Season 45 of “SNL” is now underway, returning at the end of September after that four-month summer hiatus. The most recent new episode, hosted by Kristen Stewart, featured the first cold open of the season that didn’t have any celebrity guests. The sketch didn’t suffer at all for that lack, though, as it saw Kate McKinnon brilliantly play Elizabeth Warren holding a town hall in which she took questions from wishy-washy audience members.
In season 45, Alec Baldwin has made two appearances as Donald Trump thus far, in the premiere episode and in the cold open on October 26, when he shared the stage with Darrell Hammond, the former “SNL” cast member who played Trump on the show for years. Baldwin popped up less often in season 44 than he did in the previous two seasons, when he would appear as Donald Trump in the cold open most weeks. It’s tough to guess how often we’ll see him this year, but he’s shown up in two of the four episodes so far.
This week, on Saturday, November 16, there WILL be a new episode of “SNL.” This week’s episode will be hosted by Harry Styles, who will also perform as the musical guest. It’s usually pretty rare for “SNL” to have hosts pulling double duty, but Styles will already be the second of the year, after Chance the Rapper. This episode will air live coast-to-coast, as is almost always the case for a new episode these days.
While season 44 saw “SNL” seemingly tire of doing political commentary late in the season, season 45 has seen it return its politics-heavy form. Every cold open this season has been political, and each has featured some surprise celebrity cameos. Including, perhaps most shockingly, Darrell Hammond’s brief appearance — Hammond was devastated three years ago when it picked Baldwin to play Trump over him. We’ve also seen Lin-Manuel Miranda and Billy Porter feature in one cold open, and Matthew Broderick in another.
The start of the 45th season of “SNL” is not that different from how season 44 began — though later in the season it shied away from the political stuff in favor of general pop culture jokes.
Last year, the Season 44 premiere was eventful for a number of reasons. Matt Damon appeared as Brett Kavanaugh in the cold open. Musical guest Kanye West wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat on stage and giving a pro-Donald Trump speech that didn’t air. Cast member Pete Davidson addressed West’s pro-Trump speech during the “Weekend Update” portion of the Oct. 6 episode the following week.
The political bent did, of course, continue throughout the season. Ahead of the midterm elections, we got a cold open sketch that parodied Fox News’ hysterical coverage of the immigrant caravan ahead of this week’s midterm elections. The sketch saw cast member Kate McKinnon playing “Ingraham Angle” host Laura Ingraham, with guest appearances by Kenan Thompson as right-wing former sheriff David Clarke and Cecily Strong popping up as “Judge” Jeanine Pirro. The three took turns spouting false narratives about the caravan and presenting videos of things like a mob of Black Friday shoppers and crabs scrambling around on a beach as being footage of the caravan.
We’ve been surprised to see Robert De Niro pop up fairly regularly as special counsel Robert Mueller — he showed up in two episodes late last season and has returned for several more episodes as Mueller in the past couple months, such as when he bid farewell to Kate McKinnon’s still tremendously impression Jeff Sessions impersonation after Sessions was fired as Attorney General.
Alec Baldwin’s most recent appearance, his sixth time this season portraying Donald Trump, came in a sketch mocking the way the Mueller Report was initially filtered by Attorney General William Barr and Trump himself.
In the previous two seasons of “SNL” you’d have been hard pressed to find many cold open sketches that dodged the political happenings of the week, but lately the show has been delving more into general pop culture stuff and — aside from eternally mocking Trump — even taking more of a neutral stance in its political sketches. Recent examples of such apolitical sketches include a parody of that infamous R. Kelly interview on CBS News, and the previously mentioned Julian Assange prison sketch — while Assange is certainly a political figure, the sketch was just for lulz, not for making political statements.