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

James White/NBC

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.