NEW YORK -- Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton busted some James Brown moves on his "Saturday Night Live" debut, but many viewers, including those in Boston, didn't see them.
Several NBC affiliates refused to carry "Saturday Night Live" with Sharpton as the host for fear it would activate federal "equal-time provisions" and compel them to offer air time to the eight other Democrats running for president.
Sharpton, a former tour manager for the soul star, sang a few verses of Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and even imitated some of his fancy footwork.
"For me, it's a wonderful opportunity," Sharpton said in his opening monologue. "Maybe tonight people can finally get to know the real Al Sharpton. President Al Sharpton."
Comic Tracy Morgan appeared next to him dressed as the "old" Sharpton, with wilder hair, a purple track suit, and gold jewelry.
"I never looked that bad," Sharpton protested.
"Think again," Morgan replied.
NBC said 23 of its 230 affiliated stations had said they were considering not running "SNL" because of equal-time rules. The network did not have a final count yesterday of how many stations did not air it.
All four NBC affiliates in Iowa, where the Jan. 19 caucus represents the first major test of the Democrats' nomination battle, said last week they wouldn't air the show. NBC's Boston station -- seen in much of New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary -- also didn't show it.
"Saturday Night Live" frequently has political content and occasional guest appearances by politicians, but this is believed to be the first time that stations passed for this reason.
An "SNL" host requires a week of rehearsal time, so it's unlikely any of the other Democrats would take the same opportunity as Sharpton, even if offered.
"SNL" alluded to the missing stations in two skits. In the show's opening, Jimmy Fallon portrayed Jeff Zucker, NBC Entertainment president, announcing other opportunities for Democrats to allay equal-time concerns. For example, retired Army General Wesley K. Clark will be made over on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," Fallon said.
Sharpton also portrayed lawyer Johnnie Cochran and Michael Jackson's father.