Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 12:57 UK

Jay Leno's new show attracts 18m

Jay Leno
Jay Leno's new earlier show airs in the US at 10pm

US television talk show host Jay Leno has pulled in 18m viewers with the first outing of his new programme.

Leno, who presented the late evening Tonight show for 17 years, now has an earlier slot on the NBC network.

The premiere featured rapper Kanye West, fresh from making headlines for interrupting singer Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Awards.

But critics have reacted coolly to Leno's new show, saying it is too similar to his Tonight Show format.

TV experiment

The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley said: "So much ink has been devoted to describing how Mr Leno's new show would depart from his old one, that it was startling to see how little difference there was."

NBC has branded Leno's new show as a TV experiment, with his slot traditionally occupied by dramas.

The network, which is facing falling ratings and financial difficulties, is set to save money by making a studio-based talk show than commissioning expensive filmed dramas.

But other US networks are sticking to the tried and tested formula to bring draw in big audiences.

Leno ended his long run on The Tonight Show in May, and has been replaced by Conan O'Brien.

Barack Obama became the first serving US president to appear as a guest on the late night show with Leno in March.

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