“Saturday Night Live” Donald Trump impersonator and (incidentally) someone who told a tabloid TV show last week that he was probably done with his Donald Trump impersonation — Alec Baldwin, of course — returned to “SNL” in the cold open Saturday.
In a skit as commander in chief, he offered words of assurance to some assembled “troops” (the cast) that an alien invasion from outer space would be repelled. His words were not entirely reassuring, however: “What a beautiful day,” said Trump/Baldwin. “Who loves Trump?”
His plan for repelling the alien invasion: “We are gonna bring coal back, so much coal, we’re gonna say, ‘Where did all that coal come from?’ ”
He was told by a commander leading the troops (played by cast member Kenan Thompson) that everyone in California had “been killed by the aliens.”
Trump/Baldwin: “Even Arnold?”
Ba dum. (Naturally a reference to former California governor and erstwhile host of “The Apprentice,” Arnold Schwarzenegger.)
The “president” was then shown a map of the United States and told that the aliens had taken over all the territory in green, then Thompson pointed to a small patch around Washington, D.C., and said, “This is us.”
“This Is Us? That is a great show. I can’t watch it because it’s on NBC and NBC has been very unfair to me.”
A minute later, the alien commander (Bobby Moynihan — also very much in green) arrived on stage and demanded to be taken “to your leader.”
Trump/Baldwin, pointing to Thompson: “It’s him.”
The “SNL” cold open has long been a show signature, but especially during the 42nd season. Baldwin’s Trump has been a sensation, and occasionally a target by he who has been targeted — the president himself, mostly via Twitter.
Baldwin told “Extra” last week that he was thinking of ending the impression, and indicated to The Associated Press that he was considering ending it as well.
But that was last week. Last night, return of the Trump.
Meanwhile, Scarlett Johansson, who was host, spoofed Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, in a parody commercial for a perfume called “Complicit,” a fragrance “also available in Jeered,” a reference to Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner.
Applying lipstick in a mirror, viewers saw opposite her Baldwin/Trump, also applying lipstick.
Johansson is also a spokesmodel for L’Oreal.
Now that we know what everyone else seems to be talking about — that guy with the orange wig — how was the rest of the show? Better than last week. While “SNL” thanks you for noticing, it’s become a little too easy to overlook the more basic issues with “SNL” in the midst of this postelection, late-night TV new world order, where Everything Trump now seems to trump everything else that once passed for late-night TV, either on “SNL” or the other weeknight franchises. There’s a late night arms race underway in Trump satire — fueled by ratings, newspaper and online coverage (like this), and a presumption that all a show has to do is mention the word “Trump” to spike ratings or clicks. (Guess what? It works.)
But “SNL’s” Trump fixation, notably spearheaded by Baldwin/Trump, hasn’t always worked to the show’s advantage creatively, and in some instances to its acute disadvantage, with Saturday being the most recent example. A weak, too-obvious cold open — if this were a word association game, that latest immigration order leads to “aliens” leads to “Independence Day” leads to Trump as Bill Pullman’s character on the movie. It was the second reach back to ancient pop cultural history in as many weeks. Last week, “Forrest Gump, next week, “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” or “The Silence of the Lambs,” or “Jurassic Park” or “The Sixth Sense” or whatever other ’90s franchise conveniently reflects whatever President Trump does or says?
Trump’s new immigration order was last week, so I guess we should be grateful we got “Independence Day” as opposed to “Alien 3,” “Men in Black” or “The Coneheads” (there was a movie, long forgotten?).
Saturday’s “SNL” was otherwise an improvement over last week — the weakest episode of the year so far — with at least one keeper, the spoof of “Fire Island,” Logo’s upcoming Kelly Ripa-produced reality series about six men sharing a summer house. The spoof’s subject was the fictitious companion series, “Cherry Grove,” about a group of lesbians with babies (cast member Kate McKinnon: “Quiet! There are five miracles of home water birth in this house!).
The sketch about the Denver morning show that accidentally identifies a Denver zoo photographer as a pornographer was amusing, strictly written for and by a 14-year-old mindset, and (of more significance) yet another sketch that pushed cast member Mikey Day further and further into the spotlight. He’s “SNL’s” Next Big Thing, or “SNL” is making absolutely certain he will be.
The sketch written by men about women — because the women writers had taken off last Wednesday in honor of International Women’s Day — was another highlight. There were the usual product placements — another reliable “SNL” fixture, also more and more obvious. I counted three — Purina, Subway, Olive Garden — and probably missed three others. But the show does work in them in efficiently, often effectively, the Olive Garden sketch as an example.
The post-“Weekend Update” sketches were good, this time another look at Shud the mermaid, and Leslie Jones as inelegant and incompetent Ninja warrior, Shanice Goodwin (she once injured herself playing this character).
Five-timer Johansson was just fine, too. She hasn’t come back this many times because she mails it in. She’s a good host who tackles material, good or bad, with enthusiasm, or at least what appears to be enthusiasm.
Then, finally, the “dog translator” at the top of the show, featuring the device that translates a dog’s thoughts, which in this instance turned out to be pro-Trump thoughts. Maybe this was another movie reference, in this instance, “Up,” and the character Dug, whose thoughts are translated via a special collar. Undeniably, it was another instance of the determination to keep that word and that name — “Trump” — front and center. At least the dog was cute.
But Trump as late-night-ratings propellant isn’t going away, neither apparently is Baldwin, even if he is ambivalent about continuing. Business first, always. A break would be nice, though, no?
As Saturday proved, it would certainly be better for “SNL,” too.