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SNL preview: 39 never looked so young

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  September 27, 2013 04:00 AM

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Bill Murray was once the “new guy.”

So was Billy Crystal.

Mike Myers.

Dennis Miller.

Eddie Murphy.

Chris Farley.

Will Ferrell.

Chris Rock.

Tina Fey.

And Jimmy Fallon.

They were all newcomers once to NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” following in the footsteps of their legendary predecessors. [Murray joined the show in its second season.]

Fey hosts this week. Perhaps you know it's a sign of where the show stands when its first promo of the new season features a nod to the AMC "Breaking Bad" series finale set for Sunday night. Perhaps a Bryan Cranston cameo might liven things up on Twitter.

“SNL” begins its 39th season on tonight with a new look and an age-old problem.

There’s been substantial change in the off-season with an overhaul of the cast.

This year, the newcomers are . . . six people you’ve probably never heard of.

The most notable new cast member is Beck Bennett, he of those cute-kid-laden AT&T “It’s Not Complicated” commercials.. The others are, for the record, Brooks Wheelan, Kyle Mooney, John Milhisner, Noël Wells and Mike O’Brien.

Wheelan was named one of Comedy Central's "10 Comics to Watch" from the 2012 New York Comedy Festival.

Here's his "Meth Neighbors" routine courtesy of You Tube:

39 never looked so young.

Sophomore sensation Cecily Strong will join Seth Meyers on the “Weekend Update” desk. She would be in line to take over the “WU” desk if/when Meyers leaves in February to take over for Fallon, who replaces Jay Leno. Meyers may pull double-duty with “SNL” after taking over for Fallon.

Got that?

Last season, which turned out to be the final season for Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen, began with Seth MacFarlane as host in what turned out to be one of the top three shows of the year. [Along with those hosted by Melissa McCarthy and five-timer Justin Timberlake.]

Original “Not Ready for Prime Timer” Gilda Radner crushed the notion that the only five funny women in the world were Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett, Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller. Fey’s brilliance is in her writing.

While she shone on “30 Rock,” it’s unlikely Fey will produce a memorable performance this week. It's her fourth turn at hosting the show. Her biggest obstacle, along with that of the shows writing staff, will be to create memorable characters that six, yes six, new cast members can exploit and make their own.

The cold opening should have a field day with the 21-hour speech delivered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) this week on the Senate floor. Perhaps Cruz reads “Green Eyes and Ham” to Sarah Palin?

After that, it gets tough.

None of those storied cast members mentioned above had to make their debuts during the age of blogging and social media. This year’s cast will have a short leash, if any it has any leash at all. The show is undergoing its most radical overhaul since 1980, when Lorne Michaels took a hiatus and the show had a new producer, new writers and entirely new cast members, replacing the originals plus Murray.

That year was a complete disaster, punctuated by Charles Rocket’s infamous “f-bomb,” and the show was saved by a writers’ strike in 1981, which allowed it to end the season early and head into the fall of 1981 with another makeover.

Trying to digest and latch onto new cast members is challenging enough for finicky viewers who were spoiled in recent years. They will undoubtedly miss the likes of Stefon, Sudeikis' version of the devil and Joe Biden and Arimsen’s ability to transform into various celebrities and political leaders.

Reports and rumors raced across the internets last month when it was believed Lindsay Lohan was going to host the season premier.

“SNL” is in a double bind this week. In addition to a new cast laden with household names only in their households, it’s hard to create a lot of buzz when the first host of the season is a former cast member whose most memorable character reached her peak of popularity five years ago.

Things will get more interesting when Miley Cyrus twerks her way onto the “SNL” stage Oct. 5. Cyrus will be singing that week. Hopefully, she’ll keep her clothes on. I’m thinking at least a seven-second delay.

She’ll be followed by Bruce Willis, if it’s not past his bed time, on Oct. 12. Katy Perry is the musical guest that week. Arcade Fire performs this week.

During its five decades on the air, “SNL” has earned a reputation for defying death. Past performance on network television no longer matters in this age of on-line comedy videos, Netflix and hundreds of channels on DirecTV. But these newbies are obviously talented enough to earn a spot on the show. And Michaels' ability to spot and cultivate comedic talent began with the likes of Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi and has not stopped.

The show fought its way back to relevancy in the past two decades and no doubt enjoyed a mini-renaissance in the past few seasons.

"SNL" begins one more last-stand this week.

Good luck, kids.

Check back here after the show for our review, complete with [legal] clips worthy of posting. And follow us @RealOBF for live in-show commentary Saturday.

Don't forget to visit our Obnoxious Boston Fan blog. As always, let us know what you think. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or e-mail me at obnoxiousbost onfan@hotmail.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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