With Tina Fey gone from the writers' staff to primetimier pastures and Chris Parnell, Horatio Sanz and Finesse Mitchell axed from the staff, people were wondering how this season of Saturday Night Live would stack up. And while articles calling it "Saturday Night Dead" are a mainstay every fall, Gothamist wasn't very confident given that the host would be Dane Cook, who already hosted not even a year ago! Here's our thoughts about the season premiere:

- The cold opener about Republicans not really wanting President Bush's support was terrible! We like Will Forte as President Bush, but it was too weak to be the season premiere's cold opener. Maybe they rejected a Dateline "To Catch a Predator" spoof of the Representative Mark Foley instant messages

- The opening credits (YouTube clip above) seemed louder and looked more graphic than before. And we miss Chris Parnell so much, even though it was a crapshoot whether he'd be on.

- Dane Cook's monologue probably worked for you if you like Dane and his audience prowling; if you're not a Dane Cook fan, well, you probably fell asleep the way we did.

- Dane Cook in the skits: The Homeland Security TSA Training skit was really lame (though it did bring up some very good questions about the program) and the digital short, Cubicle Fight, seemed too familiar in the underbelly-of-office realm. Also, the skit about Poland Spring water deliverers - honestly WTF? They must have tacked on the ending about suggesting this to an SNL writer in order to explain why they showed it because it was really terrible (we personally think some SNL writers emptied the water cooler and were fooling around with the water jug during some writer's block). Then the skit with Farrah Fawcett then breaking the fourth wall into another skit - is breaking the fourth wall the new black?

- We liked the Hugo Chavez group, though Amy Poehler's Kim Jong Il reminded us of Kaitlin, the hyperactive kid she plays. That said, she looked funny. And we get that Bill Hader does really good impresions and we get that people have said things like "I'd watch Al Pacino read the telephone book"; however, that does not mean watching Hader's Al Pacino on the phone with Wells Fargo was funny.

- The highlight was Brian Williams thinking he was the new co-anchor (below) for Weekend Update. Amy Poehler was strong as usual, but wWe're concerned that Seth Meyers has jimmyfallonitis, where he can't really read a Weekend Update without smirking (maybe he needs some more time to adjust?). Weekend Update appearances: Bill Clinton & Condi - good to see Darrell Hammond and Maya Rudolph, but it went on for too long; Jason Sudeikis as George Allen was amusing but it got old fast; and Andy Samberg looked just like Dustin Diamond - except Andy's neck is way wider.

Our verdict: Disappointing though predictably uneven. (Verdict on the music here.) Next week's guest is Jamie Pressley, with musical guset Corinne Bailey Rae (we're expecting a lot of white trash skits/jokes). Anyway, the new pared-down cast and writers' staff have a few more episodes to find their way. Or else we'll leave our late-night sketch show escapes to watching Studio 60 and 30 Rock.