Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, SNL

Dana Edelson/NBC

Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin. And in other ratings news…

Here's a look at the Nielsen highlights, even the few non-Palin ones, for the TV week ended Sunday:

  • Saturday Night Live lent Palin's Tina Fey glasses to Tina Fey (who, in turn, borrowed Palin's unfirm grasp of the Bush Doctrine), and posted its biggest season premiere, per preliminary numbers, since SNL's post-9/11 opener in 2001.
  • The first part of Palin's Charlie Gibson-administered geopolitical quiz gave ABC's World News its biggest audience (9.7 million) in about seven months. The second part led ABC's Nightline to a late-night win over the first half-hours of Jay Leno and David Letterman. Another installment, as aired on ABC's 20/20, attracted 8.1 million—the newsmag's biggest audience in about six months.
  • On FoxNews, a rerun of the documentary, Gov. Sarah Palin: An American Woman (1.9 million), outdrew Sen. Joe Biden: An American Man, which actually doesn't exist, but presumably will be produced by the network any day now.
  • Letterman didn't have Palin, Biden or another veep contender, but he did have some guy named Barack Obama who's running for the lower-profile office of president, and that was good enough for a rare victory over Leno in the overnight ratings.
  • Among 18- to 34-year-old women whom we're told worship all things girly and gossipy, TV's No. 1 broadcast show was, of course, NBC's Sunday Night Football, which averaged 17.8 million viewers overall.
  • The CW's Gossip Girl (3.3 million), which placed 98th in the general broadcast standings, ranked fourth with young women. It might have been even higher, except you know how girls get about their Pac 10-Big 10 matchups—there was no tearing them away from ABC's Saturday Night Football (11.9 million), which was, of course, the week's No. 2 show among women 18-34.
  • Bravo's Project Runway continues to draw heat for this season's designs and designers, but it also continues to enjoy the series' best-ever numbers, including 3.9 million for the double-elimination, triple-lame astrology challenge.
  • Jerrell's Project Runway win aside, cable's top designer was Coco Chanel, whose Lifetime biopic of the same name averaged 5.2 million.
  • Among shows named either Rachel or Zoe(y), the rankings looked like this: Nick's Zoey 101 (2.6 million, best performance); MSNBC's new Rachel Maddow Show (1.6 million, best performance); and, Bravo's The Rachel Zoe Project (527,000, Hey Paula-esque performance).
  • History Channel's gripping camcorder-view of 9/11, 102 Minutes That Changed America, gripped 5.2 million.
  •  ABC Family Channel's The Secret Life of the American Teenager outdrew every scripted show on the CW with a series-high 4.5 million viewers for the first-half season "finale."
  • Disney Channel's Hannah Montana (4.6 million) put up its best numbers in nearly a year.
  • Fox's Bones (9.15 million) was TV's most-watched, all-new comedy or drama, which is almost, but not quite as big as being a repeat of CBS' Two and a Half Men (9.2 million).
  • Fox's Fringe (9.1 million) finished higher in the broadcast rankings—11th—than any other new fall show…on Fox. (ABC, CBS and NBC will roll out their new shows after Sunday's Emmys.)
  • Among 18-to-49-year-olds, Fringe finished fifth, higher than anything save football.
  • This is what a full head of steam looks like for AMC's Emmy-bound Mad Men: 1.9 million viewers.

Overall, it was more football's week than Palin's. Sunday Night Football was broadcast TV's top show. ESPN's Monday Night Football was cable's top show, averaging 11.1 million for a season-premiere doubleheader. (Last night, MNF really blew the lights out, scoring 18.6 million—the biggest cable audience ever, ESPN said—for the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. The game's history-making numbers will be reflected in next week's rankings.)

Among the networks, NBC was tops in broadcast viewers  (8.4 million), ESPN (3.4 million) ruled cable's prime-time hours, and the CW (2.7 million—up nearly 30 percent from last year) scored a moral victory. 

Here's a look at the 10 most watched broadcast network prime-time shows for the week ended Sunday, according to Nielsen Media Research:

  1. Sunday Night Football (Pittsburgh at Cleveland), NBC, 17.8 million
  2. Sunday Night Football Pre-Kick, NBC, 13.6 million
  3. 60 Minutes, CBS, 12.5 million
  4. Saturday Night Football (Ohio State at USC), ABC, 11.9 million
  5. America's Got Talent (Wednesday), NBC, 11.7 million
  6. America's Got Talent (Tuesday), NBC, 11.6 million
  7. Football Night in America (Part 3), NBC, 10.8 million
  8. America's Got Talent (Thursday), NBC, 9.8 million
  9. Deal or No Deal (Monday), NBC, 9.7 million
  10. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 9.2 million
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