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Jay Leno Fumbles 7 Million -- Still Beats Barbara Walters, Patrick Swayze, Big Brother

About 11 million people watched the second night of "The Jay Leno Show" on Tuesday.
That's compared to 18 million who watched Leno's first night.
This 40 percent dive ignited a wildfire of blogging and tweeting that fell into two categories:
There was the "OMG, how fast, how far will Jay Leno's show plunge?" group.
Then, there were those bloggers and twits who went with, "OMG Leno fell so far and fast and we totally predicted that!"
Some bloggers noted Leno's first-to-second-night drop was steeper than that suffered by Conan O'Brien on his second night hosting NBC's "The Tonight Show" back in June. Conan's audience shrank by 33 percent -- 9 million to 6 million. (This is of course relevant because NBC yanked Leno out of his "The Tonight Show" hosting gig last spring and gave it to Conan, because years ago they'd promised it to Conan to keep him from going to another network.)
Silly bloggers! Leno's 40 percent drop in audience is kids stuff compared to the 62 percent ratings dive Leno took back in 1992 on his second night hosting "The Tonight Show." And yet, in the long run, that turned out okay for him, what with Leno being ranked No. 1 in late night for 14 years.
Our only regret, in re "The Jay Leno Show's" second night numbers versus his first night, is that fewer people got to see Tuesday's bit in which Leno interviewed a family whose cherubic baby girl, Delaney, bursts out crying whenever she sees Conan O'Brien on TV. Leno and crew went to their house and they demonstrated.
So, what was Leno up against on his second night as host of a nightly primetime comedy/talk show?
CBS aired the season finale of "Big Brother," which dramatically upgraded that network's ratings among young adult viewers versus the drama reruns it's been running there.
ABC, meanwhile, ran a special on Patrick Swayze -- he's dead -- which included Babs Walters' last interview with him. "Barbara Walters Special -- Patrick Swayze: Last Dance" (notice who gets top billing) attracted significantly more interest among viewers than had other ABC fare in the hour the past few weeks.
Bottom line: Leno handily won his second night among viewers of all ages; he also finished first among the 18-49 year old viewers networks target in primetime.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  September 16, 2009; 3:56 PM ET
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