Can 'Studio 60' and '30 Rock' Save 'SNL'?

Late-Night Comedy Show's Premiere Gets Slight Ratings Bump

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NEW YORK ( -- Are "Studio 60" and "30 Rock" helping NBC revive "Saturday Night Live," the show those two prime-time programs are based on? Ratings data just released today show a slightly improved picture for the long-running comedy-sketch show.
Amy Poehler and Brian Williams during 'Weekend Update' on 'SNL.'
Amy Poehler and Brian Williams during 'Weekend Update' on 'SNL.' Credit: NBC

The "SNL" series premiere Sept. 30, hosted by comedian Dane Cook, drew 6.7 million viewers compared to 6.6 million who tuned in for last year's premiere on Oct. 1. In the 18- to 49-year-old demo, "SNL" also got a slightly higher rating, a 3.2 compared to last year's 3.1.

Art imitates life
That's good news for NBC. And that also happens to mirror the storyline on "Studio 60" last Monday night, when the fictional NBS entertainment president congratulated the staff on a ratings uptick. "Studio 60" is one of two shows that portrays life on the set of an "SNL"-like show. The other show, "30 Rock," is executive produced by "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels and is set to make its debut Oct. 11.

In real life, NBC has struggled with the late-night comedy show, which averaged around 6 million viewers last season, the lowest in its storied history. According to a report in The New York Times last month, NBC has imposed "massive budget cuts" on the series, leading to the firing of vets such as Chris Parnell and Horatio Sanz. Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch had already quit to work on "30 Rock."

Big web plans
According to an NBC executive, the network has big plans for the "SNL" website and is planning to give viewers the chance to go behind-the-scenes as the show is being produced. Exploiting "SNL" video is a key goal for NBC after it was unable to capitalize when the show's famed "Lazy Sunday" skit rocketed around the web.

NBC's lawyers demanded the video be removed from sites such as for copyright reasons. The "SNL" website now plays host to a huge archive of segments. This week gossip site Gawker circulated a video on of NBC anchorman Brian Williams appearing on "SNL's" "Weekend Update" segment, though links to it have since become inactive. The video can still be seen on "SNL's" website.

"Studio 60" has taken something of a tumble from its first outing. The show, which premiered to 13.4 million viewers, dropped to 8.9 million in its third week. The 18- to 49-year-old demographic rating was 3.4, down from the premiere, which was 5.0. The critically acclaimed series, penned by Aaron Sorkin ("West Wing"), follows the trials of a group of TV executives who battle affiliates, advertisers and focus-group data to put on a cutting-edge comedy show.
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