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Friday, September 27th, 2013
SNL

The 8 Biggest Transitional Seasons in 'SNL' History

Saturday Night Live starts up again tomorrow, with the show having undergoing its the biggest casting change-up in nearly 20 years. Not to worry, though, as Lorne Michaels has an impressive track record of reinventing the show and continuing to find amazing new people to replace his beloved departing performers. With four cast members on the way out (and Seth Meyers expected to make it five with a midseason exit), and six on the way in, this is the most notable SNL cast transition since the show shuttled out the Chris Farley-Adam Sandler gang to clear way for the Will Ferrell-Cheri Oteri ensemble in 1995. With that in mind, let's take a look at the eight largest casting shifts SNL has ever been through, most of them coming from the show's tumultuous early-to-mid '80s.

8. 2013

Departing: 4
Added: 6
What percentage of the cast is new?: 37.5%

Longtime cast members Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Jason Sudeikis exited SNL in May, while featured player Tim Robinson was moved to the writing staff for the new season and Seth Meyers is expected to leave in the middle of the year to prep for taking over NBC's Late Night in February. A large new class of cast members — Beck Bennett, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, Michael Patrick O'Brien, Noël Wells, and Brooks Wheelan — is being brought in to fill the void left those who left in May and the void left by fellow heavyweights Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg, who ended their runs on the show last season.

7. 1990

Departing: 2
Added: 7
What percentage of the cast was new?: 43.8%

While Jon Lovitz and Nora Dunn were the only two cast members to exit following the 1989-1990 season, Lorne Michaels and company hired an excessive amount of new featured players in the fall, partially to cover that loss but mainly to prep for others leaving over the next couple years (Dennis Miller, Jan Hooks, Victoria Jackson, Dana Carvey). The new class — Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, David Spade, and Julia Sweeney — proved surprisingly successful, with all seven of them staying on the show for at least three seasons and most of them having solid careers afterwards.

6. 1986

Departing: 10
Added: 5
What percentage of the cast was new?: 55.5%

While Lorne Michaels's first year back at SNL in 1985 didn't go so hot, he stuck the landing on the 86-87 season, adding soon-to-be SNL hall-of-famers Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, and Kevin Nealon and hatemonger Victoria Jackson to  his only 85-86 holdovers: Nora Dunn, Jon Lovitz, and Dennis Miller. Along with a top-notch writing staff that included Conan O'Brien, Greg Daniels, Bob Odenkirk, and Rob Smigel, this cast successfully revived the show and created one of the most memorable eras in SNL ever.

5. 1984

Departing: 5
Added: 6
What percentage of the cast was new?:  60%

After Eddie Murphy carried SNL on his back for three years and left to make big blockbuster movies,  executive producer Dick Ebersol had the difficult task of replacing Murphy, the single most dominant force in the show's 38-year history. Ebersol went with an unusual method: hiring a bunch of known actors — Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, Rich Hall, Harry Shearer, Martin Short, and New Zealand's Pamela Stephenson — to fill the Murphy void while retaining some of the Murphy era B cast (which included the very talented but underused Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

4. 1995

Departing: 12
Added: 9
What percentage of the cast was new?: 64.2%

SNL's last major cast changeover came on the heels of the Chris Farley-Adam Sandler group taking over the show and dragging it down with a season of critically-reviled sophomoric humor, while talented folks like Chris Elliott, Janeane Garofalo, and Laura Kightlinger struggled to establish themselves on the show amidst the turmoil and frat boy antics of its stars. Those three were let go along with Farley and Sandler's crew, while six new cast members (Jim Breuer, Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, David Koechner, Cheri Oteri, Nancy Walls) were hired on to be the new face of the show, joining 94-95 holdovers Molly Shannon, Norm Macdonald, Mark McKinney, Tim Meadows, and David Spade, with a few featured players (Colin Quinn, Fred Wolf, Chris Kattan) trickling in later in the season too. The new cast, largely thanks to Ferrell, Oteri, and Shannon, helped re-establish the Saturday Night Live and fight off those bad reviews and sinking ratings.

3. 1981

Departing: 9
Added: 6
What percentage of the cast was new?:  75%

When Dick Ebersol took over for Jean Doumanian as executive producer in 1981, he shuttled out everyone from her cast except Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo, while bringing in a new group (Robin Duke, Christine Ebersole, Mary Gross, Tim Kazurinsky, Tony Rosato, Brian Doyle-Murray), all of whom spent their time on the show playing second fiddle to Piscopo and red-hot Murphy.

2. 1985

Departing: 10
Added: 14
What percentage of the cast was new?: 100%

When Lorne Michaels returned to Saturday Night Live after a five-year hiatus (the only time the show wasn't run b yhim), he created a completely new cast while everyone from the 84-85 Dick Ebersol ensemble either left or was fired. Like Ebersol the year before, Michaels hired some established names (teen star Anthony Michael Hall and Oscar nominee Randy Quaid), along with two relatives of well-known movie people who were starting to pop up in supporting movie parts (Joan Cusack, Robert Downey Jr.) and a bunch of fresh faces (Nora Dunn, Dennis Miller, Jon Lovitz, Terry Sweeney, Danitra Vance). Things didn't really work out with this group, although the few that weren't fired became successful on the show.

1. 1980

Departing: 15
Added: 10
What percentage of the cast was new?:  100%

SNL's disastrous 1980-81 season is well-documenteed. Its first year without Lorne Michaels saw the show under the rein of embattled executive producer Jean Doumanian. Michaels's entire cast and most of his writing staff flew the coop with him, leaving Doumanian to scramble to replace some of the biggest names in comedy in what was an unprecedented cast transition for SNL. Doumanian hired a questionable ensemble (Denny Dillon, Gilbert Gottfried, Gail Matthius, Joe Piscopo, Ann Risley, Charles Rocket) and insisted on only bringing Eddie Murphy on as a featured player and having him take a backseat to those other folks. Doumanian and everyone from her cast except Murphy and Piscopo were fired after 11 tumultuous shows, but the show, against all odds, managed to survive.

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  • http://thelaughbutton.com TheLaughButton

    I'm looking forward to see what the new cast members have to offer. One of the greatest aspects of the show is it's continued ability to reinvent itself and introduce new funny people to the world.

  • Jonny

    Seems to me the pic of the 90s cast is actually a pick of the 91 cast. No big whoop

  • Jonny

    Great article. Loved it.

  • Anne Idiot

    John… Mulaney

    • Matt

      … Sucks

  • OBUMMER has failed

    uh, this show is still on? man, it hasn't been funy since sandler/farley/hartman. fuck this shit, cancel it already.

    • D_Is_A_Letter

      I thought Farley was frigging annoying

    • not dumb at all

      so cool dude

  • Conservative and Proud

    this show hasn't been good since the origianl cast left why didn't they just cancel it then

    • ianrey

      Not sure if trolling or stupid…

  • TommyLieks2Spooge

    snl: shit sicne day one

  • Pump4Lyfe

    who actually watches this show? i bet you're all virgins and autistic or some shit. feggits.

    • AutisticVirgin2013

      intriguing argument

  • Eclectic Art

    "hate monger". Yes….yes….destroy those who don't agree with you.

    • ianrey

      Oh, Vicki destroyed herself long, long ago.

      • Eclectic Art

        Happily married and still performing. She looks like she's doing fine.

  • Buttholesgonewild

    What Sandler/Spade/Farley were to blame for the show not having high ratings? How is Will Ferrell or Molly Shannon's skits anymore than intelligent? What a dumb ass who wrote this shit based on his or her personal tastes. Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Dana Carvey, etc was an all star cast, just check out how many cast eras from this era went on to great success. The 2002-2013 period is absolutely not funny. I thought the point was to make us laugh and not the cast members themselves?

  • Kenny

    Everyone who comments on here is just awful.

  • SNL is a good god damn show!

    Is it just me or is it the cool/edgy thing to say SNL sucks? You're definitely soooooo cool and provacative speaking your mind like that, saying "fuck the powers that be SNL!" It never was a perfect show it never will be a perfect show. But it was, it is, and it always will be an awesome show…. and we miss you John Mulaney

    • ianrey

      It's been cool and edgy to say SNL sucks since about 1978. "Saturday Night Dead" = SO BRAVE!

  • clementinesalmassi321

    my Aunty Eva just got a new
    Volkswagen Golf by working parttime online. why not try this out J­a­m­2­0­.­ℂ­o­m