‘Tonight Show’ Has Most-Watched Week in 20 Years (Updated)

'Tonight Show' Has Most-Watched Week in 20 Years (Updated)

James White/NBC

Fallon and Justin Timberlake pull in 8.8 million viewers on Friday to cap off the strong week

Jimmy Fallon‘s “Tonight Show” closed out its most-watched week in 20 years with an average audience of 8.8 million on Friday, up 14 percent from the prior night.

The Feb. 21 telecast averaged a 2.9 rating — a 12 percent uptick from Thursday — in the advertiser-sought adults 18-49 demographic, marking the third consecutive night of increases per that measurement.

For the full week, “Tonight” averaged 8.5 million viewers overall, making it the franchise's most-watched week since that of the “Cheers” finale, May 17-21, 1993, when the show averaged 9.1 million viewers.

Also read: How Fallon's ‘Tonight Show’ Debut Week Ratings Stack Up to Kimmel, O'Brien and Leno

In the key demo, Fallon's premiere week averaged a 2.8 rating, tying the show's best figure in nine years (since Jan. 24-28, 2005, the week of a special tribute to Johnny Carson, 2.8). To find a week that beat it, you'd have to go back nearly 10 years to the week of the “Friends” finale (since May 3-7, 2004, 3.0).

From Monday through Thursday, Fallon started at midnight, following NBC's Sochi Games coverage. The top-notch lead-in had proved to be a ratings boon, as even before Friday's up numbers were considered, Fallon's first week topped Conan's opening “Tonight Show” week, Leno's return and Kimmel's timeslot debut in January 2013. For more comparative detail, follow the above hyperlink.

With the Winter Olympics closing on Sunday, next week will prove to be the real retention test for “Fallon.”

See video: Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake Spit Rhymes on ‘History Of Rap 5'

This week's Monday through Friday track in the key demo is: 3.8, 2.3, 2.4, 2.6 and 2.9. In total viewers it's: 11.3 million, 7.4 million, 7.3 million, 7.7 million and 8.8 million.

Fallon's close friend and frequent collaborator Justin Timberlake was in the house on Friday, where the duo revisited their “History of Rap” franchise with a fifth installment, posted in the link above.

Last night's show marked the regular “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” timeslot premiere, opening at 11:35 p.m.

  • twinkie1cat

    Not as good as Leno. Still silly. I like the Barber Shop Quartet skit which should be done often. Liked the interview with Michelle Obama also. Otherwise, he is no Leno but better than Letterman or Kimmel. More politicians, fewer celebrites. Bring animals, Cat Theater and Headlines.

    • InvaderZim

      Fallon has more talent in his little finger than Leno and is way funnier, plus he can do impressions, dance, play and sing music, and do sketches. No contest.

      • Aaron Wexler

        Leno is worse than a talentless hack. He was a guy who chose to deny his talent because being a hack was more lucrative. That's why everyone in the comedy community hates him. Well, that and his betrayals of Carson, Letterman, and Conan.

        • cecil23

          “everyone in the comedy community hates him”? Have you not watched Leno with Seinfeld in his web series…they seem like pretty good friends with a ton of respect for each other.

        • twinkie1cat

          Carson retired with illness. I don't see how everyone could “hate” him if they all came back to wish him good-bye in a loving way. He was just much better than Letterman and Conan. The last two years of Carson he seemed like he hosted more than Johnny did.

      • The Truth Hurts

        What are you smoking to be so delusional? Fallon is the least talented, unfunniest person to ever appear on tv.

    • yragcom1

      Nothing funnier than animal guy Jeff Musial when he's on. I'm sure that's coming soon.

  • Stuart W

    Will test the established caution “What goes-up must come-down” See no particular reason for re-writing the rule here. Who knows?

  • LenoWasPoop

    To be fair I've been following it as well only on Hulu so the ratings probly don't get it 100% right. Also I hated Leno…. Conan was alright and Letterman was boring as fack. Jimmy is the reason I even gave it a chance and so far has kept me entertained enough to want to keep up with each episode.

    • moahdeeb

      Poop my ass you couldn't judge a turd in a punch bowl JAY LENO IS STILL THE BEST.

      • Marcko

        Articulate intelligent critique indeed!

  • LenoWasPoop

    Also, I read twinkie1cats prior posts just to see what kind of person they were and it turns out to be stupid, they're a stupid person. The stuff this person says is just embarrassing.

    • twinkie1cat

      I hope “stupid” to you does not mean uneducated because I am very well educated. I watched Leno often through his career, usually the monologue and Headlines, 99 Cent store, the original Jaywalking, and that hilarious White Trash Repairs and Johnny Carson before him although not all the time. I watched the interviews when it was a guest I wanted to see.

      Fallon is talented, to be sure, but his kind of talent belongs on Saturday Night Live, not the Tonight Show. Plus he is afraid of the animals (although not as badly as Letterman and Kimmel) and befuddled by the politicians. Conan just sucked. I watched him dutifully for the first week and got really bored. Plus he was not pleasing to my eye. He reminded me of Alfred E. Neumann of Mad Magazine. Now that is my opinion. I would never discriminate against him just because he is homely.

      Fallon is cute. I give him that much.

      Kimmel is loud and annoying and a poor interviewer who takes over the interview. I don't like anything about his show except sometimes the band at the end. Letterman's female guests are always dressed scantily and he leers at them. I think he has leered at everyone I have seen except possibly Rachel Maddow. He also tends to take over.

      I don't know why all the shows have to be geared to the “younger” demographic or why they all have to come out of New York. It feels discriminatory to have a bunch of northerners up there and they seem to have sometning against adults. It can't be about the money. The younger people are spending their raising children while the older one's kids are grown unless they have had their grands deposited on them.

      Leno is also a happily married man and was interviewed with his wife on 60 minutes. It was an impressive interview. He refused to display anger and bitterness, although his wife showed some. Plus he paid is writers during the strike a few years ago, which I thought was noble, likes cats, which shows good taste, and had a “union shop” , which he announced on his last show. That shows he has character. Sometimes his interview skills approached those of Barbara Walters’ Altogether he seems to be a good role model.

      We will have to see with Fallon. I am glad that he announced that he is happily married on his first show and has a baby whom he clearly adores. That shows character and good role modeling.

  • Paul van der Heu

    For those who watched ‘late night’ before Jimmy moved to the Tonight Show this is a continuation of the formula which worked for him there. The show looks more polished and stylised but otherwise it's the same thing I watched Late Night for. And that is a good thing..

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  • disqus_5XoSHFR5sU

    Tonight Show ratings have not been this high since 1984? Jimmy, please remember you haven't discovered the cure for cancer or the secret to happiness!!! Keep your head down, do your job and you will be okay! Don't go all Johnny Carson on us, ok?

    • bill

      1984 was 30 years ago… I know.. I feel old now.

      • Dennis Michael

        I know that game.

  • Blerghy

    We'll see what happens after the Olympics in the ensuing months. If ratings keep up, someone needs to investigate. Comcast has become the evil empire. They can violate anti-trust laws and buy the US government in one fell swoop, surely they can manipulate ratings. No way there are this many dimwits who think this show is good.

    • yragcom1

      Jealous much?

  • moahdeeb


    • roundthings

      Johnny was, but Leno is better than the rest of them
      Fallon's monologue bored me so much I changed the channel. he is good at many things but it isn't the Tonight Show with him there

  • Deb Kelly

    They treated Leno poorly in the past and he came back and recused them. Others reported his pay cut o hs staff could stay employed. Seems like a decent guy to me.

  • John

    He's crushing Letterman, Kimmel Stewart and Colbert.

  • me

    He should've built up is own show, and retired the Tonight Show.

  • kpasquale55

    Leno A talentless hack? Hardly. Maybe his biggest talent, though, was providing a little structure, so at least you could see the purpose to the next five minutes. Photo Booth, Headlines, Jay Walking, hilarious doctoring of news clips … At midnight, just keep it organized for me for about five minutes, then move on to the next thing. Compare: was the Will Ferrell/ Michele Obama thing finally funny? Maybe Fallon insiders got the joke. I bailed and came back a little later. Compare: Leno's monologue, predictable, was at least consistent. Jimmy looks like he doesn't know what's next. Also, I know it's easy to fake humble for tv, but Leno, when he was with friends, had a very unpretentious quality about himself. That comment is not meant to make a comparison to Fallon, simply to point out to Leno-haters that he does not seem to be a loathsome rat.