Alec Baldwin reprised his recurring nightmare for the 45th season opener of "Saturday Night Live," but TV's most reluctant POTUS had a little help.
Then -- maybe because "SNL" didn't realize how much material it'd have to work with this first week -- a second political sketch followed that could have worked as a cold open, too, but especially worked as an effort at balance. The cold open bashed Trump, this one Democratic nominees in a sketch called "Impeachment Town Hall." (And yes, there was more than enough material to go around.)
Meanwhile, "SNL's' own recent humiliation went largely unnoticed (but then those usually do.) On Saturday, new cast member Chloe Fineman was (amusingly) introduced in the "Town Hall" sketch, as Marianne Williamson, while Bowen Yang -- "SNL's' first Chinese-American cast member,formerly a writer on the show -- was in the cold open (as Kim Jong Un) and "Town Hall" (as Andrew Yang.)
There was -- as you know -- to be a third, Shane Gillis, who was fired recently for a series of racist and homophobic remarks made on podcasts the past couple of years. No mention of that anywhere in the show ("Weekend Update" might have been the place) except, possibly, that fleeting reference to "cancel culture in host Woody Harrelson's opening monologue. Yet it was so fleeting and so veiled that Harrelson could have been talking about anything or anyone.
Baldwin's return Saturday was certainly expected, but over the past year or so, he has played a fun game of will-I-or-wont-I (be back.) This past June, promoting a forthcoming film on John DeLorean, he was (of course) asked about his future as "SNL's" Trump and he (of course) played the game all over again:
"I can't imagine I would do it again," he was reported to have said in a USA Today Interview. "I just can't. They should find somebody who wants to do it."
What they did do, however, was make his load a little lighter. In Saturday's cold open set-up, which was also used effectively last season -- the Oval Office Call -- his Trump is seen reaching out to cronies and assorted administration officials, each in split screen, as he frantically tries to lift himself off of the impeachment hook.
First call to Rudy Giuliani (Kate McKinnon) -- McKinnon herself the subject of will-she-or-won't she (be back) speculation -- then , Kanye West (Chris Redd), William Barr (Aidy Bryant), Mike Pence (Beck Bennett), Kim Jong-un (Yang), Jeanine Pirro (Cecily Strong) Eric and Don Jr. (Alex Moffat, Mikey Day), and Liev Schreiber.
Right, Schreiber, who is part of another recent "SNL" tradition -- the surprise major celebrity cameo. ("Trump" wanted to know if Ray Donovan could help him; Schrieber had to remind him that Ray is a fictional character.)
That tradition continued in the second political sketch/quasi-cold open, when Larry David reprised his Bernie Sanders, and in a genuine surprise, former cast member Maya Rudolph returned to the show as Kamala Harris.
And mindful that there was another celebrity who was supposed to be there Saturday - -the guest host -- "SNL" writers gave Woody Harrelson's Joe Biden one of the better lines of the whole night: "I'm like plastic straws," he said. "I've been around forever. I've always worked. Now, you're mad at me."