“Saturday Night Live” has been satirizing elections since 1976. But it is now tasked with covering one of the most crazy elections in American history.
The series is gearing up to go practically non-stop between now and the election. It normally debuts in mid to late September, but this year it kicks off in October. This allows for more consecutive new shows between now and the election. Usually “SNL” runs for three weeks in a row before taking two off, but this year it will do four shows in a row in October before taking a week off and coming back for a show on the Saturday before the election.
Another factor in the late start was also election-related. Showrunner Lorne Michaels recently told CNNMoney that “SNL” wanted to wait to return until after the first debate.
When it does come back on the air on Saturday, it’ll do so with a big name in tow. Alec Baldwin will be taking on the role of Trump on the show at least until the election.
Baldwin’s casting follows the template set by Tina Fey when she played vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2008, and that Larry David then extended by pulling off a near-perfect Bernie Sanders impersonation last season.
And of course it’s also possible that the show may see the candidates themselves pop up, as John McCain did in 2008. After all, they’ve done it before — Hillary Clinton made a cameo in the season premiere last year, and Donald Trump hosted.
The “yuge” ratings the show got when Trump hosted may foreshadow similarly large viewership numbers for “SNL” until the election.
Historically, the show has seen more interest during election years, but not always more viewership. There were no significant bumps in 2004 or 2012, but “SNL” did see a huge jump in audience during the 2008 season, the recent election probably most comparable to this year’s in terms of potential for satire and big-name guest stars.
In 2008, “SNL” had an average of 9.2 million viewers who watched it live or within seven days of the broadcast, an increase of a third over the previous season, which averaged only 6.9 million viewers.
This election has been must-watch TV for months. Now, “SNL” has to hope that the chaos doesn’t slow down before election day.