‘Saturday Night Live’ Returns: Alec Baldwin Mocks Trump and Ryan Gosling ‘Saves Jazz’

After a landmark season, which garnered a record number of Emmy nominations, and wins for key players, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, and Alec Baldwin (the last two of whom aren’t even regular cast members), “Saturday Night Live” is back.

Hosted by second timer Ryan Gosling with musical performances by Jay-Z, the Season 43 premiere of the hit NBC variety show saw a few fresh faces added to the cast. Heidi Gardner, Luke Null, and Chris Redd, who, as per usual in the case of newbie’s, didn’t get much attention. But it’s only their first show. The network also rolled out the show live from coast to coast. Something they tried a few times last year. Instead of splitting the audiences, it is a strategy to best enhance and unify social engagement for everyone who does still watch it live.

The main attraction to the series has now become its satirical take on the abnormally wild political state. The cold open featured the grand return of Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump. Just as the viewer knows there is going to be weekend Update and a live musical performance, the viewer can depend on the promise that the cold open will, in same way, feature Baldwin’s Trump,  It has become a staple in the series’ recent structure.

Trump enters the White House from his latest golf trip and is greeted by Aidy Bryant’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders to deal with the crisis in Puerto Rico. He fields a call from pleading and empathetic San Jaun Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz (criminally underused, Melissa Villasenor), only to hang up on the desperate woman and call her “nasty.”

“I don’t know if you know this, but you’re in an island in the water. The ocean water. Big ocean with fishies and bubbles and turtles that bite. We want to help you, but we have to take care of America first,” he remarked. Wait is this a real quote? It is getting difficult to tell.

The high point of the sketch happened when McKinnon popped up out from under the desk as Jeff Sessions. With grin and goblin persona, she hopped onto Trump’s lap and called him daddy.

Weekend Update supplied the most outrageous laughs and one-liners. The anchored sketch strayed for a summer spin-off, but is warmly placed back where it belongs. It is no easy task to make jest out of some of the serious issues that the country is facing today, but anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che fit the bill.

In response to Puerto Rico, Che proudly proclaimed, “Go tell Melania to put on her flood heels, get some bottle water, some food, pack up some extra Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl t-shirts and write them a check with our money, you cheap cracker!” which garnered one of the biggest laughs.

Visiting the desk was McKinnon’s Angela Merkel as Angelea Merkel and Alex Moffat’s cringy douche bag Guy Who Just Bought a Boat, tailed by Ryan Gosling’s Guy Who Just Joined Soho House.

Non-political highlights included the fake movie trailer for “Papyrus,” a movie about a regular guy (Gosling) who reveals an obsession with the fact that “Avatar” used a particular font on its advertising. It was weird, albeit the most satisfying sketch of the night.

Gosling was unable to control his giggles when he returned alongside Cecily Strong and McKinnon (let’s see how many times her name is mentioned), in the alien abduction sketch that was quite memorable when the trio debuted the set of characters during Gosling’s last visit. Again, the “creepy little grey aliens” demonstrated quite a quirky and handsy fascination towards McKinnon’s physique and Gosling just couldn’t hold it together. He is a great actor, and totally down for the game, but that doesn’t mean his live television improv skills are just as worthy.

However, when the show veers off of its perfected political commentary, it goes a little too far off the deep end – and quite frankly, there isn’t much there. The rest of the show was filled with a sub-par Italian restaurant sketch, in which customers were fooled into actually eating Dominoes, an HGTV sketch, “’cause your house sucks,” and a poor jazz riff, which seemed to be thrown together way last minute. Gosling’s opening monologue also featured the talented “Blade Runner 2049” star singing jazz, with a brief visit by Emma Stone. We get it. He stared in “La La Land,” but we didn’t need two sketches revolving around the jazzy theme.  

Perhaps the bar was set too high, or the accolade attention clouded the perception, but the return of “Saturday Night Live” was hit and miss, and altogether mediocre. It is clear that the highlight of the series hinges upon political satire and the use of star, Kate McKinnon. Something needs to elevate in order to sustain well-rounded subsidence.

Saturday Night Live” returned Sept. 30 at 11:30 p.m. ET and airs Saturdays on NBC.