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 “Stranger Things” star David Harbour, aired last week, October 12. That episode featured a star-studded cold open sketch that saw Billy Porter, Woody Harrelson and Lin-Manuel Miranda appear as Democratic presidential candidates.
Alec 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. In season 45, Baldwin has made a single appearance thus far, in the premiere episode.
This week, on Saturday, Oct. 19, there WILL NOT be a new episode of “SNL.” This is the first break of season 45, and a rerun will air in the normal 11:30 p.m. time slot. That also goes for the West Coast — NBC doesn’t air reruns at 8:30 like it does for new episodes.
While season 44 saw “SNL” seemingly tire of doing political commentary, season 45 has provides a consistent flow of political content in its first three episodes, all of which featured politically charged sketches for their cold opens. And in the premiere It’s 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.