CNN improved its ratings fortune a whopping 90% in the news demo of adults 25-54 and nearly 60% among viewers of all ages last night when it telecast the perfect-storm special, which brilliantly tapped into viewers’ summertime appetite for all things Paula Deen AND George Zimmerman. An average of 612,000 people watched The N Word — 218,000 of them in the demo. The previous four weeks, CNN had averaged 388,000 viewers in the time slot, and 115,000 in the demo. Sure, CNN still finished fourth among cable news networks — third in the demo — with the controversial special. But, hey, up is up.

Here’s how it went:

CNN, in a ratings hole, has waded deep into the trial of Zimmernan, who’s been charged in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, adding a new 10 PM Anderson Cooper-hosted trial recap show — and yes, we to have heard the gag about the network changing its name to ZNN. Meanwhile, the TV ratings gift that is Paula Deen’s unsuccessful bid to manage fallout from a deposition acknowledgement she’d used the N word is the stuff Reporters Who Cover Television will be talking about for weeks to come. Clever CNN combined these two biggest ratings-getters into one special, The N Word, which, maybe most notably, included a 15-minute segment mulling, N Word Vs Cracker: Which is Worse? That’s a nod to a Martin pal having testified he told her on the phone he was being followed by a “creepy-ass cracker” just before he was shot. Had that segment been moderated by rapper El-P, it would have wrapped much more quickly. He answered the question last night in one quick tweet: “probably the one you won’t spell out, you f— hacks. Just a guess.”

Also among The N Word’s viewers: Netflix’s faux Washington politico Rep. Francis Underwood, who tweeted, “It’s so hard to make fun of a news network that’s already a joke in the first place. But then they step it up a notch with #theNWord/CNN.

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