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"SNL" 40th anniversary bash watched by 23 million viewers

The "Saturday Night Live" 40th anniversary special brought out the stars, the tributes, the laughs -- and drummed up a huge audience.

The Nielsen ratings company says the NBC's show's milestone bash was seen by 23.1 million viewers on Sunday night.

That makes it the network's most-watched prime-time entertainment special since May 2004, when the network aired a "Friends" clips show the night of its series finale.

It's NBC's most-watched prime-time entertainment broadcast overall, excluding post-Super Bowl programs, since May 2004, for an episode of "ER" the night of the "Frasier" series finale.

The three-and-a-half-hour special looked back on the comedy series' four-decade run and featured more than 80 guest stars. Highlights included a musical cold open from Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon, vintage audition tapes, an audience Q&A by Jerry Seinfeld and new versions of "Celebrity Jeopardy" and "Wayne's World" sketches.

Nielsen says the preceding one-hour red carpet special was seen by 11.1 million viewers.