Saturday Night Live has closed the books on its most-watched season in nearly a quarter-century. The May 20 finale for season No. 42 averaged a robust 8.3 million viewers.
Hosted by Dwayne Johnson in his fifth appearance on the NBC late-night sketch series, the episode also averaged a 2.3 rating among adults 18-49. The installment did not reach the same-day ratings highs as the penultimate episode, hosted by Sean Spicer spoofer Melissa McCarthy, but it still marked the show’s best finale in six years.
SNL managed to reclaim its status as one of the most relevant properties on broadcast TV with its comedic take on the 2016 presidential election — including the high-profile guest casting of Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump. Trump’s surprise win in November only deepened the program’s commitment to covering politics, and its ratings rose with it. A February episode hit season highs.
Though full ratings tallies for the season will come in several weeks, once all time-shifting is taken into account, SNL approached the finale averaging nearly 11 million viewers and a 3.5 rating among adults 18-49. It is the most-watched season in 23 years and the highest-rated in seven years.
Interest in the series was so high, NBC made an unprecedented move in airing the show live on both coasts for the final four episodes of the season. SNL, historically, has aired on a three-hour delay for much of its U.S. audience.