SNL: Changes in the works

We knew Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch were moving on, and we knew budget cuts meant more changes were coming.

Now the word is starting to leak out, and most sources say four people are gone. Most sources say Chris Parnell and Horatio Sanz are two of those four. It’s hard to argue with either of those. Parnell has been a reliable mainstay for years, but after six or seven years, you either have to become a cornerstone (Kevin Nealon, Phil Hartman) or a good guy to keep around in a transitional period (Tim Meadows). Parnell is neither of those. And neither is Sanz, who has had a few good characters but wears thin the more you see him. According to Wikipedia’s count, both of those guys have been around since September 1998, though Parnell was briefly out of the cast.

The one that I can only hope is incorrect — Kenan Thompson. The first SNL cast member born after the show’s 1975 debut (no, not Jimmy Fallon, who was born in ’74) is the best young talent in the current cast. Yes, better than Andy Samberg, who was great in Lazy Sunday but hasn’t done much else of note. Thompson has been busy in films, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he left on his own. But SNL can keep him, they should.

I’ve only seen Thompson’s name from one source (LATimes, linked above). Same goes for Will Forte, named at mediabistro.com. I’d have mixed feelings on Forte. I’m not sure how many times they can do “The Falconer,” and I’ve never quite bought his Bush impression. Granted, it’s unfair to judge the guy who had to follow Will Ferrell.

The LATimes also says Darrell Hammond’s status is unclear. Hammond holds the longevity record at 11 years unless you count Al Franken’s sporadic appearances. That’s a tough call. It’s hard to picture the cast without him. SNL relies on having someone on hand who can fill a lot of roles, particularly impressions. That was Hartman for years, then Ferrell and then Hammond. If they could develop someone else in that role — Bill Hader is the best bet — then I’d feel better about letting Hammond call it a day.

If they are indeed cutting four in addition to Fey and Dratch, then at least one of those three would be sticking around.

I’m surprised in a way that Maya Rudolph hasn’t been mentioned. She has had a terrific run, but she didn’t really get back in the swing of things after her maternity break, and I wondered if she was ready to move on. If Hammond and Parnell leave, Rudolph will be the elder stateswoman of the cast.

They could use a smaller cast. I’m not sure anyone develops by sitting around in a 15-person cast and spending a week hoping to get into one sketch. But Thompson, and maybe Hammond, would be tough losses.

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