Deep thoughts (and predictions) for tonight’s ‘SNL’ debut

Psyched for the return of “Saturday Night Live” tonight. Gonna be real interesting to feel the vibe of a Wiig/Samberg-less cast.

Executive producer Lorne Michaels probably had to give Jason Sudeikis several Brinks trucks to stay with the show through January. It was crucial not only because of his Romney/Biden impressions, but to provide a stabilizing force during a transition year for the cast, having lost three and gained three new players in the offseason. The election year also puts “SNL” in a brighter spotlight than a normal year, which makes it all the more important to keep a star vet around a little bit longer.

Truth be told, Sudeikis doesn’t offer that much more given he never truly established breakout characters on the show. He’s actually one of the rare “SNL” products that will likely do better as a comedic actor outside “SNL,” as his extensive movie credits can already attest.

The absence of all these vets clears the way for a new “SNL” alpha dog: Bill Hader. In truth, it felt like he already took top billing last season with his incredible versatility but Wiig’s shadow stole some of his shine. Bet everything you will see one of his best impressions get used in tonight’s season opener: Clint Eastwood. It’s a slightly moldy target given the DNC was weeks ago but there’s not a juicier parody possibility out there right now (though I’m also guessing “The Voice”/”The X Factor” will get some ribbing too).

But there’s a bigger political parody to watch out for tonight: Michaels is reassigning Obama from Fred Armisen to Jay Pharoah, according to The New York Times. It’s an exciting idea considering Armisen’s Obama was serviceable at best, and Pharoah is capable of brilliance in the imitation department. But if Pharoah fails, there will be lots of grumbling.

As for why this transition is even happening, it makes sense considering given that in the event 0bama is re-elected, Armisen isn’t likely to stick around for four more years atop the 10 he’s already clocked at “SNL.” Might as well make the change now than in the middle of a second term.

My guess is “SNL” won’t just make a switch without calling attention to the switch itself; look for a skit that somehow calls for two Obamas. Maybe a mirror will be involved.

Also looking forward to another political impression that will likely get unveiled tonight: Taran Killam as VP contender Paul Ryan. It’ll be tough to pull off but keep your eye on Killam this season. He showed real growth last season, the kind that can mean he’s a breakout talent in the making.

A question: Will “SNL Digital Short” continue without Andy Samberg? And if it does, what IS and “SNL Digital Short” without Samberg?

There’s also a small chance some of the new recruits being brought in for this season will make their debut tonight, which can be exciting. Its nice to have that memory when you lay eyes for the first time on someone who turns out down the line to be the next Will Ferrell or Gilda Radner.

Michaels should be so lucky…