Saturday Night Live is off the air during the WGA strike.
It’s beginning to look like Saturday Night Live‘s illustrious legacy as the longest-running variety show on television may soon be coming to an end. According to a write-up in Comicbook.com, the Writers Guild of America strike has impacted production, forcing the show’s 48th season to be cut short, and perhaps ending the show for good. This week’s previously announced episode, hosted by former cast member Pete Davidson, has been canceled, leaving Saturday Night Live to air reruns in its time slot for the foreseeable future.
The Writers Guild of America strike officially kicked off this week, bringing many Hollywood productions to a screeching halt. Shows most impacted by the strike in an immediate capacity are late-night television programs such as Late Night with Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and of course, Saturday Night Live. The last WGA strike occurred back in 2007, lasting 100 days until new budgeting agreements increased the funding for writers’ contracts.
While some scripted television shows, such as HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon, write entire seasons of material in advance, allowing the production to continue relatively unhindered, shows such as Saturday Night Live, which are written in response to up-to-the-minute current events obviously cannot continue to air, as their writers are union repped. This writers’ strike has the potential to kill the entire upcoming season of SNL, or even put into question the future of the series itself, as the NBC-owned show narrowly avoided an editor’s strike just a month ago.
Other consequences of the 2007-2008 WGA strike included acts of rebellion, such as Conan O’Brien airing episodes of Late Night in which he killed time on air with empty unwritten content, including spinning his wedding ring over and over again on his desk. Many prestige television series’ seasons were cut short, including the seven-episode first season of Breaking Bad, whereas unscripted reality programs quickly flooded the airwaves to replace the dearth of scripted content. For Saturday Night Live, this meant axing over 90% of the show’s writing staff during the months-long negotiation period.
Due to its highly off-the-cuff nature and fast-paced schedule, Saturday Night Live often feels the brunt of a work stoppage earlier than other televised programs, meaning the show acts as a bit of a litmus test for the future of the television season. While there is no way of knowing how long the current strike could last, writers from other late-night programs may be looking to SNL for guidance, anticipating the future of the strike based on the number of key players the Lorne Michaels-run show chooses to let go.
Of course, maybe Saturday Night Live will go the Conan O’Brien route, opting to air impromptu performances in place of the regularly scheduled sketches. Back in 2007, SNL cast members such as Fred Armisen and Kenan Thompson took to performing improv comedy at private venues across New York to fill their schedules, though no television cameras were posted in the venue to film it. While this week’s May 6 episode is definitively canceled, we’ll have to wait and see where the series chooses to go from here.