Kanye West takes over with for three performances, while Matt Damon brings all the rage and tears as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh
Adam Driver may have been the host of this premiere, but it kind of felt like musical guest Kanye West got way more attention. Not only did he get his usual two musical spots during the show, he even took over the stage for a third performance at the end.
Meanwhile, Driver really only got a few chances to shine throughout the night. He was in a lot of the sketches, but he was subdued in most of them. His "Career Day" appearance was easily his most over-the-top and it showed how much he's willing to throw himself into these characters. It was both ridiculous and hilarious.
Kanye was joined by Lil Pump for "I Love It," but they skipped the boxy suits for bottled water costumes instead. If you thought this song barely worked as a music video, Kanye was basically saying, 'Here hold my water' with this performance. It worked much better when he premiered new song "We Got Love" with Teyana Taylor jumping all around the stage. They sounded stronger and the song held together much better.
For a season premiere, many of the sketches felt half-baked, as if they hadn't quite come together fully, which is crazy. Last season, weeks that allowed this group more than one week to come up with the show were some of their strongest outings, but that just wasn't the case here. We did enjoy Pete Davidson talking about what he did over the summer.
And we got some sneak peeks into the camaraderie of the cast behind the scenes, which is always fun. They also introduced new featured player Ego Nwodim, but she did virtually nothing this week. We'll keep an eye on her to see how she grows throughout the season and hopefully finds her voice.
As usual, we're ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Cold Open and the regular "Weekend Update" segments. We'll skip the musical guests, because they're not usually funny - unless Ashlee Simpson shows up. We wrap up with a look at the cast-member who had the strongest week.
MONOLOGUE - Adam Driver
"One huge spoiler about 'Star Wars'--" Adam Driver said, before getting interrupted by Beck Bennett, who wanted to talk about his summer. That was essentially the thrust of his monologue, the entire cast wanting to gab about their summer and Adam really hating small talk.He suffered through Kenan Thompson and Aidy Bryant, but when Pete Davidson came out, Pete wasn't interested in sharing. "No, you're the one person who's summer I really want to hear about," Adam said. But that was the end. It wasn't hugely hilarious, but it was kind of fun watching Adam sear burning hatred into Kenan, who did his classic "Kenan face" in response.
Beck Bennett proposes white people leave and form their own nation, but Adam Driver says there already is a place like that: Vermont. And then the whole sketch just described "white paradise" and how much it looked like Vermont. It never got to be too much or too funny or too silly or even a little over-the-top. It was just white supremacists thinking Vermont sounds really nice. We can't imagine Vermont loving the sketch, but otherwise it was disappointingly bland.
We suppose it was inevitable considering how insanely popular it is, but "SNL" went all in on this "Fortnite" sketch. They had Kyle Mooney, Pete Davidson and Adam Driver as players, but we didn't expect them to bring the characters to life, too, with Mikey Day as Driver's character, and Chris Redd and Heidi Gardner rounding out the digital cast. Adam played a middle-aged father who'd never played the game before, so that was it. Mikey mimicked the ridiculous things Adam was making him do, while the other guys got irritated until they all died. But at that point, it was a mercy killing. The sketch could have been funny or had a fun twist, but it had that one visual joke and nothing else.
Rad Times at Frat U
So that was a weird one. A pre-taped sketch of an 80s frat party with constant freezes to drop notes on the screen about what happened to the people after; none of it good. From the innocent, like a guy who was excited to see girls now being married to a man, to the more serious -- though never going so far as assault beyond a forced kiss. We thought the sketch was going somewhere with all of this, but it never really did. Clearly a reference to Kavanaugh's partying days, but it didn't skate the edge to drive home any sort of point.
Pete Davidson's Shadow
If it wasn't intentional that announcer Darrell Hammond didn't even say Kyle Mooney's name during the opening credits, it fed perfectly into this early-show sketch about his insecurities. After Pete Davidson got engaged to Ariana Grande, Kyle Mooney realized he might never get the recognition he so desperately craves on the show in one of his pre-taped introspective videos. These are always weird and funny and awkward, but it's where we got the sordid saga of his long romance with Leslie Jones, too, so we're here for it. This time, he decided to solve his invisibility problem by becoming Pete, complete with blonde hair and slacker attitude. But rather than get a pop star to date, he brought out the real Wendy Williams as his girlfriend, complete with a pig. We also got an inside look at how "SNL" handles internal problems, and it is medieval and not pretty.
"If you're drinking a bunch and you keep a calendar, it's probably to help piece together what's happening in your life," Colin Jost said, as he and Michael Che went in on Kavanaugh's blustery and angry hearing responses, though we don't think Michael's "might be" argument quite holds water.
They saved a few moments to get into some of the other terrifying news of the summer, like that new and absolutely horrifying mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers. Who approved this monstrosity?
Kate McKinnon then dropped by as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to comment and fire off some Gins-burns at everyone from Kavanaugh to Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who pushed for an FBI investigation to, as she sees it, protect his ass before he votes yes anyway.
Out of nowhere, Leslie Jones interrupted as Serena Williams, despite the bit being cut. This kind of banter always helps to bring us deeper into the world of "SNL," helping us connect to the cast-members behind the characters, and we are here for them. Plus, she did look great.
Finally, and we all knew it was coming, Pete Davidson dropped by to finally answer the question Adam Driver wanted in the "Cold Open." How did he spend his summer vacation? Well, we all know the details, but he said he hates all the attention. "It's Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Pete Davidson. All people who've gotten death threats," he said. When asked about the prenup situation, Pete said he wanted one. "God forbid we break up and she takes half my sneakers." He then joked he swapped her birth control for Tic-Tacs. "I believe in us and all," he said. "I just want to make sure she cant go anywhere."
COLD OPEN - Kavanaugh Hearing
With no sign of Alec Baldwin's Trump, we instead got a fresh and energetic exploration of the Kavanaugh hearing, with Matt Damon absolutely killing it as the Supreme Court nominee. ""I'm gonna start at an 11 and I'm gonna take it to a 15 real quick!" he shouted, setting the stage for alternating anger and tears as he cited Kathy Griffin and Ronan "Sinatra" as part of the left-wing conspiracy against him. The Senators were played by a who's who of the cast (including Rachel Dratch), with Kate McKinnon coming unhinged as Sen. Lindsey Graham, though we're not sure she has a completely successful take on him yet. It went a little long, but every time Damon was glowering on-screen, we realized we could take just a little bit more. If Kavanaugh is going to stay in the news cycle, here's hoping Matt is game to keep playing him.
Pete Davidson's 82-year-old father, played by Adam Driver, brings the fire as an oil baron who crushes his enemy and grinds their bones into the dirt. Turns out the other kids think he's a lot cooler than either Pete or the teacher (Aidy Bryant). This was absolutely bizarre, but Adam was so committed to his ridiculous, screaming character that we found ourselves as unable to hold it together as Pete and some of the other students. This recurring sketch has always been hit or miss, but when your "parent" character is this ridiculous and played this well, it's always going to work.
Coffee Taste Test
We've seen this before, where Mikey Day surprises taste-test participants with a product that isn't nearly as fancy as they think. This time, it was Burger King coffee, and this time it was Adam Driver and Cecily Strong who got to lose their s--t over it. "You fed my wife this garbage, this burger juice?" Adam shouted incensed, while Cecily kept insisting hers must be the fancy coffee. We're not sure why these are always funny, but it's how worked up one couple always gets over being fooled, and Cecily was hilariously clueless throughout.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Pete Davidson may have been the most anticipated cast-member in this premiere, if just to hear him make jokes about Ariana Grande, and he did not disappoint, but he didn't really shine beyond his "Weeked Update" appearance. Remarkably, no single cast-member stepped up in a huge way in this very balanced episode.
So we're going to give it to the cast-member who sold their spotlight sketch the strongest, which narrows it down to Kyle Mooney and Cecily Strong, with the edge going to Cecily for her ridiculously clueless coffee taster. Yes, we know Kate McKinnon gave us Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Lindsey Graham, but we didn't love her Graham as much as other characters she's done.
"Saturday Night Live" continues next week with host Awkwafina and musical guest Travis Scott, Saturday at 11:35 p.m. et on NBC.
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