'SNL' set for first-ever episodes that are actually live across America after record-setting season

The long-running NBC variety program, whose current season is the highest-rated in more than 20 years, also plans to run its 'Weekend Update' segment this August.

Will Heath/NBC
Melissa McCarthy appears on 'Saturday Night Live' on Feb. 11, 2017.

“Saturday Night Live” will soon really be live for everyone in America, and the news zingers found in the show’s “Weekend Update” will continue this summer as “SNL” experiences its best ratings in more than twenty years. 

Beginning with its April 15 episode, “SNL” will air at the same time everywhere in the US, the first time the almost-42-year-old show has ever done so, for the season's last four episodes. The program will begin at 11:30 p.m. as usual on the East Coast, but air at 10:30 p.m. Central Standard Time, 9:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, and 8:30 p.m. on the West Coast. 

In addition, the “Weekend Update” segment, which currently features Michael Che and Colin Jost remarking on current events, will air four episodes of “Update” in August, when “SNL” is normally off the air. 

“SNL" has a history of creating some of its most popular material during presidential elections – see Tina Fey as vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin – and the material the program has aired during this most recent season, which included the most recent presidential election and the first weeks of President Trump's time in office, has made it the most-viewed “SNL” season in 24 years. 

Culture writers point to the Trump era as the reason for viewers’ interest. 

TVLine writer Kimberly Roots wrote in early February, following positive ratings news, that “the Not Ready for Primetime Players should probably give thanks to the ever-critical POTUS for the ratings boost,” referencing the president’s criticism of the program and actor Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of Mr. Trump on the show. “Baldwin’s impression of the tycoon-turned-commander-in-chief is a likely audience draw,” she noted. 

And Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic called the decision to bring on “Ghostbusters” actress Melissa McCarthy to portray White House press secretary Sean Spicer “genius” after Ms. McCarthy debuted in that role on Feb. 4.

“It was the kind of moment ‘Saturday Night Live’ history was made of: an unannounced guest appearance so perfect that it took even the live audience a few moments to register what was actually happening,” Ms. Gilbert wrote, concluding, “In one eight-minute scene 'Saturday Night Live' reminded viewers that there’s no more potent institution when it comes to political satire.”

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