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Miley Cyrus set to host 'SNL': What's the future of the late-night program?

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(Read caption) Miley Cyrus (r., with 'Saturday Night Live' cast member Taran Killam) is set to host 'Saturday Night Live' on Oct. 3.

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The 41st season of the long-running NBC sketch comedy program “Saturday Night Live” debuts on Oct. 3, with singer Miley Cyrus set to host. 

“SNL” celebrated its fortieth anniversary last year with a special episode that drew former cast members from the show’s run as well as celebrity guests. That episode became the highest-rated primetime entertainment program for NBC (not counting shows that aired after the Super Bowl) in total viewers since an “ER” episode aired the same night as the “Frasier” series finale in 2004.

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Meanwhile, Ms. Cyrus is coming to the hosting gig having taken on the job of host for the MTV Video Music Awards this summer. Around that time, she also released a new album. Cyrus has hosted “SNL” before, even serving as host and musical guest for the same episode in 2013.

During the 40th anniversary special, Cyrus performed Paul Simon’s song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Simon was present and Cyrus noted during a recent interview, “To cover a Paul Simon song with him in the building is pretty awkward.” 

Where is “SNL” following the celebration of its fortieth anniversary? Longtime cast members like Seth Meyers, who hosted the “Weekend Update” segment for several years, recently departed, with Meyers going on to host the NBC program “Late Night.”

Comic Jon Rudnitsky has joined the cast for this new season. Several writers departed, including cast member Mike O’Brien, and some were added, such as Paul Masella of CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman.” (O’Brien stated on Twitter he will still be involved in making short pieces for the program this year.) 

The most experienced cast members are now Kenan Thompson, who has been on the show since 2003; Bobby Moynihan, who first appeared on “SNL” in 2008; and Jay Pharaoh, Vanessa Bayer, and Taran Killam, all of whom joined in 2010. The others are relative newbies to the show, with such cast members as Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, and Kyle Mooney having joined within the past few years.

The newer cast members that may be most familiar to the general public are McKinnon and Leslie Jones, who joined the show in 2014. They will be appearing alongside former “SNL” cast member Kristen Wiig and actress Melissa McCarthy in an upcoming new “Ghostbusters” movie.

One question for future seasons is what will happen with the “Weekend Update” segment of the program. Since the departure of Meyers, the “Update” desk has seen a lot of turnover. This past season, cast members Colin Jost and Michael Che served as co-anchors. The pair has received mixed reviews, with Entertainment Weekly writer Hillary Busis calling the team “underwhelming” and David Sims of The Atlantic writing, “There have been some promising moments … The biggest problem is that [‘SNL’ creator Lorne] Michaels already hit the reset button, and he went all in on it. He can't really yank his new hires again.” However, Deadline writer Mike Fleming Jr. felt that the two “are hitting stride with a pseudo-newscast that’s biting fun.”


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