Ready For Prime Time: 'SNL' Holiday Special a Strong Second for NBC

Rash Report: CBS Original Episodes Power Network to Fourth Straight Win

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) --The "Not Ready for Prime time Players" are ready. Indeed, NBC's "Saturday Night Live," which bowed 35 years ago with a cast of comic legends that may have not been ready for prime time, but soon hit the big time in the movies, ran a compilation of holiday skits to place a solid second in the prime time ratings race for ad-centric adults 18-49.

'A Very Gilly Christmas'
'A Very Gilly Christmas' Credit: NBC
Based on Nielsen fast affiliate ratings (final live + same day data will be released Friday afternoon), "SNL" delivered a 3.1/9 rating and share for "Saturday Night Live Presents a Very Gilly Christmas," which was 11% higher than the original episode average for the show's regular timeslot, and 72% better than the three episode average for "Weekend Update Thursday" that ran earlier in the fall.

It was the highest rated "SNL" special since last fall's "Presidential Bash 2008," in which Tina Fey's channeling of Sarah Palin became a defining media moment of the election.

And the "SNL" special even had a 7% higher rating than the average of the four sitcoms that usually make viewers laugh during the two hours: "Community," "Parks and Recreation," "The Office" and "30 Rock."

And while in a sense "SNL" was a repeat itself, it was at least tied in a holiday bow with original content, in the guise of Kristen Wiig's "Gilly" character. Reruns on rivals weren't packaged, however, and had the usual second showing fall-off: ABC, which usually wins on Thursdays, ran reruns of "Grey's Anatomy" at 8 p.m. (.9/3) and 9 p.m. (1.2/3), as well as a repeat of "Grey's" spin-off "Private Practice" (1.0/3) to finish fourth overall with a 1.0/3.

Fox and the CW also scheduled second showings, with "Bones" (1.8/6) and "Fringe" (1.2/3) combining to place Fox in third with a 1.5/4, while the CW ran back-to-back (or is it bite-to-bite?) reruns of "The Vampire Diaries" (.8/3 and .8/2).

Rash gridsEnlarge
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

CBS, conversely, was ready for prime time, with new episodes of "Survivor" (3.9/12), "CSI" and "The Mentalist" (both 3.5/10) to finish first with an overall 3.6/10.

As for NBC, its second place average was a 2.6/8. After the two hour "Saturday Night Live Presents a Very Gilly Christmas" the network presented another late night performer who really isn't ready for prime time: Jay Leno, whose talk show (1.7/5), despite hitting a nine-week Thursday high, still was less than half of "The Mentalist."

WHAT TO WATCH:
Friday: Depending on your TV tastes, Glenn Beck and Kate Gosselin guesting on "The Jay Leno Show" is a compelling conversation or a disharmonic convergence of three TV hosts whose overexposure defined much of the medium's year.
Saturday: After a day of last minute holiday shopping, some last minute holiday specials: "A Muppets Christmas" on NBC, "Elf" on CBS and "The Santa Clause 2" on ABC. Or, skip the yuletide tie-in, but still gather the family for "The Wizard of Oz" on TNT.
Sunday: This Minneapolis-based correspondent is unaware of anything else on than NBC's "Sunday Night Football," in which the Minnesota Vikings play the Carolina Panthers.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Another big game on Sunday, the "Survivor" finale, to lift CBS out of the Sunday ratings basement.

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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.

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