The opening montage is the official start to each episode of Saturday Night Live. It begins immediately after the cold open when a cast member yells "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!". The opening credits is a montage of New York nightlife, showing many famous NYC Landmarks, restaurants, and entertainment districts. It begins with the announcer saying "It's Saturday Night Live!" with the show's title on the screen. It then accredits all cast members, who are shown enjoying NYC nightlife, followed by the night's Musical Guest and Host. The montage transitions back into Studio 8H, showing the Central Station clock, and moving to the main stage where the show's host delivers a monologue.
Original cast (seasons 1-5)Edit
In the beginning, only a vague concept existed of what Saturday Night Live would be, with no good idea on how much of the show would be occupied by sketches. The original montage reflected this- only a textual list of cast members was presented, with no names read aloud. As it became more obvious that the show would focus primarily on the sketches, announcer Don Pardo began reading the names. By the end of the first season, the list of names had been replaced by individual photos of each cast member; this opening would remain in use throughout season 2.
For season 3, the opening was completely revamped. While Howard Shore's original theme music remained, the still pictures and titles were replaced by video from a light screen in New York's Times Square. The shots used changed more than once during the season, but always kept the Times Square theme. This opening also marked the beginning of Pardo's opening line, "It's Saturday Night Live!" and the last time the cast was referred to as the "Not Ready For Primetime Players."
For season 4, the montage reverted to still photos, albeit different ones from the first season, and without names shown. Season 5 switched to a low-framerate, stop motion inspired system. The featured players also appeared for the first time, and notably, only featured players who appeared in an episode would be listed. The opening music changed from the original theme music, though the new theme was similar.
Season 6 debuted with a massive shakeup, which included changes to the montage. The cast was shown in stills, with their names flying in as if on a ribbon. The music heavily changed from the previous season. (Indeed, this would be the only season in which the ending "goodbyes" music would also change.) However, due to the shakeups that took place, this theme was only seen for twelve episodes. For the last episode of the season, the original season 1 music returned and was combined with a hastily-produced montage that featured stills taken behind-the-scenes.
Season 7 introduced a new montage style that would persist for three seasons. Initially, announcer Don Pardo was absent, replaced by Mel Brandt; Pardo returned for season 8. The music changed again, to an uptempo theme, significantly faster than previous years. Cast photos were still, but shown in a new style- the photo would appear, then after a beat, the cast member's name would be superimposed over the entire photo.
Season 10 kept the music from the previous three years, but changed to a new style, where the cast members were shown as giants among New York City buildings, interacting with the environment— Jim Belushi rearranged subway cars, Mary Gross sprayed a helicopter with bug spray, and Christopher Guest took a bath in Yankee Stadium. This opening placed the host and musical guest(s) at the end of the montage, a style that has remained.
With Lorne Michaels returning for season 11, the montage style changed again. The music changed to a slower tempo, more like the original theme, but even more notably, like almost every theme SNL has used since. In fact, this montage could be seen as setting the trend for what would continue until today. For most episodes, the repertory cast members were shown in video clips that would freeze with a title up, while featured players were shown in stills. However, three episodes used a different montage that went with a faster pace (albeit keeping the slower music), showing still cast photos in rapid succession like the season 7-9 opening.
With a new cast in place, a new montage was made for season 12, which remained in use for season 13. It began with cast members fleeing something not shown, and showed repertory cast members in video clips, and featured players in stills. No titles were shown with cast names. The music remained the same from season 11. For the first time, the band was introduced after the last featured player.
Season 14 introduced new video, with new video clips of the cast in black and white in a bar setting. The music and overall style remained the same as the previous two years.
Season 16 changed the cast videos again, though the music and overall style still remained unchanged. A notable addition was the middle cast category, with cast members introduced in the same style as repertory cast members. This middle cast category was dropped for season 19, but the montage remained otherwise the same, using the same video clips.
The same soundtrack was used;
New York Nightlife continued, but pictures of Cast Members were shown rather than filmed feed.
This new montage marked Darrell Hammond's debut as the show's new announcer, who replaced Don Pardo after Pardo's death during the offseason.
A fresh new soundtrack was added, too, extending to two minutes.
The new montage began a flickering theme for the text. This montage returned the use of live video for cast members rather than pictures. For Season 40, "40" was put after "Saturday Night Live" or "SNL"; it was removed for Season 41. Starting with season 42, still photos of the host as musical guest were replaced with short video clips.