actor, Andy Murphy, made it too.
After a brief cold open, the new intro began, calling NYC the most dangerous city with a video reel showing a less-appealing side of New York (this has newly-rehired head writer Michael O'Donoghue written all over it). And the stage looks like they’re doing it from a abandoned warehouse instead of some iconic NY location.
There was no host. The cast just ran out, took a bow and ran off into the first sketch.
The first sketch was a strange two-hander with Gross and Duke as vacationing nuns. It took a while for the audience to warn up to it, but there was a solid laugh at the end. It reminded me of Will Ferrell's first sketch about telling the kid's to get off the shed. Obviously, they were committed to it, but it didn't rock the audience.
They did a sketch about a one night stand, went to a commercial, then came back to a funeral sketch that WAS A CONTINUATION OF THE PREVIOUS SKETCH! Weekend Update became SNL Newsbreak. Oh, and Brian Doyle Murray was still around and now the Newsbreak co-anchor (with Gross). It seemed to be renamed so they could do a clever sight gag the first night that they would be stuck with to diminishing effect for the rest of the season. And the cast had the lines memorized. Not much use of cue cards that I could see.
They did bring back one thing from the earliest shows, a guest performer. Juggler Mike Davis does a set and kills. I totally remembered this bit and would often quote his George Washington axe line. In fact, I referred to it while watching WandaVision when the new Vision arrives. My wife had no idea what I was talking about.
Not that I planned to go over the whole season, but It feels like a solid, albeit atypical episode of SNL. But then, based on what I read, atypical was what they were shooting for. O'Donoghue didn't come back to live in the shadow of the 1st 5 years, he was looking to burn the whole thing down. There must have been many tussles behind the scenes before Ebersol decided keeping the show airing was more important than maintaining this link to the original years.
I'll be watching the rest of the Ebersol years because they get a short riff in the overall history of SNL, rarely being featured on the SNL: Vintage primetime repeats. They veered heavily into the use of pre-taped bits, they brought in Julia Louis-Dreyfus, put together that all-star team of season 10, had many iconic hosts and Ebersol meets his future wife, so yes, I'm going all in here. But I should get through it in half the time, since the 1st episode was only 40 minutes. Wish me luck!