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Saturday Night Live ratings: Season 42 opens to 8-year premiere high

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Will Heath/NBC

Saturday Night Live returned for its 42nd season as a ratings smash, notching the long-running variety show’s biggest premiere numbers in 8 years.

The politically-leaning episode debuted 29 percent higher than 2015’s opener, according to live plus same day figures from 56 Nielsen metered markets. The telecast featured guest host Margot Robbie and musical guest The Weeknd. It also saw former SNL cast member Darrell Hammond return to Studio 8H as Bill Clinton, in addition to Larry David once again hitting 30 Rock as Senator Bernie Sanders. 

SNL‘s ratings surge, including a 5.8 household rating and a 15 share in metered markets (up from 2015’s 4.5/11 season-opening telecast), was the series’ highest-rated launch since its Sept. 13, 2008 premiere, when Tina Fey debuted her infamous Sarah Palin impersonation during an episode hosted by Michael Phelps. Phelps’ episode registered a 7.5 rating in metered markets. 

From 25 markets with local people meters, the episode averaged a 2.7 rating, 14 share in the adults 18-49 demographic, increasing 35 percent from last year’s 2.0, making it the highest-rated SNL premiere in the 18-49 demo since Sept. 28, 2013. 

Alec Baldwin, who signed on to recur as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the run-up to the election on Nov. 8, starred on season 42’s first cold open in a sketch mocking the Sept. 26 presidential debate. McKinnon potrayed Hillary Clinton in the segment, as she’s done across several SNL episodes to date.

Nielsen’s national ratings report, which includes viewer totals, will be released on Tuesday.

Watch Baldwin and McKinnon spar as Trump and Clinton below.

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