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Late-Night Ratings: Jimmy Fallon Retakes Slim Lead Over Stephen Colbert

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    Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show on NBC earned a much-needed win over its rival Stephen Colbert-fronted CBS Late Show by pulling out a slim victory in total viewership last week for the first time since President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

    According to the Hollywood Reporter, Fallon’s Tonight Show edged The Late Show by an average of 34,000 total viewers for the week ending June 23, though Colbert’s show aired repeats on Thursday and Friday.

    Colbert — who has seen a ratings resurgence after re-tooling his show to become the premiere anti-Donald Trump late-night program — has won the total viewer battle each week for five months straight. Fallon — whose show specializes more in fun and games segments with celebrities — drew the ire of liberal viewers in September when he playfully ran his fingers through Trump’s hair during an interview.

    “They have a right to be mad,” Fallon told the New York Times in May, referring to the backlash over the Trump interview, which some observers blamed for the Tonight Show‘s recent ratings troubles. “If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.”

    Fallon told the paper in the same interview that he would not attempt to inject more political humor into his show just to satisfy critics: “Just because some people bash me on Twitter, it’s not going to change my humor or my show,” he vowed.

    Meanwhile, Colbert has relentlessly attacked the president on his own show. The former Comedy Central star sparked an uproar in May when he said during a heated monologue that the only thing Trump’s mouth is good for is being “Vladimir Putin’s c*ck holster.” The FCC declined to penalize the host or CBS for the foul language.

    Comedian Stephen Colbert tapes a segment on the floor of the Republican National Convention for CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at the Quicken Loans Arena July 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

    Despite Colbert’s win streak in total viewership, Fallon has easily outperformed the CBS host in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demo since January. Fallon averaged a 0.68 in the key demo last week, while Colbert drew a 0.49, the biggest win for Fallon in the demo since January, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

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    Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum

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