Saturday Night Live's 40th season is set to kick off on September 27th, and while we still don't know for certain how the show will replace the legendary Don Pardo, whether there will be additions to the cast (last year's freshman class was announced less than two weeks prior to the premiere) or more subtractions (we never did hear if Mike O'Brien survived the show's mid-summer purge), we do know now that Chris Pratt will host the season premiere.
A lovable side-player on NBC's Parks and Recreation, Pratt's star has been on the rise thanks to appearances in Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty and most importantly, Guardians of the Galaxy. In light of both Pratt's connection to NBC and his quick ascension, this move makes perfect sense, and with Pratt's skills as a comic actor, it could deliver a really good start to this historic season for Saturday Night Live.
It's also worth wondering if Pratt's turn as host will be bolstered by a few cameos. I complained about the alumni jamboree that hijacked the season 39 finale, but in moderation, cameos can be a nice boost. Are we going to scoff if Saturday Night Live vet and Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler pops up? How about actor/burgeoning folk hero Nick Offerman (who would also make a great host)? No, we are not.
Joining Pratt in the season premiere will be pop sensation Ariana Grande, whose early TV work as a Nickelodeon teen star could mean that she pops up in a sketch or two as well. Pratt and the existing cast will also have the pleasure of dealing with an eager batch of new writers thanks to a recent influx of behind-the-scenes talent in the form of Allison Rich, Natasha Rothwell, Streeter Seidell, Jeremy Beiler and Nick Rutherford, the final member of Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett's Good Neighbor comedy team (Dave McCary was already aboard Saturday Night Live as a director last season).
Following a lot of onscreen turnover and the shift away from the Seth Meyers' led writing room, the new scribe hires seem to signal the second phase of the show's rebuild and a chance for head writers' Rob Klein and Colin Jost to put their mark on the writer's room. Which could be a very good thing for the a show that sometimes saw its talented cast take to the stage with middling material last season.
Following the Pratt and Grande episode, Saturday Night Live will kick-off what will surely be a parade of returning heroes this season as actress (The Sarah Silverman Program, A Million Ways to Die in the West) and recent Emmy Award winning comedian (We are Miracles) Sarah Silverman hosts the second episode of the season with Maroon 5 aboard to serve as musical guest. A razor sharp comic who will probably push a few boundaries, Silverman was part of another epic cast purge twenty years ago when she was bounced off of the show after just 18 episodes, though Silverman has indicated previously that there were no hard feelings and that she's a lot funnier now.
While I've been a fan of Silverman's work going all the way back to her early appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, I can't argue with her assessment, and her selection as host is both exciting and a cool accomplishment for one of the top stand-up comics working today - which is, in and of itself, the continuation of a tradition that started with George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Robert Klein in the '70s.
If rumors are to be believed, another famous SNL alum who could come back to host the show this season is Bill Murray. According to Splitsider, those rumors came from reports on multiple NBC local affiliates touting Murray's appearance in the season premiere that have since been removed. Did Murray remember that he had a prior kickball obligation or a wedding to crash? Is there some other reason for his omission from NBC's official announcement?
Time will tell, but with Murray's connection to Saturday Night Live as one of its most iconic cast members and the upcoming release of both his new film St. Vincent and his HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge, it just makes too much sense for him to host. It's also been 15 years since Murray hosted and while his more dramatic work has been laudable, seeing Murray in a more purely comedic place would be a welcome sight that would surely stand out as a highlight of this SNL season.
Saturday Night Live returns to NBC for its 40th season on Saturday, September 27th @11:35pm.