Thesp Diaz toplines season bow of ‘SNL’

Love Hewitt, Beastie Boys in star-filled season

NEW YORK — “Saturday Night Live” is getting a serious dose of star power for its 24th season, locking in Cameron Diaz, Kelsey Grammer and Jennifer Love Hewitt for early fall guest-host slots.

Musical acts skedded for the first few weeks of the season include the Smashing Pumpkins, Sheryl Crow and the Beastie Boys. Diaz, star of the $100 mil-and-counting B.O. smash “There’s Something About Mary,” will kick off the NBC latenight show’s season premiere Sept. 26, appearing with musical guests the Smashing Pumpkins. It’s the first time Diaz has hosted “SNL.”

“Frasier” frontman Grammer will team up with rocker Crow for the Oct. 3 “SNL” seg. Firm dates have not yet been set for Hewitt (“Party of Five,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer”) or the Beastie Boys.

“SNL” will start its season with mostly familiar faces, bringing back veteran castmembers Tim Meadows, Molly Shannon, Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, Cheri Oteri, Colin Quinn, Ana Gasteyer, Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan. Robert Smigel’s “TV Funhouse” segs will also return.

Jim Breuer will not be back, but showbiz newcomers Jimmy Fallon, Chris Parnell and Horatio Sanz have been added as featured players. “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels remains exec producer, with Marci Klein and Mike Shoemaker serving as co-producers.

After taking ratings hits during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons, “SNL” has been on an upswing the past two years. Last season, the 11:30 p.m. program averaged 8.5 million total viewers with a 20 share of the key adults 18-49 demo, the latter statistic representing a 29% gain over the course of two seasons.

“SNL” also did well in its first outing opposite the debut of the “Howard Stern Radio Show” Saturday, with an “SNL” rerun beating the shock jock in Nielsen’s metered market overnight ratings. “SNL” has also managed to emerge as the most-watched program on Saturday night — including primetime shows — for the past two weekends.

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