SummaryDespite reports that “Saturday Night Live” would undergo changes in advent of its 31st season, the atmosphere was left relatively untouched, with only featured performer Rob Riggle’s absence a noticeable difference. Finesse Mitchell and Kenan Thompson are upgraded to full cast member status, making way for newcomers Bill Hader and Andy Samberg as the season’s newest featured performers. Hader would quickly win the audience over with his talents as SNL’s fresh-faced impressionist, while Samberg would slowly gain notice through the use of SNL’s Digital Short segment with the help of his buddies from thelonelyisland.com. Meanwhile, Jason Sudeikis, a writer who joined the show as a featured player toward the end of last season, firmly established himself as a key player in numerous sketches. Newcomer Kristin Wiig would also join the featured cast by the season’s fifth episode, making her presence known immediately, demonstrating “SNL”‘s ability to revive itself with fresh performers. Absent from the first two episodes of the season, Tina Fey quickly returned to “SNL” after giving birth to her first child, while a very visibly pregnant Maya Rudolph returned for the season premiere, then went off on an extended maternity leave. Fey would finally leave “SNL” by season’s end, along with Rachel Dratch, to star in NBC’s prime-time series, “30 Rock”, which would parody the behind-the-scenes goings-on of Studio 8-H. To celebrate its latest anniversary, “Saturday Night Live” begins airing in high-definition.