Tina Fey, 30 Rock

NBC Photo: Eric Liebowitz

Liz Lemon owes Sarah Palin.

Last night's 30 Rock season opener was the Emmy-winning but typically viewer-strapped comedy's most-watched episode ever, Nielsen estimates said.

The NBC show's 8.5 million-strong audience comes, yes, after the Tina Fey series won a bucket of awards at September's Emmys, but more key, after Fey raised her visibility—and her pistol-shootin' fingers—as Palin on this fall's Saturday Night Live.

At SNL, Fey's sketches about the Republican veep candidate have helped the late-night show get off to its biggest start in 14 years. 

On Thursday it was 30 Rock's turn to cash in. 

In terms of viewers, the show was up 16 percent in over last fall's premiere. In terms of the demographically desirable, it hit a series high in adults 18-49.

Since winning the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series between seasons one and two didn't do diddly for 30 Rock's numbers—it actually fell 10 percent with its second-season premiere—the difference this time out would seem to be the post-Palin Fey. 

No word on whether the post-Fey Palin caught the premiere. (We actually left a message with the campaign this morning. We're sure they'll get right back to us. It being a slow time of the year and all.)

Elsewhere last night, NBC's The Office (9.3 million) and ABC's Grey's Anatomy (15.1 million) rebounded from off weeks.

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