Jay Leno’s last week fronting The Tonight Show has seen the host hit ratings highs not experienced since his return to the NBC gig in 2010. The 63-year old comedian’s second-to-last show last night was no exception with even a bit more. Wednesday’s Tonight Show pulled in 4.3/11 in metered-market households. That’s the best Leno has done since the week on March 2, 2010 when he returned to The Tonight Show gig. In fact, it ties the best Wednesday, the NBC late night show has had since June 3, 2009, the first week of Conan O’Brien’s short-lived stint in the job. In contrast, Leno’s late night rivals the Late Show With David Letterman on CBS and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live drew a 2.4/6 and a 2.1/5 respectively ratingswise.
Leno had The Voice’s Blake Shelton and a very emotional Sandra Bullock on as guests on his second-to-last show Wednesday. “When I made crazy life decisions, you never questioned it, you were just always so welcoming and every single person on your crew was that way,” the Oscar winning actress told Leno. “You were so welcoming. I just felt special, even when I was insecure,” Bullock, who is nominated for Best Actress for Gravity at the Oscars this year, added.
Leno’s successor and lead-out Jimmy Fallon,also hit highs not reached since 2009. Late Night With Jimmy Fallon got a 2.1/7 result in metered-markets. That’s Late Night’s best Wednesday ratings return since the 2.2/8 of May 27, 2009 – which was the last week before O’Brien moved from the slot to the Tonight Show.
With the exception of his exile by NBC from May 2009 to March 2010, tonight’s show brings to an end Leno’s nearly 22-year run as Tonight Show host after taking over from Johnny Carson on May 25, 1992. Moving the show back to NYC for the first time since 1972, Jimmy Fallon takes over on February 17. When Leno signed off for his first Tonight exit in 2009, over 11.9 million viewers tuned in. He very likely won’t hit that number tonight. But, with his first guest from ’92 Billy Crystal coming back for the last show and Garth Brooks as the musical guest, Leno’ll be going out on a high one way or another.
Deadline's Dominic Patten - tip him here.