FAUX PALIN AND REAL PALIN DOMINATE

A hilarious opening sketch featuring 30 Rock star and former Saturday Night Live head writer Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton helped push ratings for Saturday Night Live to their highest level in six years and marked the best season opener in eight years. It's 7.4 rating and 18 share was 64-percent higher than last year's season premiere. Wrote Tom Shales in the Washington Post: "In the parlance of the show (and comedians generally), they 'killed.'" Although Olympic record holder Michael Phelps also appeared on the show as host, most critics agreed that he could barely keep his head above water. Matt Roush wrote in the online edition of TV Guide, "For the first five minutes, Saturday Night Live was brilliant on opening night, living up to our wildest expectations. ... From there, the show went downhill fast and stayed there." Mark Perigard wrote in the Boston Herald, "Olympic champion Michael Phelps should stay in the pool. Hell, he should stay underwater. The guy was stiffer than a surfboard." The sketch was posted on numerous Internet sites, but as of this morning (Monday), NBC had surprisingly not demanded that it be removed from any of them.

OBAMA CANCELS SNL APPEARANCE

Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels has criticized Barack Obama's last-minute decision to cancel his Saturday Night Live appearance over the weekend because of the growing threat of Hurricane Ike. "His people called and said they felt they had to shut it down because of the storm," Michaels told the Washington Post. "I pleaded with them to wait and make the decision on Saturday morning, but they felt they had to do it then. There was a sensitivity to how it would be perceived -- whether he would be criticized for doing it while disaster struck." Asked if he thought the Obama camp made the right decision, Michaels replied, "It was certainly the wrong decision for me," Michaels said. "Do I think there's an oversensitivity in this area? Yes."

PALIN NABS TOP RATINGS ON HER OWN

Charles Gibson's one-hour interview with Sarah Palin on a special edition of 20/20 Friday night gave the ABC magazine its best ratings in six months and the highest ratings of the night for any program. The special also trounced the second hour of Dateline which featured a profile of Clark Rockefeller, the man accused of snatching his daughter away from his ex-wife. Other segments of Gibson's interview with Palin attracted big audiences for World News With Charles Gibson and Nightline.

IKE STARS ON WEEKEND

Television networks, cable outlets, and local stations stalked Hurricane Ike over the weekend using an array of technical devices from the time it threatened to produce havoc in the Gulf coast to its weakening as a tropical storm late Saturday. Satellite provider DirecTV added KHOU in Houston to its list of free channels. The station had dropped its regular programming to devote its full (and commercial-free) attention to Hurricane Ike. One reporter for the Weather Channel, apparently trying to mimic Dan Rather's famous hurricane coverage was seen being thrust onto a residential fence by the hurricane force. Rather himself, who currently provides special reports for HDNet, was nowhere in sight.

KEITH MOON BIOPIC LACKS SCRIPT

Roger Daltrey, frontman for The Who, has disclosed that a hoped-for biopic about the group's late drummer Keith Moon has been held up for more than 15 years because a suitable script has yet to be submitted. Moon, regarded as the group's madcap musician, died of a drug overdose in 1978. In an interview with Billboard magazine, Daltrey said, "When you see the kinds of scripts they've got in mind to make, it's sad." He explained that they have largely resembled the slapstick, low-budget Carry On ... comedies that were popular, primarily in the U.K. from 1958-1976. "If I can keep that from happening, I've done my job," Daltrey said.

Brian B.