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Janet, Jessica & Nick are ratings winners

Jackson's appearance gives 'SNL' highest numbers since '02
/ Source: Reuters

Popular singers made for popular television over the weekend, as Janet Jackson’s appearance on “Saturday Night Live” and a variety special starring Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson delivered strong ratings for NBC and ABC, respectively.

Saturday’s appearance by singing star Jackson as host and musical guest on “SNL” was that program’s highest-rated episode in nearly 16 months, NBC said Monday, citing figures from Nielsen Media Research.

In January, Jackson caused an uproar when she bared her breast during a Super Bowl halftime show, and on NBC’s late-night comedy program, she seemed to bare a breast during a comic sketch. The picture, however, was heavily blurred by pixilation and a flesh-covered bra-type strap was visible.

The sketch was a spoof in which Jackson portrayed national security adviser Condoleezza Rice being advised by Vice President Dick Cheney, played by Darrell Hammond, ahead of her testimony before the commission probing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In the sketch, Cheney advises Rice to show her breast to distract the commission’s and the media’s attention.

Following the Super Bowl incident, TV and radio networks scrambled to introduce tape delays for live shows to avoid another such fiasco. NBC, however, had left “Saturday Night Live” intact, and it promoted Jackson’s appearance as being aired without a tape delay.

The show drew a 7.3 overnight household rating in metered markets, NBC said. Each ratings point represents 1 percent of homes with television sets. It was the best performance for "SNL” in the overnight ratings since the Dec. 14, 2002 episode hosted by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

NBC is a unit of General Electric Co. MSNBC is a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft.

Meanwhile, Simpson and husband Nick Lachey dominated Sunday night for struggling ABC with a variety special, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.

Sunday night’s “The Nick & Jessica Variety Hour,” featured the singing husband-and-wife duo of Lachey and Simpson, led its hour with an average of 11.4 million viewers and a 4.7 rating among adults ages 18 to 49, an audience prized by advertisers.

ABC is struggling in the ratings and desperately needs more viewers to soothe dissident shareholders of network parent, The Walt Disney Co., who are looking to oust Chief Executive Michael Eisner.

The pair have become pop icons because of their MTV series "Newlyweds,” on top of their musical careers. Simpson has also been working on a television pilot for ABC.