Critics may not have loved Jay Leno's prime-time debut, but 17.7 million viewers tuned in to check him out.
Nielsen Media Research says that's the biggest audience for a prime-time television show since the "American Idol" finale in May.
Not only was Leno's debut heavily publicized, but he piggybacked on one of Monday's biggest stories. Leno had scheduled Kanye West, who was pressed to explain why he interrupted Taylor Swift the night before on the MTV Video Music Awards.
That's a big boost for NBC, but the challenge will be to hold viewers.
Critics were harsh, with Robert Bianco of USA Today slamming it as a "cut-rate, snooze-inducing, rehashed bore."
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