With politically charged sketches, host Seth MacFarlane’s antics and Frank Ocean’s silky falsetto, the first episode of "Saturday Night Live's" 38th season had the bases covered for every late-night viewer.
The presidential election kicked off the proceedings with former Barack Obama impersonator Fred Armisen introducing Jay Pharoah, newly appointed with the task of becoming the president. First order of business for "SNL's" new Obama was to reveal his secret election-winning weapon: cut to Jason Sudeikis as Mitt Romney telling ordinary Americans how he understands their hardships. "For example, this summer one of my horses failed to medal at the Olympics," he said. "So I know hardship."
McFarlane’s appearance as guest host started with the “Family Guy” creator professing his love for the show and a schizophrenic conversation involving several of his best known creations. A musical number that included impersonations of Droopy the Dog, George Takei, Marty McFly and Kermit the Frog followed in what was ultimately a wacky, yet crowd-pleasing monologue.
Throughout the night, MacFarlane was able to induce laughter whether it was as a rambunctious Lids employee, an overtly happy puppet master or goofy Ryan Lochte telling people to "soup themselves," before admitting that it "feels so weird to be dry."
Frank Ocean’s performance was a stark contrast to the humor, but set the bar high for the rest of the season. His renditions of “Thinking About You” and “Pyramids” were powered by an intimate stage setup and his somber tone.
Seth Myers’ “Weekend Update” cashed in on that realism, continuing the political satire and social commentary that got the show started. The Honey Boo Boo appearance - complete with subtitles - and the Al Pacino as Joe Paterno shout out got the most out of the studio audience.
MacFarlane then donned army fatigues for a skit about a stuttering drill sergeant before receiving a Steve Harvey-inspired makeover. Charming and charismatic, MacFarlane’s appearance on the show embodied the favorite attributes of his most popular characters.
Alongside show veterans Bill Hader and Kenan Thompson, new cast members Tim Robinson, Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant all got laughs, proving themselves as venerable replacements for the recently-departed Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, and Abby Elliot.