Saturday Night Live’s Season 48 opener was all about change.
The show introduced 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 the recent bloated pandemic years.
The departures of Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, Chris Redd, Melissa Villaseñor, Alex Moffat and Aristotle Athari has led to one of the series biggest transitions for the NBC show in over 20 years.
But the move means that there are now more opportunities for the newer members, which includes fresh faces Marcello Hernández, 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 — as did Andrew Dismukes, who starred in the cold open 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 the major sketches this evening, including a spoof of Nicole Kidman’s AMC adverts and Caribbean Queens with Ego Nwodim and Heidi Gardner.
Johnson’s promotion also means that it is only the second time in SNL history that there have been two Black women in the main repertory cast, after Season 42 with Leslie Jones and Sasheer Zamata.
There was also more space as Cecily Strong was again missing for the opening episode, and likely a few more, as she is in L..A 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 ever, according to the Saturday Night Network, having been on since 2012.
The meta cold open addressed the changes in a deft manner with Teller’s Peyton Manning saying that the show is in a “rebuilding’ year and commenting on the new faces and returners such as Bowen Yang – who was expected to “step up” this season.
There were big moments for the newbies, particularly Longfellow, as reminiscent of Davidson he appeared alongside Colin Jost on “Weekend Update,” and Devon Walker, who was in a number of sketches.
It was also the first episode since Season 45 where the host, musical guest (in this case Kendrick Lamar, performing in a blue box and a bedroom), and the cast did not use face masks during the end credits.
Change is evidently in the air.