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West Side Story star and SNL host Ariana DeBose learns the limits of a fresh start from a blond Bowen Yang

Saturday Night Live—with any luck—returns to Studio 8H tomorrow for the first show of 2022
Jack Antonoff, Ariana DeBose, Bowen Yang

Jack Antonoff, Ariana DeBose, Bowen Yang
Screenshot: Saturday Night Live

“You know what they say, ‘New year, new me,’” is how Saturday Night Live star and Emmy nominee Bowen Yang kicked off the previews for this week’s first new show of 2022.

Sporting a bleached blond ’do as evidence of his attempt to kick off the new year with a bang, Yang’s hopeful enthusiasm might be an echo of SNL’s as a whole since the show’s planned big finish of a Paul Rudd-hosted Christmas 2021 blowout was scuttled at the very last second by the Omicron variant.

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Alongside this week’s host Ariana DeBose and musical guest Jack Antonoff of Bleachers, the newly blond Yang proclaimed his readiness for a whole new Yang (and SNL) for this first show of the third year under a global pandemic.

“So it’s mostly the hair?,” DeBose prodded, with Yang admitting that, yes, that’s pretty much all that’s actually new. Still, Yang’s been having a solid season so far (studio-emptying pre-Christmas bug-out notwithstanding), and DeBose, coming straight off her West Side Story triumph, looks ready and willing to inject the show with some Broadway-quality live energy.

In his review, A.A. Dowd notes of the scene-stealing singer and actor, “Ariana DeBose offers a rainbow of conflicting emotions as Sharks moll Anita, her brassy confidence shattering into heartbreak.” (Plus, anyone who had the guts to step into Rita Moreno’s dancing shoes is just the right choice to kick 2022 off with a bang.)

As for this week’s (fingers crossed) return to live comedy, it’s likely SNL will have plenty to say about the unprecedented, show day evacuation and resulting clip show that sent the 2021 half of Saturday Night Live’s 47th season off to an appropriately sputtering end.

Look for Kenan Thompson and Michael Che to lord it over everyone else that they were the only two cast members asked to stay behind on the belatedly abandoned and creaky ship that was episode 9. Plus, Kate McKinnon’s finally back from her Tiger King hiatus, meaning that—Omicron willing—there’ll be a full complement of comedy sailors on deck for DeBose hosting debut.

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