“Grey’s Anatomy” powered ABC to a solid victory on the opening Thursday of the season, although it was down and the night in general for the broadcasters was nothing spectacular.

Thursday could use some fresh blood and will get it soon, but a sked quirk kept that from happening during premiere week. Due to the vice presidential debate landing on the second Thursday of the season, ABC (“Life on Mars”), CBS (“Eleventh Hour”) and NBC (“Kath & Kim”) all opted to launch their Thursday programs in the third week of the season. CBS also chose to hold off until week three to start the new season of “CSI.”

Meanwhile, preliminary total-viewer estimates for Friday’s first presidential debate won’t be issued by Nielsen until today, but overnights show that roughly one in three U.S. homes was watching the McCain-Obama square-off — an impressive total for a Friday night.

As for Thursday, “Grey’s Anatomy” (7.4 rating/18 share in adults 18-49, 18.47 million viewers overall) opened with the strongest deliveries for a scripted show on any net since February. Still, it came in 16% below last year’s premiere.

It didn’t get a whole lot of lead-in support from “Ugly Betty” (3.3/9, 9.81m), which ran second in the 8 o’clock hour and was down 15% from its year-ago opener.

At CBS, the two-hour season preem of “Survivor: Gabon” averaged a solid 4.5/11 in 18-49 and 13.06 million viewers overall, coming in 10% below last year’s “Survivor: China.” Though the lowest “Survivor” preem to date, the show continues to consistently lead its regular 8 o’clock hour, something it’s done since 2002.

NBC started slowly with an hourlong “My Name Is Earl” (third-place 2.7/8 in 18-49, 6.40m) but spiked at 9 p.m. with the hourlong preem of “The Office” (second-place 4.9/12, 9.34m). Even though its lead-in tumbled 29% from its year-ago pace, “The Office” eased by just 4% from last year’s opener, which had matched the show’s series-best score.

Closing out the night, the 15th season preem of “ER” (3.3/8 in 18-49, 8.03m), facing especially tough competish from medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” slid 20% below the previous year.

Fox was quiet on the night with two hours of “Kitchen Nightmares,” including a distant fourth-place finish in its regular 9 o’clock slot (2.1/5, 4.46m).

CW’s “Smallville” (1.7/5, 4.18m) was near its week-earlier preem level, but “Supernatural” (1.3/3, 3.18m) took a hit opposite the added competish.

Of note on Saturday was another perky perf for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” Continuing the show’s very strong start to the season (Daily Variety, Sept. 26), the week’s telecast hosted by Anna Faris averaged a 6.0 household rating/15 share in the overnights, a 46% increase from the show’s third episode of last season.

And through three telecasts, “SNL” is running 52% ahead of the first three weeks of last season in the metered markets (6.4/16 vs. 4.2/10).

The Peacock also could do some business with its primetime “SNL” specs tied to the election; the first airs Oct. 9.