Audiences were eager to say good-bye to Jay Leno on Thursday (February 6) night, as “The Tonight Show” drew its biggest overall audience since 1998.
Boosted by a strong “bonus” night of coverage from the Sochi Winter Olympics, “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” drew 14.6 million viewers, the most since May 14, 1998. That was, of course, the night of the series finale of “Seinfeld” and featured Jerry Seinfeld as a guest. That episode drew just under 15 million viewers.
This was, in fact, the fourth largest audience ever for a Jay Leno “Tonight Show,” following the 1993 episode following the “Cheers” finale (22.4 million), Leno’s 1992 debut (16.1 million) and, again, the post-“Seinfeld” episode.
Among adults 18-49, Leno’s send-off drew a 3.8 rating. That’s the biggest “Tonight” show audience in the key demo since — chortle — Conan O’Brien’s last “Tonight Show” in 2010, which did a 4.4 key demo rating. It was the best 18-49 rating for a Thursday “Tonight” since President Obama’s first appearance in March of 2009.
Leno’s departure also gave a big bump to his successor, as “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” drew 6 million viewers, the biggest for a regularly schedule weekday “Late Night” since 1993 when David Letterman exited.
Check out the gallery below to see the things we pretended we were going to miss about Jay Leno.