'SNL' launches its 38th season by giving new exposure to familiar stars
Every season of “Saturday Night Live” is a beast unto itself. But in my short time recapping episodes for HitFix, the time between seasons has seen the most change. Stalwarts Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg are gone. Jason Sudeikis will join them in a few months. Three new cast members (Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson, and Cecily Strong) have been added as featured players. Lorne Michaels finally decided to let Jay Pharoah play President Obama. These aren’t seismic changes, to be certain. The show has handled more turnover in its past. And no one expects the overall quality of the show to take a sudden downhill turn even with the aforementioned changes.
But maybe people should expect more from the show this season. At the very least, they should expect something different. I wrote up ten suggestions last week for “SNL,” and while I don’t expect the powers that be to stop production and have every member of the writer’s room read that gallery (although let’s be frank, that would be the smart thing to do!), I do expect the change in the show’s onscreen talent to inevitable change the overall makeup of the show. Such change is built into the program’s DNA, and has kept it a part of the pop culture landscape for nearly thirty years. How successful the writing of the show adapts to the new cast composition will go a long way to determining the show’s success this season.
So I’ll keep a keen eye on which cast members break out, which ones recede, and how the new combinations possible given the absence of Wiig and Samberg affect the in-sketch dynamics. The lucky first host to be part of this ongoing comedic experiment? Seth MacFarlane, who took time to leap off his big pile of money AMASSED from his FOX animated comedies and this past summer’s surprise box-office smash “Ted” to come down and host the show for us little people. Along for the ride is musical act Frank Ocean, a writer/producer who entered the public consciousness over this past year through both his music (the album “Channel Orange”) and his personal life (announcing publicly that his first love was a man).
Will Ocean stay on stage, or join so many previous musical guests in appearing in sketches as well? Will he help pen an opening monologue song for MacFarlane? What is the future of pre-produced comedic content on the show? Will Pharaoh’s chance to shine be a mere imitation of Obama or a unique impersonation? Will the women of the cast have a chance to form their own version of the female-led ensembles that represent some of the show’s finest seasons? So many questions, and only one way to answer them: by grading each segment of the show as they happen in real time. After that, you tell me how wrong I was, how I have no business covering a show that hasn’t been funny in years, and then we do the whole thing again next week. We cool? Cool. Onto the recap!