‘Saturday Night Live’ starts new season by tackling changes

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“Saturday Night Live” kicked off its 48th season with a cold open that acknowledged an off-season of change in which several stars departed and a team of newcomers joined the huddle.

The show began with a parody of ESPN2’s “ManningCast” where former Giant Eli Manning and his superstar brother Peyton Manning offer analysis of each week’s Monday Night Football game. But on “SNL,” the pair, featuring “Top Gun” star Miles Teller playing an uncanny version of the latter Manning, pretended to analyze a sketch featuring cast members that will be seen on NBC every Saturday night in coming months. That fake sketch focused on Donald Trump’s family’s various shenanigans, which Teller’s character immediately called out as a tired idea.

That sketch started with “rookie” cast member Michael Longfellow appearing on screen with veteran performer Heidi Gardner, who joined the show in 2017. The Manning brothers skewer Longfellow’s deliberately awkward debut.

“That might be the only time we see him tonight,” said Andrew Dismukes, playing Eli Manning.

When Teller asks why the bit included no fun impressions like Anthony Fauci, Lindsay Graham or Rudy Giuliani, he’s reminded those impersonations were previously performed by Kate McKinnon, who was one of the several stars deciding not to return following “SNL’s” 47th season. Other comics not returning include Pete Davidson, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, Chris Redd, Alex Moffat and Aristotle Athari.

The opening sketch included an appearance by returning cast member Bowen Yang that was, by design, not impressive. Teller joked that Yang was clearly feeling the pressure of being a returning cast member who’ll be counted on to deliver laughs.

“The show’s in a rebuilding year, for sure,” Teller said.

“Mad Men” star and repeat “SNL” host John Hamm helped kick off the new season, which included a performance by musical guest Kendrick Lamar.

Holding down the “Weekend Anchor” desk for an eighth straight year together were Michael Che and Colin Jost, who are the longest tenured hosts that segment has seen.

The 48th season of “SNL,” opened under an air of uncertainty not typically associated with the long-running sketch-comedy program.

During a December interview on CBS, producer Lorne Michael said he was committed to seeing the show through to its 50 year anniversary, but said, “I have a feeling that’d be a really good time to leave.”

Musical guests Willow and Meghan Thee Stallion will reportedly appear in upcoming episodes with the latter expected to also serve as a host.

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