Running through the final heartbeats of the Obama years, a nasty presidential election and the dawn of the Trump administration, Season 42 of NBC’s Saturday Night Live earned the show its highest ratings in 24 years on the shoulders of our nation’s mounting political dysfunction.
“SNL is having its best season in a quarter century,” NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt told Deadline in March. “How many shows can say that?! So we didn’t want them to take the summer off.”
And in the country’s first exposure to fresh SNL since last season wrapped on May 20, Thursday night’s special half-hour miniseries premiere, “Weekend Update: Summer Edition,” carried the show’s momentum forward with a strong performance in Nielsen’s Thursday overnight ratings. The 9 p.m. Eastern broadcast grossed 6.5 million viewers and registered a 1.7 rating in adults 18-49–good for a second-place finish (behind CBS’ Big Brother) among original primetime programs airing that night on the “Big Four” networks.
From a modern history perspective, the first installment of “Weekend Update: Summer Edition” became the decade’s most watched debut of a summer comedy program in the vaunted 18-49 demo; it also eclipsed the demo’s previous high-water mark for a comedy premiere by outperforming the 1.5 rating amassed by ABC’s The Goode Family in 2009.
Though the numbers bode well for SNL going into its 43rd season this fall, the ratings figures from Thursday night may be adjusted over the weekend to account for “Update’s” preemption by NFL preseason football in some markets. (14 teams and their corresponding markets were affected by the broadcasts of seven games that night).
Having gone silent during a nearly three-month summer hiatus that spanned the ouster of several high-ranking Trump administration staffers–including chief of staff Reince Preibus, press secretary Sean Spicer and communications director Anthony Scaramucci–“Weekend Update” co-anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che were eager to address the changes in their first of four Thursday episodes.
“It’s been a crazy year these past few weeks,” Jost joked at the outset, before the show unfurled into notable segments featuring send-ups of first sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., insufferable basketball father LaVar Ball and SNL alum Bill Hader introducing his impersonation of Scaramucci via FaceTime.