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NBC’s “The Jay Leno Show” posted strong numbers Friday night while dipping to an entirely expected new low.
Leno drew 7.7 million viewers and earned a 2.1 rating among adults 18-49, dropping 22% from Thursday and easily won the night.
Despite the drop, Leno scored the highest non-sports rating any major broadcaster has received on the night since May, and he improved upon his “Dateline” lead in (7.4 million, 1.8).
A morbidly entertaining statistic: Leno has dropped 60% since his enormous Monday debut (which ignores plenty of important context, but some readers are curious).
Industry insiders expect Leno to eventually end up with a weekly average that’s a bit lower than last night’s number. Yet his Tuesday and Wednesday episodes (after the highly rated premiere of “The Biggest Loser” and finale of “America’s Got Talent,” respectively) demonstrated a potential ability for Leno to take advantage of strong lead ins. Overall, Leno has performed above expectations and has won 10 p.m. every night, though next week’s gauntlet of premieres will add considerable ratings pressure to the show.
One of Leno’s guests next week is “House” actor Hugh Laurie, who’s the first star of a rival broadcast network series booked on the new show. One report said ABC and CBS have told their talent not to appear on “Jay Leno” since it competes with their 10 p.m. dramas. On weeknights, Fox only programs 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Also, last night Leno unveiled the much-discussed “Green Car Challenge” segment; Drew Barrymore was his first racer. In the coming week, Bob Costas, Al Michaels and Rush Limbaugh will drive the course.
The race included life-size cut-outs of environmentalists Al Gore and Ed Begley Jr. who pop onto the track. During the segment’s setup, Leno explained the eco-friendly celebrities “don’t know these are electric cars” and are trying to stop the vehicles — which gives drivers a chance to comically mow them down. Having anti-environmentalists would have made more contextual sense, but Leno producers probably figure Gore and Begley make for, ahem, easier targets.
Here’s the clip:
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