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Saturday Night Live Back This Weekend, But How Will It Look Amid Coronavirus Self-Isolation?

Producers have promised familiar segments like “Weekend Update” will be a part of the unique broadcast, with the cast all performing from their respective homes.

In a surprise announcement on Thursday, NBC has revealed that "Saturday Night Live" will be returning this weekend with a brand new show. But how will that look amid stay-at-home orders in New York City and coronavirus self-isolation across the nation? Will there be a host? "Weekend Update"?

It turns out the show might be taking a little bit of inspiration from the talk show world, and particularly Jimmy Fallon’s "Tonight Show," which has had a lot of success subverting the late-night formula with his more casual, family-filled "At Home" editions.

He and his late-night fellows Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel, along with several daytime talk and news shows, have found a way to present fresh material that’s topical and sometimes funny from home, so why not "SNL"?

While there are a lot of unknowns still about the unprecedented production, including how long it will run and what exactly will make it to air, per Deadline, NBC is determined that the show must go on. They promise that whatever the final product becomes, it will feature the popular "Weekend Update" segment, usually hosted by head writers Colin Jost and Michael Che, as well as more original material from the "SNL" repertory players.

There is precedent for "Weekend Update" to exist outside of "SNL," as the network has run special half-hour prime-time editions of it sporadically since 2008, usually in conjunction with elections or other notable national and global events. This would certainly qualify.

But the main "Saturday Night Live" has also always had an element of pre-taped madness to it, from Schillervision to Saturday TV Funhouse to more recent Digital Shorts and comedy music videos. There’s no reason they couldn’t prepare some pre-taped bits for this and future weeks with their cast working from home.

The biggest challenge they face, obviously, is the fact that the cast won’t be able to play off of one another, or even in the same room. Instead, they’re going to have to get creative, but again precedent has been set. In fact, a trio of former "SNL" superstars paved the way earlier in the day on Thursday with their own quarantine comedy sketch.

Taking place on Fallon’s "At Home" edition of "The Tonight Show," Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig joined him for a melodramatic "Longest Days of our Lives" soap opera parody. Was it awkward? Sure. But it was still funny — enough they couldn’t even stop laughing — and that’s all anyone is looking for. We get the strangeness of it, but we’re all adapting in our lives, so we can adapt in our entertainment as well.

Originally slated to return on March 28 with host John Krasinski and musical guest Dua Lipa, it’s unclear if either of them will be involved. Krasinski has been making his own quarantine show on YouTube that’s blown up in recent weeks, so he’s certainly ready to bring his charm to this new dynamic.

But the format of having everyone perform from their homes also opens "SNL" up to having a whole slew of celebrity guest stars on pretty much at any time. It’s much easier to book someone who just has to turn on their computer than having to get them to New York in time for a live taping.

Maybe the show should forego the traditional host format during these extraordinary times and really just bring anyone who wants to play in their sandbox and take it sketch by sketch, moment by moment.

For a glimpse of what that could look like, here’s Melissa Villaseñor doing a pretty spot-on John Mulaney impression … from her home:

𝗦𝗡𝗟 𝗔𝘁 𝗛𝗼𝗺𝗲 • @melissavcomedy as @johnmulaney in quarantine.

A post shared by Saturday Night Live (@nbcsnl) on

At this time producers don’t even seem to know if this will mark a return to weekly production, or will prove just a one-off experiment in response to this temporary new normal. Considering that COVID-19 has hit New York City especially hard, many fans will be eager to hear from the cast and get their take on what’s been going on.

Che recently shared that his grandmother had passed due to contracting the virus. "I don’t know if I’ll lose someone else to this virus. I don’t even know if I’ll be lost to this virus," he wrote on Instagram.

Just as in the wake of 9/11, we turn to New York and "SNL" for guidance in how to laugh again and how to process the dramatic daily impact of this global pandemic.

If it works out, perhaps "SNL" will go ahead and finish out its regular season (they had five episodes yet to go) with this new format, though it might be too much to expect them to keep a weekly schedule since we imagine production and execution of whatever material they present will be far more complex than their traditional weekly grind.

We’ll definitely be turning in this Saturday at the show’s regular time to see how they’ve adapted, how they’re all doing and what they have to say.

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