WRC this weekend will broadcast the missing first half of last Saturday's "Saturday Night Live," hosted by Sen. John McCain, a station rep said.

WRC preempted the first portion of McCain's debut as "SNL" host to continue its coverage of that night's sniper attack. The NBC-owned station extended its 11 p.m. newscast until midnight for reports from Ashland, Va., where a 37-year-old man was shot outside a Ponderosa restaurant off Interstate 95.

This Saturday's "SNL" is scheduled to be a Halloween clip job, which WRC will run in its entirety but not until midnight, so that the station can first run the lost footage from last weekend, starting at 11 p.m.

"It will be edited into a complete half-hour so that it won't be confusing," a WRC rep told The Post's John Maynard.

Washington viewers missed three segments featuring the former presidential candidate, including his opening monologue.

In his first skit appearance, a spoof of "Hardball," the Arizona Republican impersonated Attorney General John Ashcroft being interviewed by Chris Matthews (portrayed by Darrell Hammond).

In the next skit, the senator played a personal-space-invading husband in a parody of a Lifetime television movie.

McCain spokesman Marshall Wittmann said the senator, who found out about the preemption on Sunday, wasn't miffed about it.

"It was clearly breaking news," Wittmann said. "It's perfectly understandable given the current situation that is gripping this region."

Wittmann seemed pleased when Maynard informed him that a half-hour of the boss is being restored for D.C. audiences.

"From what I've heard from reviews around the country, the first half-hour was boffo," he said.

Bye-bye to NBC's prime-time melodrama "Providence."

The network is scrapping the treacly series with a two-hour swan song scheduled for Dec. 20; NBC promises it will be "touching" and "heartwarming."

NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker said in a statement that the network owes a great deal to the cast and crew of "Providence" for "turning the lights on for the network on Friday nights."

He's right. When the show arrived in January 1999, critics loathed it but viewers loved it, and it propelled NBC into first place on Friday nights among viewers 18 to 49. NBC has maintained that position ever since, though these days that's owing to "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." This season "Providence" is getting pummeled routinely in the young demographic that NBC chases by ABC's moldy reality series "America's Funniest Home Videos."

NBC's not saying what will replace "Providence" after Dec. 20. Until then, in hopes of goosing its numbers, the show will feature guest appearances by Lauren Holly and Betty White and the croonings of country singer Rebecca Lynn Howard.

Meanwhile, NBC went ahead and picked up the "back nine" episodes of its new Sunday dramas "American Dreams" and "Boomtown" -- two weeks before Fox debuts its killer Sunday slate.

Zucker said in another statement that NBC is "thrilled with the quality and the performance" of both series.

The network has ranked No. 1 for two of the season's four Sundays so far among 18-to-49-year-olds. (Again, that Fox Sunday lineup -- which includes "The Simpsons" and "Malcolm in the Middle" -- doesn't debut until Nov. 3.)

"American Dreams" has been first at 8 p.m. in the demo NBC covets, while "Boomtown" has mostly finished second at 10, behind ABC's "The Practice."

But both "American Dreams" and "Boomtown" are doing better than NBC was at the same time last year with "Weakest Link" and "UC: Undercover." And unlike with "Weakest Link" and "UC," critics seem to like the new NBC Sunday dramas, so the network can count on free PR to help them along -- at least until the much-beloved Fox Sunday shows rev up.

Among all age groups, "Boomtown" started the season with about 13.5 million viewers and "American Dreams" with about 14 million; last Sunday, both hovered around 11 million.

John McCain's "Saturday Night Live" monologue and other early skits were preempted on Channel 4 by news of a sniper shooting.