Viewers stay up late for comedian's bow

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Jimmy Fallon was clearly nervous during his debut performance as host of NBC's "Late Night," but the comedian avoided major stumbles and garnered a strong opening-night rating.

Fallon's premiere drew a 2.3 in the metered-market household ratings — NBC's highest Monday "Late Night" number in the overnights in more than three years and up 35% from Conan O'Brien's average in the time period (1.7) this season.

The comedian's debut also outdrew Craig Ferguson's bow in 2005 on CBS (1.8) and Jimmy Kimmel's start in 2003 on ABC (2.0). In fact, Fallon had the highest-rated late-night bow of any talk show since 2002, when ABC put on "UpClose" (Ted Koppel's interview show that replaced "Politically Incorrect").

Fallon also beat Ferguson head-to-head last night by 35%. Kimmel, whose second half overlaps with "Late Night," pulled an extremely high 2.5 rating thanks to a visit from "The Bachelor" star Jason Mesnick right after the show's heavily watched finale.

Ferguson has typically drawn a 1.6 on Mondays and Kimmel a 1.5. O'Brien's 1993 premiere drew a 3.8.

Fallon joked about his nerves during a traditional opening monologue.

"As you know, New York City was hit with a huge snowstorm," he said. "And I woke up this morning and said, 'Please let it be a snow day.' Not even a delay, nothing." (partialdiff)
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