'SNL' to debut a lot of changes

Anne Hathaway and Fred Armisen on 'Saturday Night Live', November 20, 2010. (Handout)

Anne Hathaway and Fred Armisen on 'Saturday Night Live', November 20, 2010. (Handout)

STEVE TILLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:36 PM ET

No more Kathie Lee Gifford. No more Zooey Deschanel. And maybe no more Lazy Sunday on a Boat Like a Boss.

But at least we still have Mitt Romney. For now.

There are changes afoot as Saturday Night Live kicks off its 38th year on Saturday, and for fans of the show's most recent season -- all four or five of you -- the news is not particularly good.

Kristen Wiig, arguably the show's brightest star in recent seasons, has left to concentrate on her movie career. (Given how she killed it in Bridesmaids, we can't blame her.) With her goes Wiig's long roster of recurring characters, including her fantastic send-up of a perpetually tipsy Kathie Lee Gifford.

Also gone is Abby Elliott, whose four-year stint on the show is coming to an end under less than clear circumstances, leading some (including Perez Hilton) to speculate she may have been asked to leave. The wide-eyed beauty, daughter of former castmember Chris Elliott, is best known for her impressions of Khloe Kardashian, Angelina Jolie and quirk queen Zooey Deschanel.

And with the departure of Andy Samberg, no members of The Lonely Island remain in the cast. If the comedy group (made up of Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer) continues to provide SNL with music videos like Lazy Sunday, I'm on a Boat and Like a Boss, great. If not, the show loses one of its few sure bets for laughs.

Depending on your feelings about Jason Sudeikis, there's good news, maybe: Sudeikis, who was said to also be leaving the show, was convinced by SNL boss Lorne Michaels to stick around at least until the new year. Losing Sudeikis' impressions of vice president Joe Biden and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the U.S. presidential race would have been bad timing indeed.

As three go out the door, three more come in. Aidy Bryant, a Chicago Second City alumnus, will be SNL's first plus-sized female castmember (it's about time), and she's the one we're most hopeful for, based on her funny sketches scattered around YouTube.

Tim Robinson, another Chicago comedy vet, has the kind of droopy-eyed rubber face that lends itself well to manic physical comedy. And Cecily Strong, also from Chicago's thriving comedy scene, could fill the void left by Elliott's departure: she's cute, versatile and good with impressions. She might even do a decent Zooey Deschanel.

These fresh faces, along with returning alumni such as Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen and Kenan Thompson, have their work cut out for them. SNL has always gone through highs and lows, but the current trough has been a long one, with no peak in sight. This is not the best time to lose some of the best talent.

If the show was trimmed back from 90 minutes to an hour and Michaels and company chose hosts based on talent instead of simply profile, SNL would immediately become more watchable. But since neither of these things will happen, it's up to the young'uns to inject some desperately needed freshness into television's longest-running comedy institution. And do it like a boss.

 


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