Here at Nerdist, we’ve been covering the return of Saturday Night Live pretty regularly as news has developed over the summer. After a fairly controversial 39th season, it is safe to say that expectations were pretty high and all eyes were on the revitalized and restructured cast during last nights 40th season premiere hosted by Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt with musical guest pop diva Ariana Grande. All in all, it was a relatively safe episode, considering what might have been. There were a lot of NFL references and very few reoccurring characters that made an appearance. Pratt, who is ever endearing, did well with mostly so-so material but there were definitely some fun moments in the season opener.
I can tell you right now, those looking for a former SNL cast member/ Parks and Rec and NBC co-star cameo from goddess incarnate Amy Poehler will be disappointed. For what could have been a fairly high profile season premiere (former cast members and crowd favorites Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are starring in The Skeleton Twins and were recently making the rounds to promote the film), the episode actually served as a reintroduction for the changes made to SNL over the last season most notably during the revered Weekend Update segment. As one of my favorite regular parts of the show, Update debuted a new opening sequence and set as well as the pairing of co-head writer Colin Jost and former Daily Show correspondent Michael Che as its new anchors. While Che did stumble over his cue cards a handful of times, it was clear that the comedian understands that the key to being a successful Update correspondent is actually meaning the jokes he’s telling. Che came across as informed, ready to go and played well off of the Update guests, including former Update co-anchor Cecily Strong in the return of one of my favorite characters, “The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation with At a Party.”
Leslie Jones also returned to Update after her controversial first appearance last season and I say welcome back. I love her persona and her bit at the desk was funny as hell.
Stand up comedian and featured player Pete Davidson also made his debut during Update and featured player Kyle Mooney shined throughout the entire episode.
The biggest highlight of the night was, by far, the sketch Marvel Trailer proving that if Marvel can make a talking raccoon and a tree the biggest heroes of the summer, they can do anything. Ooga chaka! Ooga chaka!
The NFL Intros sketch also had fun with the controversial sports league, a topic that the comedy show enjoyed poking fun at in multiple sketches all night long.
Booty Rap was incredibly silly (but not far from reality either) and proved that Chris Pratt is everyone’s favorite person. Cast member Aidy Bryant was her usual very funny self.
Saturday Night Live features host Sarah Silverman and musical guest Maroon 5 next week. A 40th anniversary special is planned for February 2015.