This may be the fastest-moving TV season ever, with the first cancellation — Fox's awful sitcom Do Not Disturb — announced days after the season officially started. So even though all the new series haven't debuted yet, a few winners and losers have already emerged. Here's what's working and not so far:
Saturday Night Live and Tina Fey: Ratings are up 50 percent this year, mostly on the strength of Fey's dead-on Sarah Palin impression and an election so absurd, some sketch scripts read like debate transcripts. Even the new Thursday night SNL editions are off-the-chain funny in a way the Mothership rarely manages anymore.
Katie Couric: Dismantling Palin with smart questions and a disarming smile, Couric finally owned a news story in a way that silences critics and builds credibility. Maybe now, gossips will stop insisting she's leaving the network after the inauguration.
Cable news channels: Election fever is a serious ratings bonanza for all the cable channels, earning record viewership for debates, convention coverage and daily reporting. But with traditional outlets such as C-SPAN and PBS bringing up the rear, viewers seem more engaged by the food fights on cable TV.
The Mentalist and CBS: Simon Baker's drama about a super-perceptive ex-con man turned detective is the year's highest-rated new drama, joined by powerful returns for CSI, Criminal Minds and even the Ghost Whisperer on Fridays. CBS's older audience may be the only folks left watching network television.
Heroes: Producers had one chance to restart a show once seen as NBC's next great hope. But a continually confusing story line — do we really need to jump back and forth in time again? — feels like a thinly veiled rehash, bringing week-to-week viewership declines and fanboy disappointment.
Everybody but CBS: NBC's Knight Rider, ABC's Pushing Daisies, Fox's Terminator series — all highly anticipated shows in serious ratings trouble, regardless of quality. Recent figures on DVR viewership are helping some — Heroes got a 20 percent boost — but since advertisers fear TiVo users mostly skip commercials, that may not help much.
Tina Fey's 30 Rock: I've seen the show's first two new episodes, and they are hilarious. But as star/creator Fey sets the TV world on fire playing Palin for a show she doesn't work on anymore, NBC won't drop her series for another week-and-a-half, on Oct. 30. Talk about striking while the iron cools.