Saturday Night Live has been a mixed bag since it premiered 42 years ago this month. There have always been sketches that sucked, video shorts that aired once and died, artists that gave crappy musical performances.
One thing SNL has consistently nailed over time is this: acknowledging and addressing major national moments. The first show after 9/11 was historic. The show that opened with a tribute to the victims of the Newtown school shooting was perfect. And the SNL that opened Saturday with unexpected guest Jason Aldean kept that tradition.
Aldean, the performer on stage at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Vegas when a maniac perched in the Mandalay Bay Hotel opened fire, killing 58 and injuring hundreds more, said “This week we witnessed one of the worst tragedies in American history. You can be sure that we’re going to walk through these tough times every step of the way. Because when America is at its best, our bond and our spirit? It’s unbreakable.”
Then he did a note-perfect cover of “I Won’t Back Down,” one of the late Tom Petty’s most enduring hits.
The rest of the episode was middle of the road SNL, with some funny sketches and some sketches that should’ve been left on the white board in the writer’s room. But this opening was perfect, and more evidence that the long-running comedy show still plays a vital role in America’s national consciousness.