Based on last night’s ratings, viewers can’t get enough of the soon-to-be "Tonight Show Without Conan O’Brien."
O’Brien’s big city tune-in increased again Wednesday, with "Tonight" notching a 1.8 rating among adults 18-49, according to metered market overnight numbers from the 25 big cities where Nielsen measures such data. That’s up from Tuesday’s 1.7 rating — and nearly double the 1.0 earned by CBS’s "Late Show with David Letterman" (Dave was also up, from a 0.9).
The "Tonight" number is particularly impressive since NBC’s primetime performance is best these days on Tuesdays. And yet O’Brien did better even though the network supplied less of a lead-in on Wednesday. (Note: These are demo numbers that will change dramatically when finals are released next week, though it’s likely the gains will hold, along with the advantage over Letterman).
The ratings might also suggest a bit of momentum building around Team Conan, as online support (and media coverage thereof) picks up steam.
Indeed, if the life expectancy for "The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien" weren’t so bleak, one could almost see this week as O’Brien’s Hugh Grant moment.
Conventional wisdom in late night holds that Jay Leno didn’t really turns things around on his version of "Tonight" until Hugh Grant’s post-prostitute visit in 1995, during which Leno famously asked, "What the hell were you thinking?" Viewers had come to for the Grant freakshow, but liked how Leno performed– and the tide turned in Leno’s favor.
But that was back in the day when NBC gave shows time to find their audiences, when its leadership wasn’t afflicted with ADD.
Of course, maybe ADD might work in Conan’s favor now. Perhaps seeing the outpouring of love for him, plus the ratings and energy boost, could NBC now change its mind again– dumping Leno, keeping Conan and putting this all behind it.
Highly unlikely. But wouldn’t that make a great final chapter to Bill Carter’s upcoming semi-sequel to "The Late Shift"?