Hockey Mom Scores (Even More) for 'SNL'

Milo Ventimiglia and Hayden Panettiere in
Milo Ventimiglia and Hayden Panettiere in "Heroes," which is hooking far fewer viewers this season than in its first two. (By Chris Haston -- Nbc Via Associated Press)
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By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sarah Palin -- even hotter than we thought.

The GOP veep candidate's audience for her Oct. 18 visit to "Saturday Night Live" jumped by a whopping 2 million viewers yesterday when Nielsen Media Research issued the Live+7 stats for the broadcast.

Adding in the 2 million people who caught her Weekend Update Chair Dance via DVR playback up to seven days after the broadcast, Palin's total crowd now stands at nearly 17 million in the Nielsen record book. For nearly three years, the Live+7 has been the number that goes into the record books.

With 16.84 million viewers, Palin is now within spitting distance of the most-watched "SNL" episode in the history of people-meter technology. The March 12, 1994, broadcast featuring Olympic ice skater Nancy Kerrigan and singer Aretha Franklin clocked 16.97 million viewers.

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When ratings on a once-hot series go cold, somebody is named Designated Virgin and tossed into the volcano to appease the TV gods.

In the case of NBC's "Heroes," the numbers are particularly bad in its third season. Last week's episode No. 6 clocked about 8 million viewers, compared with 11 million and 15 million for Episode 6 last season and in the first season, respectively. Adding to the trouble, "Heroes" is a serialized drama -- a genre in which it's nearly impossible to get viewers back once they've left.

In light of the seriousness of the situation, NBC Universal 2.0, which also produces the show, took the unusual step of naming two Designated Virgins: writer-producers Jeph Loeb and Jesse Alexander, who are now former writer-producers on "Heroes."

"I write this with a heavy heart. As of today I am no longer a writer/producer on HEROES," Alexander wrote on his blog over the weekend.

"I could not be prouder of all the work I did on the show."

Both men have been with the show since its first season and oversaw day-to-day operations under the leadership of creator-executive producer Tim Kring.

NBC is said to have been frustrated with the "creative direction" of the show.

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