Mass Exodus From SNL Ahead?

It seems like about every five years or so, the usual trickle of annual departures from Saturday Night Live becomes a flood, raising questions about the future of the venerable show. 2012 is beginning to look like one of those years.

Two sources have told Us Weekly that three veteran players – Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, and Jason Sudeikis – are looking to leave SNL at the conclusion of the current season a month from now. Though someone described as a rep for both Wiig and Sudeikis attempted to refute the report by saying no final decisions have been made, and SNL rarely comments on personnel matters till the last minute, there haven’t been firm denials either. And the timing seems right: the trio was part of the last big influx of SNL talent, coming on board seven seasons ago.

The rumors about Wiig make particular sense, as she both has starred in and been the Oscar-nominated co-screenwriter of a blockbuster film, Bridesmaids. Once someone on SNL has made it to that level, they rarely hang around 30 Rock any longer. And the arrival this coming Saturday of new cast member Kate McKinnon has been seen as a likely response to the assumption Wiig won’t be coming back. Sudeikis has also been getting busier doing movies, though he certainly hasn’t had the impact on screen of his predecessor as SNL Everyman, Will Ferrell.

One of the sources states that the rumored departures “will be a huge blow to the show. Without Andy’s video shorts and Kristen saving every skit, they'll need help!” Well, this might be an overstatement. Wiig’s presence on SNL has been lowered the last two seasons, and not everyone agrees that her trademark fast-talking nervous Nellie “saves every skit.” And this has clearly been the least memorable year for the digital shorts since Samberg and his Lonely Island pals began doing them.

This isn’t to say their leaving wouldn’t represent a transition, and SNL has not always pulled those off smoothly. If Wiig, Samberg, and Sudeikis depart, that would leave Bill Hader remaining as the unquestioned mainstay of the show, with assistance from the even more veteran Kenan Thompson and Fred Armisen, plus a collection of two and three year players who have yet to make major impact.