Kanye West and Jay Leno
The Jay Leno Show debuted with strong numbers, perhaps because the show featured the week's most talked-about celebrity: rapper Kanye West.
Read our take on Leno's first show
After two online apologies, West made apologized again on Leno's show for interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. Leno asked him what his late mother would have thought of the incident.
"Obviously, I deal with hurt, so many celebs, they don't take the time off; I've never taken the time off," West said. "I'm ashamed that my hurt caused someone else's hurt. ... If there's anything I can do to help Taylor in the future or help anyone, I want to."
Read West's earlier apologies
NBC's 10 p.m. talk show pulled in 17.7 million total viewers and a 5.1 Nielsen rating in the key demos. The demo rating was 34 percent higher than the debut of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien in June and 50 percent higher than Leno's Tonight Show finale. It also handily beat a repeat of CBS' CSI: Miami (6 million viwers) and Dreamgirls on ABC (4.3 million viwers).
While NBC executives are pleased with the numbers, they expect the nightly average to dip once other networks launch their fall schedules. "The fact that it opened so well is a great sign, but it's only one night," NBC CEO Jeff Zucker told The Hollywood Reporter. "There's a very long way to go from here. We'll judge this on 52 weeks, not one night."