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For ‘SNL,’ new cast shaping up nicely

From left: Chloe Fineman, James Austin Johnson, and Bowen Yang in a sketch from the 48th-season premiere of "Saturday Night Live" in October.Will Heath/NBC

“Saturday Night Live” returns this weekend for three consecutive episodes. On Saturday, Keke Palmer is hosting and SZA is the musical guest. The following week, Dec. 10, Steve Martin and Martin Short are returning, with musical guest Brandi Carlile. And then, on Dec. 10, Austin Butler will host the last episode of the year, with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as guests.

I’m looking forward to the episodes. I’ve been enjoying this season of “Saturday Night Live” for a few reasons, the most important of them being that I’ve liked a few sketches in almost every episode, including the cold opening of the season, a spoof of the ManningCast in which Miles Teller and Andrew Dismukes analyzed a sketch, and the classroom sketch with Ego Nwodim as a substitute teacher giving a rousing lecture about Black pride to a class who’s smarter than she is. There have been overtly political sketches, of course, always a mixed bag on “SNL,” but I’ve loved Cecily Strong as Kari Lake and Sarah Sherman as Chuck Schumer.


This season, it has also been a treat to see some of the newer faces actually getting screen time, not least of all the aforementioned Sherman and Punkie Johnson. I enjoyed Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, and the other folks who left after last season. But it’s nice to watch the cast taking on a new shape, now that there’s some time and space for redefinition. Nwodim, Bowen Yang, Chloe Fineman, Mikey Day, and Heidi Gardner are now, in some ways, MVPs, but the cast feels more like an ensemble than a collection of individuals.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.