Critics may have hated it, but Monday's premiere of "The Jay Leno Show" got a warm reception from viewers.
Thanks in part to a newsworthy appearance from rapper Kanye West -- who drew widespread scorn for his behavior during the MTV Video Music Awards the previous night -- the former "Tonight Show" host's 10 p.m. comedy-variety show drew a surprisingly large crowd of 18.4 million total viewers, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. That's more than three times what he averaged on "The Tonight Show."
Among the key demographic of viewers aged 18 to 49, "Leno" scored a 5.3 rating/14 share, easily the night's top-rated program. It was NBC's most-watched program in the time period since last year's Summer Olympics.
The launch was a coup for the network, which embarked on a controversial experiment to replace the expensive scripted dramas that usually air at 10 p.m. with a cheaper alternative. "The Jay Leno Show" is estimated to cost about $100 million per year, or roughly one-third of what broadcasters typically spend airing dramas during that time slot.