Updated: Leno Lands More Than 17 Million Viewers on Night One

After a summer of massive promotion and hype, NBC’s The Jay Leno Show was widely sampled, with 17.66 million viewers and a 5.1 rating/13 share among adults 18-49 in the Monday 10 p.m. hour, based on the fast affiliate results. 

Leno beat the competition combined—repeats of Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory and CSI: Miami on CBS and the last hour of theatrical Dreamgirls on ABC—by a considerable 7.32 million viewers and 65 percent in the demo. Leno built from the 9:30 p.m. portion of lead-in America’s Got Talent (Viewers: 15.22 million; A18-49: 3.8/9) by 2.44 million viewers and 34 percent among adults 18-49. And The Jay Leno Show delivered NBC’s highest adult 18-49 rating in the Monday 10 p.m. time period since Nov. 3, 2008 (Saturday Night Live Presidential Bash); and the biggest overall audience since the Summer Olympic Games in August 2008.

One year earlier, a Monday edition of Dateline averaged 4.30 million viewers and a 1.3/3 among adults 18-49, based on the final nationals.

Results for The Jay Leno Show are, of course, expected to decline as the week progresses. 

But, personally speaking, what did not work last night was too much packaged into one hour, an odd lack of energy and an uncomfortable flow of segments. While it was timely having Kanye West do a sit-down with Leno (before rapping with Rihanna and Jay-Z), what the nervous looking host failed to do was specifically ask Kanye why he did what he did to Taylor Swift one night earlier at the Video Music Awards. The opportunity was there, but he chose not to take it.   

For Jeff Zucker’s reaction to the show, check out The Hollywood Reporter’s Georg Szalai’s story here.