Who's going to fill Will Ferrell's shoes? Who'll get Ana Gasteyer's dressing room? And most important of all: Who'll do Dubya?
So many questions, and some answers as NBC's Saturday Night Live nears the start of its 28th season on (when else?) Saturday night.
Matt Damon is set to host the opener, with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band as the musical guest.
In place of the departing Ferrell and Gasteyer, look for two new faces: Fred Armisen and Will Forte.
Armisen has plied his comic trade on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Forte has written for such shows as Late Night with David Letterman and That '70s Show. He's also performed with the Groundlings, a Los Angeles improv troupe that counts current SNL-ers Chris Kattan, Chris Parnell and Maya Rudolph among its alums.
Technically, Armisen and Forte are not replacements for Ferrell and Gasteyer. The latter were full-fledged cast members, but the newbies are being given the somewhat less-prestigious "featured player" status--until, presumably, they prove they won't freak out on live TV.
Still unknown is who'll portray President Bush. Ferrell was SNL's incumbent White House imitator, but he departed after last season's close to pursue big-screen dreams. (New mom Gasteyer, who gave birth in June, left at the same time.)
SNL exec producer Lorne Michaels tells USA Today that, much like the 2000 election, the decision on the comedy show's new prez will go down to the wire. The casting choice "will literally depend on what's written for the political opening," he says.
One cast member possibly ruled out is Darrell Hammond. Already he's the show's President Clinton, former Veep Al Gore, current Veep Dick Cheney, and Cabinet members Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft. Michaels says Hammond fills out "80 percent of our political cast."
Still, Hammond tells USA Today that, because of things he's overheard on the set, he thinks the Commander in-Chief gig may still be his.
"I'm trying to stay in the middle. The whole idea of preparing this character I might not play is something I'm pretty used to," Hammond says in the paper.
SNL embarks on its new season fresh off its first Emmy win for writing since 1989. Returning cast members include the current "Weekend Update" anchor team of Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey, who is also one of the show's head writers.
Fey predicts President Bush's battle stance against Iraq will be a big target--at least until the shooting starts and "until human lives become involved."
Yes, even a show with 28 years of experience in funny stuff has its limitations.