“Saturday Night Live” premiere recap: Pete Davidson returns to usher in season 49

…And we're back!

It's SNL in Review, the hippest brand in the late night television recap game. Welcome to the Saturday Night Live season 49 premiere. Let's catch up - for those of you hyper focused on our comedy alpha dogs — enough to read this article — yet seemingly unaware of the greater entertainment landscape: Hollywood has been crippled by two major labor strikes since our last episode. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike has been resolved, while the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strike remains. Through some contractual loopholes, the actors tonight have been given the opportunity to resume working with SAG-AFTRA's blessing. Thus, one of NBC's tentpole institutions has officially returned.

I am  joined tonight by former SNL cast member Siobhan Fallon Hogan, who is excellent in the recently released Shelter in Solitude (now in theaters). This movie quietly evokes the quirky humanism of early Jonathan Demme — go see it! To promote it, Fallon Hogan recently returned to Studio 8H stages for the first time in years, as part of a visit to Seth Meyers. "It was surreal," she tells us. "I didn't realize Seth filmed on the same floor and when the doors opened I could just feel that old crazy energy and excitement."

What SAG-AFTRA actors have been allowed to do, or not do, during the strike has been contentious. With SNL's rope-a-dope return to TV, I asked Fallon Hogan what the process was like for her to plug her independent movie, which received no funding or support from studios and was granted an interim agreement from the guild to allow promotion. She says: "We applied the same day they made an announcement that they were required. I knew we would get one, as we did not take a dime from the studios. It was just nerve-racking waiting for the official approval of the Interim agreement that allowed us to promote Shelter in Solitude and get on shows like Seth Meyers. The [only] delay was that SAG was swamped with requests from so many independents looking to promote or start filming."

Pete Davidson hosts 'SNL' season 49 premiere
Pete Davidson hosts 'SNL' season 49 premiere

NBC Pete Davidson hosts 'SNL' season 49 premiere

Alright Coneheads, here's the deal. On previous dates in SNL history, we had the likes of Kate Hudson and Fred Willard host the show. Tonight it's Pete Davidson, who was previously pegged in May until the WGA strike kicked off the week the SNL alum was set to host, cutting the season short. He's joined tonight by musical guest Ice Spice, plus a new featured player in the cast, Chloe Troast.

Cold Open

Oh wow. The show opens with Davidson commenting on the Israel-Hamas situation in Gaza, and relating it to his early memories as a child in the wake of his father's death on 9/11. Accidentally watching Eddie Murphy's Delirious was a pivotal moment in his recovery from that trauma. No one deserves suffering in this world, especially children, he says. "Comedy is the only way forward through tragedy," he offers, before affirming his commitment to "try" to be funny tonight.

This is a surprising and somber kick-off to the season. In other news, Please Don't Destroy have their own intro in the credits – their short film won't be a surprise! I like that – in previous eras, things like this would get namedropped in the credits – Robert Smigel, Franken & Davis, and so forth. But also speaks to their growing popularity.


Davidson performs some of his stand-up, discussing bonding with his sister over Game of Thrones. "So much incest!"

He jokes about his high school coach bullying him, and being from Staten Island. He recalls having sex with a girl in a car the day of his first stand-up show.

I'm always in favor of stand-ups hosting the show; they're ideal for the monologue, since it's literally what they do for a living. Then again, there's something increasingly solipsistic about the show leaning on former cast members to host. Remember back in season 22, when former cast members were over a third of the hosts? Not sure we're quite there (statistically speaking), but there is a sense the show is just sort of subsumed by its own history. Like it's this feedback loop where cast members leave the show and just feed into the rostrum of potential guest hosts.

"Fox NFL Sunday"

Eagles are playing Jets, so the panel of Fox pregame commentators are in the studio to discuss. Molly Kearney is playing Terry Bradshaw, Mikey Day is Howie Long, James Austin Johnson is Jimmy Johnson. Devon Walker has an animated Michael Strahan (Jay Pharoah previously played him).  Instead of focusing on the game itself, they can't help but discuss Taylor Swift's relationship with Travis Kelce. Kenan Thompson wants to stay focused on the sport, but no go. Kenny Ditullio (Pete Davidson) joins them, quoting "Love Story." They are all Swifties, she's taken over. Watching JAJ discuss Karma is hilarious. This is a pretty funny

And former host Travis Kelce pops up! So, not only is this a goofy riff on Swift-mania, but it'll be fodder for her legion of stans (and critics who think the relationship is just a PR gimmick).

"I'm Just Pete"

This is fun, watch it! Walking around 8H, Davidson overhears Andrew Dismukes and Punkie Johnson trashing his quick return to the show. Very sad and poignant — which leads to a song. It is a parody of Ryan Gosling's heartfelt croon as Ken from Barbie, but about Davidson's wild and crazy life. It's an ugly industry. Very funny references to Devon looking like "Black Pete" (and Kanye, shh). Side note: It is amazing Davidson got Joe Pesci, another former host, to appear in his Peacock show Bupkis.

"Wired Autocomplete Interview"

The cast of the latest Marvel show is googling themselves. Cast member Zach Eliot (Davidson) has an embarrassing common search about himself involving a Delta flight and diarrhea. Meh. Skip.


Davidson is a businessman and his secretary Trudy (Heidi Gardner) anticipates everything. Except when she doesn't. The '50s rat-a-tat rhythm seems to confuse the audience at times. But Gardner sells it hard — literally, falling into a desk. It doesn't totally kill, but it's yet another example of Gardner bringing an original character. In a different era, she'd be one of the show's breakout players, easily.

Please Don't Destroy — "The Original Princes of Comedy"

Our gang is playing old clips of Davidson as a teenager. He joins them, reminiscing. Then they reveal they also performed stand-up at a tender age – on the Def Comedy Jam circuit as the Original Princes of Comedy. This is a fun homage to that '90s style of stand-up, and seeing several white kids attempt to channel guys like Hamburger Jones. John Mulaney makes a cameo, flopping as his brand of humor plays only to white audiences.

I liked it better when Ellen Cleghorne played Michael Che's mother! Who gets that reference?!

Ice Spice — "In Ha Mood"

Last December, Ice Spice first teased this single (off her Like… EP) on a TikTok video, which amassed views from her fans. Pretty quick song, catchy. FWIW, she was also featured on one of the biggest songs of the summer "Barbie World" off the Barbie soundtrack.

I asked Fallon Hogan which rap artists she would book if given the chance on SNL. She says: "Fat Nick and Robb Bank$. They both played roles in my film. They are not only brilliant rappers, they are great actors so on SNL they could do both."

"Weekend Update"

We are 45 minutes into the show and this is the first time we get a Trump joke! That must be some kind of a record in years. It's a solid "Update," folks, a little tough to grade since it's the first one back.

Last Monday was Indigenous People's Day and communities are still grappling with Christopher Columbus' legacy. Columbus (Yang) comes on to comment on the statue controversy. It is funny seeing him discuss Hot Ones and other things he didn't discover (like jazz, the band Boygenius, gentrification, even Che!) I also like the joke about his posing. Fun fact: Kenan Thompson previously played Columbus back in 2016.

Che throws a grenade to Colin Jost to comment on "Ebony Alerts," one of their barbed joke switches, forcing Jost to make a rough punchline about Black fathers. "Those are some rough jokes, Colin," cackles Che.

The Colorado Buffalo head coach is Deion Sanders, who hosted back in season 20. (Please watch this - YIKES!) Sanders (Thompson) comes out to discuss their season. In fact, they play a clip of him performing from the episode. Classic Kenan.

"Update" ends calling for donations to help the situation in Gaza.


The year is 2044. A Star Trek-style crew is leaving hyperspace, when they discover an intruder. "Gnarly" Marley (Yang) shows up as a visitor who previously worked on the fleet. This is pretty bad. Heidi Gardner kills it as an android with a fantastic costume, too.

Ice Spice — "Pretty Girl"

Taylor Swift pops in to introduce Ice Spice. She lingers for a moment, before exiting the stage. This is all very knowing and coy, isn't it? Regarding the song itself, it's new, with nice synth and percussion line. Rema joins Ice Spice to perform it.

"Beach Day"

It's the end of summer, Dismukes is buried in sand. Chris (Davison) is relaying about his time on his grandmother's bean farm when he gets a call. The farm has been destroyed. Dismukes tries to console him, an absurd image given he's in sand. He doesn't want to leave the beach until he gets a picture taken. After all, he forfeited his entire day letting everyone bury him. This is Okay.


"Makeup for your other face." Davidson plays a cute gynecologist treating Sarah Sherman who's gotten dolled up for him… in a very private place. The female cast members show up in the room, speaking about the product's bona fides, while Davidson urges them to stop. He is confused about where they are coming up.

The performances sell this, but might have worked better as an actual fake commercial.

"Roadhouse Bar"

"Buy you a drink?" Dismukes is a cowboy weirdo hassling fellow bar patron Thompson. He used to work at the factory up the road, but now he posts photos of his feet online. His drink orders are very funny and odd (Channing Tatum potato whiskey, things like that).

Davidson joins them, playing Dismukes' father. They sell him hard on letting them make porn, and going to the Cheesecake Factory.

Final Thoughts

  • What did you think? Vote here or below. A bit understated no?

  • Chloe Troast got a couple of quick roles near the end of the show. Thoughts? She felt like a cross between Sarah Sherman and Molly Kearney's energies.

  • When Davidson's episode was initially postponed due to the strike, I wrote this - a history of other hosts who had their gigs canceled. And here's another article by yours truly on the best and worst movies based on SNL sketches, plus some you may not know are tied to the show.

  • One more click! I was lucky enough to recently be a guest on the Not Ready for Prime Time podcast, discussing the infamous season 1 episode with Louise Lasser. It's probably the most compelling in-depth look on this fascinating chapter in the show's history that you'll come across. Don't sleep on it.

  • Thank you to Siobhan Fallon Hogan! Go see Shelter in Solitude. If there isn't a theater near you to catch it, it'll be on streaming soon.

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