The Clinton/Trump Debate Cold Open
Everyone knew the season would open with a sketch spoofing the recent presidential debate, which probably accounts for the episode scoring the biggest SNL season-premiere audience since 2008 (when it jumped into that year's election fracas). The surprise, for me, was how decent this sketch was. The writers still think it's enough to run through highlight-reel cartoon versions of the big moments from the debate, with candidates occasionally interjecting to say what everyone is thinking. This isn't so different from, say, Jon Lovitz as Michael Dukakis going, "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy" about George H.W. Bush, but these sketches rarely have the spark of true satirical inspiration. They're playing defense, not offense. That said, Alec Baldwin's Trump is the best the show has offered on that deceptively difficult to spoof wannabe demagogue, nailing his petulance and malice rather than just poking fun at his gaudy bad taste. Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton remains more a character based on Clinton's persona than a decent imitation of Clinton's voice or mannerisms, but McKinnon's bug-eyed overplaying is pretty perfect for split-screen shots of her reacting to Trump. All in all, this was one of the better recent SNL debate bits.