About 6.6 million people watched comedian Jay Leno's return to hosting NBC's "The Tonight Show" Monday evening, topping his closest rival, David Letterman, who drew 3.8 million viewers on CBS, according to early Nielsen Co. data provided by NBC.
It was a solid start for Mr. Leno, who said "It's good to be home" in his opening monologue. The comedian's first-night guests included actor Jamie Foxx and skier Lindsey Vonn.
Mr. Leno returned to "The Tonight Show," displacing former host Conan O'Brien, after NBC axed his short-lived "The Jay Leno Show" from prime time. His comeback benefited from promotion during the Olympics and TV executives had anticipated a big first outing. Mr. Leno's real test will be how well he performs in coming months, they said.
Mr. Leno surpassed the 2.9 million that Mr. O'Brien attracted, on average, during the nearly eight months he spent hosting "Tonight," according to Nielsen figures. But Mr. Leno's first-night audience was lower than the number who watched Mr. Leno's last "Tonight Show" in May, or Mr. O'Brien's first show as host in June.
An NBC spokeswoman said it spent less to promote Mr. Leno's new launch than it did for the previous changeover, calling this launch "low key."
Funny, all those leftwing TV pundits who screamed that Leno was done.