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'SNL' to finish a record-shattering season by doing something it's never done before

Melissa McCarthy as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on "Saturday Night Live." [Will Heath | NBC]

Melissa McCarthy as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on "Saturday Night Live." [Will Heath | NBC]

Saturday Night Live is enjoying its highest-rated season in two decades, and it's going to finish it out by doing something the series has never done before: go live, coast to coast.

Usually, SNL airs live on the East Coast at 11:30 p.m., and then rebroadcasts in each time zone. But the final four episodes of this season will air simultaneously — meaning Californians get to watch SNL at 8:30 p.m.

Oh, and Melissa McCarthy, whose White House press secretary Sean Spicer impersonation has been a surprise breakout moment this year, will host on May 13.

SNL's take on President Donald Trump and his administration has coincided with a boost in headlines and viewers. NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt's assertion that SNL "is part of the national conversation" is sort of difficult to refute, given the president himself has taken time to tweet about how much he dislikes Alec Baldwin's impersonation of him.

"We thought it would be a great idea to broadcast to the west and mountain time zones live at the same time it's being seen in the east and central time zones," Greenblatt said in a statement. "That way, everyone is in on the joke at the same time."

Coast-to-coast live broadcasts begin April 15 with host Jimmy Fallon. Chris Pine will host May 6 and Dwayne Johnson hosts May 20.

This current political environment has been good for late-night comedy, and SNL is hoping to continue capitalizing on the momentum. The regular show will go on its typical summer break, but four standalone episodes of "Weekend Update" — which directly comments on the political news of the week — will come to prime time starting Aug. 10.

"SNL is having its best season in a quarter of a century — how many shows can say that?! — so we didn't want them to take the summer off," Greenblatt said in a release.

An average of 11 million viewers have been watching weekly.

Other late-night shows are also riding the wave. Seth Meyers carved out his place in the pack early through incisive political takes and criticism of Trump.

Fallon's Tonight Show has long beat The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in the ratings battle. But Fallon continues to catch flack for his 2016 interview with Trump when he famously tousled the then-candidate's hair and avoided hard-hitting questions, and he's since been perceived as being soft on Trump and offering escapist humor.

But then Trump took office, and Colbert's politically charged approach gave him the advantage. Colbert has now been beating Fallon for five weeks straight, and counting.

'SNL' to finish a record-shattering season by doing something it's never done before 03/17/17 [Last modified: Thursday, March 16, 2017 6:00pm]
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