Tonight officially marks the beginning of SNL‘s next era.
Now that Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and Jason Sudeikis are gone — on the heels of Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig, who left in 2012 — SNL‘s mid-aughts dynasty has finally taken its final bow. In its place, we’ve been left with a cast that has less collective SNL experience than any other in recent memory. Currently, the sketch show‘s featured players — who include six new performers — outnumber its full cast members nine to seven. That disparity will grow even larger when Seth Meyers departs for Late Night in February 2014.
Big changes are happening behind the scenes as well. Former featured player Tim Robinson has been moved to the show’s writing staff; longtime writer Mike O’Brien is now a featured cast member; two new head writers, Colin Jost and Rob Klein, will join Meyers and take over for him when he leaves; longtime writer Jim Downey, an institution who’s worked at SNL on and off since 1977, has fully retired from the show. Also gone: Stefon co-creator John Mulaney, a strong comedic voice and occasional Weekend Update guest. (At least there’s still a Mulaney in the building; John’s younger sister Claire is one of this season’s three new writers.)
In light of all this, it’s no wonder that Lorne Michaels elected to open with a host whose very presence is a callback to SNL history: Tina Fey, a symbol of the ’90s/’00s dynasty that preceded the Hader/Armisen/Wiig era. Tonight’s other guests are also veterans of the SNL stage — this will mark Arcade Fire’s third turn as musical guest and fourth Saturday Night Live appearance overall. (They were last seen sweetly playing off Wiig in her last show as a cast member. Fun fact: The sendoff was masterminded by new head writer Jost.)
Will Fey and the band act as anchors — or is tonight going to feel new and weird no matter what they do? We won’t know until 11:30 p.m. ET; in the meantime, take a minute to ponder these questions:
– Tina Fey + SNL season premiere = cameo-o-rama. Who might show up tonight? (Fingers crossed, as always, for Amy Poehler and/or Maya Rudolph.)
– The weekend’s biggest entertainment event isn’t Saturday Night Live‘s return — it’s the end of Breaking Bad. How will the sketch show skewer AMC’s drama — and could former SNL host Bryan Cranston be involved somehow?
– On a similar note, will the show make fun of last Sunday’s bummer Emmys, or is that news too old by now?
– Oh hey, it’s Cecily Strong’s first night as Weekend Update anchor! What are you hoping to see from her?
– Who’s gonna play Ted Cruz? (Someone has to play Ted Cruz, right?)
Talk amongst yourselves — and check back in the morning for a full recap.