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After 38 years on the air, Saturday Night Live has become not just an American institution but, for a certain kind of performer, the means of his or her coronation as a bona fide star. For this reason, the timing of one’s first time hosting the show is like a referendum on one’s career: Like, Neil Patrick Harris might be earning great ratings as the titular star of Doogie Howser, M.D., but it’s probably wise to wait twenty years or so to follow his work and make sure he’s not just a flash in the pan. Whereas getting Drew Barrymore circa E.T.? Pretty safe bet. (Well, it turned out to have been.)
When SNL returns this fall for Season 39, it will have 20-odd opportunities to boost the profiles of actors, musicians, and (ugh) athletes—some of whom will have never hosted before, but have reasons to want the SNL bump. Not that we have a say (though, frankly, we should), we’ve made a list of the first-time hosts we’d like to see this season who actually have a half-decent shot at doing it. I repeat: this is people we want to see, not repeat hosts we’ll definitely see (Michael J. Fox, Sean Hayes) or hosts we’ll probably see without wanting to (Anna Faris, Jaden Smith). Setting odds on likeliest hosts is a totally different thing. Let’s proceed.
Plug-Ready Project: Homeland.
Could Easily Do An Unflattering Yet Hilarious Impression Of: Michael McDonald.
Why He Might Get Called: Saul is the best character on Homeland; someone probably has a killer sketch about a Sondheim-singing rabbi; now that Bill Hader’s gone, they don’t have to worry about Patinkin taking umbrage with Hader’s impression of him.
Why He Might Not: A recent appearance on The Colbert Report suggests that he may not have such a great sense of humor about himself.
Plug-Ready Project: CBS’s just-announced sitcom adaptation of Bad Teacher.
Could Easily Do An Unflattering Yet Hilarious Impression Of: Anne Heche.
Why She Might Get Called: She has extensive live-theatre experience; she’s funny in real life; she will appreciate what a big deal it is and not just phone it in like some recent hosts have (Ben Affleck).
Why She Might Not: If Bad Teacher doesn’t blow up big and fast, credits like The Sitter and For a Good Time, Call... have not really made her a household name.
Plug-Ready Projects: NBC’s own Parks & Recreation; a supporting role in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Could Easily Do An Unflattering Yet Hilarious Impression Of: Tom Cruise.
Why He Might Get Called: He’s worked and/or is friends with SNL Hall of Famers Amy Poehler, Jon Hamm, Will Ferrell, and Paul Rudd, who could probably be counted on to do walk-ons; his series of ’80s crime procedural credits remakes and participation in Burning Love prove that he is a goof in the best way.
Why He Might Not: Male cast members block his invitation because they’re too insecure to consent to share a scene with his gorgeous hair.
Plug-Ready Projects: The Heat (retroactive); Gravity.
Could Easily Do An Unflattering Yet Hilarious Impression Of: Debra Messing.
Why She Might Get Called: Working with new-classic SNL host Melissa McCarthy on The Heat may have caused Michaels to see her in a new light.
Why She Might Not: If, in her twenty years as a bankable movie star, she’s never done SNL, it’s probably because she’s made it known that she doesn’t want to do it, not that she’s just somehow never been asked.
Plug-Ready Project: Thor: The Dark World.
Could Easily Do An Unflattering Yet Hilarious Impression Of: Russell Crowe.
Why He Might Get Called: He presents well on talk shows; he’s not worried about looking silly on TV; maybe his brother will do a walk-on for a Miley Cyrus Show sketch; everyone will want him to tell his stories about the shit that went down on the set of Snow White And The Huntsman.
Why He Might Not: His hair might not fit under the wigs.
Plug-Ready Projects: The Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire; Walk of Shame.
Could Easily Do an Unflattering Yet Hilarious Impression of: Katherine Heigl.
Why She Might Get Called: Like Moretz, she had a recurring role on Michaels’s 30 Rock; she’s part of the David Wain repertory company, which makes her alt-comedy royalty.
Why She Might Not: Someone might decide that the next Hunger Games cast member to host SNL for the first time should be Josh “Blah” Hutcherson.
MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS
Plug-Ready Projects: Boardwalk Empire; 12 Years A Slave.
Could Easily Do an Unflattering Yet Hilarious Impression of: Chris Rock.
Why He Might Get Called: He’s a triple threat who has a pretty good sense of humour about himself; the internet would go crazy.
Why He Might Not: Producers conflate him with Omar Little, get too scared to call.
Plug-Ready Project: Nashville.
Could Easily Do an Unflattering Yet Hilarious Impression of: Her former roommate Lauren Graham.
Why She Might Get Called: She’s widely beloved; she can’t help showing off great comic timing even in basically dramatic shows like Nashville and Friday Night Lights; she can’t do anything wrong.
Why She Might Not: Female cast members block her invitation because they’re too insecure to consent to share a scene with her gorgeous hair.
Plug-Ready Project: Star Trek: Into Darkness (retroactive).
Could Easily Do an Unflattering Yet Hilarious Impression of: J.J. Abrams.
Why He Might Get Called: Anyone who can hang with Billy Eichner must be up for anything, comedically; he’s dreamy; America is curious about whether he knows how to smile.
Why He Might Not: No idea. Homophobia?