February 13, 2014 11:11am PT by Michael O'Connell
TV Ratings: Jay Leno's Last Week Drives 22-Year Highs on NBC
With the book now closed on Jay Leno's Tonight Show era, the host went out with significantly higher ratings this time around than with his 2010 pseudo-signoff. Leno's last week attracted his biggest audience since 1993 -- when NBC reaped the ratings rewards of Cheers' final episode.
All told, Tonight averaged 8.3 million viewers for the week. And while that surpasses every other week since the 9.1 million-viewer week that the Cheers finale produced, it was only the biggest week for adults 18-49 since Conan O'Brien's abrupt 2010 exit. That week averaged a 2.3 rating in the targeted demographic, while Leno's last week averaged a 1.9 rating.
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With Olympic lifts on two nights and the boosted interest in Leno, the biggest winner might be Jimmy Fallon. Though his Late Night numbers were predictably dwarfed by the earlier Tonight, Fallon posted the show's biggest weekly audience since David Letterman was the host back in 1992. And even then, Letterman's numbers were lifted by Johnny Carson's Tonight swan song.
Late Night averaged 4.2 million viewers and a 1.3 rating among adults 18-49. The series hadn't done that well in the demo since an O'Brien-hosted week back in 2005.
Going into next week's big Tonight launch for Fallon, the host's former show now tops the Late Show With David Letterman in ratings and ties Jimmy Kimmel Live! season to date -- even though both of those shows air a full hour earlier.
Tonight remains the dominant series by all measures, averaging a 1.0 rating among adults 18-49 and 4.1 million viewers for the 2013-14 season thus far.