History of Saturday Night Live (1995–2000)

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History of Saturday Night Live series:

(seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
(seasons 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
(seasons 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
(seasons 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
(seasons 21, 22, 23, 24, 25)
(seasons 26, 27, 28, 29, 30)
(seasons 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)
(seasons 36, 37, 38, 39, 40)
Weekend Update

Saturday Night Live is an American sketch comedy series created and produced by Lorne Michaels for most of the show's run. The show has aired on NBC since 1975.

After a disastrous 1994–95 season featuring a mix of old and new characters, Michaels decided to once again revamp the cast, keeping only five cast members and hiring six. The 1995–96 season once again saved the show from cancelation, introducing a new era of SNL characters and sketches that were highly popular with audiences.

This cast stayed mostly stable until the 1998–99 season, adding cast members such as Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz. These two would pave the way for the next era of SNL in the early 2000s.

Rebuilding effort (1995–96)[edit]

The 1995–96 season almost completely rebuilt the cast with new members Jim Breuer, Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, David Koechner, Cheri Oteri, Nancy Walls, Chris Kattan and Colin Quinn. The only holdovers from the previous season were Norm Macdonald, Mark McKinney, Tim Meadows, Molly Shannon and David Spade. The larger-than-usual amount of new hires was part of a rebuilding effort from the 1994–95 season, a season that executive producer Lorne Michaels acknowledged was "incredibly difficult".[1] Lenny Pickett also took over for G.E. Smith as leader of the Saturday Night Live Band.[2]

Of the cast members held over from the previous season, only Meadows and Spade were actual veterans. The other three were still newcomers to the show. Macdonald had a few bit parts in his first year (the 1993–94 season) and was the anchor of "Weekend Update" (a satirical news sketch performed during every episode) during the 1994–95 season, considered a high point in a season widely considered lacklustre. Shannon appeared in early 1995 as a featured performer after Janeane Garofalo quit the show; McKinney began in early 1995 as well, but as a contract player, having gained much experience in televised sketch comedy as a veteran of Canadian variety show The Kids in the Hall, also produced by Lorne Michaels. David Spade became the longest-serving cast member during this season. Fred Wolf, a writer for the show since 1991, would also serve a brief run as a featured player during this season and the next.

The new cast members quickly made an impression and revitalised the show. Hammond in particular quickly built up a repertoire of popular impersonations, including Bill Clinton and Chris Matthews.

Opening montage[edit]

This montage has a theme similar to that of the NBC studios from where SNL is broadcast, and consists of black and white images of the cast at a party, with purple and green titling. The SNL logo introduced here is used through the 2005–06 season.

Cast roster[edit]

bold denotes "Weekend Update" anchor

Cast stabilisation (1996–97)[edit]

The ensemble from the 1995–96 season was mostly unchanged for the 1996–97 season, save for the firing of David Koechner and Nancy Walls, as well as the departure of David Spade. Tim Meadows became the longest-running cast member this season and would remain so until his departure. Tracy Morgan and Ana Gasteyer both joined the cast, taking the places of Koechner and Walls. Mark McKinney left at the end of this season.

Opening montage[edit]

This montage also uses a "30 Rock" theme, and is virtually identical to the previous montage, but with brand new cast photos, and a slight change in font.

Cast roster[edit]

bold denotes "Weekend Update" anchor

Period of stability (1997–98)[edit]

The ensemble from the 1996–97 season remained substantially unchanged for the 1997–98 season. Jim Breuer would leave the show after this season, later blaming then-head writer Adam McKay,[3] although McKay denies the allegations.[4]

Norm Macdonald's firing[edit]

While the cast was, for the most part, unchanged from the previous season, Norm Macdonald's surprise firing was the source of much speculation and scrutiny from the media. Macdonald frequently targeted O. J. Simpson and his murder trial on "Weekend Update", a recurring joke that then-NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer apparently disliked. This is rumoured to be the cause of Macdonald's firing. He was replaced on "Weekend Update" by cast-mate Colin Quinn starting January 10, 1998.[5]

Opening montage[edit]

This opener is the only montage in SNL's history that did not feature any images of New York City. Instead, it featured colored bars that spun and revealed each cast member photo, along with mention of a TV Funhouse cartoon appearing on some episodes and/or a special guest.

Cast roster[edit]