Variety reported that show creator Lorne Michaels and his team are making plans to bring the show back to NBC’s Manhattan studios in time for Season 46, which is slated to premiere in the fall. Nothing is set in stone, given the continued uncertainty of the entertainment industry’s film and TV productions, but the publication noted that one early idea would see the show made in a “controlled” environment minus the live studio audience. Per that strategy, episodes would be made in a similar vein to NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” which recently began taping episodes in a studio and included mask-wearing crews, a socially distanced band, and guests appearing via videoconferencing technology.
Like several other shows, “Saturday Night Live” has experimented with new episodes filmed via videoconferencing tech in recent months. The show concluded Season 45 with a third and final virtual episode in early May, and though IndieWire’s reviews of the virtual episodes have been mixed, LaToya Ferguson noted that their production had continuously improved despite the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic. Other shows that have produced virtual episodes in recent months include the CBS legal drama “All Rise” and a new comedy from Apple TV+, “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet.” NBC’s own “Parks & Recreation” and “30 Rock” have made reunion episodes via remote shooting options, as well.
There’s ample reason for the “Saturday Night Live” team to have a vested interest in returning to the studio; as Variety noted, the show tends to enjoy popularity spikes during election seasons, and the impending 2020 election means the television landscape will be ripe for new political comedy.
Though the unpredictable nature of the ongoing pandemic means NBC’s sketch comedy’s return to studio production is far from guaranteed, the fact that the team is beginning to look toward studio production while still practicing social distancing guidelines could be a ray of light for the industry. New York City entered Phase 4 of its reopening plan on Monday, which will allow productions to ramp up.