After the string of Saturday Night Live At Home episodes, the season premiere marked the return to Studio 8H. The entire season 45 cast returned, the first time there were no cast departures since season 41.
Joining the show this season are three new cast members who were added to the cast as featured players: SNL staff writer/stand-up comic Andrew Dismukes, UCB alum player Lauren Holt, and stand-up comedian Punkie Johnson.
Jim Carrey took over the impersonating role of Joe Biden for the first six consecutive shows of the season; former cast member Jason Sudeikis and Woody Harrelson had intermittently cameoed as Biden for previous episodes, and John Mulaney had protrayed him on the episode he hosted. His performance proved unpopular among fans, however, and he departed the role before the mid-season break.
It was announced that six episodes would premiere in a row, a first. The fifth would fall on October 31, making it the first time that a new episode would premiere on Halloween since 1992.
Cast members Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong were mostly absent from the season's early episodes, because COVID-related rescheduling caused their other projects (Bryant's Shrill and Strong's Schmigadoon) to conflict with SNL's dates. Strong returned to SNL for the December 5, 2020 episode, and Bryant returned for the January 30, 2021 episode.
On October 7th, 2020, it was announced that Morgan Wallen's appearance as musical guest on the October 10, 2020 episode was dropped due to many videos surfacing of Wallen partying without a mask and not social distancing; Jack White was rushed in as a replacement. Wallen was instead rescheduled for December 5, 2020 episode.
The season debuted a new opening montage with new title cards, replacing the previous videos and block lettering with script over still photos.
This is also the final season for longtime cast member Beck Bennett, (he had been a cast member since 2013); as he left the show after eight seasons; first-year featured player Lauren Holt, also did not return for the following season, after just a year.