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September 15, 2008

Phelps and Fey give SNL a record high

The combination of Olympic hero Michael Phelps and comic Tina Fey gave "Saturday Night Live" its highest season premiere rating since 2001, according to Nielsen’s meter-market overnights.

The swimmer hosted the show’s 34th season debut, with former castmember Fey dropping by during the opening segment to pull off a much-anticipated impression of her media doppelganger, Republican vp hopeful Sarah Palin. The show also featured musical guest Lil Wayne, whose music Phelps listened to on his iPod while getting psyched up for competition during the Beijing Games.

The telecast averaged a 7.5 rating, 18 share in 55 markets (with New Orleans excluded). That’s up 64% from last year and the highest-rated season debut for the show since Sept. 29, 2001, the first "SNL" original after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Last night's program is also the highest-rated "SNL" episode – premiere or otherwise -- since 2002 (7.5/17), which featured host Al Gore and musical guest Phish.

The must-see video clip coming out of the episode (below) features Fey as Palin and Amy Poehler as Sen. Hillary Clinton, addressing sexism in the media. Right now its unclear if Fey will return to play Palin in the future, given her duties on “30 Rock,” but odds are NBC will find a way to make it happen.

Palin claims she enjoyed the spoof, though USA Today says the show went downhill after the opening segment. Barack Obama, you'll recall, was also supposed to appear in the episode, but canceled.

UPDATE: Palin's camp doesn't have much of a sense of humor after all: McCain advisor says Fey's portrayal was "sexist."


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