Alec Baldwin popped up less often in season 44 than he did in the last two seasons, when he would appear as Donald Trump in the cold open most weeks. The frequency of his appearances increased in the middle of the season, but has tapered off lately as “SNL” has begun to shy away from being overtly political in its cold open sketches.
Summer has finally ended, and that means we’re getting close to season 45 of “SNL.” It’s been a lengthy and painful hiatus, but that’s just about behind us.
This week, on Saturday, September 28, there WILL be a new episode of “SNL.” This week will bring us the season 45 premiere of the sketch series, and the premiere episode will be hosted by Woody Harrelson, with Billie Eilish as the musical guest. NBC will once again be airing “SNL” live coast-to-coast, meaning that it will come on NBC in primetime at 8:30 PT rather than on a tape delay at 11:30 like the show did for decades.
Though it has certainly been cutting down on the political rhetoric as of late, season 44 began in as political a fashion as it has been the past few years, with the season opening in September with a cold open sketch that starred Matt Damon as Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh in a bit parodying his confirmation hearings.
Then, in December, Damon became one of the rare “SNL” hosts to appear in the cold open of an episode he was hosting, bringing back his Kavanaugh impression for an “It’s a Wonderful Life” parody in which Donald Trump learns how much better off everyone, including himself, would be had he never been elected president. Damon was accompanied by Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson as the musical guests.
The season 44 premiere was eventful beyond just Damon’s appearance — 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 has, of course, continued 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.