Three newcomers -- Jim Fallon, Chris Parnell and Horatio Sanz, all twentysomething males -- will be featured when "Saturday Night Live" begins its 24th season at 11:30 p.m. Saturday on Channel 2.
Cameron Diaz is the host with Smashing Pumpkins as the musical guest. Missing from the "SNL" lineup will be three-year veteran Jim "Goat Boy" Breuer, who was axed with two years remaining on his contract.
"I agonized over it," says Michaels, 53, entering his 19th year as executive producer of late-night's grande dame. "He has great energy and talent and charisma. Whenever he was out there, I was happy. But we weren't using him enough to justify keeping him. He was unhappy and very, very frustrated about it.
"Sometimes you have to accept it's just not working. . . . I think Jim was getting to be funnier off the show than on the show. We weren't able to seem to make it work with the writing staff. We felt helpless."
Female-wise, "SNL's" lineup is solid. Michaels labels homegirl Cheri Oteri, Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon "the three strongest girls we've ever had. They're all brilliant."
Testosterone-wise, however, Michaels "had to rethink who the men were going to be" after the stormy departure of "Weekend Update's" Norm Macdonald. "That meant bringing in new people."
A quick run-down on the freshmen: Parnell is a graduate of the Groundlings, the fabled L.A. comedy troupe that produced current "SNL" regulars Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, Gasteyer and Oteri. Sanz, believed to be the first Latino "SNL" regular, comes from Chicago's Second City. A virtual "SNL" farm club, its alums include Jon Lovitz, Bill Murray, Chris Farley and John Belushi.
At 23, Brooklyn-born stand-up Fallon is one year younger than "SNL." Want to feel really old? Among his impressions is ex-"SNL"er Adam Sandler, who's 31.
'Simpsons' farewell to Hartman
The voice of the late Phil Hartman will be heard on Fox' "The Simpsons" for the last time at 8 p.m. Sunday on Channel 29.
Hartman will be heard as the voice of TV show host and former B-movie star Troy McClure, one of the recurring characters the comic provided voices for on the hit animated series.
The former star of "Saturday Night Live" and "NewsRadio," who was shot to death by his wife in May, recorded the McClure voice-over shortly before his death.
In addition to McClure, Hartman did the voice of recurring character Lionel Hutz. According to "Simpsons" producers, both characters will be retired after Sunday's telecast, which will be dedicated to Hartman. He will, however, continue to be heard on reruns of the series.