Alec Baldwin pursing his lips, squinting his eyes, saying “Jina.” Melissa McCarthy plowing a podium into a crowd of reporters. Kate McKinnon pivoting from a self-absorbed Hillary Clinton to a deer-in-the-headlights Kellyanne Conway.
As “Saturday Night Live” wraps up its 42nd season this weekend, these performances are destined for the history books: They helped the show achieve its highest ratings in two decades, and they helped define President Trump and his White House for liberals nationwide. For many on the right (and some on the left, too), Mr. Baldwin’s impersonation of Mr. Trump grew old fast, and some sketches crossed the line. But there’s no mistaking that the president, who attacked the show’s treatment of him, also turned it into appointment television again.
Here are some of the most talked-about sketches of the season, including a couple of favorites that have nothing to do with partisan politics.
Mr. Baldwin first appeared as Mr. Trump in a skit lampooning the first general election debate. While his impersonation wasn’t as dead-on as those of Darrell Hammond or Anthony Atamanuik (“The President Show”), it became instantly recognizable for the character’s exaggerated hand gestures, facial expressions and stratospheric self-regard.
“Saturday Night Live” spoofs of presidential debates have typically become instant classics, but the second general election debate in particular received outsize attention. The debate lampooned Mrs. Clinton’s perceived rigidity and Mr. Trump’s reaction to the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, while also making light of memorable surprises like the audience member Ken Bone.
The “S.N.L.” writers combined two pop culture forces here: Mr. Trump and Beyoncé. This was a parody of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” film, but through the eyes of the women closest to Mr. Trump, like Melania Trump (played by Cecily Strong), Ivanka Trump (Emily Blunt) and Tiffany Trump (Vanessa Bayer).
Less than a month before Mr. Trump won the election, Tom Hanks appeared as a Trump supporter in the recurring sketch “Black Jeopardy.” It turned out that Mr. Hanks’s character, wearing a red Make America Great Again hat and with a thick Southern drawl, had way more in common with his fellow African-American contestants than anyone expected. That is, until the very end of the sketch.
Many wondered how “Saturday Night Live” would tackle a Trump presidency in the immediate aftermath of the results. Its very first sketch was full of sadness, not humor. Ms. McKinnon, outfitted like Mrs. Clinton, performed a somber cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Mr. Cohen had died that week, so the performance also served as a tribute.
In the first episode of season after the election, Dave Chappelle guest-hosted and took part in a sketch featuring passionate supporters of Hillary Clinton watching election returns. As the night continued, their jubilance shifted to worry and then dismay. Mr. Chappelle and Chris Rock, making a guest appearance, dryly mocked everyone in the room for failing to recognize the extent of racism in America.
Aziz Ansari made history as the show’s first host of South Asian descent in its four-decade history. He appeared on the first episode after Mr. Trump was inaugurated. Mr. Ansari’s monologue was mostly serious, calling on Mr. Trump to take on the “new, lowercase K.K.K. movement” in America, while also referring to him as the “Chris Brown of politics.” He also spoke in deeply personal terms about his family’s move to South Carolina in the 1980s and about the depictions of Muslims on television and in the news.
In this sketch, Mr. Ansari faces charges for the ultimate offense: He didn’t think “La La Land” was a great movie. While he is being interrogated, one of the detectives asks — no, screams — “Now tell me, why would a bad movie win seven of these?” angrily pointing to a picture of a Golden Globe statue.
Ms. McCarthy surprised many when she emerged in the Feb. 4 episode to play an outrageous, gum-chewing and hyperbolized version of the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer. The impersonation became a hit, and she returned to the show to perform it. Mr. Spicer, for his part, called the impression “cute.”
This sketch received a torrent of criticism for the way it portrayed Ms. Conway, one of Mr. Trump’s top advisers. It was a parody of the movie “Fatal Attraction,” and it depicted Jake Tapper, played by Beck Bennett, being startled by Ms. Conway (Ms. McKinnon) awaiting him at home after she was not allowed on the air at CNN because of the perception of credibility issues. Critics argued that Ms. Conway was painted as hypersexual (part of the sketch focused on Ms. Conway’s trying to seduce Mr. Tapper) and then mentally unbalanced (after the seduction attempt failed, Ms. Conway threatened to kill Mr. Tapper).
No one is sure what the heck Louis C. K. was doing with his accent in a sketch called “Tenement Museum,” in which he and Ms. McKinnon play re-enactors showing students what life was like in the early 1900s. Louis C. K.’s accent is a hodgepodge of something. And it forced the normally unflappable Ms. McKinnon to break character, as did Louis C. K., much to the delight of the crowd.
As controversies have mounted, Mr. Trump’s poll numbers have shown that his base of support is still with him, as the NBC anchor Lester Holt (played by Michael Che) noted in this sketch that lampooned a recent interview. But the moment that drew the most attention came when Mr. Holt pressed Mr. Trump over the firing of the F.B.I. director James B. Comey — and ever-so-briefly believed that the president had implicated himself in wrongdoing.