced “six other people who will never be President, but showed up anyway,” including Jon Huntsman (Taran Killam), Ron Paul (Paul Brittain), Herman Cain (Kenan Thompson), Rick Santorum (Andy Samberg), Michelle Bachmann (Kristen Wiig) and Newt Gingrich (Bobby Moynahan).

Baldwin–who looked good standing in front of a podium, just sayin’–earned solid laughs (you could tell early on, this audience was in very much into it) as Perry by managing to alienate just about every group in 10 seconds. Sudeikis, who dressed as Romney but more or less played his charming self, pointed out all the obvious reasons why he’s the better candidate. (“Next to Newt Gingrich, I have a normal, human-sized head.”) But the skit also found time for the rest of the candidates, including Killam’s Huntsman, who gave a terribly racist rundown of Chinese history, Moynahan’s Gingrich, who, as it turned out, doesn’t really want to be president at all, and Samberg’s Santorum, who seemed “confused and flabbergasted by modern day life.” (Although, to be fair, he could have just followed up on Jon Stewart’s suggestion to Google himself.)

Wiig’s take on Bachmann didn’t quite have the same impact as Tina Fey’s instantly iconic impression of Sarah Palin (note to Wiig: use more crazy eye). Thompson’s Cain sounded a little too much like his impression of Jimmy “The Rent Is Too Damn High” McMillan (can’t he run for President?). But Killam’s hilariously exaggerated take on Paul, who stuck to his “weird old guns” by suggesting he wouldn’t even save puppies from a burning building, rounded out the skit nicely. The sketch started to head into Rick Perry territory towards the end (i.e. “tired and confused”). By the time Hader yelled “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” that excitement that fans have felt for the past 37 years for this show set right back in.

Of course, there was a little extra excitement in the air. Last night’s season premiere marked Baldwin’s record-breaking 16th time as host, something he brought up almost immediately in the monologue. He also noted that he surpassed his pal, fellow repeat host Steve Martin. “When I hosted the Oscars, Steve was a big help,” zinged Baldwin. (He even zinged AFA group One Million Moms for criticizing Ben & Jerry’s Pete Schweddy-inspired ice cream Schweddy Balls, to which Baldwin suggested, “Go Fudge Yourself.”) Lucky for us, Martin (who honestly can make me break into laughter with nothing more than a simple glare) happened to be “passing by the studio in full makeup”! In the words of Bart Simpson, “Overload, pleasure overload!” But Martin had an ulterior motive for visiting his nemesis (pronounced “nuh-mee-sis,” by the way): Make Baldwin take a drug test to insure he wasn’t cheating by using steroids. With a little help from surprise guest visitor–and “expert on drug use”– Seth Rogen and his own uniquely disgusting method of testing drugs, Martin concluded that Baldwin was clean. This rivalry is just as good as Baldwin and Krasinski’s, wouldn’t you say, PopWatchers? Here’s hoping SNL has Martin back to host soon to tie up the score again (the comic actor does have a new movie opening next month).

Now, on with the show. Since there were no new cast members to pay close attention to (Lorne Michaels is nothing if not a man of his word), we could focus on which skits were the strongest. And there was soon a strong contender for the prize. Though it probably won’t quite join the pantheon of all-time great fake SNL commercials like “Oops, I Crapped My Pants” and “Mom Jeans,” a spoof of snooty perfume ads called “Red Flag” was still great. It hawked a fragrance that gives off warning signs about an otherwise desirable woman (she lived in Las Vegas for 11 years, all of her friends are male, her pinky nail is way longer than her other nails). I’m giving all the credit to Wiig on this one (though, to be honest, I’ve already watched Bridesmaids three times this week so I’m on a bit of a Wiig kick) for being actual funny, not “yikes funny.”

The All My Children wrap party skit that followed was solid, if a little predictable. A group of ridiculously named people (Cornelius Devanche, Glenda St. Jesus, for example) who all had one time or another worked on the now-defunct soap gathered to say goodbye, only to reveal they had some daytime television-worthy twists of their own (dramatic close-ups and all!). The skit ran just the right amount of time and provided enough hearty laughs, including Samberg’s soaplike character realizing he’s lost (“Not so fast…Oh, wrong room, I’m sorry!”) and Sudeikis’ character, fan operator Wendell Scagg’s absurd declaration (“I operate the fans…or was I pushed?!”) to make the first half-hour seem like SNL was officially on a roll.

Quick commercial sidebar note: Right after the All My Children skit aired, there was an ad for Adam Sandler’s upcoming flick Jack and Jill. For those of you confused, this wasn’t a lost or archived SNL skit about a spoof movie starring Sandler as both a brother and a sister (the latter of which he’s playing in drag). This is a real movie. Plan your Nov. 11 weekend accordingly.

Anyone that has ever sat through a news broadcast or talk show with a delayed live feed (so, in short, everyone that’s ever watched a news broadcast or talk show) likely got a kick out of watching Wiig as a Buffalo newscaster doing a troubled-from-the-start report from Costa Rica. She’s unaware she has spiders and giant beetles crawling on her until her co-anchors back home (Baldwin and Abby Elliott) inform her. The sketch went from fairly amusing to all kinds of awesome when Wiig is virtually swallowed whole by what could only be the anaconda Jon Voight was chasing back in 1997.

Speaking of the ’90s, musical guests Radiohead,  making  only their second visit to Studio 8H, hit the stage a little after midnight. For those  hoping for some nostalgic Radiohead, you were out of luck. The band played the moody (you know, as opposed to their other songs) newbie “Lotus Flower” the first time out and then rocked out to the, er, moody track “Staircase.” Unless you’re a hardcore fan, you likely didn’t recognize either of the songs, but you’ve gotta admit the band still sound as good as you remembered them in college.

Okay, confession time, PopWatchers. And no, not just that I’m one of those folks unfamiliar with Radiohead’s catalog beyond Kid A (for shame, I know!). All summer, I’ve been looking forward to the return of Bill Hader’s deliriously weird Weekend Update correspondent Stefon. Is it really too much to ask that the character be on every week and tell me all about New York’s hottest nightclub? Alas, there was no Stefon (booooooooof), but Baldwin did revive his Tony Bennett impersonation (maybe he brushed up on his mannerisms while attending his recent birthday bash). Thank goodness, too, because the first Weekend Update of the new season felt downright old. Bill Gates haircut jokes? Really?!

If Seth Meyers wasn’t willing to push any buttons during Weekend Update, the next skit, the faux game show “Who’s On Top?” definitely did. (I suspect this will soon become a drinking game.) The premise? Guess which hypothetical sex partners would, well, you get the idea. Examples of the pairings that you won’t be able to un-see in your mind: Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen (Correct answer: Joel), Roberto Benigni and Gerard Depardieu (Correct answer: Benigni), and The Lion King‘s Timon and Pumba (Correct answer: Even. “It’s a circle of life”).

Usually as SNL goes on, the skits tend to get weaker. So imagine my surprise when the screen tests from Top Gun, which included Bill Hader’s scarily dead-on Alan Alda (MVP! MVP! MVP!), aired around 12:30 in the morning. Though it was downright baffling as to how Jay Pharoah wasn’t included here and it wasn’t quite as good as the Back to the Future screen tests from last season (there was, however, an appearance by Crispin Glover, thanks to Andy Samberg), this could have easily been featured in the first 20 minutes of the show.

Then again, it would have been better if the show had just ended here, because the last two skits all but killed the good mojo that the episode had built up. The episode’s worst bit (by a long shot) featured Baldwin as a child psychologist on a date while his crying daughter (Nasim Pedrad) interrupts. This was about as fun as having a bowl of tapioca dumped on your head. The episode-ender, a war movie spoof about dying soldiers with bizarre final requests (tell their children Santa doesn’t exist, make “Your mom’s so fat” jokes), was just okay enough to get a pass.

So, here we are, PopWatchers, a new season of SNL and it’s off to a fairly strong start, thanks in part to the reliably great hosting skills of Alec Baldwin. (By the way, does anyone know what the sign he held up reading “She’s my Carla” meant?) Sure, there were no belly laughs to be found, but it was an overall enjoyable premiere that had enough strong skits and was void of any real January Jones-like awkwardness.

But I’m curious. What did you think of it, PopWatchers? Did Baldwin do his record-setting hosting gig justice or do you wish he’d pulled out old favorites like the Canteen Boy’s Scoutmaster? Do you have high hopes for Melissa McCarthy hosting next week? Share in the comments section below and be sure to read Ken Tucker’s review of last night’s season premiere.

Read more:
‘SNL': Alec Baldwin and Radiohead kick off the 37th season premiere.
What’s your favorite Alec Baldwin ‘SNL’ moment?
Alec Baldwin talks Ben & Jerry’s Schweddy Balls ice cream: ‘They sent me a sample months ago’


Comments (134 total) Add your comment
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  • Elizabeth

    Fantastic show, thought Alec knocked it out of the park.

    • Lauren

      Did anybody else notice how freakishly alike the two Radiohead drummers looked? Are they twins? What was happening? They still sound great though.

      • jong

        i think the show was just ok..i find alex baldwins horrible cue card reading annoying at best..can he not remember lines anymore..even betty white did a better job..other than that..i thought for a season opener this should have been funnier..i just dont think alec is as good a host as everyone wants him to be..btw,I’m a doctor,33 ,rich but still single.It’s hard to get a girlfriend in my town ,most of them like my money more than like me.I just want to find my true love.so i uploaded my hot photos on wealthybar .c om under the name of hotlove2.u dont have to be a millionaire,but u can meet one there. ..if you girls see this comment,i hope you will check my photos out there.maybe you are the one whom i’m looking for!!!

      • allan

        I just got a $830.71 iPâd2 for only $104.37 and my mom got a $1498.98 HDTV for only $252.91, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiöt to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmårt or Bestbûy. Go here at CoolCênt.cöm

      • John R.

        Great show. btw, I am a 44 y.o. marries man who is SICK OF THESE STUPID ADS! Can’t you people do something about this?

    • LOL

      Top notch. Baldwin was on his game. Glad they avoided a “greatest hits” show.

    • ltchy

      His Al Pacino was flawlessly hilarious!

    • richrxzz

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    • Cygnus

      Great show. I even thought Nasim’s whining/crying girl was hilarious. Bummer that Radiohead was less than spectacular. I’m still a firm believer that the music acts need to go, and shorten the show to an hour. The last act with the war movie skit had the funny one-liner “Tell your mother the zoning board called, and said she’s so fat that a second butt hole would need to be installed.” Finally, too many youngsters probably don’t know who Harvey Firestein is, but those impersonations were spot on hilarious. Ditto Heder’s Alan Alda.

  • Squishmar

    So they’re now having recaps as well as reviews for SNL? Seems like overkill to me.

    • Jo

      Does it really matter?

  • Rich

    Jay Pharoah doesn’t get in a SINGLE skit? No way his impressions are worse than Keenan’s.

    • Glenn

      Have to think Jay was unavailable for some reason. Otherwise, he would certainly have gotten into the Top Gun audition celebrity impersonations.

      • merrydan

        I agree.

    • Logistics

      I’m hoping the lack of Obama in this week’s political sketches means they’re giving it to Pharoah… and are holding him back for that very reason. That is the only thing that makes sense. I saw his stand-up this summer, and he’s HILARIOUS.

      • RJM

        That would be a good move

      • marjowil

        I DESPISE their usual Obama impression. Jay Pharoah would be much better.

    • McFly

      Kenan does every impression exactly the same. Where was Pharoah? Was he even at the curtain call at the end?

      • G

        Yeah, he was.

  • Glenn

    IMHO: Review too long. Keep it short and on-point. We don’t need detail-by-detail sketch descriptions. What’s the general idea of the sketch, what were high and low points, move onto the next one. As a writer, when you’re using phrases like, “Now, on with the show,” that’s telling you that you’re writing a bit too much and you can get to the meat of the topic quicker.

    Just a little writing advice. Yeah, I’m a teacher.

    • Squishmar

      Well, maybe you would notice that this is a *recap* then… not a review. Ken Tucker’s review is available for you–it’s shorter. A recap, by definition, would cover everything that happened.

      • Glenn

        And that ties into the point you made earlier, Squishy, which is exactly correct. Recaps would be convenient for folks who missed an ep of a series and want to get continuity details on what happened. (As it happens, though, Aly’s piece is tyring to be both a review and a recap). For SNL, a quick Tucker-like review is all that’s necessary.

      • Squishmar

        I know I said it’s overkill (having both the recap AND review) and it is… but why even read the recap if what you’re looking for IS the shorter, Tucker review? The writers here always put some opinion and personality into their recaps… Aly’s article would be pretty boring and dry if it were just a description with no comments or asides injected.

      • pastafarian

        I like the skit by skit breakdown, so I prefer the review format. But there is no plot or continuity to speak of, so why request a “recap” at all? No one will feel lost during next week’s ep cuz they missed this week’s.

      • Squishmar

        pastafarian, I totally agree. They’ve never done them before… and Ken’s “review” was shorter than ever. Maybe they’re going to pass the reins to Aly? Or maybe the wanted the premiere to have a forum where the comments have this type of board… where you can subscribe? I know Ken Tucker *never* has writes anything with these types of boards. Personally, I prefer these much more than the other kind with the collapsible comments… they get so convoluted and you never know if someone has responded to something you’ve said. Also, it’s almost impossible to keep up with comments on a topic you’re interested in. Anyway, I agree… too much for one show. Pick one. ;)

      • candacetx

        solution: pick which one (or both) you want to read and click on it. Your aversion to one over the other should not infringe on others’ choice to read both.

      • Squishmar

        I didn’t have either a quandary that needed a solution, or an “aversion” to either of them… and even if I did, how could my aversion possibly infringe on somebody else’s choice?

    • Ashley

      You should also avoid cliches like “meat of the topic,” and your entire fourth sentence needs revision. But you’re a teacher, so I’m sure I don’t need to explain why.

      • Glenn

        Kudos, Ashley! I knew someone would walk through that door I opened.

      • candacetx

        @Glenn, nice try at a save.
        Really? “Yeah, I totally meant to do that!!” No one is buying it…so save your self-serving kudos.

      • 4815162342

        You mean the door to the gay closet you’re sitting in, Glenn?

  • jfms777

    The “Who’s on Top” skit was too much. I suppose we can now expect a future skit involving lesbian sex, like “Who’s Eating Whom?” or whatever.

    • cbnyma

      ROTFLMAO! Too true…

  • NoRez

    The divorced father date sketch struck me as REALLY odd, considering the phone message incident of a few years back. It wasn’t funny but it was more interesting to watch because of that, and I wonder if the idea was suggested by Baldwin and his daughter (who are hopefully getting along much better now.) It seemed like maybe a slightly obscure way to poke fun at their past problems. Unfortunate that it wasn’t that funny.

    I’m glad they steered completely clear of Tony Bennett’s controversial remark earlier in the week; have to admit I was worried throughout the bit that it would go there.

    For the first time in over a decade, I think I enjoyed Radiohead.

    Bill Hader may have the most oxymoronic name in television history. Boy is he fantastic. PLEASE do not give him a movie!

    I’m wondering what the sign meant that Baldwin held up during the show close (“I’m Your Carla”.)

  • Logistics

    If I could get married to Hader’s Alda impression, I would.

    • ltchy

      Was that unreal, or what?!

    • eyeheartnyc

      I was blown away. That was amazing.

    • Sara

      I thought his Harvey Fierstein was better, but Alda was excellent.

      • Will

        OMG that Harvey Fierstein impression had me on the floor!

  • D

    Baldwin was too busy reading cue cards instead of having any real interaction with any of the cast

    • Carl

      And reading them poorly.

  • Handsome Smitty

    SNL, so irrelevant these days. One note liberal shrieking painful to watch – you’d have to pay me (a lot!) to watch this childish dreck so lacking in critical thought it would be more rewarding to tune in Howard Stern.

    • Squishmar

      Well, which is it? Do you watch it or not? Because you’re giving an opinion of it as if you know what you’re talking about… but since I don’t think anyone IS paying you to watch it, that would mean you are not and therefore *can’t* give an informed opinion.

    • Ashley

      So I take it you’re unaware that the SNL’s chief political satirist since the ’70s, Jim Downey, is a Republican? Funny knows no party.

    • Ben

      So don’t watch it. Don’t comment on what you haven’t watched either. Also don’t be a pessimistic and overly negative douchebag. SNL is finally relevant again as is The Daily Show and Colbert. The young people want funny and smart and SNL is one of the places they get it. If the GOP doesn’t find it funny why haven’t they made their own comedy show? Seriously, you show me a FOX news or GOP candidate and I might just tune in. Being funny takes smarts and being hateful takes up time and effort and leaves everyone with nothing but a sore ass.

  • Justin

    Decent episode. Radiohead is massively over-rated, as is Alec Baldwin. However he was good. I enjoyed the Who’s on Top skit and the news skit where she couldn’t feel anything, as well as the Top Gun auditions. The opening was fine and the news was about a B. Overall it was pretty much exactly what I expected. Looking forward to Melissa McCarthy next week.

    • Irwin

      Totally agree about Radiohead! That first song was so painful.

    • Anonymous

      Radiohead is amazing, based on their previous work. Their new album, however, is mediocre.

    • derkaderk

      For the record, the second song was called “Staircase”, not whatever this recap’s author got from the random song name generator.

  • alan

    i think the show was just ok..i find alex baldwins horrible cue card reading annoying at best..can he not remember lines anymore..even betty white did a better job..other than that..i thought for a season opener this should have been funnier..i just dont think alec is as good a host as everyone wants him to be..

  • Little comment

    ‘“Welcome back, Jason Sudeikis!”, but we know what you did this summer’

    You mean show up to January Jones giving birth to his son?

    • candacetx

      and you care so much about this…why?

  • Buffy Freak

    Overall it was a pretty solid show…but I really think they should just cut the whole thing down to an hour. They just never have enough materal to sustain 90 minutes. And even some of the good sketches are padded to fill the show. Trim the monologue, give the musical guest one song, cut the last two sketches and you could have a pretty solid weekly hour show.

    • jenny jones

      Buffy, that’s an excellent point; I thought there were some quality laughs overall here but I aways wonder why they go on past 12:30–everyone knows the skits past that time are weaker. Plus, when they edit down the reruns to one hour they just seem more solidly funny.

    • pastafarian

      The show lasts so long cuz its taped live. They need those breaks to change for the next skit. FF through commercials (give or take the music act) and you have a show under an hour.

  • Brian Wallace

    Saturday Night Live is awful . For over 35 years, just self-satisfied, smug and not funny. 1 funny skit out of 25 doesn’t make “classic” comedy. People who regularly watch this show….I feel sorry for you and your cats. Alec Baldwin is (politics aside) a bore with no comic timing or subtlety.

    But does the person who wrote this have ADD? Seriously. A third-grader could write a more coherent review. This isn’t writing. It’s typing. They are doing wonders with medication.

    Brian

    • pastafarian

      Dear Brain Wallace,

      No need to sign your comments. We can see your name under “Your Name”.

      Sardonically yours,
      Pastafarian

    • Squishmar

      Yeah, Brian… this isn’t a review; it’s a recap. Aly wrote a perfectly fine recap. And *you’re* calling something “self-satisfied and smug”?!? Look in the mirror. As “sorry” as you may feel for the regular watchers of this show, I can assure you, it is nothing compared to what WE feel for you… feeling the need to come and write a sorry comment like that instead of just ignoring something you claim to not care for. Why are you watching the show or reading articles about it if you have such contempt for it? And while Alec Baldwin may be a “bore”, YOU are a BOOR.

  • Kat

    When did David Spade join Radiohead?

    • candacetx

      #clevernessfail

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