The 34th season premiere of Saturday Night Live has delivered the show's highest overnight rating for a season debut since 2001, according to metered-market household ratings from Nielsen Media Research.

Last night's telecast was hosted by Olympic swimming sensation Michael Phelps and featured musical guest Lil Wayne, with a special appearance by Tina Fey, portraying Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, as well as a cameo by William Shatner. The telecast averaged a 7.4 rating, 18 share in 55 markets metered by Nielsen, with New Orleans excluded and Houston subject to revision.

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This is the top-rated Saturday Night Live season debut since September 29, 2001 (7.6/18), with a telecast hosted by Reese Witherspoon and featuring musical guest Alicia Keys, the first SNL original after the attacks of September 11. Last night's program is also the highest-rated SNL, premiere or otherwise, since December 14, 2002 (7.5/17), with host Al Gore and musical guest Phish.

Versus the year-ago season premiere (4.5/11 on September 29, 2007), last night's edition of Saturday Night Live was up 64 percent in the metered markets.

The top-rated markets in the country for last night's SNL were: Baltimore, 14.7/29; St. Louis, 12.6/25; Oklahoma City, 11.0/21; Indianapolis, 10.7/23; and Nashville, 10.7/21. "SNL" scored an 8.3/20 in the New York market.

National ratings and demographic results for last night's SNL are due from Nielsen on Thursday, Sept. 18.