Saturday Night Live season 48 premiere recap: Miles Teller commentates the cold open as Peyton Manning

The British poet Humbert Wolfe once wrote: "The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves. We have had our summer evenings; now for October eves." It's October 1, autumn is here - and for us that means the return of our beloved Saturday Night Live. Welcome my dear Coneheads to season 48. It's SNL in Review time.

This summer was again quite eventful for our friends at 30 Rockefeller Center, with several waves of cast departures producing the greatest cast turnover since 1995. It is, as they say, a "transition year." Goodbye and farewell Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson, Kyle Mooney, Alex Moffat, Melissa Villaseñor, Aristotle Athari and Chris Redd (!!!). Hello Marcello Hernández, Molly Kearney, Michael Longfellow and Devon Walker. Together, with the holdover cast members, they're going to forge a new path for our favorite live late night sketch series.

I spoke recently with Kevin Nealon, whose book I Exaggerate: My Brushes with Fame is being released later this month. Nealon — a cast member during nine SNL seasons — likens the experience of starting a new season to going to college. He told me, "It's pretty much the same [as a] college year — started around the end of September, October. I would go to New York because I came out to California in the summer to my house. I kept an apartment in New York, a rental. I would go there and it was exciting. It was autumn and the leaves were changing, a little cooler. I'd open up my closet and it'd be all flannel shirts. Winter jackets. I'd get excited about that."

I asked him how he expected this year's cast might be preparing for the new season: "Hopefully you go in there with a couple of pocket sketches that you've thought about and maybe even written, but not likely. It's kind of good to get with someone and start writing and hopefully come up with something. You're coming in with a full reservoir of energy because it's the beginning of the season. It's not like you've done three shows in a row and [are] exhausted."

Tonight's host is Miles Teller who — at best — was probably the third or fourth most interesting person in this summer's Top Gun: Maverick. (I understand no Tom Cruise get, but Glen Powell was the buzziest It Guy, no?) And the musical guest is Kendrick Lamar — this is his third stint and fifth overall appearance on the show. A new season promises change – challenges as well as opportunity. Let's see how SNL rises to the occasion!

Cold Open

It's Monday Night Football with Peyton Manning (Teller) and his brother Eli (Andrew Dismukes), or, well, their telecast — I love the goofy commentary, with the Manning brothers providing a winking look at the traditional opening sketch. They're poking fun at all the tropes I've written about for a long time here — from Bowen Yang attempting to launch a new catchphrase, to Heidi Gardner needlessly, and shoddily, portraying South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. Clearly, the show is seeking to be self-aware and hit a reset. I enjoy Michael Longfellow's awkward first appearance, and Devon Walker playing corn kid. "A humiliating attempt at reference."

Shaun White appears in "gratuitous stunt casting." Teller's Top Gun co-star Jon Hamm shows up as well. The question is: does this just appeal to the long-suffering critics, or does it work on its own as comedy? Does it sufficiently convey a "new era" of the show is being ushered in?

"Desperate stuff," answers Peyton. Teller does a great job here.

Monologue

Teller jokes about making Top Gun, and being taught to play the piano by J.K. Simmons, a call-back to Whiplash.

He calls out reenacting the Spartan Cheerleaders as a child – he played the Cheri Oteri role.

Send Something Normal

It is "America's Easiest Game Show!" The premise is, contestants must send a normal DM to a woman on Instagram. The first contestant is wife guy Adam Levine (Mikey Day). Next up: Armie Hammer (James Austin Johnson) and Neil deGrasse Tyson (Kenan Thompson). The final participant is returning champion Yang as himself. He credits his success to "being gay."

"Holy moly!" shouts Levine, causing the buzzer to go off. The joke here is every man has an issue behaving appropriately on IG DM.

BeReal

Teller and Day are robbing a bank when one of the hostages (Yang) gets a BeReal notification. Teller and Day are confused and angry. But slowly, the appeal of the app and its emphasis on "truth" becomes known.

"Oh, so there's no posturing," says Teller, getting it. Feels like sponsored content for BeReal – ironically, a bit duplicitous.

Charmin Bears

The iconic toilet paper bears are overjoyed their son (Teller) has gotten into "dodo" college. "Why does everything in this family revolve around going to the bathroom?" he asks. He does not want to go to college. He wants to dance. He and Yang perform, earning his family's approval.

Rooftop Bar

Teller and Day stan day-trading. These finance bros are out drinking after work, talking up how much game they can spit. Ego Nwodim and Chloe Fineman show up, and they immediately stumble over themselves. Day begins utilizing a bunch of silly voices. Turns out he's a virgin. All the bravado was for nothing.

"You like stores?" asks Teller.

AMC Theaters Commercial

Nicole Kidman (Fineman) talks up the power of movies. Here's the original.

A good recreation of the ode to the silver screen and the "We Make Movies Better" clip Kidman did that went viral several months ago. (Maybe that's why this doesn't quite land? Film Twitter has been clowning these for a while. But Fineman's Kidman is fun.)

"Heartbreak feels good in a place like this," everyone chants. Kidman becomes a super-human entity.

Kendrick Lamar's first performance

Pretty explosive medley – "N95" is the second track on Lamar's final studio album with Top Dawg Entertainment, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. Back in 2013, Lamar performed "Swimming Pools (Drank)" and "Poetic Justice" and also appeared in the SNL Digital Short.

Weekend Update

The return of Michael Che and Colin Jost to huge applause. They go in on Vladimir Putin and the situation in Ukraine. They have a lot of ground to cover, after a long and tumultuous summer — digs at President Biden are matched with jokes about Ginni Thomas.

Mitch McConnell (Johnson) and Herschel Walker (Thompson) discuss candidate quality in the upcoming midterm election. I miss Beck Bennett's Kentucky Senator, but I am enjoying JAJ too — he is attempting to hide his shame about Walker's obvious lack of qualifications or smarts.

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Sydney Sweeney caused an uproar a few weeks ago when she posted photos that went viral at a family event. In them, Sweeney is seen with her parents, while her father wears a Blue Lives Matter shirt. In other photos posted by her brother, other family members are shown donning red "MAGA"-style hats.

New cast member Michael Longfellow comes on to comment. His father is anti-vax, so he can relate. He's a stand-up and looks like an effort to fill Pete Davidson's shoes. There are even jabs about Jost's wealth. (I like the joke about "Bill Maher liberals" being Republican.)

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Yang also shows up as a spotted lanternfly, a threat to many fruit crops and trees. Spotted lanternflies are invasive and can be spread long distances. Yang goes broad here – he's aggressive and his costume is fantastic. This episode is heavy on Yang, he's making a star bid for sure! (Yang also has a few prominent movies out, including Bros.) Crops (Dismukes) pops up to challenge Yang.

"Everyone brings their own sensibility to that Weekend Update position," recalls Kevin Nealon to me. "I was always a huge Chevy Chase fan, that's who I emulated on SNL. Dennis [Miller] was great, too, and Norm MacDonald..." He also notes: "You know how you have a football team, and someone's the quarterback and that's all they do? I was also the lineman and the wide receiver, I was still doing sketches." That's a contrast to other Update anchors, who focus solely on that responsibility.

McDonald's

Ronald McDonald and his friends are shooting a commercial. There's a new Grimace (Teller) in town! He lost 300 pounds this summer and is "totally yoked up." How did he do it? He started walking to work, drinks water and stopped eating McDonalds every meal. He's been divorced — he was swerving this summer. He begins to question his own happiness, announcing his bisexuality. His newfound sense of identity spreads to the rest of the group.

Am a fan of Yang as Hamburglar. He deserves an SNL Films spinoff. And Sarah Sherman brings her usual spunky energy. Still, I think this is a little awkward.

Kendrick Lamar's second performance

Accompanied by Sampha, this song is about the toxic masculinity that is passed on from generation to generation, sometimes actively by a father's presence or the lack of one. Another strong performance. And I like the stark set.

Caribbean Queens

Nwodim and Gardner are live and hungover from a beach resort and spa. They met on Spirit Airlines, but have been living at the resort off-peak for five months. They Google Billy Ocean, and discuss the theme song. Here's what they did this week: lots of "shorts-off" activities.

Gordy and Barack (Teller, Thompson) show up as two guys they recently met. They do a "Vibe Check" with their disinterested guests.

This is in its infancy — but may have long-sought recurring character potential.

Final Thoughts

  • Season 48 is officially underway! Ring the alarm! What did you think? Weigh in below or vote here.

  • Thank you to Kevin Nealon! Be on the lookout for his book.

  • I liked Jost and Che tonight, but they truly feel like a holdover from a previous era, don't they?

  • Teller did a nice job, and the show overall made a good attempt at bringing a fresh energy. I even like the new logo and branding. Early '80s vibe.

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