It sounds as if Saturday Night Live will keep up its "live across the nation" experiment from last season, as executive producer Lorne Michaels has strongly suggested the show will continue airing live in all time zones when it returns this fall for season 43.
An American comedy institution since the 1970s, Saturday Night Live is coming off a triumphant season, where the highly divisive 2016 election and eventual inauguration of Donald Trump served as potent comedy ammo for the show. Alec Baldwin's portrayal of Trump became a sensation, and the show enjoyed some its highest ratings in years amid the political chaos. To capitalize on its booming popularity, the show made the unprecedented move of airing live across the nation, rather than just on the East coast, for the last handful of episodes last season.
The show's creator is suggesting that's still the plan going forward. In a wide ranging interview with THR's "Awards Chatter" podcast, Lorne Michaels strongly suggests the show will continue airing live in all time zones for season 43.
Michaels notes that part of the reason for the change was the role social media plays in the show's current makeup, where people live tweet sketches like they're watching Game of Thrones or a primetime football game.
"One [reason] was [NBC entertainment chief] Bob Greenblatt wanted it, and the other was that social media was so [focused] on the show that if you were following Twitter you were hearing about it before you could see it."
Michaels had high praise for his current cast and crew, stating he felt the show's quality was equal to that of the legendary earliest seasons of the series that featured the like of comedy giants such as Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. He also heaped praise on Baldwin, who assumed he was signing up for a very short run as Trump, and will now reportedly appear on the show regularly for the foreseeable future.
While SNL's cast is going through something of a transition -- longtime veterans Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer, and Sasheer Zamata all departed at the end of last season -- it figures to continue its cultural dominance when it returns in the fall. A special summer edition of Weekend Update has been airing in primetime to great success, and the daily calamity of the Trump administration marches on in earnest, delivering a never ending crop of low-hanging fruit for SNL and its writers. That the entire nation can continue watching it at the same time going forward will likely only bolster its status as something approaching event television. Not bad for a sketch show about to start season 43.
Saturday Night Live returns this fall on NBC.