So…did something happen in Washington this week? Just kidding; we all knew how Saturday Night Live was going to open its 44th season. Sure, some on social media were appealing to Lorne Michaels and the SNL writing team—now headed up by Weekend Update duo and poorly-reviewed Emmy hosts, Michael Che and Colin Jost—to think twice about recreating Thursday’s Senate hearings with Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. But mostly, Twitter was consumed with pitching ideas for who should play the teary-eyed outburst-prone Supreme Court nominee in the cold open.
Turns out Michaels had an A-list ace up his sleeve, and that ace was named Matt Damon. The erstwhile Jason Bourne pulled off another one of his patented surprise cameos, walking into Studio 8H to audible gasps from the crowd. And Damon tore into his role right away. “I’m going to start at an 11 and take it to a 15 real quick,” he warned, mimicking Kavanaugh’s angry opening statement. “This is my speech. There are other like it, but this one is mine. I wrote it last night myself while screaming into an empty bag of Doritos.” While an Alyssa Milano standee lurked behind him, Damon’s Kavanaugh railed against a variety of left-leaning enemies—including the Clinton, George Soros, Kathy Griffin and “Mr. Ronan Sinatra“—and repeatedly proclaimed his love of weightlifting and beer, specifically American beer.
Damon wasn’t the only surprise cameo to grace the 13-minute cold open. Former SNL star, Rachel Dratch, appeared as Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, and repeated her alter ego’s now-famous exchange with Kavanaugh practically verbatim. One thing that Twitter did correctly predict is that Kate McKinnon—who is likely heading into her final season—would be called upon to portray Lindsay Graham, who had his own fiery mid-hearing freak-out to complement Kavanaugh. “This is hell, that’s what it is,” McKinnon-as-Graham proclaimed, which could be taken as a comment on having to relive what had been a traumatic day for so many through the lens of not-great satire.
In the “be thankful for small favors” department, Michaels did wisely avoid calling in another celebrity pal to play Dr. Ford. Even better, he gave Alec Baldwin the night off from doing his past-its-prime Donald Trump impression. Let’s hope that something, anything happens this week, though, because if there’s another Kavanaugh cold open next Saturday, we’ll all have to chug a can of water to get through it.
Here’s our round-up of other highlights (and lowlights) from SNL‘s Season 44 premiere.
Best Sketch: “New Look”
Kyle Mooney is a wizard at constructing alt-universe SNLs (the one where he and Leslie Jones are a couple is one of the show’s best running gags), and he taps into that magic again for this filmed skit where he attempts to have Pete Davidson’s life…minus the pop star fiancée. If we’re being honest, this isn’t the finest of Mooney’s parallel worlds, but we were totally entertained by the climactic mock-Gladiator battle.
Timeliest Sketch: “80s Party”
After this week, we’re slowly awakening to the fact that ’80s frat house parties really weren’t as fun as all those movies made them out to be. Using a flash-forward device borrowed from the end of Animal House, this sketch shows the unpleasant futures awaiting a hard-partying collegiate crew…including at least a few failed Presidential campaigns.
Worst Sketch: “Fortnite Squad”
In which SNL discovers the Fortnite phenomenon and skewers it in the lamest possible way. Good thing kids only watch these skits on YouTube—makes it easier to skip this one.
The troubled hip-hop star was a last-minute substitute for Ariana Grande, and seemed to take great pleasure in provoking—rather than entertaining—the audience. How else to explain his decision to dress up as an oversized bottle of Perrier in his first number? Or to wear a “Make American Great Again” hat for the encore performance, which devolved into an unaired rant? Those choices went over as well on Twitter as you might expect:
Best Use of Adam Driver: “Career Day”
Sadly, there were no Matt the Starkiller Base radar technician sightings during Adam Driver’s second hosting gig. But we did get to see the Star Wars actor do his best Daniel Day-Lewis impression, playing an ancient oil baron very clearly modeled after There Will Be Blood‘s Daniel Plainview. The only thing missing from his near-perfect portrayal was a milkshake.
Best Weekend Update Gag: Leslie Jones as Serena Williams
While everyone else was spending their summers working a little and traveling a little, Leslie Jones got her body “in Serena shape.” Too bad that Jost shut her down from doing the Serena Williams bit she planned. She deserves an apology and a repeat invitation for next week.
Episode MVP: Pete Davidson
Suddenly the most famous cast-member on SNL thanks to his real-life romance, Davidson gamely handled the numerous references and allusions to his more famous fiancée. Although he probably should apologize to her for his groan-inducing joke about switching her birth control pills with Tic Tacs. That line might get his apartment privileges revoked, even if he keeps the fridge stocked.
Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. on NBC
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