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Fey-as-Palin Wins the Early Vote On 'SNL'

Fey as Palin: "And I can see Russia from my house!"

Poehler: "I believe global warming is caused by man."

Fey: "And I believe it's just God huggin' us closer."

While Poehler's Clinton tried to speak seriously to the issue of sexism, Fey's Palin mimed posing for photos, including one in which she loaded and fired a rifle -- all the time maintaining a big, occasionally seductive grin on her face.

Michaels said that to have followed the Fey-Poehler sketch with an Obama appearance would have been a sensation. But the sketch, and Fey's dead-on impression of Palin -- to whom she famously bears a definite resemblance -- went over so explosively that everything that came after it seemed anticlimactic, even though it only took up the first five of the show's 90 minutes (including about 30 minutes of commercials).

CNN was reporting Fey's return to the show as national news Friday, as well as the planned appearance by Obama. "The entire country cast Tina in that part," Michaels said; hundreds of e-mails and letters from viewers had all but demanded that Fey play Palin, almost from the hour that Palin was announced as John McCain's running mate.

The tremendous buzz was reflected in the ratings. Early overnight figures showed the "Saturday Night Live" season premiere earned a 7.4 rating and 18 percent share of viewers watching at that hour -- the highest for a season premiere since 2001, and the highest for any "SNL" telecast since Dec. 14, 2002, when Al Gore was host. The numbers were up 64 percent over last year's season premiere, according to Nielsen "metered market" data.

Phelps sometimes looked stiff and lost in thought during his sketches, yet just as often, he brightened to the task and came through. He was perhaps funniest during the "Michael Phelps Diet" sketch, in which he outlined the contents of his 12,000-calorie-a-day intake. Earlier, he did a good job as a home-educated rube in a high school "quiz bowl" sketch.

Unfortunately, the show never again rose to the dizzy heights of those first five minutes. Asked whether the first show of a season had ever also been the best show of a season, Michaels said: "Almost never. Generally it takes us a while to shake down."

In special scheduling for the presidential year, "SNL" will be seen 10 more times prior to Election Day -- three more Saturday nights and seven prime-time specials.

Saturday night's musical guest, Lil Wayne, didn't perform his second number until the last few minutes of the broadcast, perhaps because the song had worried NBC censors. Some of the lyrics, according to the closed captions: "I like that like a lollipop . . . Shawty wanna hump . . . You'd know I'd love to touch your lovely lady lumps."

Among the distinctions of his performance, Lil Wayne wore his jeans below his buttocks while they clung for dear life in front. "I thought he was amazing," Michaels said of Lil Wayne's performance. And of the rapper's pants, the producer said: "I'm not saying you should wear yours that way, but clearly it's our job to set trends."

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