The Season 45 premiere began with a toothless impeachment-themed sketch. That was followed by a lackluster opening monologue that painted Harrelson as a so-called fashionista. Thankfully, the episode found its footing — and gave at least one new cast member a chance to shine — after the first commercial break, when the show returned with a cameo-filled debate parody that really, really should have served as the cold open.
Not mentioned during the season opener was Shane Gillis, the almost-cast member who was fired over racist and homophobic remarks and then threw shade at the sketch-comedy series by saying he was “always more of a MADtv guy anyway.” The episode also lacked in Pete Davidson; the longtime cast member did not appear in a single sketch, and was not there for the goodnights. Busy with The Suicide Squad…?
BEST: DNC TOWN HALL
Far superior to the cold open, though not quite a home run. Bowen Yang’s Andrew Yang impression was serviceable, but fleeting. And while Maya Rudolph nailed Kamala Harris’ mannerisms, the runner about Harris leading her own Rizzoli & Isles-esque TV show went to the well maybe once too often. Larry David got the single best line, when Bernie Sanders described turning on his TV set (“If I accidentally hit ‘Input,’ that’s a whole day!”), but it was new cast member Chloe Fineman who stole the sketch during her all-too-brief appearance as an “astral projection” of wackadoo candidate Marianne Williamson.
BEST: APPLE-PICKING AD
Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon played perfectly off each other as the very single sisters who maintain the Upstate tourist trap, where “for just $45, you can bring home $10 worth of apples.” The tourist testimonials by Yang, Melissa Villaseñor and Chris Redd were spot-on, and Harrelson was a hoot as Hank, the troubled farmhand who came with the land.
HONORABLE MENTION: LOCKER ROOM
Heidi Gardner’s first showcase as a full-time cast member wasn’t great, but she was great in it. Her performance as the football coach’s much younger wife (“Class of 2018!”) was solid, and her delivery helped sell some of the not-so-funny jokes about his mutilated genitals.
WORST: INSIDE THE BELTWAY
Technical difficulties elevate this one to “best-worst” status. Aidy Bryant breaking character after the stagehand accidentally steps into frame was, in a word, perfect. And I’m pretty sure it was Aidy, not her character, telling them to “go to commercial.” The myriad gaffes took an otherwise forgettable satire of Sunday-morning political punditry and turned it into a memorable disaster.
WORST: ROADSIDE MUSEUM
We all knew where this one was going, and that’s half the fun. But everyone involved was too low energy. In order to sell such a ridiculous, one-joke premise, the performances needed to be heightened; Harrelson’s character, in particular, should have had a much bigger reaction to the sketch’s inevitable climax. Everyone was asleep at the wheel, and then it just… ended.
What were your favorite sketches this week? And what missed the mark? Watch all of the highlights (and lowlights) above, then grade the episode in our poll.