I wanted to post a blog trying to predict what changes were coming for season 40. And I got lazy, and put it off. And I was too slow; the changes are already beginning.
So for anyone who doesn't catch the SNL news flying around the internet, SNL just saw the dismissal of three of last season's new people: John Milhiser, Noël Wells, and Brooks Wheelan. We didn't see a lot of John or Brooks, and neither were particularly good at impressions. (The only impression I remember from John was Jon Cryer, and I don't recall any from Brooks.)
I already believed, and I think I can safely assume, that Mike O'Brien hasn't done well enough to remain on the cast. By all descriptions he's a prolific writer, but his acting just doesn't cut it. I already expected Mike to get tossed back to the writing room, and I thought that Brooks had a fairly low likelihood of being kept and John was even less likely. Once the news broke about Brooks, I assumed that John and Mike were also on their way out. There hasn't been any word on a change of status for Mike, but I expect such an announcement to come any day. They won't fire him completely; he's an incredibly gifted writer. But, to be perfectly blunt, he can't act.
Noël, on the other hand, surprised me very much. We saw quite a bit of her during the season; moreso than some of the repertory players. She did several impersonations, including a very good Nancy Grace. Not only did I expect her to stay, I thought she may get bumped to repertory status for next season. I saw the news about Brooks late last night, and when I saw newsfeed hits saying two more were dropped from the cast, I expected it was John and Mike. When I heard it was Noël, my jaw dropped.
(It kinda makes me wonder just what the hell is going on over there at SNL, but then again, these are the same people that put Mike and Andy Samberg on the cast to start with.)
So to get away from reaction and into prediction, my best guess about new cast members is that there won't be any. The replacing-three-with-six-plus-another-at-Christmas-break has created the second-largest cast in the show's history; only season 17 can beat it (and that's counting all of the featured players, though that period of SNL history didn't credit all of them on all of the episodes). As such, it's doubtful it will grow, unless a lot more people wind up getting tossed.
To that point- I'm sticking with a prediction I made more than half a year ago; I believe Kenan Thompson is going to be fired. This is for more than one reason. First, Lorne and the producers, as well as the NBC brass, were almost certainly livid over his very public complaints about the show's lack of black women. His point was valid, but that doesn't mean they'll be happy with him. Let's face it- if I were producing a show and one of my actors did that, I'd fire them. (Chuck Lorre agrees with me, apparently.) Given the actors are under contract, though, dropping him immediately or partway through the season may have proven costly; as I'd said in my earlier posts, it remained a strong possibility that Kenan would stay until the season wrapped and then get the boot.
That's only half of the reason they may drop him, though. The other half is money. Actors and writers on SNL are paid by seniority- they get a regular raise every year. Kenan is not only the longest-serving cast member, he's been on there way longer than anybody else. With Seth and Nasim gone, he's now been on seven seasons longer than anyone else. Bobby gets second place there, and Kenan had been on the show for a full five years when Bobby joined. That's money that could be used to pay multiple new writers and/or cast members. And given his almost complete lack of celebrity impersonations, it would be money well-spent.
As for three of the other featured players, Beck, Kyle, and Sasheer: all of them are good enough to earn a spot as a repertory player. My prediction is two-part, depending upon new hires. If more than a couple new people are brought in, I expect a move like the beginning of season 38- the people that were there before the middle of the season will be upgraded to repertory, while Sasheer will probably get stuck in featured, on account of her joining halfway through. If few or no new cast members are hired, though, I expect no movement- all three will probably stay in featured.
And that's assuming Sasheer stays. She should; her acting skills are some of the best on the cast. She was a controversy hire, though; Lorne may decide the controversy's over and push her out. That would be positively brainless, but hey, so was firing Noël.
I'm not going to make any predictions regarding Colin Jost. As a Weekend Update-only performer, he's a wild card. The last time SNL had a featured player added to the cast just for news was Brian Doyle-Murray way back in season 7, and he wound up canned. (He was also doing sketches in later episodes; Colin hasn't appeared outside Update.)
I doubt Beck, Kyle, or any of the repertory players are in danger of being forced out. Beck and Kyle show way too much promise, and the others were all very solid over this past year. A lot of people online have been coming down on Aidy, but I disagree- she had a number of breakout performances this year. (I point to her as a teenage girl coming on to friend's father Drake as the best example.) Kate is already SNL's new breakout star, and with an Emmy nomination coming her way, I think we can assume she'll be at SNL as long as she pleases. Vanessa and Bobby will be there until season 42 (the 2016-17 season) at least, as we'll need them for Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie; having Jay around for Obama during the elections would also be a help. That just leaves Taran and Cecily, and they do enough non-political characters to guarantee a spot for a while.
That's one thing about what we're seeing right now. With all of the repertory players being fairly new (besides Kenan), we've very much entered a new "generation" of SNL. And as such, expect these repertory players to remain for a long time. We'll probably see some uncertainty with new people (like the middle of the last generation, when we flew through Casey, Michaela, and Jenny in short order), but the repertory cast will stick around.
I also believe, but admit some uncertainty, that the current format of Weekend Update won't be going anywhere. I'm not a big fan of Cecily at the desk; I prefer a Chase/Nealon-esque dry delivery, which isn't her style. Then again, a lot of people on the internet disagree, and have been criticizing Colin for being too dry and unlike Fallon, Fey, and Poehler. The only possible likelihood for a change is if Colin struggles as head writer; the fact that Rob Klein was added alongside him while he'd already been working alongside Seth could be a sign that there are issues. If he's dropped as head writer, he may be dropped from Update and the cast at the same time.
And a long-term prediction about that- I don't think Cecily will get the desk alone. If Colin drops out, I think Cecily will get pulled from the desk and someone new will take over. Possibly a new featured player, or maybe Beck with his perfect announcer voice (the very reason I thought he was a good choice in the first place). And if Cecily gets yanked from the desk, she may quit. She's dating Mike, and he's almost certain to get demoted; she's not going to be a happy camper next year.
And those are my thoughts. We'll see if I'm right. I've been pretty cocky since predicting Beck joining, so maybe a few wrong predictions will knock me down a peg. (^_^)