That early fall 2019 “Empire” was the second episode of the sixth and final season of Fox’s hip-hop soap opera, which was once a huge hit before sputtering off the air in the wake of the scandal over co-star Jussie Smollett.
The Chappelle “Saturday Night Live” achievement comes with really just one asterisk — in addition to excluding live news and sports, one must factor out specials and shows that had NFL lead-ins, which tend to inflate an audience quite a bit.
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Last week’s “SNL” episode drew the largest viewership among adults 18-49 living in African-American households (1.764 million) since Eddie Murphy’s hosting turn late last year (1.859 million). With the exception of Murphy’s highly anticipated pre-Christmas return, the Nov. 7, 2020 “SNL” episode had the largest audience among that specific demographic in the show’s known history.
Records date back to the 1996-97 season, but “Saturday Night Live” launched in 1975.
The show also benefited from fortuitous timing: Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump was finally called on Saturday morning just hours ahead of “SNL,” which Lorne Michael’s sketch-comedy program successfully leaned into.
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As we’ve previously reported, Chappelle’s latest “SNL” was the show’s highest-rated episode in three and a half years. (We’re now counting homes and families of any race through the rest of the story.)
Chappelle also hosted 2016’s post-election show. While the 2020 turn was lower rated among all adults 18-49, which is the demographic most sought out by advertisers, it drew more overall eyeballs than the one from four years ago.
Saturday’s episode was also TV’s highest-rated entertainment telecast (with a 2.62) since the Oscars in February. The demo rating was television’s best for a regularly scheduled entertainment telecast without an NFL lead-in since the May 19, 2019 “Game of Thrones” series finale. It was TV’s highest-rated comedy telecast since the “Big Bang Theory” series finale three days prior to the end of “Thrones.”
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So yeah, “Saturday Night Live” has some momentum going for it. In Nielsen’s “most current” ratings averages through the season’s opening seven weeks, which count one week of (mostly) DVR viewing where available, “SNL” is currently edging Fox’s “The Masked Singer” as the highest-rated entertainment series of the season.
(It’s super close: “SNL” has a 2.19 and “Masked Singer” has a 2.18.) “SNL” is more definitively the most-watched entertainment series of the season.
Season to season, “SNL” is up 15% in demo ratings and +19% in total viewers, making Season 46 the show’s top-rated to this point in three years and the most-watched in four years. We’d say this upstart little comedy show has got a bright future.
TV Editor • firstname.lastname@example.org • Twitter: @tonymaglio