New cast forces changes for 'SNL' season 39
Published: Sunday, September 15, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 15, 2013 22:09
After an unusually mediocre election year, Saturday Night Live is coming back for a 39th season. Historically, viewers tend to tune in more frequently for political satire, but the TV ratings for last season were disappointing. Season 38 was rated considerably lower than season 34, which took place during the 2008 presidential election. The guest hosts, which are usually hit or miss, were criticized as sub-par notwithstanding a few highly successful episodes hosted by Seth McFarlane, Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Lawrence. Despite the small decline in viewership, last season managed to survive the departure of popular cast members Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg.
This season, SNL will face a greater challenge. Fred Armisen, Kenan Thompson, Jason Sudeikis and Bill Hader had been on the show for 11, 10, nine and eight years respectively. Now they are all gone. All were extremely versatile repertory players that became show stalwarts during their tenure. With a show like this, there is no other option but to replace them and groom replacements with the hope that they will become a large part of the show’s future. This is not the first time that successful cast members have left the show and it will not be the last time. Pictures of John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell and countless other fabled SNL performers and writers hang in the NBC studio hallways, a constant reminder of excellence come and gone. Lorne Michaels, the creator and master of all things SNL, will have his work cut out for him in order to continue the show’s historically adept job at minimizing the impact of departures.
Michaels has begun that process by hiring five new cast members: Beck Bennett, Kyle Mooney, Mike O’Brien, John Milhiser and Noël Wells. Bennett, along with Mooney, are known for their sketch comedy work from the YouTube channel GoodNeighborStuff. Bennett has also recently been the star of new AT&T commercials that involve adorable children answering rhetorical questions. The speculation is that if Saturday Night Live choses to continue with the Digital Shorts section of the show, popularized by Samberg and his group, The Lonely Island, then Bennett and Mooney would spearhead that operation. O’Brien, while not yet an on-screen cast member until now, has been behind the scenes at SNL as a writer for the last four years. Milhiser and Wells, mostly unknown to the public at this juncture, are both known for their character work and impersonations.
As if that wasn’t enough to doubt the stability of the upcoming season, seasoned veteran and Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers will also be leaving SNL in December to host Late Night in early 2014. While beginning this upcoming season as a cast member and writer, Meyers will take over for former SNL cast member Jimmy Fallon as Fallon moves on to host The Tonight Show on NBC. Behind all of these moving parts, SNL could suffer serious dips in talent and holes to fill as it continues as America’s longest running sketch comedy show.
Season 39 of Saturday Night Live will premiere on Sept. 28, 2013. The first episode will be hosted by Emmy award-winning SNL alum Tina Fey and Arcade Fire will be the musical guest.