They can’t stop: after almost forty seasons Saturday Night Live is still going strong. Losing long-beloved veteran cast members like Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Jason Sudeikis seemed like it could spell serious trouble for the show, but the revamped writing staff and cast seems to already be finding its stride after two episodes into the iconic comedy program’s 39th season.
This season has seen the largest hiring of cast members since 1995, when the Lorne Michaels brought on eight new actors. The new freshman class of featured players includes: Beck Bennett, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, Mike O’Brien, Noël Wells, and Brooks Wheelan. They were all welcomed on the first episode of the season, introduced via the band members of musical guest Arcade Fire in an aptly titled game show sketch called “New Cast Member or Arcade Fire.” Keenan Thompson played the game show host, fitting since he’s now the longest standing cast member, with a decade on the show.
Comediannes Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, and Cecily Strong were upgraded to repertory players this season, and plucky Strong now co-anchors Weekend Update with Seth Meyers and is slated to continue hosting once he moves on. He’s been rumored to be both departing half-way through the season as well as sticking it out until next May. But there’s no clear indication of which he’s actually carrying out. It was announced earlier this year that he will become the new host of Late Night in 2014, succeeding fellow SNL alum Jimmy Fallon as Fallon gets promoted to the coveted position as host of The Tonight Show. Meyers is also no longer the head writer, and has relinquished the duty to Colin Jost and Rob Klein, who will share the title.
To kick off the season, on the eve of the Breaking Bad series finale actor Aaron Paul appeared in the SNL cold open with a great gag about spoiling the much-anticipated Breaking Bad ending and later in an e-Meth “commercial” parodying the eCig craze. He also appeared as tweaker Jesse Pinkman alongside Bobby Moynihan’s Drunk Uncle character on Weekend Update. Veteran Tina Fey hosted, and in addition to being the ringmaster of the season premiere circus, she killed it in as an impoverish immigrant puzzled by the self-indulgent millenials on HBO’s Girls.
Without skipping a beat, in the next episode media-magnet Miley Cyrus spoofed her own now infamous MTV VMA’s performance, and performed her new single “Wrecking Ball” and an unplugged version of the summer party anthem “We Can’t Stop.” She also parodied the recent government shutdown with “We Did Stop,” a tongue-in-cheek (or, more precisely out-of-cheek) take on her song, showcasing Speaker John Boehner and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann celebrating their government shutdown victory in the style of Miley’s mayhem-filled music video. Cecily Strong’s Weekend Update delivery was much more crisp and polished the second time around and her potential as the lead anchor was much easier to envision. The new flavor of the writing staff also shined brightly, with its bizarro humor getting laughs from cheerleaders getting abducted by aliens to a yippie school teach with a hippie-dippie vibe that attracts Miley as a grunge girl high school student.
What do you think of the new season of Saturday Night Live and its changes? — Casandra Armour