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June 02, 2009

Conan O'Brien's 'Tonight Show' debut scores highest Monday in four years

Tonight show obrien Conan O'Brien's premiere as host of NBC's "Tonight Show" drew the highest overnight ratings for a Monday episode in four years.

Launching his "Tonight Show" run, the late-night comedian posted a number 82% higher than the "Tonight" second quarter average and 173% above his February "Late Night" finale.

O'Brien averaged a 7.1 rating and 17 share in metered-market households, "Tonight's" strongest Monday overnight results since a 2005 telecast featuring a tribute to Johnny Carson.

O'Brien won his time period by a 154% over CBS's "Late  Show with David Letterman" (2.8/7). His success spilled over to the rest of NBC's late-night lineup. "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" (2.5/9) delivered its highest overnight rating yet for a Monday telecast, topping the show's series premiere. 

Reviews were generally positive:

-- Time: "He's come a long way from the nervous comedy writer he was then. The guy we saw on the Tonight Show stage was polished, off-the-cuff funny, dapper, poised—but not, substantively, all that different from the Conan of Late Night."

-- Hollywood Reporter: "After one show, let's say he's a work in progress"

-- USA Today: "All in all, O'Brien got his Tonight off to a decent start, though you still got the sense you were watching an introduction more than a settled production. But that's fine: The goal right now is just to put O'Brien's name on the show."

-- Chicago Tribune: "He seemed a little nervous during the opening monologue and ever so slightly tense during his interview with his first guest, Will Ferrell, but those are normal opening-night jitters, and through it all, Conan still appeared to be enjoying himself. Given a few weeks to ease into the job, Conan's "Tonight" show should go over fine with Middle America."

-- Variety: Clever, but more misses than hits.

Some clips...

UPDATE: Conan's second "Tonight Show" episode drops 30% in ratings


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