NEW YORK (AP) — NBC's comedy institution "Saturday Night Live" reached its largest audience since 2011 with last weekend's episode hosted by President Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin and featuring the return of Melissa McCarthy portraying White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
The show reached 10.8 million viewers, the Nielsen company said. To put that in perspective, the late-night show had a bigger audience than all but four prime-time programs on TV last week. Among younger viewers, only the Grammys had better ratings.
The viewership estimate is only a portion of their audience; it doesn't count millions of people who recorded the program for later viewing or watched clips of its skits online.
McCarthy opened Saturday's show with her Spicer portrayal and Baldwin, who has been host for a show-record 17 times, rolled out his version of Trump appearing on "People's Court." Kate McKinnon also did an impersonation of Trump aide Kellyanne Conway in a "Fatal Attraction" type relationship with CNN's Jake Tapper; she also impersonated Jeff Sessions and Elizabeth Warren.
It was the most-watched episode of "SNL" since Jan. 8, 2011, a show that featured Jim Carrey and the Black Keys. "SNL" ratings generally jump during election years and fade — but interest in the Trump administration has kept the numbers high.
NBC wouldn't put forth an executive to talk about its good fortune on Tuesday. James Andrew Miller, an author of an oral history of "Saturday Night Live," noted how Trump's tweets about the show have helped give it new life (he did not offer a Twitter critique on last weekend's show). There have been reports that NBC is also mulling a prime-time edition of the show's "Weekend Update" segment.
"Even if he's not tweeting about it, they know that someone in the White House is paying attention to it, and I think that increases the currency of the show," Miller said.
Trump has helped other comics, too. HBO's John Oliver returned Sunday from a three-month hiatus to his best ratings for a season premiere. For the second straight week, CBS' Stephen Colbert, who has concentrated on pointed political comedy in recent months, beat NBC's usually dominant "Tonight" show in viewership, Nielsen said.
The Grammys were the biggest TV event during the past week, reaching 26 million viewers for its biggest audience since 2014.
CBS easily won the week in prime time, averaging 10.3 million viewers. ABC had 5.1 million viewers, NBC had 4.5 million, Fox had 3.1 million, Univision had 1.9 million, the CW had 1.6 million, Telemundo had 1.5 million and ION Television had 1.3 million.
Fox News Channel was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 2.89 million viewers. HGTV had 1.666 million, AMC had 1.665 million, USA had 1.59 million and MSNBC had 1.4 million.
ABC's "World News Tonight" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 9.1 million viewers, NBC's "Nightly News" had 9 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 7.5 million.
For the week of Feb. 6-12, the top 10 prime-time shows, their networks and viewerships: "Grammy Awards," CBS, 26.07 million; "NCIS," CBS, 15.57 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 14.15 million; "The Walking Dead," AMC, 12 million; "Bull," CBS, 10.78 million; "Blue Bloods," CBS, 10.65 million; "Grammy Awards Red Carpet," CBS, 10.07 million; "Hawaii Five-O," CBS, 9.86 million; "This is Us," NBC, 9.57 million; "NCIS: New Orleans," CBS, 9.01 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.