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Fallon’s pop literacy is utterly in synch with the demo.
FALLON YOUNGS IT UP
Strong Ratings (Especially Among 18-49s) Show Power of Music-Driven New Tonight Show

Jimmy Fallon’s first week helming TheTonight Show saw him average 8.5 million viewers per night, adding up to the nightly institution's most-watched week in 20 years and NBC’s best week since the 1993 Cheers finale.

Perhaps most vitally, Tonight drew more adults under 50 in Fallon’s first week than at any time since 2005. Fallon’s share of the coveted 18-49 demo was 2.8, and the show saw a huge boost in DVR viewership—with 4.9 among 18-49s; adding in those numbers, it had the highest rating since Jay Leno came aboard in 1992.

Fallon got a big assist, in his debut week as Tonight Show host, from big-ticket musical guests. But unlike predecessor Leno or 11:30 rival David Letterman, Fallon doesn’t usually just introduce bands and then shake their hands post-song before tossing to commercial. He fully integrates music into the fabric of his show.

It’s an illustration of the importance of music and music artists to the new host’s younger-skewing audience. Fallon’s pop literacy is utterly in synch with the demo.

U2 appeared on Fallon’s first night, performing atop the30 Rock building and, in a charming acoustic segment, in studio with house band The Roots.

Then there was guest and pal Justin Timberlake: The easy, frequently uproarious chemistry between the two on Friday night spawned a number of funny panel bits and the fifth installment of their "History of Rap" medley series. Careening through classics by Jay Z, Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Tone Loc, Kris Kross, Ini Kamoze and many others, the pair whipped the studio audience into a mad froth.

Timberlake, whose head cold forced some rejiggering of tour dates that included a postponement of Buffalo, offered a boisterous apology to that market’s audience, using punctuation from The Roots to ramp up his "guarantee" of an earth-shaking make-up gig in July, to the roaring approval of the studio crowd.

It’s hard to imagine such a bit happening during the Leno era. Thanks at least in part to JT, Fallon averaged 8.8m viewers during his Friday broadcast.

Another audience-pleasing, music-based bit found micro-clips of NBC News anchor Brian Williams cut together to produce a seamless "Rapper’s Delight."

Not that straight-ahead band performances don’t happen on the show; Fallon welcomed Arcade Fire for a hearty "Afterlife" on Thursday night (see a clip in our Rumor Mill). But more often than not, he finds a comedy-music-mashup nexus that’s tailor-made for online sharing.

Fallon, of course, made his bones at Saturday Night Live—like Late Night successor Seth Meyers and Meyers’ newly tapped musical director, Fred Armisen; yes, all of NBC’s late-shift crew owe their success to Lorne Michaels—and his talents as a singer, dancer and uncanny mimic are as important as his interviewing skills, if not more so.

The Roots, meanwhile, bring not only devastating musical chops but real comedic intelligence to the dizzying array of styles with which Fallon regularly tasks them. Drummer/bandleader Questlove in particular is a star.

During his Late Night tenure, Fallon created a raft of memorable musical segments, notably his versions of current songs performed in the style (and dress) of circa-1971 Neil Young; the best of these also featured Bruce Springsteen (as his circa-1975 self), who joined the host for a surprisingly plaintive version of Willow Smith’s "Whip My Hair." His final gesture on the show was a sweet rendition of The Band’s "The Weight" with The Muppets.

Such performances immediately made the rounds on the social networks, and that viral firepower has certainly contributed to both Fallon’s seamless transition to Tonight and the influx of younger viewers.

If Fallon can sustain the flow of original music bits, he'll truly have lived up to his slogan "(Re)Inventing Tonight." We look forward to his next mash-up.

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