Way back in April and May, when the pandemic seemed like something we would all just have to get through and not something that we will simply live with forever, Saturday Night Live tried to bring the nation together with a trio of surprisingly solid episodes filmed at the cast members’ homes/parents’ homes. It went fine, give or take your patience for them doing Weekend Update with what was essentially a laugh track once and some musical artists telecommuting in for some excessively earnest performances, but unlike the coronavirus itself, that makeshift approximation of SNL apparently cannot go on forever.
According to Variety, NBC and Lorne Michaels are currently working on a plan to bring the show back to its studio in New York for its next season, with some obvious changes in place to keep things as safe as possible. One idea is to follow what The Tonight Show has started doing, which has brought Jimmy Fallon back to a studio (though not his studio) with no audience while the Roots play socially distant, camera operators wear masks, and guests are interviewed remotely. It would be harder to do that with SNL, unless everyone is doing solo sketches or talking to each other from across big rooms, but it could theoretically work. Then again, doing a very weird version of SNL like that wouldn’t be so different from just doing it from home again, which would make doing it in the studio at all seem unnecessary, but that’s probably why NBC and Michaels are working on these plans and not just jumping right in to them.
NBC hasn’t commented on this or any other potential plans, and a potential premiere date for SNL hasn’t been announced, but—as Variety also points out—it would probably be tough on the SNL brand if it lets this presidential election go by without doing something. Maybe Trump should host again? That was such a good idea last time.