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October 10, 2008

'SNL' special scores; 'Hour,' 'Mars' and 'Kath' debut

Life_mars CBS took firm control of Thursday night with the return of its top-rated series "CSI," holding off competition from ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and a strong performance from NBC's "Saturday Night Live" primetime special.

The ninth season premiere of "CSI" (23 million viewers, 7.0 preliminary adults 18-49 rating and a 17 share) easily topped the night, pushing "Grey's" (14.5 million, 5.5/13) down 26% from its last episode two weeks ago to place second in the hour. "CSI" was down too, however, dropping 16% from its premiere last year.

At 10 p.m., the premiere of Jerry Bruckheimer's "Hour" (11.6 million, 3.3/9) lost 53% of its "CSI" lead-in and dropped 30% from the debut of "Without a Trace" in the slot last year. CBS readily dominated 8 p.m., however, with another bug-bites-in-HD outing of "Survivor" (13.3 million, 4.3/12), though the reality hit fell a couple tenths from last week.

ABC was second overall, with "Ugly Betty" (8.5 million, 2.6/7) climbing a notch, followed by "Grey's." At 10 p.m., the premiere of "Life on Mars" (11.5 million, 3.8/10) placed a tight second in the hour, falling 31% from its lead-in and 16% from the premiere of "Big Shots" in the time period last year.

Still: "Mars" is the highest-rated new drama series debut of the fall.

In third place for the night, NBC rolled out the first of four half-hour "Saturday Night Live" (10.6 million, 5.0/12) primetime specials at 9:30 p.m. The special was essentially an SNL episode containing only the parts that are reliably funny – a presidential debate parody and the Weekend Update segment. Though "SNL" placed third in the hour, this is the most intensely competitive hour of the week and "SNL" was 47% higher than NBC's average in the time period last season. Here's a video of last night's SNL debate parody.

NBC also premiered new comedy "Kath and Kim" (7.5 million, 3.2/9). Down only slightly from "30 Rock" in its time period, the network is fairly happy with this number, which grew 19% from a season-high "My Name Is Earl" (7.1 million, 2.7/8). At 9 p.m., NBC aired "The Office" (9 million, 4.6/11) and, at 10 p.m., perpetual time period underdog "ER" (9.3 million, 3.9/10) spiked 18% this week thanks to its strong "SNL" lead in and edged out the premieres of "Mars" and "Hour." All told, this was NBC's best-rated Thursday since March.

In fourth, Fox aired Major League Baseball's NLCS Game 1 (7.7 million, 2.5/6), Dodgers vs. Phillies, which was up 14% from last year's Game 1 which aired on a Friday.

The CW's "Smallville" (4.1 million, 1.6/4) and "Supernatural" (3.1 million, 1.4/3) matched last week in the adult demo.

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