Weekend ratings: Phelps and Fey score golden 'SNL' ratings; 'Fringe' builds its base | EW.com

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Weekend ratings: Phelps and Fey score golden 'SNL' ratings; 'Fringe' builds its base

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To put a twist on an old Elton John lyric, Saturday night was all right for ratings – at least this week – as the season premiere of Saturday Night Live scored the sketch comedy show’s highest overnight ratings in seven years. SNL’s 7.4 rating (meaning it was watched by 7.4 percent of households in measured Nielsen markets) was 64 percent higher than its year-ago season premiere; of course Saturday’s episode had a perfect ratings storm of sorts, with Olympic superman Michael Phelps on hosting duties and 30 Rock star (and former SNL head writer) Tina Fey appearing as Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Throw in a lil Lil’ Wayne as musical guest, and you’ve got the formula for a ratings – if not comedy – bonanza. (Check out hilarious video of Fey as Palin, and Mandi Bierly’s take on the rest of the telecast, by clicking here.)

SNL’s success wasn’t the only interesting rating news on a weekend dominated mostly by repeats. Indeed, a Sunday-night encore airing of Fox’s Fringe pilot drew a healthy overnight ratings average of 5.7 million viewers, and showed growth over its first three half-hour chunks, before dipping slightly for the final 30 minutes. Combined with the 9 million folks who tuned in for the show’s Sept. 9 premiere, the new J.J. Abrams thriller bears watching when it makes its timeslot premiere tomorrow night, with what’s likely to be a very strong lead-in from Dr. Gregory House. (Speaking of which, click here to check out EW’s spankin-new cover story on House, and then click here for our guide to the best and worst of Fox’s medical drama.)

In other weekend rating news, ABC’s telecast of the ALMA Awards
didn’t make much of a blip, averaging a paltry 3.6 million viewers in
the overnights. (Boost host Eva Longoria-Parker’s spirits by voting for
her in the first annual EWwy Awards, or kick her while she’s down and vote for Jenna Fischer.) Either way, Friday evening’s two biggest winners were Fox’s Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader (averaging 6.9 million, down about 9 percent from last week’s season premiere) and ABC’s 20/20,
whose 7.9 million viewership average represented a whopping 119 percent growth
out of its ALMA lead-in, and an edge of 2.5 million viewers over its
news-mag time-slot rival Dateline (which averaged 5.4 million). Meanwhile, the timeslot premiere of Don’t Forget the Lyrics averaged 5.7 million, a 17 percent decline from its 5th Grader lead-in.

On Saturday, ABC pummeled its repeat-tastic competitors with a strong showing by Saturday Night Football (10.5 million average).

And on Sunday, NBC’s airing of the Steelers-Browns game led the night
with an overnight average of 15.7 million. CBS also benefited from the
lack of first-run programming on ABC, FOX, and The CW, as 60 Minutes snagged 13.8 million eyes, and Big Brother drew 8 million viewers.

In other weekend rating news, ABC’s telecast of the ALMA Awardsdidn’t make much of a blip, averaging a paltry 3.6 million viewers inthe overnights. (Boost host Eva Longoria-Parker’s spirits by voting forher in the first annual EWwy Awards, or kick her while she’s down and vote for Jenna Fischer.) Either way, Friday evening’s two biggest winners were Fox’s Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader (averaging 6.9 million, down about 9 percent from last week’s season premiere) and ABC’s 20/20,whose 7.9 million viewership average represented a whopping 119 percent growthout of its ALMA lead-in, and an edge of 2.5 million viewers over itsnews-mag time-slot rival Dateline (which averaged 5.4 million). Meanwhile, the timeslot premiere of Don’t Forget the Lyrics averaged 5.7 million, a 17 percent decline from its 5th Grader lead-in.

On Saturday, ABC pummeled its repeat-tastic competitors with a strong showing by Saturday Night Football (10.5 million average).

And on Sunday, NBC’s airing of the Steelers-Browns game led the nightwith an overnight average of 15.7 million. CBS also benefited from thelack of first-run programming on ABC, FOX, and The CW, as 60 Minutes snagged 13.8 million eyes, and Big Brother drew 8 million viewers.