After months of speculation, Lorne Michaels has confirmed the departure of several “Saturday Night Live” stalwarts — including Horatio Sanz and Chris Parnell.
NBC’s latenight franchise will begin its 32nd season Sept. 30 with just 11 regular players — down nearly one-third from last year’s cast of 16, and one of the smallest ensembles in recent memories.
In addition, helmer Beth McCarthy Miller, who has been the show’s director since 1995, is leaving and will be replaced by live TV vet Don Roy King.
Also gone: Finesse Mitchell, a standup comic who had been with the show for three seasons.
“SNL” had long ago confirmed the departures of Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch as a result of their involvement in Fey’s new NBC laffer “30 Rock.”
Returning to “SNL” next season will be Fred Armisen, Will Forte, Bill Hader, Darrell Hammond, Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Kenan Thompson and Kristen Wiig.
Poehler will be back on the “Weekend Update” desk. There’s no official word yet on who will co-anchor “Update” with her, but — despite published speculation about another contender — all signs now point to Meyers taking on the gig. An official announcement is expected as early as this week.
Meyers will continue as head writer, sharing the position with Andrew Steele and Paula Pell.
Dane Cook will host this year’s season opener, with the Killers as musical guest.
Speculation about the fates of the “SNL” cast has been swirling since July, when series creator Lorne Michael told reporters that NBC budget cuts had forced him to make some tough choices about the upcoming season in order to preserve the skein’s annual output of 20 episodes.
“Things like this are never pleasant,” Michaels said in July. “I made the decision to stick with the 20 shows and cut everything back.”
Other than confirming the departures of Fey and Dratch and hinting that Sanz might not return, Michaels didn’t spell out exactly who would be leaving. That caused a flurry of media speculation about possible changes, some of it wildly inaccurate.
The Los Angeles Times, for example, said Kenan Thompson was being forced out. But a person familiar with Michaels’ thinking insists that was never under serious consideration.
For the most part, the cast members leaving have been with the show the longest. Parnell and Sanz, for instance, had been with the show eight seasons, having joined in 1998. Dratch had been around for seven, while Fey notched more episodes as “Weekend Update” anchor than anyone in “SNL” history.
New helmer King’s credits include 14 years at CBS’ morning news show and six years at “Good Morning America.”