NBC can thank Betty White for being a friend and bringing in big numbers for Saturday Night Live.
White's SNL hosting debut was the No. 1 telecast of the night, topping prime-time programs, and netted an 8.8 rating/21 share to post the late-night sketch-comedy show's best numbers in 18 months, according to early estimates.
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The Nov. 1, 2008, episode, hosted by Ben Affleck with appearances by then Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Tina Fey
as Sarah Palin, drew a 9.0 rating/20 share.White's telecast — which featured musical guest Jay-Z
and alums Fey, Amy Poehler
, Molly Shannon
, Maya Rudolph
, Ana Gasteyer
and Rachel Dratch
— earned a 5.1 rating in the 18-to-49 demographic, just shy of the Nov. 1 episode's mark of 5.2.
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Compared with last year's episode this weekend — with host Justin Timberlake and the debut of the "Motherlover" Digital Short — White's episode saw a 66 percent growth in the markets tracked by Nielsen.Final numbers, including viewer totals, are due Thursday.