This weekend marked the debut of Saturday Night Live's new cast, with a guiding hand from guest host Tina Fey. Six new cast members performed in their first broadcast, and a standout from last year, Cecily Strong, made her first appearance as Weekend Update's co-anchor with Seth Meyers. (Watch above)
The Weekend Update anchor chair is the most prominent seat in house that Lorne Michael built. Strong's performance elicited fairly mixed reviews, but Rolling Stone's Gwynne Watkins has a pretty good consensus take: "She looks nervous and her blazer doesn't fit well. We have faith, Cecily."
And what about the rest of show?
Strong and Vanessa Bayer reprised their dizzy (drunk?) ex-porn stars trying to sell luxury goods routine. Again, mixed reviews: "I'm getting diminishing returns on the porn stars gimmick," says Vulture's Reid. "Hear us now, Lorne Michaels," says The Huffington Post: "We will never, ever, ever get tired of seeing Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong as these characters."
Strong was also in a surprisingly funny promo for HBO's Girls. She does a good job as Marnie, but Noël Wells stands out for playing Lena Dunham's Hannah character, and Tina Fey steals the skit portraying dour Albanian roommate Blerta:
Fey and Taran Killam turned what could have been a tedious sketch about boarding an airplane into a master class in deadpan delivery. Kenan Thompson has the best bit, though:
Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul made his second appearance in this spoof commercial for an e-cigarette for crystal meth:
And Paul probably had the best line in the cold open, about ObamaCare. He appears as his Jesse character, talks about his friend who had to turn to a life of crime because of medical costs, and then, when Jay Pharoah's President Obama tries to usher him away from the audience, Paul asks: "Don't you want to know what happened to my friend?" Coming less that 24 hours before the Breaking Bad series finale, the response from the crowd is both obvious and funny:
Critics weren't thrilled with the opening sketch, but Ezra Klein at The Washington Post says it "raises an interesting pop-culture question" regarding ObamaCare: "What will writers do when they can no longer use catastrophic health care costs as a plot device?" I would be surprised if Hollywood is really worried about that, but it's something for SNL's new head writers to think about as they plow through this "rebuilding year."