Why Saturday Night Live’s season premiere will be one of its highest rated

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09: Woody Harrelson attends the First Move Ceremony (Round 1) of the FIDE World Chess Championship Match 2018 on November 9, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for World Chess )
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09: Woody Harrelson attends the First Move Ceremony (Round 1) of the FIDE World Chess Championship Match 2018 on November 9, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for World Chess ) /

Woody Harrleson is set to host the season 45 premiere of Saturday Night Live and expectations are high.

Saturday Night Live is back and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Both die-hard and casual fans will watch in large numbers as host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish kick off the 45th season.

In our season preview, Last Night On highlighted how this could be a season of change for Saturday Night Live. Two new cast members, Bowen Yang and Chloe Fineman, have joined the show as Leslie Jones departed. Veterans Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong could be ready to bow out as well.

It is also worth keeping an eye on how, if at all, the tone of the show changes. Reports suggested that before he was ultimately fired, Shane Gillis was added to the cast in an attempt by executive producer Lorne Michaels to appeal to a conservative audience. With Gillis no longer in play, how will Saturday Night Live look to still achieve this goal?

But no matter how the season ends up, all the signs point to it starting with a bang. A combination of smart decision making and lucky timing have to come together and should result in one of Saturday Night Live‘s highest rated premieres in years.

Woody Harrelson

The first wise decision was tapping Woody Harrelson to host the premiere. It will mark his fourth time hosting with the most recent time coming in 2014. Saturday Night Live hands over its premiere to a familiar face who not only knows what to expect, but knows what to expect from this crop of writers and performers.

Harrelson is also an actor that appeals to viewers both young and old. A certain percentage of SNL viewers know Harrelson from Cheers and movies like White Men Can’t Jump and Natural Born Killers. The younger viewers have come to appreciate the actor for his roles in True DetectiveHunger Games, and Zombieland, not to mention how Harrelson spends his recreational time.

Harrelson’s episode in 2014 was among the top rated from season 40. It was the sixth episode of the season, performing well enough to outrank most of the 15 episodes that followed. The added boost of the season premiere should help Harrelson set a new bar for ratings.

Billie Eilish

With just two performances per show, Saturday Night Live‘s musical guest can usually only account for so much of viewership. But singer Billie Eilish has proven that she is something out of the ordinary and brings with her a passionate, dedicated fanbase.

At only 17, Eilish already has a handful of gold and platinum records. Her song Bad Guy was a massive hit and helped her album When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? become the number one selling album in the country. Her latest single, All the Good Girls Go to Hell, was released earlier this month. Fans can expect the song to make its television debut on Saturday Night Live.

Eilish has earned herself a huge following and is especially popular on social media. We saw last year how much hype was built around BTS as the musical guest. Eilish can do something similar and bring in viewers eager to see her perform live and react in real time.

All the proof you need that Saturday Night Live made the right decision in picking Eilish as the musical guest can be seen in the promo video they released. The clip has close to one million views on YouTube, numbers usually reserved for sketches not promos.

Timing is everything

Saturday Night Live will also luck out thanks to this week’s headlines. So much of season 44 was dedicated to mocking everything involving President Trump and his allies. Seeing how Trump was lampooned by SNL was a weekly tradition.

Now season 45 premieres during a week in which an impeachment inquiry was opened against President Trump and the scandal involving his phone call to Ukraine has rocked the country. Just like viewers have tuned into Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers, they’ll do the same to see Saturday Night Live‘s take.

The fact that impeachment support has increased right at the start of SNL’s season is both good luck and bad luck for Alec Baldwin. The actor has called playing Trump painful and said that the joke has lost its bite. But if impeachment proceedings begin, it will be impossible for Baldwin to fade out as Trump or for SNL to reduce his appearances.

But it could be a blessing for Baldwin. The Ukraine story, potential impeachment, and President Trump’s defense means a lot of new material. There were only so many Mueller report and Vladimir Putin jokes the show could make. Now there are a whole new set of characters and stories to play with for Baldwin and the writers.

The competition

For season 45 to become one of the highest rated premieres in recent history, it will have to outperform some solid competition.

Last year’s opener was the second highest rated in the past six years. Host Adam Driver and musical guest Kanye West brought a lot of eyes to the show and it delivered with one of the season’s best.

That episode wasn’t enough to overtake the season 42 premiere which earned a 5.8 rating. The Oct. 1, 2016 show was hosted by Margot Robbie and featured The Weeknd as the musical guest. It also marked Alec Baldwin’s first appearance as Donald Trump.

The episode benefited from being just a month away from the 2016 election and the potential of a Trump presidency was becoming closer to a reality. If that show received a boost for airing near the start of Trump’s tenure, the season 45 premiere may get a boost by airing near the end.

Election years are always huge for Saturday Night Live. And while we still have another year to go, there has already been plenty of hype regarding how the show will treat the Democratic candidates. The anticipation for how the show portrays the Trump-Ukraine scandal could overshadow that and get even more people to watch on Saturday night.

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It would be an impressive accomplishment if this week’s show beats out the 5.8 rating set in 2016. But with Woody Harrelson, Billie Eilish, and another Trump scandal working in its favor, the season 45 premiere of Saturday Night Live will still be one for the record books.