The numbers, unlike a politician, do not lie.
On the heels of its most-watched opener since 2001, NBC's Saturday Night Live served up its biggest audience in 14 years — when vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin came by for a visit — and this season-to-date is up 76 percent in viewers over the same point last year. But with the political spin cycle about to reach its zenith on Tuesday, and now that motherhood has enticed Amy Poehler away from Studio 8H, the funny show is up against serious challenges. Here's a look at the big questions facing the program that once gave us Deep Thoughts.
Will Weekend Update Remain a Stag Show?
Last weekend, Seth Meyers led off the news segment by announcing that co-anchor Amy Poehler was in the process of welcoming her firstborn into the world. He then went on to host WU by his lonesome, and that is the game plan for... at least the time being. You young'uns out there may cry foul — "Just one Weekend Update host?!" — but sidle up to old-timers Chevy or Dennis, and they'll have a colorful yarn to unspool for you.
OK, But Amy Will Return... Right?
Absolutely! Er, as a guest-host, I would imagine, once the sitcom she's currently (in between feedings) developing for NBC takes off a ways down the line. But her days as a regular SNL ensemble member? They are over. "The plan," a source tells TVGuide.com, "was to do the show as long as she could, give birth and then segue to her new project."
Is Maya Rudolph Back for Good?
On Oct. 25, Rudolph filled a void SNL had been struggling with this election season when she returned to her old stomping grounds to play Michelle Obama. In a hypothetical future where First Lady Obama would become a regular necessity, can Rudolph be counted on for encores? We'll have to wait and see. Rudolph — who famously parted ways with the cast last season and now is working on a film career — came by last weekend merely as a guest, just as fellow former SNLers Chris Parnell, Will Ferrell and Bill Murray have done on recent Thursday editions.
Has Tina Fey Uttered Her Last "You Betcha"?
Fey recently announced that once Nov. 4 comes and goes, so will her dead-on depiction of Alaska governor Palin. That said, SNL has two more outings to go — this Saturday, and then a Monday "Presidential Bash 2008" special — before Tina's self-imposed "deadline" arrives.
Here's an Idea: 30 Rock's Liz Lemon Plays Palin!
I had to throw this thought in the mix, if only because I've been wondering about it myself. Can't you just see it, sketch-show head writer Liz being called upon to go on camera, happening to be Palin's doppelganger and all? But then, unlike Tina Fey, she utterly botches it?! Alas, such a mega meta scenario lives only in my head. "There won't be any 30 Rock episodes featuring the election," insists a rep for the Thursday-night comedy.
I'm Not Great at Math, But... Isn't SNL Short on Women Now?
What, Kristin Wiig and Casey Wilson can't shoulder the load all by themselves? No, they can't — and they shan't. A search is underway right now to "distaff up" at SNL, though thus far no fruit has been born.
During this Transition, Might Heavenly Hosts Save the Day?
That'd be nice, wouldn't it? Jon Hamm sure showed off some fun chops, and a willingness to wink at his lofty Mad Men role. Next up is Boston-bred smaht-ass Ben Affleck, accompanied by no less than Your American Idol, David Cook. Beyond that, no one is locked in, though one Miss Britney Spears is rumored to be on the hook to host and perform on Nov. 22. Should that come to pass, it's something an in-flux SNL most definitely would give thanks for just a few days later.