Saturday Night Live

Eddie Murphy's ‘Saturday Night Live' Return Is a Ratings Win

The episode reached nearly 10 million viewers, its biggest audience since Melissa McCarthy hosed in 2017

Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Eddie Murphy delivered an early holiday gift to "Saturday Night Live."

With Murphy aboard as host after a decades-long absence, the NBC show earned its biggest audience since 2017. Just shy of 10 million viewers tuned in to see Murphy back on the late-night comedy show that helped launch his career. His last appearance was in 1984.

In May 2017, an episode hosted by Melissa McCarthy attracted 10.4 million viewers. 

Murphy reprised some of his landmark "SNL" characters on last Saturday's show, including Mr. Robinson, Gumby and Buckwheat. The actor-comedian was joined during his opening monologue by Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan.

Pop sensation Lizzo was the night's musical guest.

NBC also earned bragging rights for its prime-time performance last week with an average of 6.2 million viewers, powered by its Sunday night NFL telecast. The network is No. 1 for the season to date, the first time since 1999 that it has led in total viewers at this point in the TV year.

CBS was second with an average of 4.95 million, Nielsen said. Fox had 4.3 million, ABC had 2.9 million, ION Television had 1.3 million, Univision had 1.24 million, Telemundo had 790,000 and the CW had 700,000. 

Fox News Channel was the week's most-watched cable network, averaging 3.1 million viewers in prime time. ESPN had 2.2 million, MSNBC had 1.8 million, Hallmark had 1.7 million, and CNN had 1.5 million.

ABC's "World News Tonight" led the evening newscasts with an average of 8.8 million viewers. NBC's "Nightly News" was next with 7.9 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 5.8 million viewers. 

For the week of Dec. 16-22, the top 20 shows, their networks and viewerships: 

1. "NFL Sunday Post-Game Show," Fox, 20 million.

2. "Sunday Night Football: Kansas City at Chicago," NBC, 17 million.

3. "Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick," NBC. 13.3 million.

4. "The OT," Fox, 13.1 million.

5. "NFL: Indianapolis at New Orleans," ESPN, 11.4 million.

6. "NCIS," CBS, 11.1 million.

7. "Football Night in America," NBC, 9.8 million.

8. "The Voice," NBC, 8.8 million.

9. "The Voice (Tuesday)", NBC, 8.7 million.

10. "Thursday Night Football: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco," NFL Network, 8.5 million.

11. "FBI," CBS, 8.47 million.

12. "The Masked Singer," Fox, 8.4 million.

13. "NCIS: New Orleans," CBS, 7.1 million.

14. "Thursday Night Football Pre-Kick," NFL Network, 7 million.

15. "The Voice," NBC, 6.7 million.

16. "Survivor," CBS, 6.5 million.

17. "The Neighborhood," CBS, 6.44 million.

18. "Bull," CBS, 6.4 million.

19. "The Masked Singer," Fox, 6.2 million.

20. "Bob Hearts Abishola," CBS, 6.1 million.

ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by Fox Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.

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