Since 1975, “Saturday Night Live” (commonly known as “SNL”) has been a staple of NBC‘s late-night TV schedule. The show includes stand-up, celebrity guests, musical performances, political satire, and a wide range of comedy sketches. It's known for having its finger on the pulse of American society. Audiences are used to seeing a new season premiere each fall and run until the spring of the following year, but things are looking a little different in 2023.
Season 48 of “SNL” was cut short this past spring when the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike in May. While we would generally expect some information about the new season’s cast and celebrity hosts around this time of year, we’ve had nothing but radio silence from NBC about new “SNL” content as the writers strike continues. Let’s take a look at what’s going on behind the scenes and why we shouldn't expect a new season of “SNL” this fall.
Let us know in the comments if you’re in support of the writers strike and which “SNL” episode is your favorite!
Why Is ‘SNL’ Not Airing Right Now?
Season 48 of “SNL” began in October 2022 and was set to run through the spring of 2023. However, the final episode of the season unexpectedly aired on April 15, 2023, with Ana de Armas as the guest host. The show halted production indefinitely when the WGA went on strike two weeks later, preventing the show's writers from creating new content for the rest of the season. Canceled “SNL” installments from May 2023 that we missed out on included the return of former cast member Pete Davidson as host and guest hosts Kieran Culkin of “Succession” and Jennifer Coolidge of “The White Lotus.”
With the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) also going on strike in July, the dual work stoppages have almost completely halted the Hollywood film and television industries. The unions are negotiating with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for fair residual payments from streaming services, limits on the use of AI in screenwriting and visuals, and better employment and benefits packages that would help accommodate for job insecurity following the rise of streaming services.
Like many other shows, production on “SNL” has completely stopped since the writers strike began, with no indication of restarting until negotiations with the unions have been resolved. The dispute has been going on for several months, with neither side showing signs of softening their stance. As a result, NBC has no new episodes of “SNL” to air, despite this being the time of year when a new season would typically launch.
Currently, “SNL” is on an indefinite hiatus while its writing team and cast participate in the strikes. Other late-night shows, such as “The Tonight Show” and “The Late Show,” are also in the same boat. Even primetime TV slots are devoid of scripted content this fall, with reality TV dominating the lineup.
When Will There Be a New Season of ‘SNL’?
Like many other productions, “SNL” can’t resume until the AMPTP and WGA resolve their dispute and end the strike. At that point, the show could theoretically return despite a continued SAG-AFTRA strike because “SNL” is produced under a contract not affected by the actors strike; however, some cast members could feel uncomfortable participating and celebrity actors may be reluctant to host until SAG-AFTRA and the studios reach their own agreement. Some trade publications have predicted that negotiations might be resolved by the end of this year or early 2024, citing the length of the 2007-2008 WGA strike, which lasted 100 days. Media research firm LightShed Partners recently told clients, in a note cited by the Los Angeles Times, that it “looks like Hollywood will not be back in business until the beginning of 2024, at the earliest.” This is all just speculation, of course, as it’s impossible to predict how the negotiations will play out.
Since there's no way to know when the unions and studios will come to an agreement, there's also no way to know when there will be a new season of “SNL.” When the time does come, it remains to be seen whether NBC will push to restart “SNL” for a shortened season as soon as deals are reached or opt to wait for the fall 2024-2025 season. This will likely depend on how long the strikes last and how long of a season the show could realistically have when the work stoppages are resolved.
“SNL” will have missed out on some juicy pop culture topics from this year by the time it returns, but this isn’t the first time the show’s improv and adaptation skills have been tested. On-set production was most recently shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in specially produced “SNL at Home” episodes in 2020. Previous labor strikes in 2007 and 1988 also halted the show’s production. However, history shows that regardless of how long the current dispute goes on, the nearly 50-year-old show will almost certainly return to its full strength after the temporary measures end.
What Has the ‘SNL’ Cast and Crew Said About the Strikes?
As members of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA unions, the writers and stars of “SNL” have been vocal in their support for the strikes. We’ve seen plenty of familiar faces from the show on the picket lines and displaying solidarity on social media.
Not long after the “SNL” season was cut short, late-night TV legend and creator of “SNL,” Lorne Michaels, voiced his support for the writers strike. Calling himself “a writer and a friend of writers,” he noted that he had spent time on the picket line. Speaking at May's PEN America Gala at the Museum of Natural History, he joked that he was “extremely fortunate to be here tonight surrounded by two things that might not be around much longer — writers and ocean life. This is the first time that a whale is not the most endangered thing in the room.”
Meanwhile, Davidson, one of the show's all-time favorite cast members, was seen passing out free pizzas at the picket lines in New York City. When questioned about his motivations, the comedian said, “Gotta support the writers. No shows without the writers, man.”
Bowen Yang, who has been part of the show as both a writer and on-air cast member since 2018, expressed disappointment in not getting to finish out Season 48. However, he told The Hollywood Reporter that he was a “proud guild member” who was “demoralized” by the hard line the AMPTP was taking in the discussions. He said, “The fact that most of the points were just outright rejected is really devastating and concerning. So I’m here to join with the rest of the union to try to put pressure on the studios.”
Other former and current cast members, including Chloe Fineman, Jimmy Fowlie, Tina Fey, Seth Meyers, and Fred Armisen, have all been seen on the picket lines. It seems that the “SNL” family is united in their overwhelming support for the WGA and SAG unions, even though it means they're out of work for the foreseeable future.
What Should ‘SNL’ Fans Watch in the Meantime?
Just because you can't watch new episodes of “SNL” doesn't mean you can't watch the series at all. NBC is currently airing reruns from the show’s glittering 48-year history every Saturday night until further notice. Fans who want to pick and choose their favorite episodes and specials from the “SNL” vault can find the show’s complete history available on Peacock.
You can also check out projects created by and starring “SNL” cast members, including comedy classics like “Wayne’s World” available on Max, “Bridesmaids” available on Netflix, “Happy Gilmore” on Peacock, and “Mean Girls” on Paramount Plus. Fans can also look forward to “Please Don't Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain,” starring “SNL” team members Martin Herlihy, Ben Marshall, John Higgins, Bowen Yang, and former writer Conan O'Brien. The film is premiering on Peacock in November.