'SNL' Hurt By Sarah Palin-Free Election as Ratings Lag Far Behind 2008

Louis C.K. Lincoln SNL - H 2012

Louis C.K. Lincoln SNL - H 2012

Louis C.K. as Abraham Lincoln, however funny, was not the kind of presidential spoof that drove Saturday Night Live to record highs in 2008.

Approaching a season high during Saturday's episode, the final telecast before Tuesday's presidential vote, the NBC series finished the election cycle without any of the big cameos it saw during the last race -- or the big numbers that went along with it. And with Sandy still very much in the news, the broadcast almost sidestepped the election completely.

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Metered market results for Louis' first time at bat on Saturday Night Live have the show averaging a 5.0 rating and 12 share among households. The comparable episode from the 2008 season, the Nov. 1 outing with Ben Affleck hosting, nearly doubled that number with a 9.0 household rating and 20 share -- thanks in large part to a cameo from then candidate John McCain and Tina Fey's final guest outing as Sarah Palin. (She went on to reprise her impersonation during two hosting stints.)

And those numbers were nothing compared to the 14-year high the series hit earlier that fall. When Palin appeared alongside Fey during the Oct. 18, 2008, episode, Saturday Night Live brought in a record 10.7 overnight rating with households.

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This season's comparable episode this season, the Oct. 20 episode feature Bruno Mars, was also a season high -- but only with a 5.4 rating and 14 share.

So did Saturday Night Live drop the ball this election? It's difficult to say. The zeitgeisting interest around Palin and her NBC doppelganger is not something that could easily, if ever, be duplicated. But a few well-timed candidate cameos wouldn't have hurt.