Saturday Night Live’s highly-anticipated return to Studio 8H this week made for its most-watched season premiere in four years.
According to reports from Deadline, the Season 46 premiere of the long-running sketch show, which was hosted by Chris Rock and featured musical guest Megan Thee Stallion, drew in 7.765 million viewers on Saturday night. The episode also featured the return of Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump and Maya Rudolph as Kamala Harris, with none other than Jim Carrey making his debut as Joe Biden.
For comparison, last year’s season premiere brought in 6.107 million viewers, which is a difference of 27 percent. As noted by the people over at Deadline, the show has historically brought in more viewers in the lead-up to elections, which would line-up with the 2016 numbers. The other high viewer mark for the series was also during an election year, back in 2008, when Tina Fey’s take on Sarah Palin became such a huge hit.
Obviously, these figures are impressive, and the high viewership on Saturday night also means the episode is the second most-watched episode of the show, overall, in over three years. Their numbers trail just behind the Eddie Murphy-hosted episode from last December, which featured musical guest Lizzo. Funnily enough, Chris Rock also made a cameo appearance in that very episode.
Baldwin, who has portrayed Trump many times on the show, faced some backlash from viewers after Saturday’s performance. Some fans felt like he was making fun of the president’s illness with COVID-19.
In a lengthy Instagram video on Sunday, Baldwin expressed that the claims were far from the truth:
“If there was ever the suggestion that Trump was truly, gravely ill, and people said, ‘Trump is really in trouble,’ then I would bet you everything I have that we wouldn’t even get near that, in terms of content of the show.” Alec added, “They would have done something else. I’ve seen that happen before.”
Alec explained further:
“We only have the words of the White House itself and the people who work there themselves to go on, and all of them have all been saying he isn’t in any danger. We only have their word to go by,” Baldwin continued. “And if their word was that he was in serious trouble, then we probably wouldn’t have done it.”
The sketch poked fun at the crazy nature of the presidential debate and Trump’s aggressive and interruptive demeanor. Jim Carrey had Biden’s rambling rebuttals down pack too. Only a few passing references were made to Trump’s battle with COVD-19 during the segment.