Looking back on a strike-shortened ‘SNL’ season

With the writers on strike, 'SNL' Season 48 appears to come to an end.

Looking back on a strike-shortened ‘SNL’ season
The nineteen people who hosted Saturday Night Live during Season 48. / NBC

Welcome to a special edition of Deep SNL Thoughts.

After the previous edition of this newsletter, I assumed that I’d be chatting with you all about how Pete Davidson did during his return to Saturday Night Live as a host, but with the Writers Guild of America going on strike as of Tuesday, NBC canceled this weekend’s SNL.

Hard to have an episode of SNL without writers, right?

As the week went along, though, I started thinking that this would be a good moment to look over Season 48, especially if Ana de Armas’ episode winds up being the season finale. (Looks like we won’t see Kieran Culkin or Jennifer Coolidge as hosts this season either …)

Miles Teller hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Miles Teller

Oct. 1, 2022

The season began with Miles Teller as host. The Top Gun: Maverick star wasn’t a bad host — he just wasn’t a standout host. As season premieres go, this episode was a dud. Those of us rooting for SNL to find its footing in a new season with a bunch of new castmembers were in for a letdown. The show kicked off with a cold open that threw everything at the wall. Teller in the cold open! Freshman castmember Devon Walker as Corn Kid! Jon Hamm! None of it was done well — and that was supposedly the joke?

The sketch I’m still thinking about

ManningCast Cold Open

Yeah, that cold open. SNL couldn’t have launched its 48th season in a worse way.

Brendan Gleeson hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Brendan Gleeson

Oct. 8, 2022

When Brendan Gleeson was announced as the host of the Oct. 8 episode, I spent at least a week thinking it was his son, Domhnall Gleeson, hosting. You’ll imagine my surprise when the promos for the episode hit the Internet and it was one of the stars of The Banshees of Inisherin on stage.

The sketch I’m still thinking about


This was the sketch when Andrew Dismukes morphed into a fully formed SNL star. Watching Dismukes yell things like “How about you write a book about the time I saw your grandpa for the first time?” at Michael Longfellow makes me laugh every time I watch this sketch.

Megan Thee Stallion and Heidi Gardner during Megan Thee Stallion’s Saturday Night Live promo. / NBC

Megan Thee Stallion

Oct. 15, 2022

I honestly didn’t remember much about Megan Thee Stallion’s episode until I started going through its sketches. This was a trend early on in the season — episodes that failed to make a mark.

The sketch I’m still thinking about


This sketch is stupid. But Kenan Thompson absolutely sells it. The deer appearing at the window at the end is a bonus.

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Jack Harlow hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Jack Harlow

Oct. 29, 2022

Jack Harlow’s episode came during a string of forgettable episodes. Like a lot of hosts at this point in the season, Harlow wasn’t a bad host. He just wasn’t a memorable one.

The sketch I’m still thinking about

Joker Wedding

Yes, Harlow was in this sketch, but it’s Dismukes and Heidi Gardner who steal the show. With Kate McKinnon gone this season, Gardner really took hold of the opportunity to become one of SNL’s leading female castmembers. (Chloe Fineman has jumped into a lead role too.)

Amy Schumer hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Amy Schumer

Nov. 5, 2022

I had no memory of Amy Schumer hosting SNL this season until I started working on this newsletter. Nothing about her episode stuck with me. I hadn’t spun my SNL thoughts off into their own edition yet, so I don’t even have my thoughts on the record. The show was in a rut at this point. The hosts weren’t clicking. The new cast was still finding its way.

The sketch I’m still thinking about

Tammy the Trucker on Gas Prices and Definitely Not Abortion

You know who had long ago found her way? Cecily Strong. The SNL veteran appeared on Weekend Update as Tammy the Trucker, talking to Colin Jost about gas prices and definitely not abortion. We didn’t know it at the time, but Strong was nearing the end of her tenure on the show.

Dave Chappelle hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Dave Chappelle

Nov. 12, 2022

Please, Lorne Michaels, stop having Dave Chappelle host the show. In addition to his transphobic standup content, he dabbled in some antisemitism during his monologue. Episodes hosted by Chappelle are barely episodes of SNL. He drags out his old Chappelle’s Show characters. He skips sketches. The rules of hosting SNL don’t seem to apply to Chappelle.

The sketch I’m still thinking about

House of the Dragon

How much money and time was spent on a sketch that existed to remind people of characters that Chappelle featured on his show roughly two decades ago? Bizarre choices all around.

Keke Palmer hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Keke Palmer

Dec. 3, 2022

OK, here’s where SNL begins to turn things around for Season 48. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Keke Palmer launched a run of creativity and enthusiasm for the show that is only on hiatus at the moment as we wait for the writers’ strike to end. Palmer was fantastic in this one, bringing a spark to every sketch she appeared in — and confirmed that she was pregnant during the monologue!

The sketch I’m still thinking about

Kenan & Kelly

Thompson seemed refreshed during this season. I don’t know if it was the new cast, the end of his NBC sitcom or just a second wind. Watching him perform with Kel Mitchell again in “Kenan & Kelly” was great, especially with Palmer in the mix.

Steve Martin and Martin Short hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Steve Martin & Martin Short

Dec. 10, 2022

Right before this episode aired, I wrote about SNL’s lost generation. During the years of Alec Baldwin playing Donald Trump, Michaels turned SNL into a showcase for celebrities. If you wanted to play anyone connected to Trump and were already an established actor, you got a role. This came at the expense of the actual cast of SNL, pushing them to the background, robbing them of shot after shot at career-making roles and casting a funk over the show in general.

With Palmer lighting the fuse the previous week, SNL snapped out of that funk. The show launched into the holiday spirit a week before the “official” Christmas show. Steve Martin and Martin Short infused the episode with a sense of joy.

The sketch I’m still thinking about

The Holiday Train

I love this random sketch. I’ve legitimately thought about it on several occasions since the episode aired. Why Buffalo? Why bears?

Austin Butler hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Austin Butler

Dec. 17, 2022

Hours before this episode aired, we learned that it would be Strong’s final episode of SNL. While people like McKinnon and Aidy Bryant wrapped up their SNL careers at the end of Season 47, Strong took a few episodes off before coming back to go out in style. I’m sure it’s up to the individual castmember, but it’s always weird when a longtime castmember leaves with no fanfare. Strong received a heartfelt farewell from the cast, with host Austin Butler leading a rendition of “Blue Christmas.” (Putting all that time pretending to be Elvis Presley to good use.)

The sketch I’m still thinking about

Colin’s Great Aunt Pat on Holiday Etiquette

Gardner is an established Weekend Update star, and her appearance as an overly affectionate aunt drove that home. Once again, with McKinnon and now Strong gone, there’s a huge opportunity for castmembers to step into this role. (Sarah Sherman has also become a Weekend Update highlight, but I sadly didn’t get her into any of these highlighted sketches.)

Aubrey Plaza hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Aubrey Plaza

Jan. 21, 2023

We’re on a hot streak here. Palmer, Martin, Short and Butler have kicked off a streak of fantastic episodes. With Aubrey Plaza, SNL got weird.

The sketch I’m still thinking about

Miss Universe

I was torn between highlighting this sketch and the one of Plaza and Mikey Day playing a hypersexual couple during a game of charades, but I couldn’t pass up Plaza yelling “FRANCE.”

Michael B. Jordan hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Michael B. Jordan

Jan. 28, 2023

Stupid, sexy Michael B. Jordan. Having to be a jacked action star for Black Panther and the Creed movies and being a great SNL host. The show capitalized on Jordan’s sex appeal, pairing him up with a string of female castmembers during his monologue and having him play a stripper toward the end of the episode.

The sketch I’m still thinking about

Jake from State Farm

Jake from State Farm is coming for your family …

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Pedro Pascal hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Pedro Pascal

Feb. 4, 2023

This might be the best episode of the entire season. Pedro Pascal is everywhere right now. The Mandalorian, The Last of Us, the upcoming Gladiator sequel. SNL didn’t miss when it had Pascal hosting. Every sketch hits, and Pascal was game for anything the show asked him to do.

This episode also introduced us to Lisa from Temecula, a new character from Ego Nwodim. It would’ve easily been the sketch I highlight below if it wasn’t for …

The sketch I’m still thinking about

Waking Up

… Pascal doing this voice. This is such a great sketch, and everyone in it deserves credit for only breaking a little.

Woody Harrelson hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Woody Harrelson

Feb. 25, 2023

This was the episode that almost derailed SNL’s winning streak. Woody Harrelson kicked off his episode with a long-winded and nonsensical joke that was his weak way of taking a shot at the severity of the pandemic and the success of vaccinations. Once we got past that, though, it was another excellent episode.

The sketch I’m still thinking about


It would be easy to find a Thompson highlight from every episode of this season. He’s been performing on SNL longer than anyone else in the show’s history, and he’s still able to take over a sketch.

Travis Kelce hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Travis Kelce

March 4, 2023

I didn’t want to like this episode. I’ve had to watch Travis Kelce help his Kansas City Chiefs end the Buffalo Bills’ playoff hopes too many times. The guy was very good, though. The writers crafted an episode tailored to Kelce’s strengths, playing against his size with the “American Girl Café” sketch and playing into with his Please Don’t Destroy character.

The sketch I’m still thinking about

American Girl Café

This was the first of what would wind up being two American Girl-centric sketches this season. Someone at SNL knows their American Girl lore.

Jenna Ortega hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Jenna Ortega

March 11, 2023

I loved how weird this episode was. Jenna Ortega was a force across a variety of sketches, playing a X-Men knockoff character in a game show sketch, discussing the horrors of a “cat ball” and breaking up with her high school boyfriend in front of a chaotic Waffle House. (My only complaint about this episode? Fred Armisen. We get it, you used to work here.)

The sketch I’m still thinking about


Yes, “cat ball.” I didn’t know Ridiculousness was a real show until this episode, but that didn’t hurt my enjoyment to this sketch a bit.

💬 💬 💬 Comments, questions or recommendations? Let me know!

Quinta Brunson hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Quinta Brunson

April 1, 2023

In another world, Quinta Brunson was or is a member of SNL’s cast. (“I wanted to be on SNL back in the day, but the audition process seemed long — so instead, I just created my own TV show, made sure it became really popular, won a bunch of Emmys, and then got asked to host.”) We wouldn’t have Abbott Elementary in that reality, so we’re lucky we live in the timeline where Brunson instead hosted the show.

This episode’s edition of Weekend Update also saw Michael Che shatter Jost’s confidence with an April Fool’s Day prank.

The sketch I’m still thinking about

Traffic Altercation

This sketch doesn’t work with a host who isn’t fully committed. Day and Brunson put on a two-person show with this one. (With a special assist from Fineman’s overly aggressive hand motions …)

Molly Shannon hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Molly Shannon

April 8, 2023

I missed this episode when it aired (we were traveling for Easter), but it was another solid entry in Season 48’s back-half run. It’s hard to go wrong with an SNL veteran like Molly Shannon back as host. If anything, I was shocked at how little the episode relied on Shannon’s former castmembers or characters.

The sketch I’m still thinking about

Jafar on Ron DeSantis’ Attacks on Disney

I’m sorry I haven’t found a place to mention Bowen Yang yet during this recap of the season. He’s an SNL star. It doesn’t matter if he’s playing a midwife who grows his hair out or a Disney villain. Yang has been a catalyst driving SNL’s rebirth.

Ana de Armas hosting Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Ana de Armas

April 15, 2023

De Armas is funny. SNL understood that, writing an episode for her that was more than just commentary on how attractive she is. (We only had one sketch with that premise this episode.) Everything lined up for this episode. Fantastic host, Update appearances from Thompson, Sherman and Molly Kearney, the return of Lisa from Temecula.

The sketch I’m still thinking about

Album Recording Session

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched “Album Recording Session.” De Armas’ readings of insult after insult directed Walker’s way is probably my favorite part of SNL’s 48th season. If this is it for the season, the show went out on a high note.

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