This season was considered a rebuilding year with Saturday Night Live as it hired 8 new cast members, the largest casting in 18 years. Recently, the Season 39 finally aired with former SNL cast member Andy Samberg featuring many other well-known alumni including Maya Rudolf, Bill Hader, and Kristen Wigg. With so many new members, it’s unlikely that most of them will last as long as these alums of the past. Let’s take a look at how the new SNL featured players fared this season in order of future promise.
Zamata was brought in mid-season as a response to criticism from critics for not having a black female on the cast. Though the show poked fun at this deficit by overusing Kerry Washington as a guest, they did eventually hire her and she proved. She brought in a broader range of characters, from Michelle Obama to Solange, and was an important part to two music videos, “Reasons” and “Dongs.”
Highlights: Black Jeopardy, Solange Cold Open, Reasons
Bennett was hired with Kyle from the sketch comedy group Good Neighbor. He has shown the greatest airtime of the featured players. He has found a standout character in “Baby Boss” in which he embodies a successful man with the body of a baby is spot on, giving him a character similar to Kristen Wigg’s Gilly and Target Lady – something that the other featured players lack.
Highlights: Baby Boss, Beer Pong
Wells has a host of impressions but not as a stand out character. She has her own Zooey Deschanel character on YouTube so it is peculiar that she has not picked up Abby Elliot’s place on what used to be a reoccuring SNL skit “Bein’ Quirky w/ Zooey Deschanel.” She has a lot more to give and never messes up when she is on, which give her potential for next year.
Highlights: Girls, (Do it On My) Twin Bed
Mooney was hired with Bennet from Good Neighbors, which has lead to a lot of Good Neighbor inspired material on SNL, including “Dancing” and “Super Champions.” Mooney has also held his own in sketches and has done impressions of Skrillex and Axl Rose. He has also played many of his Youtube characters that he had been working on for years, including his awkward interviewer in “Super Champions,” Bruce Chandling during Weekend Update, and the host of “Inside SoCal” so it will be a surprise if he continues on these characters or creates more.
Highlights: Flirty, Super Champions, Ice Cream
Last season writer Tim Robinson was pulled up to be a featured cast only to return to cast this year, so it was interesting that O’Brien was given a similar chance. Maybe hoping to produce the same success as Jason Sudeikis who was a successful writer promotion, O’Brien put in the effort. He had a well-received sketch interviewing bugs and had a successful impression of a car salesman, but otherwise his screen time was very limited.
Highlights: Car Salesman, Bugs
Milhiser had very little screen time and was completely missing in a couple of the episodes, including the Andrew Garfield one. He had no memorable characters but came in with a lot of impressions so he may have potential in the future.
Highlight: Viper, 4th Grade Talent Show
SNL thrives on its actors and their impressions, so it was a surprise when stand up comedian Wheelen was added to the cast. He rarely had bits, however, his lack of impressions limited his use as a character to mostly extras. The writing staff did try to write his stand up into forced segments during Weekend Update.
Highlights: Alcohol, Critter Control
To be fair, Jost had very little time during the season, starting up in March after Seth Meyer’s exit. We are still adjusting to Meyers being gone just as Cecily Strong and Jost are getting adjusted with working with each other. As a head writer, he’s not new and has a wealth of experience to contribute.