Stephen Colbert’s debut as the host of The Late Show had been circled in many calendars for many weeks, and he had a big first night of guests booked, AND he had been doing a big promotional run-up featuring everything from podcasts to weird appearances on public access shows in Michigan, so the bigger surprise here would have been if he hadn’t scored big ratings in his first episode. But still, the numbers are in, and even with that disclaimer, they are pretty dang huge.
The technical, industry-y numbers are a 4.9 household rating/13 share and, according to Variety, a 123 percent increase over Letterman’s final season premiere last year. Which, fine. You are welcome to pull out your abacus at home to examine those if you like. The bigger, simpler story is that he doubled up current late-night king Jimmy Fallon, who pulled a 2.4/6. Is there any way Colbert retains these big splashy premiere numbers for any substantial period of time? Well, no. Obviously. And it’s also worth noting that the ratings for Conan’s first Tonight Show in 2009 were also huge, and we all know how that turned out. But let’s not dwell on that. Not now. What we have here is a really nice start. This Colbert guy might have a future on television.