This image released by NBS shows Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump, left, and Jim Carrey as Joe Biden during the “First Debate” Cold Open on “Saturday Night Live” in New York on Oct. 3, 2020. (Will Heath/NBC via AP)

This image released by NBS shows Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump, left, and Jim Carrey as Joe Biden during the “First Debate” Cold Open on “Saturday Night Live” in New York on Oct. 3, 2020. (Will Heath/NBC via AP)

‘Saturday Night Live’ has best season opener since 2016

8.24 million viewers

NEW YORK — The big debate — the one between Alec Baldwin and Jim Carrey — was a winner in the ratings.

“Saturday Night Live” scored its biggest season premiere audience in four years and second best in 12 years, emphasizing the importance of presidential election time for the NBC comedy show.

Its “cold open” featured Baldwin, portraying President Donald Trump, satirizing last week’s debate performance. Carrey debuted with his impersonation of Democratic opponent Joe Biden.

During a busy week for news and sports, “Saturday Night Live” was the most-watched entertainment show, despite starting at 11:35 p.m. on the East Coast, the Nielsen company said. It was shown live across the country, which meant it aired during prime time in the West.

With 8.24 million viewers, it was the second most-watched “SNL” episode since May 2017, with the exception being last December’s triumphant return of Eddie Murphy.

It was also a return to its familiar New York studio for the comedy show, which did a few remote episodes last spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The strong ratings overshadowed some rough reviews. “The Late Shift” author Bill Carter called it a “standout — not in a good way” for some uniformly flat skits.

“We needed ‘Saturday Night Live’ to rise to the occasion for this moment, and it didn’t,” agreed Eric Deggans, critic for National Public Radio. “Let’s hope the nation’s firehose of news will slow a bit, and the show will have time to catch its breath and raise its game.”

NBC was the most-watched broadcast network last week, averaging 5.5 million viewers in prime time. Fox had 3.9 million viewers, ABC had 3.8 million, CBS had 2.7 million, Univision had 1.14 million, Ion Television had 1.11 million and Telemundo had 1 million.

Fox News Channel topped the cable networks with an average of 5.18 million viewers in prime time. ESPN had 3.9 million, CNN had 2.85 million, MSNBC had 2.8 million and HGTV had 1.16 million.

ABC’s “World News Tonight” won the evening news ratings race with an average of 8.2 million viewers, NBC’s “Nightly News” had 7.3 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 5.4 million.

For the week of Sept. 28-Oct. 4, the top 20 prime-time programs, their networks and viewerships:

1. Presidential Debate, Fox News, 17.88 million.

2. NFL Football: Philadelphia at San Francisco, NBC, 15.08 million.

3. NFL Football: Kansas City at Baltimore, ESPN, 14.7 million.

4. “Debate Preview,” Fox News, 12.96 million.

5. Presidential Debate, ABC, 12.65 million.

6. “Debate Analysis,” Fox News, 12.58 million.

7. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 10.76 million.

8. “NFL Sunday Night Pre-Game,” NBC, 9.86 million.

9. Presidential Debate, NBC, 9.69 million.

10. “Debate Analysis,” ABC, 8.71 million.

11. Presidential Debate, CNN, 8.33 million.

12. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (Tuesday), Fox News, 8.29 million.

13. “Debate Analysis,” CNN, 8.12 million.

14. NBA Finals: Miami vs. L.A. Lakers (Game 1), ABC, 7.58 million.

15. “Football Night in America,” NBC, 7.53 million.

16. Presidential Debate, MSNBC, 7.21 million.

17. “Hannity” (Tuesday), Fox News, 7.16 million.

18. “Monday Night Kickoff,” ESPN, 7.01 million.

19. “Debate Analysis,” MSNBC, 6.97 million.

20. “Debate Analysis,” NBC, 6.94 million.

By The Associated Press

Entertainment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is now on the path to grant degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Problems with vagrancy in downtown Red Deer were behind a push to build a 24/7 shelter in the city. Nearly a year after a $7 million commitment from the province, there is little movement on this "top priority" project. (Advocate file photo).
Little progress on ‘top priority’ 24/7 homeless shelter project for Red Deer

No details can yet be provided by the city or province

Blackfalds RCMP are investigating two suspicious fires that happened in Lacombe County in November. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta man charged for exposing himself in public

The man was charged under similar circumstances in 2019

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

Adam Hadwin, of Canada, chips to the second green during the first round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum
Adam Hadwin hopes to hit reset button in 2021 starting with American Express

Adam Hadwin hopes to hit reset button in 2021 starting with American Express

Japan's Yuto Totsuka competes during the men's World Cup freestyle halfpipe snowboard event in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 15, 2019.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Calgary runs out of runway to host world freestyle, snowboard championships

Calgary runs out of runway to host world freestyle, snowboard championships

Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio (21) celebrates his goal during extra time MLS playoff soccer action against the D.C. United, in Toronto on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Osorio says a lot has changed with the Canadian national team since he first came to camp in 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Jonathan Osorio upbeat about what lies ahead for Canadian men’s soccer team

Jonathan Osorio upbeat about what lies ahead for Canadian men’s soccer team

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, centre, celebrates his goal with teammates during second period NHL hockey action against the Vancouver Canucks in Calgary, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Just three games into a condensed season, the Calgary Flames are already on a break. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
After a strong start, Calgary Flames get early breather in short NHL season

After a strong start, Calgary Flames get early breather in short NHL season

Edmonton Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl (29) hits Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Zach Hyman (11) during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Oilers’ Draisaitl scores winner as showdown with Maple Leafs fails to live up to hype

Oilers’ Draisaitl scores winner as showdown with Maple Leafs fails to live up to hype

Conservative MP Derek Sloan arrives to a meeting in Ottawa on September 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
MP Derek Sloan ejected from Conservative caucus for “destructive behaviour”: O’Toole

MP Derek Sloan ejected from Conservative caucus for “destructive behaviour”: O’Toole

Former truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu walks into the Kerry Vickar Centre for his sentencing in Melfort, Sask., on Friday, March 22, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kayle Neis
‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2008, file photo, Elliott Broidy poses for a photo at an event in New York. (AP Photo/David Karp, File)
Trump’s pardon largesse a boon for well-connected fraudsters

Trump’s pardon largesse a boon for well-connected fraudsters

Most Read