Saturday Night Live comes back tonight? Honestly, thanks to a hiatus filled with casting announcements and Update shakeups and meticulous analysis of the show’s history (not to mention Live from New York’s rerelease), it sort of feels like it never left. (Just me?)
Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be champing at the bit for tonight’s 40th season premiere—a sure-to-be splashy episode featuring a leaner, meaner cast, an all-new pair at the Weekend Update desk, and a host with potential to immediately join the list of greats. Maybe it’d be best to go over topics of discussion point by point:
- The cast: Wheelan, Milhiser, and Wells are out, while Mike O’Brien has moved back to the writers’ room for good. (A moment of silence for Monster Pals.) Onetime SNL writer/new Update anchor Michael Che and 20-year-old Pete Davidson—the fourth-youngest person ever to join the cast of SNL, as well as only the fourth person in history not to be of legal drinking age while on the show—are in.
Honestly, the departures listed above won’t have a huge effect on SNL, mostly because few of those booted featured players were ever given much to do. (Which, you know, would be why their contracts weren’t renewed.) I’m eager to see what happens if Davidson’s given the spotlight, though; there’s something vaguely Andy Sambergian about his comedy, and given what happened last season, the show could definitely use a figure like that.
- Kenan’s possible upcoming departure: He’s been on the show long enough that this deserves its own bullet point. If this is, in fact, his last year, we can expect him to have an increased presence this year—and to bring back “What Up With That?”, which hasn’t appeared on SNL since December 2012, if you can believe that.
- Update: Let’s have another moment of silence for Cecily Strong. Even if she really did want to be released from Update in order to do more sketch work, it’s hard to argue that Colin Jost has made a strong case for himself as Update anchor, especially when compared to Strong.
That said! Jost only had eight shows to try to climb out from under Seth Meyers’ shadow last season, and even he knows that there’s a lot of room for improvement. Lorne Michaels promised that he landed upon the new team of Jost and Che only after extensive chemistry readings, so clearly, at least he believes that the guys work well together; maybe Che’s deadpan, Daily Show-honed style can bring out more of Jost’s personality.
- The show’s announcer: A third moment of silence—a real one this time—for the dearly departed Don Pardo, who died August 18 after a career in showbusiness that lasted more than seven decades. His passing truly means the end of an era, and it’ll be strange and jarring to see a set of opening credits that aren’t accompanied by his booming voice. Luckily, the show has found a worthy successor in Darrell Hammond; will he try to imitate Pardo’s signature sound, or give us something completely different?
- Chris Pratt: What’s left to say about the most charming man in the galaxy, except that a) we’re right to expect great things from him and b) his appearance all but ensures a cameo from the great Amy Poehler? (And/or his wife Anna Faris, who had at least one great sketch when she hosted SNL back in 2011.)
- Ariana Grande: Yep, she and her ponytail are going to be on the show too! And given her background, I predict that she’ll leave the musical performance stage for at least one sketch, most likely something pretaped.
- So, what’s actually going to happen tonight? I’d guess a cold open about the NFL’s various woes (unless South Park tapped that well dry), a monologue about Chris Pratt’s penchant for losing and gaining weight for roles, maybe some kind of Robin Williams shoutout (he hadn’t hosted since the ’80s, but come on, it’s Robin Williams), and lots and lots of mentions about this being a landmark season for SNL—even though the big 40th anniversary special isn’t happening until February of next year. Also, if Pratt doesn’t sing a bro-rock song at some point, that’s a major opportunity wasted.
What are you hoping to see from Chris Pratt and Ariana Grande tonight—not to mention SNL’s own cast? Talk amongst yourselves here, and check back in the morning for our full season premiere recap.