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Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps hosts; Lil Wayne performs "Got Money" and "Lollipop."
Sketches include "A Nonpartisan Message from Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton," "Quiz Bowl," "Jar Glove," "Locker Room Motivation," "Craig and Stacia," "Weekend Update" with guests Alaska Pete, Nicholas Fehn, and Cathy, "The Charles Barkley Show," "T-Mobile Fav 5," "Digital Short: Space Olympics," "Mark Payne at Pizzeria Uno," and "The Michael Phelps Diet."
Presidential candidate Barack Obama was scheduled to appear in this episode; however, due to Hurricane Ike, Obama canceled his appearance.
This is the first high-definition episode of SNL to be shot for 4x3 "center-cut" broadcast, as opposed to the letterboxed 4x3 format the show used for its previous seasons in HD (though the rerun of this episode on October 11, 2008 had it shown in letterbox format on standard 4x3 televisions).
At the end of the episode, before the goodnights, a dedication screen was put up for producer/agent Bernie Brillstein, who died a month before this episode aired. Brillstein helped in getting Saturday Night Live picked up as a regular TV series.
This is the second consecutive time (and third time overall) that the season premiere of an SNL episode is hosted by a sports star (Michael Jordan in season 17, LeBron James in season 33, and Michael Phelps in this episode) with a rapper as a musical guest (Public Enemy in season 17, Kanye West in season 33, and L'il Wayne in this episode), and the first (and, so far, only) time that the sports star hosting the season premiere is neither African-American nor a basketball player (Phelps is white and an Olympic swimmer).
Hillary Rodham Clinton: In conclusion, I invite the media to grow a pair. And if you can't, I will lend you mine.
In the "Charles Barkley Talk Show" sketch, a little girl playing one of the crew members drops her clipboard offscreen, and Darrell Hammond (as Bela Karolyi) stops and looks in her direction briefly.
In the "Michael Phelps Diet" sketch, Phelps briefly turns his head to cough before delivering his first line. This mistake has been removed in the NBC rerun of this episode.