PALIN FASCINATION

Once again NBC's Saturday Night Live drew a bigger audience than any program that aired in primetime Saturday as viewers tuned in to see how Tina Fey would skewer Republican candidate Sarah Palin following Thursday night's debate with Joe Biden. They were not disappointed. In one fell swoop Fey took on Palin's position on gay marriage and the non-issue (thus far) of Palin's pregnant daughter. "I believe marriage is meant to be a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers," she said. The sketch, coming two days after the highest-rated vice-presidential debate in history, helped push ratings for SNL 23 percent ahead of last week's. The Fey-as-Palin sketches have also been viewed on the Internet millions of times. NBC said Sunday that by late afternoon, nearly one million persons had already viewed the latest sketch on NBC.com. Millions more are believed to have watched it on YouTube and other websites.

THE REAL PALIN DRAWS, TOO

Thursday night's vice-presidential debate was watched by nearly 70 million people on commercial broadcast and cable television networks, plus an estimated 3.5 million on PBS stations, according to Nielsen Media Research. The number eclipsed the previous ratings record for a vice-presidential debate set in 1984 when 56.7 million people tuned in to watch George H.W. Bush debate Geraldine Ferraro. The most watched presidential debate was the one in 1980 between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan when 80.6 million people watched.

IFILL SAYS PALIN "BLEW ME OFF"

Gwen Ifill, who moderated last Thursday's vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, shrugged off criticism Sunday that she did not keep the two debaters on track. Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, Ifill said that when "Joe Biden decided that he was going to debate John McCain, and [Palin] decided she was going to give a stump speech to the American people, there's very little a moderator can do other than say, 'No, no, no, listen, I asked a question. Please, please answer.'" When host Tom Brokaw noted that Palin had said at the beginning of the debate, "I may not answer the questions the way the moderator and you [Biden] want to hear," Ifill replied, "She 'blew me off,' I think is the technical term." Asked about the Saturday Night Live version of the debate, Ifill remarked, "Being played by Queen Latifah is not a bad thing." Meanwhile, Palin has continued to maintain that she intends to talk directly to the American public "without the filter and let them know what we stand for." In an interview with Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron, Palin said that she wants to apologize for some of the answers she gave Katie Couric last week. "I'm going to try harder," she said, "but I would ask also then that the media tries a little bit harder also ... that there's fairness just objectivity and fairness and truth."

ENTERTAINMENT STOCKS CONTINUE TO FALL

As the stock market continued its nosedive in early trading today (Monday), entertainment stocks were leading the way, with many setting new five-year lows. By mid-morning General Electric, whose financial services unit has been particularly hard hit by the current economic crisis, was down nearly 7.5 percent, falling below $20 per share, down from a 52-week high of more than $42.00. Sony was off 6.35 percent; Disney, 5.75 percent; Viacom, 3.25 percent; and CBS Corp. 2.65 percent. The steep decline came despite a measure signed into law as part of the bailout package on Friday that included tax credits for TV and film production. However, Wall Street analysts expressed concern that advertisers may drastically reduce TV spending given reduced consumer purchasing. They also worried over the proliferation of DVRs, which allow viewers to skip commercials.

CBS'S FOOTBALL TACKLES NBC'S FOOTBALL

A half-hour football overrun into primetime at 7:00 p.m. Sunday that drew 21.99 million viewers helped give CBS an overall lead for the night. Apparently, however, there's only so much football that viewers can take in a single night, since NBC's Sunday Night Football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars averaged 12.78 million viewers, fewer than the 15.52 million who tuned in to the season premiere Sunday of ABC's Desperate Housewives. (Advertising Age reported over the weekend that NBC's Sunday Night Football commands the highest ad rate of any broadcast on television, with a 30-second spot going for $434,792.)