USA TODAY's TV critic Kelly Lawler said last season benefited by shifting away from politics.
"Unburdened by the demands of commenting on every political gaffe and presidential debate, and eschewing high-profile celebrity cameos as public figures (sorry, Jim Carrey), 'SNL' this season so far has been unexpectedly hilarious, delightful and thrilling," Lawler wrote in November.
Here's everything to know about the sketch comedy series' next installment ahead of its premiere, from early hosts to all those cast changes.
When does 'SNL' premiere?
"SNL" returns Oct. 1 on NBC. The season continues to air live on both the East and West Coasts (11:30 EDT/8:30 PDT). The season opener will be available to stream live on Peacock.
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Which cast members have left 'SNL'?
The day before May's finale, USA TODAY confirmed four cast members planned to exit: Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon and Kyle Mooney. Davidson, hired at just 20, began his tenure in 2014, two years after Bryant and McKinnon in 2012. Mooney joined in on the fun in 2013.
September saw the additional (and involuntary) departures of Aristotle Athari – after one season – Alex Moffat and Melissa Villaseñor, who both started in 2016. Last week. Chris Redd confirmed he was also exiting after five seasons. This marks the show's biggest cast turnover since at least 1995.
Who is hosting 'SNL' this season?
"SNL" has announced hosts (all first-timers) and musical guests for the first three episodes of the coming season. Actor Miles Teller ("Top Gun: Maverick") takes his first flight with the sketch show Saturday, when musical guest Kendrick Lamar is also set to return.
Actor Brendan Gleeson ("The Banshees of Inisherin" ) hosts on Oct. 8, with Willow Smith as musical guest, the night following the release of her fifth album, “ .”
It'll be a "Hot Girl" "SNL" on Oct. 15 when Megan Thee Stallion serves as host and performer.
More 'SNL' cast shakeups: Chris Redd, Melissa Villaseñor, Alex Moffat, Aristotle Athari exit
Who are the new 'SNL' cast members?
In mid-September, "SNL" announced the arrival of four fresh comedians to its cast. Miami-born Marcello Hernandez was among the on-the-brink standups named a Just for Laughs New Face of Comedy in July. Cleveland native Molly Kearney has appeared in Amazon Prime’s “A League of Their Own” and the Disney+ revival of "The Mighty Ducks.” Kearney was also featured in Comedy Central’s 2019 “Up Next” showcase.
You might've seen Phoenix native Michael Longfellow on Netflix’s “Introducing ...” or NBC’s “Bring the Funny,” which aired in 2019. In 2017, Longfellow was also named one of the "Comics to Watch" at the New York Comedy Festival. Devon Walker, who hails from Austin, Texas, has racked up writing credits for Netflix's animated comedy "Big Mouth” and Freeform’s “Everything’s Trash” starring Phoebe Robinson. Walker was a part of Comedy Central’s “Up Next” showcase in 2017.
How much longer will 'SNL' continue?
In December, the show’s creator and executive producer, Lorne Michaels, told "CBS Mornings" co-anchor Gayle King that he planned to stick around until the 2024-2025 season, when the show celebrates its 50th anniversary.
"I'd like to see that through, and I have a feeling that'd be a really good time to leave,” said Michaels, 77. “But here's the point: I won't want the show ever to be bad. I care too deeply about it. It's been my life's work.”
However, in a Q&A with the New York Times published in September, Michaels said, "I have no plans to retire." He predicted the show's next milestone "will be a big event. We’ll bring everyone back from all 50 years and hosts and all of that. It will be a very emotional and very strong thing."
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Contributing: Kim Willis
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'SNL' cast has seen major turnover. Here's who will join Season 48.