SNL is primarily a comedy show. The cast consists of a half-dozen to a dozen castmembers (plus sometimes a few supporting "featured" players). Each episode is "hosted" by a different celebrity and features performances by a musical guest.
SNL's format has varied somewhat over the years, but a typical show runs as follows: The episode begins with a cold opening (a segment that precedes the opening credits) that culminates in the aforementioned opening phrase ("Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" or some variant thereof). After the credits roll, the host delivers a monologue, which may be followed by a fake commercial (an ad for a non-existent product). A few skits later, it's time for the news report (one or more anchorpersons and guest correspondents make light of current events) and a performance by the musical guest. The rest of the show consists of more skits (or other comedy pieces), perhaps another song by the musical guest, and occasionally a short film.
On Saturday evening, a run-through of the night's show is executed. This dress rehearsal is used to select the format for the actual live broadcast (the order of the segments may be juggled and some bits may be cut). Until 2017, viewers on the West coast watched a tape-delayed version (which was occasionally edited to eliminate profane or controversial elements).
Most episodes are rerun on NBC in the traditional SNL timeslot within a year of the original live broadcast. The version shown is not necessarily identical to the live show, however, as various edits may be implemented (segments are sometimes rearranged, material from the dress rehearsal may be substituted for live material, etc.). From fall 1998 through the end of 2006, some NBC affiliates aired full-length "classic" episodes (episodes from earlier seasons) after the regular SNL timeslot. At present, NBC sometimes airs a 60-minute version of a previously-aired episode during primetime on Saturday.
The first five seasons of SNL are now available on DVD, and a number of show segments are available at the official website. To receive a weekly schedule of upcoming reruns of SNL, subscribe to the SNLRERUNS mailing list.
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