Chuck Todd’s debut as host of NBC’s Sunday Beltway show Meet The Press wasn’t only a critical success — it was a ratings one as well. The program averaged a genre-winning 2.977 million viewers — it’s biggest audience since last March 2. The previous Sunday, with a fill-in-anchor, the program clocked 2.437 million viewers;  the last time now-ousted host David Gregory sat in the chair, the show logged an average of 2.429M. Versus the prior four weeks, Todd’s debut was up 19%.

Against Todd, CBS’ Face The Nation logged 2.864 million viewers, ABC’s This Week posted an average of 2.559 million, and Fox News Sunday scored 1.522 million.

In news demo viewers, Todd’s debut featuring a sitdown with President Obama, averaged 804,000 viewers — a big spike from the previous week’s 684,000. Todd’s competition: Face The Nation 768,000; This Week 763,000; Fox News Sunday 438,000.

Todd also got high marks from various media outlets for his initial performance — especially the part where he showed Obama a scrap of paper on which he’d written a checklist of promises POTUS had made and ticked off those he had fulfilled — all one of them. It may have seemed an odd old-school gag for a guy known for his social-media savvy, but, of course, it was intended to lash Todd’s image tightly to that of the show’s iconic host Tim Russert — who famously used an old-school whiteboard to calculate electoral college outcomes for NBC during the controversial 2000 presidential election, memorably concluding it would all come down to “Florida, Florida, Florida.” The incident was inducted into the 100 Greatest Moments in TV History by TV Guide and the whiteboard itself was sent to the Smithsonian. (Under Russert’s watch, Meet The Press had ruled Sunday morning; he died suddenly on June 3, 2008 while recording voice-overs for MTP.)

Todd’s ham-handed touch was noticed by everyone who counts — including the reporter covering the debut at WaPo, who showered him with love for having “harkened back to the style of the beloved Meet The Press host Tim Russert” that may have  felt like “less than perfect staging” but “it felt real,” and created an image of Todd as “a substantive guy who isn’t caught up in pretense or image.” That paper left it to the New York Times to note Todd had “lost weight and gained a tan” for the debut. Even so, the NYT also gave Todd a great review, praising him for, among other things, the fact that he “doesn’t look like other anchors…has a goatee and speaks in a direct, conversational manner, without punchy diction or pomposity.” These two reviews set the tone followed by others.

“We couldn’t be more proud of Chuck’s first show and are so appreciative of the viewers that turned to Meet The Press this Sunday,” an NBC News rep said in a statement, adding, “At the same time, we know that one week does not equal a trend, and expanding our regular audience will take a slow build week to week.”