Studio 8H is going to vibrate with history this season as Saturday Night Live celebrates its 40th anniversary. A big on-air celebration is planned for February 15th as Lorne Michaels’ has revealed that classic episodes from every season will air at 10pm on Saturday nights before new episodes of the show and former cast members Sarah Silverman and Bill Hader (and hopefully Stefon) are set to host the second and third episode of the season in early October with Bill Murray rumored to take the reigns at one point this season as well.
One thing that will be missing from all of this, though, will be Don Pardo, the show’s legendary announcer who passed away recently, but thankfully another familiar voice has been tapped to try and take over Pardo’s responsibilities.
Notice how I didn’t say “replace Don Pardo.” It just can’t be done and no one knows that better than Darrell Hammond, a cast member on the show from 1995-2009 and the man who will follow Pardo. Hammond has assumed the awesome role as Saturday Night Live announcer before, subbing when Pardo was out sick. Back then, Hammond did a Pardo impression, but he won’t be doing that now as he takes over the role permanently beside a re-worked opening credits montage.
Here’s show producer and creator Lorne Michaels on the hire and the task of dealing with Pardo’s absence on air:
“I just knew it wouldn’t be anybody who sounded like Don or replicated him. It can’t be what it was, but it could sort of be in the same tradition. And it will be nice to have Darrell around. He understands the show and will probably be helpful in ways we haven’t yet figured out.”
When Michaels says that Hammond will be “helpful in ways we haven’t yet figured out,” the natural assumption is that we may see the new announcer get some screen time. A fantastic impressionist who earned his spot in the rafters as one of the more notable Saturday Night Live cast members by playing President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and others, Hammond could be an asset to the show by occasionally playing some of those people whenever they’re in the news.
With that in mind, Hammond almost feels like a bonus member of a cast that has now lost five from the end of last season, including Michael O’Brien, who is going back to the writer’s room after what I thought was a strong second half as a featured player.
Filling that gap will be Michael Che, whose return (as Weekend Update co-anchor) we told you about last week, and Pete Davidson, a 20-year-old stand-up comic who clearly has personality, chops and an intimidating task in front of him as one of the youngest cast members to ever take to the Studio 8H stage.
With Che, Davidson and now Hammond’s return, Saturday Night Live‘s roster seems locked in and pretty impressive on paper, but if you would have asked me last year which rookies would hang on past their debut season, I would have told you Wells and O’Brien based on their past work. The point is, you never know at this stage because – while you can tell if someone is funny – you can’t quite tell if they’re bouyant and if they’ll be able to float with the rest of the cast through an entire season.
Luckily, we’ve got a little more than a week to see if Davidson and Che can sink or swim. Which is exciting for us and probably a little horrifying for them.
Saturday Night Live returns for its 40th season on NBC Saturday September 27th @11:35pm.