On "Saturday Night Live," the opening moments are usually reserved for the monologue - the sometimes humorous effort by the weekly host to introduce themselves to the audience with jokes and skits.
While Martin short, a veteran "SNL" cast member and host would go on to lead the show in the usual format, the opening of the December 15 episode instead featured the New York Children's Choir singing "Silent Night."
Rolling Stone's Peter Nicklaus writes about the history of TV shows after tragedies and the role they play in healing the American psyche:
Last night's episode of SNL opened without introduction on the smiling faces of The New York Children's Chorus singing a stunning, beautiful rendition of "Silent Night." Regardless of whether the performance was written as a last-minute salute to the youngsters lost on Friday, or a pre-planned bit meant to bring cheer to the show's Christmas episode, the tone was pitch perfect.
From moving tributes to schedule changes, TV networks of struggle with the appropriate action and tone to take following national tragedies. Lori Rackl writes that last-second scheduling changes were common across networks as programmers worked to move controversial content or hold it indefinitely.