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Jimmy Fallon makes big 'Tonight Show' debut; draws 11.3 million viewers

The new host of “The Tonight Show' has gotten off to a great ratings start. The debut of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” brought in more than 11 million viewers. The show, which aired yesterday, Feb. 17 featured Will Smith, musical guest U2 and several other guest appearances and had social media buzzing with approval.

Stephen Colbert has a surprise for Jimmy Fallon
Photo by Theo Wargo

Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, Rudy Guliani, Mike Tyson and many others, came onstage and slapped down bills after Jimmy Fallon said, "To my buddy who said that I'd never be the host of 'The Tonight Show,' and you know who you are," Fallon said, "you owe me a hundred bucks, buddy."

The special midnight start time followed the late local news and NBC’s coverage of the ratings juggernaut Sochi Winter Olympics. Fallon’s “Tonight” debut last night averaged a 3.8 rating in adults 18-49 and 11.314 million viewers overall, according to fast-official “live plus same day” ratings from Nielsen Media Research, making it the top results to date for a Fallon-hosted late-night talk-show hour.

The 11.314 million is the second-biggest audience for “Tonight” since May 29, 2009 (11.901 million, for Leno’s last telecast before Conan O’Brien took over as host), trailing over that span only the Thursday, Feb. 6 finale of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” (14.637 million for an 11:35 p.m. ET telecast that also followed primetime Olympics coverage).

If the trend continues, “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” could definitely be considered a hit.