by Julian Spivey
The 47th season of “Saturday Night Live” premiered on Saturday, Oct. 2 with an episode hosted by actor Owen Wilson with musical guest Kacey Musgraves.
I thought Wilson was an interesting choice to host the season premiere seeing as how this isn’t 2004 and he’s relevancy hasn’t really been high lately, but he does have a well-liked role on the recent Disney+ series “Loki.” I was also surprised to find out this was Wilson’s ‘SNL’ debut. He just seems like a guy who would’ve hosted the show a time or two before.
Wilson did yeoman’s work in the hosting stint appearing in most of the night’s sketches and doing a decent job, even if little of his work really stood out after the fact or provided many belly laughs throughout the night. His best work was probably as a teacher at a school board meeting who misread an email about Covid protocols as saying “segregate” students by six feet instead of “separate.”
The most surprising moment of the premiere for me was the screen time given to new cast member James Austin Johnson, who it seems we’ll see a lot doing impressions on the show, including being the very first cast member we saw during the season debuting his impression of President Joe Biden in a political cold opening. Johnson’s impression was spot on, even if the opening sketch didn’t provide too many laughs – that’s pretty much the fault of the writers (which has been the show’s weak link for a while now and doesn’t seem to be transitioning in the right direction after episode one of the season). In all my years watching ‘SNL’ I’ve never seen a new cast member given this much spotlight in a premiere, and especially be the first guy on screen!
There were some laughs to be had in the “Cars 4” sketch with Wilson resuming his voice role as Lightning McQueen, who has taken on a bit of a villain role in the latest installment of the series and seems to have a thing for underage lady cars. Wilson also gave some laughs impersonating NFL on Fox analyst Troy Aikman during a promo bit that provided few laughs otherwise.
The highlight of the first episode was Weekend Update with Michael Che already in midseason form with some controversial jokes about R. Kelly and NBA anti-vaxxers. I’ve always been a fan of Che’s style as an Update co-anchor, as I think he’s maybe the closest the show has had in that position to the late, great Norm Macdonald’s “I don’t give a damn if you think it’s funny” style.
Macdonald was tributed in the first Update segment since his death of cancer last month with the segment ending with the show showing some of his classic Update jokes from his tenure on the show in the mid-‘90s, including the great “Hey, that’s my lucky stabbin’ hat” O.J. Simpson joke. I was happy to see the tribute as Macdonald meant a great deal to me with my only complaint wishing it would’ve been a bit longer.
Pete Davidson also paid tribute to Macdonald during his Weekend Update segment with a shirt sporting the comedian’s face on it. Davidson began his bit saying, “I can’t believe I’m back,” which got a good chuckle as many though him and a handful of other veterans from the show wouldn’t return. He joked about his attending the Met Gala recently with my favorite joke being about how he thought Update co-anchor Colin Jost had attended as well and when Jost said he hadn’t they showed an image of someone in basically a gimp mask and Davidson said, “then who did I talk to all night.”
Musgraves’ two performances from her most recent album star-crossed, were nice with performances of “Justified” and “Camera Roll.” On “Justified” the Grammy-winner performed as if she were Jenny Gump (Robin Wright) from 1994’s “Forrest Gump” as if she were nude performing in just boots and with a guitar while seated on a stool.
Ultimately the season premiere didn’t provide many laughs but was probably one of the better one’s in years. You’d expect the show to always come out roaring with it having been off all summer, but the truth is it’s like any other week with the staff arriving at the beginning of the week with little to nothing already prepared.
Next week could be particularly rough with reality TV royalty Kim Kardashian West making her hosting debut on the show.