Saturday Night Live’s The 48 season opener was all about change.
The show featured a new logo, a retro vibe that marked its first new look in eight years, and a cast size that was more reminiscent of classic seasons than recent pandemic-bloated years.
The departures of Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, Chris Redd, Melissa Villaseñor, Alex Moffat and Aristotle Athari have led to one of the biggest series transitions for the NBC show in more than 20 years.
But the move means there are now more opportunities for newer members, including new faces like Marcello Hernandez, Molly Kearney, Michael Longfellow and Devon Walker.
James Austin Johnson, who joined last season and once again played Donald Trump in tonight’s cold open, got plenty of screen time as did Punkie Johnson. Punkie joined in season 46 and was promoted this year, along with Andrew Dismukes, who starred in the cold opening alongside host Miles Teller, from featured player to repertory status.
James Austin Johnson appeared on Weekend Update for the first time and Punkie Johnson was in most of tonight’s top skits, including a parody of Nicole Kidman’s AMC ads and Caribbean Queens with Ego Nwodim and Heidi Gardner.
Johnson’s promotion also means it’s only the second time he’s SNL history that there have been two black women in the main cast of the repertory after season 42 with Leslie Jones and Sasheer Zamata.
There was also more room as Cecily Strong was again missing for the opening episode, and probably a few more, as she’s in Los Angeles for her one-woman show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, which runs through October 23. Strong, however, has signed on to return, making her the female cast member with the most consecutive full seasons on the show, according to the Saturday Night Network, since 2012.
The cold open meta addressed the changes in a slick way with Teller’s Peyton Manning saying the show is in a year of “rebuilding” and commenting on new faces and returning ones like Bowen Yang who was expected to “step up” this season.
There were great moments for the rookies, particularly Michael Longfellow who was so reminiscent of Pete Davidson when he appeared alongside Colin Jost in Weekend Update and Devon Walker who appeared in various sketches.
It was also the first episode since season 45 in which the host, the musical guest, in this case Kendrick Lamar, performed in a blue box and bedroom, and the cast did not wear face masks during the end credits.
Obviously, change is in the air.