NBC Plans to Launch 46th Season of ‘Saturday Night Live’ October 3

Lorne Michaels - Outstanding Variety Sketch Series - 'Saturday Night Live'71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Show, Microsoft Theatre, Los Angeles, USA - 22 Sep 2019
Michael Buckner/Variety/Shutters

Yes, there will be a 46th season of “Saturday Night Live” this fall. And it will be broadcast live. Only executive producer Lorne Michaels and his team know more than that.

NBC isn’t offering many other details about the venerable late-night program, as its producers and cast grapple with the task of getting the program back to its home base in the network’s headquarters at New York’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters amid the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC said “SNL” will launch its next season on Saturday, October 3 at 11:30 p.m. eastern, but offered no details about a host or a guest musician, and divulged no information about who might be in the cast for this cycle. The show is expected to return to Studio 8H, its longtime roost, the network said.

The program finished its 45th season with three “at home” broadcasts consisting of taped vignettes and performances largely conducted through videoconferencing software. Audiences expressed admiration for the feat, but wondered how much of the format could continue over time. “SNL” has for decades relied on performances done in front of a live, in-studio crowd that is seeing the material for the first time ,and cast members often feed off of the reaction.

Other NBC late-night productions have returned to the studio. NBC’s “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” made its way to a  New York studio at 30 Rock in mid-July, with no in-studio audience, fewer personnel on set and celebrity interviews conducted via streaming video. “Late Night with Seth Meyers” just began broadcasting from 30 Rock earlier this week.

There is reason for NBC to steer the show back into familiar terrain. “SNL” tends to thrive during the run-up to a presidential election, which will be in the offing this autumn. In 2016, impressions of Hillary Clinton by cast member Kate McKinnon and of Donald Trump by frequent guest Alec Baldwin proved winning. Ratings soared and viewers gravitated to seeing Melissa McCarthy’s impression of former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. “SNL” antics have long been part of the national conversation, but the show’s buzz was remarkable for a program that has been on the air more than four decades.

Fans of the program will likely be curious to see who is listed as being in the cast for the show’s next cycle.  Some cast members have a growing spate of commitments. Kate McKinnon’s involvement with a Hulu dramatic series has long been known, and Kenan Thompson, Aidy Bryant and Michael Che have other projects under the aegis of executive producer Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video.  Whether all of those actors will juggle all their responsibilities or focus on one likely won’t be known definitively for a few more weeks.